Technology Literacy Skills Needed in Further Education and/or Work: A Delphi Study of High School Graduates’ Perspectives
Educational Specialist Thesis
Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements
for the specialist degree in Vocational Education
in the Graduate College of the
University of South Florida
Christina L. Smith
Copyright ©2015 Christina L. Smith
All rights reserved
University of South Florida
College of Education
This is to certify that the thesis entitled:
TECHNOLOGY LITERACY SKILLS NEEDED IN FURTHER EDUCATION AND/OR WORK:
A DELPHI STUDY OF HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES’ PERSPECTIVES
Technology and the importance of computers in education have been recognized since the educational reform movement of the 1980's. Change that acknowledged a need for high school students to: understand the computer as an information, computation, and communication device; use computers for personal and work-related purposes; and understand the world of computers, electronics, and related technologies (A Nation at Risk, 1983, p. 26). The study, A Nation at Risk recognized our nation’s lack of computer technology skills and since, the standards in education have changed to design curriculum and integrate technology to better prepare high school students with necessary ready to work computer technology skills. In a brief review of literature the research studies found that students entering college and the workforce were lacking required necessary information technology literacy skills (Hardy, Heeler, & Brooks, 2006; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006; Kaminski, Switzer, & Gloeckner, 2009; Hanson, et al., 2009; and HR Policy, 2010). The purpose of the study is to identify the basic information technology literacy skills needed for successful participation in further education and/or work from the perspectives of recent high school graduates. In the context of the proposed study, the conceptual framework for the study is driven by a set of eight IT tasks domains that provides the situational context. These IT tasks represent basic contemporary competencies that have been deemed critical for successful participation in society, education, and work for all youth (Center for Global Competitiveness and Performance, 2012; OECD, 2012; Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2011; UNESCO, 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2010a). To address the research questions and conduct the study, a modified Delphi technique is used to gather perspectives of recent high school graduates and build a consensus on the top ten information technology skills needed in furthering education and work.
Chapter I: Introduction
With the advent of the global economy and dramatic changes in technological innovations, new skill requirements began to emerge in the 1990s across occupations which, in turn, demanded new ways of preparing youth and adults for successful transitions and participation to further education or work (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008; International Society for Technology Education, 2002; National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; U.S. Department of Education, 1991). At the core of the new skills demanded in the workplace has been an enhanced level of information technology literacy now required to function both in an information-based society and in the workplace. For example, the proportion of workers who use computers in today's workplace is about 75% compared to 25% in 1984 (U.S. Census Bureau, 1984, 2010). The use of technology has become pervasive in the workplace and everyone in just about every occupation is required to perform tasks requiring some level of technology-based skills.
Today, it is taken for granted that the world in which we live and the world of work are both driven by computer technology and innovations. Thus, information technology literacy skills are now expected for successful transition to further education and/or work (International Society for Technology in Education, 2002; Manpower Group, 2011a, 2011b, 2012; OECD, 2010; Policy Association, 2010, 2011; Packard et al., 2012; U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Thus, it is not surprising that information technology literacy has been identified as a basic and fundamental capacity, along with reading and writing, to fill high-skilled jobs, and for promoting the learning and life skills of young people and adults (International Society for Technical Education, 2002; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2011; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2009; U.S. Department of Education, 2007, 2010b). Information technology literacy has been defined as a set of skills using technology such as word processing, presentation programs, spreadsheets, conducting basic operation of computers, electronic mail systems, and using the Internet for conducting searching and sharing information (Florida Department of Education, 2009b; OECD, 2010; U.S. Department of Labor, 1991; Vermont Human Resources Investment Council, 2006).
For most of the 20th Century, typing on a typewriter was an expected basic technology skill for those individuals interested in further education and white-collar work (Fulton, 1997). In this context, keyboarding was an elective course in high school almost everyone used to take to learn such basic skills. As computers became common in the workplace toward the end of the 20th Century, business technology was the term used for elective courses emphasizing word processing, use of spreadsheets, and basic computer operations (Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009). At the onset of the 21st Century, the Internet, smart phones, cloud computing, and the use of social media has expanded technology use and has brought about an enhanced notion of information technology literacy emphasizing basic skills using word processing and presentation software, managing information with spreadsheets, using computers in various platforms (e.g., laptop, desktop), handling e-mail, and using the Internet for work, personal, and educational purposes (Celeste, 2011; Challenger, 2012; PwC, 2012; OECD, 2009). Some studies have further reinforced the idea that information technology literacy is essential in today’s workplace and in college (Aud et.al, 2012; Bennett, 2006; Florida Department of Education, 1991; Freeman and Aspray, 1999; National Excellence in Education, 1983).
