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 Skills 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 Assessment 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 Image (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 assessments 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.