If we’re going to teach Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
literacy skills in schools, we need ways of determining whether or not those
skills have been learned by students. The Partnership for 21st Century
notes that answering the question ‘How do we measure 21st
century learning?
’ will be critical as we try to prepare students
who can be productive citizens in the new technology-suffused,
globally-interconnected economy.

Over in the United Kingdom, the British government’s Key Stage 3 ICT Literacy
for 12- and 13-year-old aims to assess higher-order thinking
skills in conjunction with ICT use. For example, as part of a task to draft and
publish a journalistic article, students must use search engines to collect and
analyze employment data, e-mail sources for permission to publish their
information, and present data in graphic and written formats using word
processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software, all within a simulated
computing environment. Student actions are tracked by the computer and assessed
for both technical and learning skills such as finding things out,
developing ideas, and exchanging and sharing information. If
you’re interested, you can download a
demonstration file and see for yourself

Other interesting projects in the U.K. include Northern Ireland’s Council for
the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment A-Level Examination in the Moving
(students must create
and assess digital film clips
), the Ultralab International Certificate in
Digital Creativity
(students must defend their digitally-produced film,
artwork, and music to a panel of peers and professionals), and the eViva e-portfolio initiative (online
space where students can receive feedback on their research and communication,
data analysis, and presentation skills). If anyone in the U.K. is reading this
post and has experience with any of these assessments, I’d love to hear your
perspectives in the comments section.

Over here in the United States, ETS also is
attempting to create new assessments of 21st century learning skills. I had a
chance last fall to get a personal demonstration of the ETS ICT Literacy Assessment. Like the Key
Stage 3, ETS’ assessment is a scenario-based test. This is a completely new
paradigm for ETS, which the ETS representative said is challenging but also
exciting for its psychometricians to try and wrap their heads around. I
encourage you to visit the
demo site and see how the test works
. It may not be ideal, but I think it’s
a lot further from your typical standardized test than one might expect. It’s an
interesting attempt to blend both the technology and information literacy skills
needed by future generations and at least offers some food for thought. Also
check out the News
and Research
links to find out more about the results from ETS’ pilot tests.

We will see the birth of many new 21st century
in the years ahead. Like these early attempts, most of
these assessments will be performance-based and thus will avoid some of the
objections we hear about current standardized tests. Most, if not all, also will
utilize the multimedia, simulation, and tracking power of digital technologies
to create more authentic assessments of real-life tasks. It should be an
interesting journey.


Much of the information in this post, including some very close paraphrasing,
comes from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills report, Assessment
of 21st Century Skills: The Current Landscape
. If you’re interested in 21st
century learning skills, this report should be an important addition to your
reading list.

Other resources

This post is also available at the TechLearning blog.