Read what Dr. Heidi Silver-Pacuilla, Team Leader, Applied Innovation and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education shared with participants:
Introduction – What we are talking about
PSTRE: problem solving in a technology-rich environment means using digital technology, communication tools, and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others, and perform practical tasks. (OECD, 2012)
PSTRE is an acronym that you will hear us use many times today to save us from the longer term that names the domain, Problem Solving in a Technology-Rich Environment, which debuted in the 2012 PIAAC Survey of Adult Skills.
This Survey was administered in homes and, in most cases, on laptops. Approximately 166,000 participated in the Survey across the 24 OECD countries, although not all took the PSTRE domain. Respondents were asked if they had any experience with computers, were given the choice to take the assessment on paper with pencil, and if they chose the laptop, were given a short screener of basic skills such as the ability to click a mouse, highlight text, drag and drop, open multiple windows, etc.
Performance on the PSTRE was reported in 2013. The U.S., which participated in the Survey with a nationally representative sample, had an average score well below the international average and most age groups – including the young adults – did poorly. There is much to discuss about why this would be when we see technology pervading nearly every aspect of our lives in this country.
Digital Literacy: the skills associated with using technology to enable users to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information. (Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, cited in WIOA)
For Digital Literacy, we are taking as our definition the one given in the legislation that funds the Institute for Museum and Library Services and which was cited as the definition in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA, within the concept of workforce preparation. This broad definition emphasizes action, synthesis, and creation of information, not simply functional tasks.
Find some research and reports on how digital skills amplify – or mute – economic opportunities for youth and adults in the second bulleted list. The chart is from the Does Not Compute brief by Change the Equation. It shows average monthly earnings stacked by skill level on the PSTRE. Here are links to other related resources:
• America’s Skill Challenge
• What’s the Problem?
• Crunched by the Numbers
The last bullet references a new debate in the U.S. on a new front of the digital divide, the #Homework Gap. This debate considers whether kids who cannot do Internet-based homework at home can keep up with more advantaged peers and the role that affordable, robust in-home broadband plays as an educational tool, not just a luxury. This is a challenge we have in adult education and community literacy, as well.
These findings support Steve Reder’s research on the practice effect; that the more practice you do with literacy and numeracy, the more your proficiency will grow. This seems intuitive, but in fact we often dismiss or overlook the additive effect of out of school or class practice on skill development. We should not. We should be making supplemental practice an expected and integral part of the learning experience, through models such as the flipped classroom, blended learning, and inquiry models like problem-based learning. And we should be talking about this with our students using charts like this to help them seek opportunities and build new habits of engaging in more reading, numeracy, and digital literacy practice.
But there is a policy element at play here as well. The recent OECD What’s the Problem? study that went into great depth on the problem solving domain, demonstrated a strong relationship between access to digital technologies and the Internet and proficiency in PSTRE. This is also not surprising. In order to practice, you must have the equipment and access to do so. This echoes the Homework Gap debate I just mentioned.
This webinar tackles both of these big issues: getting access and getting practice. We hope that you will apply these ideas in – and out – of your own classroom and program, share them in your community, and help more youth and adults get connected to learning.“