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Institute of Education Sciences

What National and International Assessments Can Tell Us About Technology in Students’ Learning: Eighth-Graders’ Experience with Technology

The use of technology has become an integral part of life at work, at school, and at home throughout the 21st century and, in particular, during the coronavirus pandemic.

In this post, the second in a three-part series, we present results from the NAEP TEL and ICILS student questionnaires about students’ experience and confidence using technology (see the first post for more information about these assessments and their results). These results can help to inform education systems that are implementing remote learning activities this school year.

Uses of information and communication technologies (ICT) for school

Both NAEP TEL and ICILS collected data in 2018 on U.S. eighth-grade students’ uses of ICT in school or for school-related purposes.

According to the NAEP TEL questionnaire results, about one-third of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they used ICT regularly (i.e., at least once a week) to create, edit, or organize digital media (figure 1). About a quarter used ICT regularly to create presentations, and 18 percent used ICT regularly to create spreadsheets.



According to the ICILS questionnaire results, 72 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they regularly used the Internet to do research, and 56 percent regularly used ICT to complete worksheets or exercises (figure 2). Forty percent of eighth-grade students regularly used ICT to organize their time and work. One-third regularly used software or applications to learn skills or a subject, and 30 percent regularly used ICT to work online with other students.



Confidence in using ICT

Both the 2018 NAEP TEL and ICILS questionnaires asked U.S. eighth-grade students about their confidence in their ICT skills. NAEP TEL found that about three-quarters of eighth-grade students reported that they were confident that they could—that is, they reported that they “probably can” or “definitely can”—compare products using the Internet or create presentations with sound, pictures, or video (figure 3). Seventy percent were confident that they could organize information into a chart, graph, or spreadsheet.



ICILS found that 86 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they knew how to search for and find relevant information for a school project on the Internet (figure 4). Eighty-three percent knew how to both upload text, images, or video to an online profile and install a program or app. About three-quarters of eighth-grade students knew how to change the settings on their devices, and 65 percent knew how to edit digital photographs or other graphic images.



Years of experience using computers

In the 2018 ICILS questionnaire, U.S. eighth-grade students were also asked how many years they had been using desktop or laptop computers. One-third of eighth-grade students reported using computers for 7 years or more—that is, they had been using computers since first grade (figure 5). This finding was similar to results from the Computer Access and Familiarity Study (CAFS), which was conducted as part of the 2015 NAEP. The CAFS found that in 2015, about 35 percent of eighth-grade public school students reported first using a laptop or desktop computer in kindergarten or before kindergarten.

Nineteen percent of eighth-grade students reported that they had used computers for at least 5 but less than 7 years. However, 9 percent of eighth-grade students had never used computers or had used them for less than one year, meaning they had only started using computers when they reached eighth grade.



Overall, responses of eighth-grade students showed that some had more years of experience using computers than others. Although there were differences in students’ use of ICT for school-related purposes, most students felt confident using ICT.

It should be noted that the data presented here were collected in 2018; any changes since then due to the coronavirus pandemic or other factors are not reflected in the results reported here. The NAEP TEL and ICILS samples both include public and private schools. Data reported in the text and figures are rounded to the nearest integer.

 

Resources for more information:

 

By Yan Wang, AIR, and Taslima Rahman, NCES

Facilitating Causal Research in CTE: Notes from the Network

 

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) Research Network just entered its third year, and it is time to share recent accomplishments with the IES community! As a reminder, the CTE Research Network (led by the American Institutes for Research, or AIR) was created to expand the evidence base on the impact of CTE programs on student outcomes using causal research methods.

 

Research

In June 2020, AIR released a preliminary report of CTE sites that are ready for causal evaluation. Designed to support researchers interested in studying the impact of CTE on student outcomes, the report details the history, theory of change, student enrollments, and other information for 4 selected CTE sites around the country. The Network hopes that researchers will use the information in the report to design evaluation studies of these programs.

In July 2020, a fifth research project joined the network. A team from MDRC, led by Rachel Rosen, was recently funded by IES to study the Impact of Technology-Based Career Advising Tools on High School Students' CTE Choices and Academic Performance. In partnership with Communities in Schools (CIS), the study will use a three-arm, school-level random assignment research design (RCT) to assess the effects of Navience and YouScience on students' self-expressed attitude and interest in career pathways, CTE course taking patterns, and engagement with and progress towards graduation. We welcome the team to the Network and look forward to learning whether and how these advising tools influence student thinking about career options, choice of relevant CTE coursework and work-based learning options, and decisions about CTE concentration in available pathways and programs of study.

A small group of researchers from different Network teams collaborated on and recently released a technical working paper on counterfactuals in CTE. It can be challenging to identify comparison groups for CTE students because it is an elective into which they self-select. The paper describes a variety of rigorous methods of comparing CTE students to valid counterparts and provides case studies that illustrate how to use these methods.

 

Training

The CTE Research Network is committed to increasing the number of researchers trained to study CTE using causal methods. It is notoriously challenging to isolate the effects of CTE from other influences on student outcomes. In August 2020, the Network hosted 18 researchers for a week-long virtual summer training institute on how to design a causal study to examine the impact of CTE. During the week, participants learned how to implement randomized-control trials (RCTs), regression discontinuity designs (RDDs), and comparative interrupted time series (CITS) in a CTE context. After learning about each method, participants worked in small groups to apply the method to real data and had access to the instructors to ask questions. The feedback about the training was overwhelmingly positive. The lecture portions of the training will be posted soon to the training page of the Network’s website. Another week-long training institute will be held in summer 2021 (hopefully, in person!)

The Network is currently developing a series of online modules for CTE practitioners and state agency staff to strengthen capacity to access, conduct, understand, and use CTE research. There will be a presentation to preview the modules at the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Best Practices and Innovations Conference on October 9, 2020 and a longer and more in-depth session at ACTE’s Career Tech VISION conference the first week of December. These practitioner training modules will be available for free on the website in late Fall 2020.

 

Leadership and Dissemination

The CTE Research Network is regularly updating its resources page with publications of interest to the CTE research field. The most recent is a report of findings from MDRC’s study of P-Tech high schools. The Network’s equity workgroup (a group of researchers from across the Network’s member projects) also published a popular blog this summer on applying an equity lens to CTE research. The Network also posts outside resources such as a REL self-study tool on career readiness and evaluation reports from other researchers.

 


For more about the CTE Research Network, you can sign up to receive the Network’s quarterly newsletter at the bottom of their website’s home page and follow them on Twitter (@CTEResNetwork) and LinkedIn.

If you are interested in learning more about the CTE Research Network, contact the Director, Kathy Hughes (khughes@air.org).

If you are interested in discussing CTE research opportunities at IES, contact Corinne Alfeld (Corinne.Alfeld@ed.gov).