To recap, the importance of information technology skills in the context of a global economy is now universally accepted. Globally, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2009), noted that basic information and communication technology skills are critical for lifelong learning and for successful participation in today’s workplace. Similarly, in the United States, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has also identified a set of contemporary skills for effective participation in today’s society and workforce including information, communications and technology skills (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2010, 2011; OECD, 2010).
Given the growing importance of technology innovation and the implications for economic development in the context of a global economy, a popular movement emerged over the past two decades calling for a well-prepared Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce to preserve the nation’s economic competitiveness (Florida Department of Education, 2010; Milfort, 2012; The National Center for O*Net Development, 2013; National Science Foundation, 2010, 2011). Under the STEM movement, technology—as defined previously—unlike science, mathematics, and even engineering, is not a discrete discipline taught formally in secondary schools. At best, technology skills are integrated in elementary and secondary schools as students use related skills to conduct school activities and projects in core subject areas (Florida Department of Education, 2009b). At worst, technology skills (i.e., information technology literacy skills) are taken for granted under the premise that technology is now part of growing up and in almost all aspects of living and work (Florida Department of Education, 2008b; OECD, 2006, 2009); and thus it is not necessary to address through formal education.
To be sure, technology-related skills are taught in career and technical education programs as basic core skills in business technology programs and as part of other technology-based occupational programs. For example, the State of Florida offers 27 technology Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs each offering a sequence of courses associated with a specific occupational area in three major clusters: A/V technology and communications, Engineering technology, and Information technology (Florida Department of Education, 2013). To enroll in such high school programs, students have to take a required course called Computing for College and Careers to develop basic and entry-level technology skills. Basic technology skills include rudimentary computer skills such as proper keyboarding skills and integrated software applications using Microsoft Office Software (i.e., Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access), and developing Web pages (Vermont Human Resources Investment Council, 2006). In turn, entry-level technology skills emphasized in the common course involve using the Internet, understanding computer hardware, preparing business documents, document management, and proper keyboarding skills. After taking this core course, students are then able to move on to mid-level technology skills by taking additional courses associated with one of the 27 CTE technology programs as noted above.
While there is clearly a pathway for students to learn basic and more advanced technology skills in career and technical education, these opportunities are limited to those choosing to participate in technical programs, which are often viewed as preparation for related work (Florida Department of Education, 2009b, 2012; Institute for a Competitive Workforce, 2008; Deloitte Consulting, 2008; Packard et al., 2012). To this end, what are the technology skills of students in the general and college-bound tracks? For large segments of the student populations who are unaware or ill informed of the opportunities available through CTE via elective coursework (e.g., Computers for College and Careers course) or formal programs in related areas, one can only question whether their information technology literacy is even more shortchanged in high school. For students in non-technology based technical tracks, technology skills are often covered in peripheral terms and haphazardly in elementary and secondary education (Florida Department of Education 2009b, 2012; Hohlfeld et al., 2008; Miller, 2004; OECD 2010; Wilson et al, 2010). Under these conditions, the question is whether students graduating from high school are actually ready for transitioning to either college or work equipped with a basic level of information technology literacy.
The issue though, is the fact that although, the value of information technology skills has been noted as critical for further education and work, there is little research clarifying what they really are to guide further study. For instance, when the SCANS Report was released early in the 1990s, it recognized the use of technology as part of five basic competencies employers wanted (U.S Department of Labor, 1991). However, the nature of the basic competencies (or skills), had to be refined when it became obvious that such competencies did not always match the reality in actual practice (HR Policy Association, 2010; Manpower Group, 2011a, 2011b, 2012; OECD, 2005, 2012; Shumer, 2003). With this lesson in mind, it is important to determine what contemporary information technology skills are actually used by high school graduates transitioning to further education and work. Thus, related research is warranted to inform curricular practices in secondary education.
