Digital learning: Stats on student access, achievement

There is no doubt that technology is changing education. Not only is technology impacting student learning in traditional academic disciplines, but its use is becoming a discipline in its own right.

I was interested in discovering the accessibility of digital learning opportunities to children in the American classroom, and the range of tech knowledge and skills these students possess. I found statistics on both from the National Assessment of Education Progress’s Technology & Engineering Literacy (TEL) assessment. This computer-based evaluation was given for the first time in 2014 to a nationwide sample of 21,500 eighth grade students. The TEL assessment included three components:

  • Questions that assessed knowledge and skills related to three content areas: technology and society, design and systems, and information and communication technology.
  • Interactive scenario-based tasks requiring application of students’ digital literacy.
  • Survey items about digital learning opportunities available to students at home and at school.

Assessment Results

Overall, 43% of the students received scores of proficient or advanced on the assessment. Contrary to stereotypes, the percentage of female students scoring proficient or higher was 3 points more than that of male students.

Results indicated the reality of a “digital gap” between students of different socioeconomic statuses. While 59% of students who are ineligible for the National School Lunch program scored proficient or advanced, only 25% of those eligible for the program scored similarly.

This gap was also reflected in the 11-point difference between urban and suburban students. Interestingly, rural students scored higher than their counterparts living in “towns.” I would have thought that broadband access issues would have had more of an impact on their achievement.


Survey Results

The survey about students’ classroom experiences revealed that 52% had taken a course related to technology or engineering, and 76% had studied related topics in another class. I would have liked more information about the types of courses available to students, as well as whether students took courses by choice or obligation.

The survey revealed that many students, like Garth, teach themselves how to use digital technology:


Below is some data about digital tasks that students engage with at school:



These findings suggest that our schools need to do a better job incorporating technology instruction and use in the classroom to prepare students for college and the workforce. I will be interested to compare this data to future versions of the TEL assessment.


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