TORONTO — Students in two Canadian provinces proved more computer literate than the international average in a new test meant to help educators and policy-makers understand how integrating technology in schools affects children's skills.
Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador were the only two provinces to participate in the International Computer and Information Literacy Study, which was administered last year to some 60,000 Grade 8 students in 20 countries.
The study looks at students' ability to collect, manage, produce and exchange information using a computer, as well as teachers' and principals' attitude and confidence regarding technology in the school setting.
It is believed to be the first international test of its kind.
Ontario students scored an average of 547 out of 600 in overall computer literacy, significantly above the international average of 500. The province is in a statistical tie for the top spot with Australia and the Czech Republic.
Newfoundland and Labrador ranked seventh with an average score of 528.
Students had to perform basic tasks such as copying or saving a document, creating and modifying information and using multiple applications at once. They also had to answer a questionnaire, as did teachers, principals and technology co-ordinators.
"The study results provide valuable information on where students in this province stand with understanding and using information and communications skills compared to other countries," Newfoundland's education minister, Susan Sullivan, said in a statement.
"The results will help the provincial government make informed decisions about using technology to enhance teaching and learning."
The CEO of the Education Quality and Accountability Office, which helped arrange Ontario's participation in the test, said the results show the province's efforts to integrate technology into the classroom have paid off.
"Because we've done that over the years, I think that our students are in fact more comfortable with its use in the learning process," Bruce Rodrigues said.
"The reason that's important is that as we move into looking at some of the global competencies in innovation... students will need to be able to be nimble with the use of computers to compete in the global economy."
Girls scored higher in overall computer literacy than boys, but boys reported being more confident performing advanced tasks such as creating a computer program or building a website.
Ontario teachers reported a higher level of confidence in using technology for their work than their counterparts in other participating jurisdictions, and schools in the province had equal or superior access to resources compared with the international average.
However, while principals reported that most Ontario schools made facilitating the use of technology a priority, they still put less emphasis on it than the international average in almost every area measured.
More Ontario schools complained that outdated and insufficient equipment was hindering their use of technology than in other jurisdictions. They also reported more difficulty developing expertise or obtaining technical support.