Fair and creative, but not very capable of evaluating online content: they are secondary school students

The first report of the “Digital wellbeing – schools” project has been published, promoted by the University of Milan-Bicocca, Fastweb and a network of schools, led by the Liceo Banfi in Vimercate

They are strong in Communication (the correct interaction with others and sharing of resources in digital environments), but weak in Information & Literacy (the ability to evaluate, select and understand content on the network). They do not differ by gender but by school year of belonging and level of education of the family of origin. And overall, their level of digital proficiency has increased over the past three years. Probably in response to the pandemic.

This is the identikit drawn from the first report on “The digital competence of I and II level secondary school students“, Published by the University of Milano-Bicocca, Fastweb and a network of schools, led by the Liceo Banfi in Vimercate (Monza Brianza) and edited by Marco Gui, associate professor of Sociology of the media, Tiziano Gerosa and Alessandra Vitullo, research fellows of the Sociology and Social Research Department of the Milanese university.

The report was born within the “Digital Wellbeing – Schools” project, created as part of the “Digital Curriculums” call of the Ministry of Education and which resulted in the construction of a package of resources to address the teaching of “citizenship digital “, foreseen within the teaching of civic education, and in the development of a standardized test of digital competence, made available free of charge to secondary school teachers of I and II degree on the platform www.benesseredigitalescuole.it.

The test is the first in Italy to offer the possibility of measuring students’ digital skills, through both a general score and specific scores for each individual competence area indicated by the European DigComp 2.1 framework: “Information & Literacy”, Communication, Creation ( responsible creation and re-elaboration of web contents), Safety and Wellbeing (skills necessary to protect against possible threats to privacy, to manage one’s identity online, but also to maintain well-being in an environment of overabundance of communication). The test consists of 32 multiple choice questions, based on the analysis of screenshots of web pages, application images or realistic situations.

The assessment test was administered, between February and June of this year, by 133 teachers to 1,222 students, in 8 Italian regions. The report data shows that the sample achieves a satisfactory average score, equal to 71 out of 100. However, there are significant differences between students of different ages, with a clear leap forward in digital competence in the fourth and fifth grades of secondary school (81 points), compared to pupils leaving the lower secondary school (63 points).

Among the dimensions of digital competence, Communication is the strongest (83 points), compared to 71 points for Creation and 70 for Safety. The Information & Literacy area, on the other hand, emerges as the weakest (61 points), indicating a problem in the ability of students to evaluate the contents encountered on the web.

The performance in the area of ​​communication, according to the researchers, “shows a generation of students who seem to have on average a good grasp of the norms of interaction in digital environments for sociability. This good result could be due to both informal learning processes. both formal: on the one hand, the pervasive use of social environments by students could have made them more aware of the dynamics that are created there; on the other, the strong investment by the Italian school in the fight against cyberbullying could have spread among today’s students have some knowledge of what are the correct and responsible behaviors in online social interactions “.

On the other hand, there are no large differences by gender, if we exclude a slight superiority of female students in the Communication area (87.2 for females against 83.6 for males), against slightly lower scores, but not in significantly, in other areas. On the other hand, significant differences emerge when looking at the level of education of parents, especially in Information & Literacy, where the gap between the children of graduates and graduates and the children of parents with at most a professional degree, two or three years, is a good 8.2 percentage points (64.2 versus 56).

Additionally, by matching the test results with student self-reported academic performance data, the researchers pinpointed one significant correlation between the average grade in Italian and the level of digital competence. This correlation becomes maximum in the Information & Literacy area, where the students with the best results (9 or more in Italian) have a score of 86.3, with an advantage of 15.8 points over the students. with returns on the threshold of sufficiency. Statistically significant variations, albeit of a lesser extent, are also recorded for the Creation area, which sees a jump of about 12.2 points between the most and least performing students in Italian (from 65.8 to 78.0). On the other hand, no significant relationship emerges with the grade in mathematics.

Finally, compared to surveys carried out with the same test in 2018, there are some signs of an increase in digital media competence over the last three years. In particular, it emerges that eighth-grade students today have digital competence comparable to those of the second-highest grade in the year 2017-2018. The researchers of the University of Milano-Bicocca do not exclude that “this increase could configure the possibility that the so-called learning loss – or the failure to acquire disciplinary skills – which occurred since the beginning of the pandemic has been somehow compensated by an increase in competence. digital”. A correlation that will be verified in future reports.

“The test is the result of years of research on the measurement of digital competence – explains Marco Gui, associate professor of Media Sociology at the University of Milan-Bicocca – which has been enriched both by exchanges with international scholars and by a close collaboration with a company like Fastweb. The work with the schools of the network has finally allowed us to validate this tool on large numbers of students and therefore to offer today a reliable product free of charge to all Italian teachers “.

“Civic education, introduced in the 2020-21 school year, today is extremely in need of reliable and tested resources and tools to address the issues of digital citizenship – says Daniela Canavero, head of the Liceo Banfi -. It is important that the school you develop and implement paths to ascertain and reflect on the possession of skills that are talked about a lot but which are complex to measure, and we are happy to have given our contribution “. “Fastweb is convinced that digital skills are essential to offer young people the tools to build their future. This is why we are alongside the University and schools in this path”, notes Anna Lo Iacono, Fastweb Sustainability Senior Manager.