4 Things to Consider When Assessing Students’ Digital Literacy Skills

by | Sep 29, 2017 | News

At the recent FIRST Global Challenge robotics competition, Melissa Lemus, one of two girls on the Honduran team, was quoted as saying, “the world today demands that we understand technology.” Melissa is right. She knows digital literacy is critical to students’ success in the increasingly digital world in the classroom and beyond.

So how do you know your students have mastered the digital literacy skills they need to be successful in school? I’ve been a Product Manager at for over seven years, and throughout this time I’ve supported the research and development of our assessment products, all of which provide you with the data you need to make informed decisions.

Here are the top four considerations to make when assessing students’ digital literacy skills:

  1. Align to ISTE Standards – Since 1998, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has been on the forefront of establishing digital literacy standards for students of all ages. Their latest refresh establishes seven standards that capture the breadth and depth of digital literacy and puts more focus on students taking ownership of their learning. The ISTE standards focus on deep learning and are no longer just about knowing how to use technology tools. Students today are expected to take charge of their own learning and address the following standards:
  • Empowered Learner – Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.
  • Digital Citizen – Students recognize the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of living, learning, and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal, and ethical.
  • Knowledge Constructor – Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts, and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
  • Innovative Designer – Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful, or imaginative solutions.
  • Computational Thinker – Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.
  • Creative Communicator – Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats, and digital media appropriate to their goals.
  • Global Collaborator – Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.
  1. Use an interactive tool – Paper-based assessments cannot capture the nature of digital literacy skills. Technology enhanced questions will lead to a more authentic assessment of their digital literacy skills and help to prepare students for success with online assessments such as PARCC or Smarter Balanced.


  1. Stay at an appropriate reading level – Digital literacy assessments should be used to assess those skills, not reading comprehension. Use a lower reading level than your target grade to ensure your students can read and understand the questions being asked.


  1. Focus on accessibility – Ensure there are as few barriers as possible to provide equal access to the assessment regardless of a students’ learning style or disability. At a minimum, this involves meeting the requirements of Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) and verify compatibility with popular screen readers such as JAWS and NVDA.

There are many assessment options out there, and some districts even opt to create their own, though this can be a lengthy and tedious process. Inspiring students like Melissa Lemus know the world requires they have the technological savvy and digital literacy skills to reach their full academic potential. Let’s be sure we set them up for that success.

To find out more about’s digital literacy assessments that are 100% aligned to the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students, click here.

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