F.Do good readers find their way around the Internet better? How do students learn to distinguish credible content from unreliable content and how do they search for information on the Internet without getting lost in the sea of data? These are the central questions of an additional evaluation of the Pisa Study 2018 entitled “Reading in the 21st Century: Reading and Writing Skills in a Digital World”. The special evaluation will be presented on Tuesday by the OECD Berlin, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Hessian Ministry of Culture and the Vodafone Foundation. It financed the Vodafone Foundation.
In 35 countries, there is a negative correlation between student performance in reading and the length of time they have used digital devices for school purposes. It is particularly pronounced in Germany. Specifically, this means that if the weekly usage time of digital devices for school purposes increases by one hour, a reduction in student performance in reading skills by 27 points can be expected. The OECD average is only seven points less.
While the OECD average of three quarters of 15-year-old students stated that they use digital devices for learning, this was the case for only half of the students in Germany. Although hardly any digital devices were used at school in the survey for the Pisa Study 2018, the 15-year-old students scored particularly well in the “International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS)” in assessing the credibility of sources in the frame a phishing mail task. Overall, however, the results of the German students in dealing with digital media were by no means satisfactory.
Education researchers have long wondered why frequent use of digital media in schools for school-related purposes correlates negatively with students’ information and communication skills (ICT) when reading. “The use of digital media in and of itself does not promote learning,” says the special evaluation with astonishing clarity. Only when teachers use digital media and devices specifically and in a meaningful way for learning processes can this contribute to improving performance.
It is revealing that students who still read printed books for joy (in Germany this is a minority) read both print and digital publications. Students who read books more often than they read on digital devices scored 44 points higher than those who rarely or never read books in a computerized test environment.
According to a scientific study, the use of print books in school correlates more positively with reading performance than the use of digital books. “Studies that were carried out at home or in the laboratory, on the other hand, showed no media-related performance difference,” says the study. “In a school context, digital books do not automatically add value that leads to higher reading skills”.
One fifth below the minimum level for a self-determined life
When it comes to reading ability among German students, there are systematic differences in performance between boys and girls and between socio-economically favorable and unfavorable starting positions. Around 21 percent of schoolchildren in Germany do not achieve the minimum reading level required for a self-determined life and participation in society. Often they leave elementary school with significant reading deficits that cannot be made up for later. Reading strategies can be a key factor in successful reading. Students were more critical of sources when learning to assess the credibility of information in class. In addition, the knowledge of effective strategies for understanding, retaining, summarizing and assessing information can significantly reduce the influence of socio-economic background and the gender-specific difference, according to the special evaluation.
Highly literate students can read printed texts as well as navigate demanding digital environments. They read the news more often on digital devices and switch between print and digital formats because they are able to make the most of digital technology based on activity and content.
Effective reading promotion programs should convey word and text comprehension and be more geared towards complex reading strategies. The entire spectrum of learning opportunities, including both digital technologies and printed texts, must be used to promote reading literacy. This would enable students to think critically and develop the metacognitive skills they needed for a technology-driven 21st century.
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