New test measures students' digital literacy
By Maya T. Prabhu, Assistant Editor
April 2, 2010
iCritical Thinking Certification helps instructors gauge students' ability to assess and report on information
Employers are looking for candidates who can navigate, critically evaluate, and make sense of the wealth of information available through digital media—and now educators have a new way to determine a student's baseline digital literacy with a certification exam that measures the test-taker's ability to assess information, think critically, and perform a range of real-world tasks.
The test, iCritical Thinking Certification, created by the Educational Testing Service and Certiport, reveals whether or not a person is able to combine technical skills with experiences and knowledge.
Today's students need to be able to think critically and effectively solve problems while using technology, Certiport explains—going beyond simply searching for information. They also must evaluate the legitimacy of the information, put it in context, and then apply problem-solving and decision-making skills.
"The test and certification program is designed to help employers [and educators] know that a student is ready for the workforce or for academia," said Quinn Sutton, Certiport's senior vice president.
Designed for students with at least a 10th grade reading level, iCritical Thinking allows students to demonstrate the ability to think critically within technology-enabled academic and workplace environments. About an hour in length, the test features 14 tasks based on real-world scenarios such as extracting information from a database, drawing conclusions from a spreadsheet, or composing an eMail based on findings—tasks students would be expected to do in the 21st-century workplace.
The test simulates the use of common, vendor-neutral applications to measure students' information and communications technology (ICT) literacy skills. Each task takes about four minutes to complete. The test produces individual score and group report summaries for instructors.
Monica Brooks, Marshall University's assistant vice president for Information Technology: Online Learning and Libraries, said her school plans to use iCritical Thinking beginning in the fall.
Marshall University will use the certification in two different ways. A sampling of freshman will take iCritical Thinking as a part of their first-year seminar as a way to benchmark skills and inform instructors about the topics that need to be covered.
Marshall is also part of a state-run program that helps working adults receive a Regents Bachelor of Arts degree.
Brooks plans to use the certification at the end of her Instructional Technology of Libraries class to measure how well students learned the advanced digital literacy skills taught during the class.
"It's perfect timing [for the certification to be released], because people need these skills. People can Google, but a lot of times they don't know what to do with that information," she said. "It's important for students to be proficient so they know how to use the data."
Sutton said the certification, which was launched last November, is unique in that it isn't a traditional multiple-choice test, but presents test-takers with real-life scenarios.
"It's not product training," Sutton said. "It's seeing if you can use and apply the skills you possess. It reflects what we do every day."
Sutton said the certification is geared toward the business environment, adding that as the test becomes more broadly available and understood, he believes more companies will begin to look for applicants with the iCritical Thinking Certification.
"Based on the current economy, it's so relevant for students to become more competitive. They need to be able to hit the ground running," he said.
iCritical Thinking Certification