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Measuring digital literacies: Junior high-school students' perceived competencies versus actual performance

Erez Porat, Ina Blau, Azy Barak


The widespread belief is that youth, "digital natives", who live their entire lives in media-rich digital environments and are ubiquitously connected through social networks, naturally develop digital competencies. This study investigated digital literacies among 280 junior-high-school students with the aim of comparing participants' perceived digital literacy competencies and their actual performance in relevant digital tasks. The findings showed that only a few of participants' perceived skills were related to their actual performance. Generally, participants displayed high confidence in their digital literacies and significantly over-estimated their actual competencies. This gap was most evident in social-emotional skills, which were, on average, perceived by students as their strongest skills, while their actual level of performance was very low. Positive strong correlations were found between participants' self-reported evaluations of different digital skills, indicating their perception as a single factor, while actual performance tests revealed low-to medium-size correlations between different literacies. For educational decision-makers, the findings highlight the importance of designing training programs aimed to develop students' digital literacies, with a special emphasis on social-emotional competencies. Such training may enhance important competencies needed, reduce unfounded self-perceptions, and thus, develop efficient digital functioning in contemporary society.
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