The purpose of the study was to identify the basic information technology literacy skills needed for successful participation in further education and/or work from the perspectives of recent high school graduates. In the context of the proposed study, information technology literacy was defined as basic skills using computers, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, databases, graphic software, networking, electronic information and telecommunications. The target population was high school graduates from a rural community in the state of Florida who have transitioned to further education or work in a recent three-year period (2009-2012). Further education was defined as being enrolled in a university, community college, or other postsecondary education setting. In turn, work participation was defined as part- or full-time employment held for at least one year upon graduation.
To address the purpose of the study, three research questions guided the study inquiry from the perspective of recent high school graduates:
1. What are the basic information technology skills needed for participation at work upon graduation from high school?
2. What are the basic information technology skills needed for participation in
3. What are the basic information technology skills needed for participation in further education and at work?
The conceptual framework for the study was informed by a set of eight IT tasks domains including basic computer skills, word processing, using spreadsheets, using presentation software, using graphics software, using databases, using computer networks, and using electronic information and telecommunications. These IT tasks represent basic contemporary competencies that have been deemed critical for successful participation in society, education, and work for all youth (Center for Global Competitiveness and Performance, 2012; OECD, 2012; Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2011; UNESCO, 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2010a)
Specifically, basic computer skills refer to rudimentary basic skills such as keyboarding; selecting and using appropriate software; and access computer resources with the ability to utilize them in daily work. Word processing involves creating business documents by formatting the information into create letters, newsletters, flyers, and brochures. Using spreadsheets includes creating databases, entering data, formatting data, creating formulas, incorporating graphs, and exporting data. Presentation software includes communication and collaboration of presenting data of content with visual appeal with slide transitions, animations, and sound. Graphic and imaging skills uploading, editing, and file types for appropriate software program. Database software involves creating databases, entering data, and creating reports using sort, queries, and mail merge. Networking would include wireless connection of devices such as printers, tablets, and cell phones. Using electronic information and telecommunications refer to skills using the Internet, E-mail, teleconferencing, and collaborating resources that are available online.
The conceptual framework provided a reference for technology literacy skills identified by recent high school graduates in the context of work and post-secondary education as illustrated in Figure 1.1. The conceptual framework also allowed the identification of basic skills that are shared both at work and in further education in comparison to IT skills noted in the literature.
Figure 1: Conceptual Framework
Significance of the Study
Research studies from employers and colleges show that graduating high school students lack specific computer skills (Grant, Malloy & Murphy, 2009; Kaminski, Switzer & Gloechner, 2009; Kleen & Rodrigue, 2010; Manpower Group, 2012; McDonald et.al, 2013; Tesch, Murphy, and Crable, 2008; Treadwell et al., 2013). Based upon critical analysis of policies and research, it is necessary for youth to be proficient in workplace computer technology skills in high school that better prepare them for college and careers. This type of study serves to gauge the implications for high school curriculum and instruction (Popham, 2010). The analysis of specific computer skills needed in further education and work should be valuable in informing the integration of technology in secondary curriculum and instruction to better prepare individuals to meet the demands of the labor market and promote national economic growth. The results of this study should also inform further research on technology literacy and contribute to the related body of knowledge. As such, the study should contribute to the shared understanding of gaps in computer readiness skills used at college and work and the implications to high school course taking patterns.
The study is restricted to panelists from a rural community and the results may not reflect the full depth and breadth of computer literacy skills needed in college and at work upon graduation from high school. That is, the geographical location may limit the necessity of computer skills to fill entry to mid-level jobs offered within the local area. Many high school track offerings are based on employment needs and limited within its geographical location.
Chapter II: Review of Literature
The purpose of the study is to identify the basic information technology literacy skills needed for successful participation in further education and/or work from the perspectives of recent high school graduates. Thus, in this chapter, literature relevant to the use of technology in the workplace, information technology literacy skills, and technology education in schools will be reviewed. In addition, research on information technology literacy will also be summarized along with a conceptual framework underlying the study.
Nature of Technology Innovation and Use
Innovations in computer and information technology have transformed all sectors of the global workplace from a knowledge-based emphasis to an information-based approach facilitated by the use of technology (Sodexo Inc., 2012). Computer technology, in essence, refers to the inputting, processing, storing, and producing information, which prior to 1935 were activities performed by individuals. Today, technology has replaced individuals, with faster ways to exchange and process data such as text, sound, photos, and movies. Applications of data that used to take days or even years to reproduce now can be produced within seconds (HR Policy, 2011). Such computer technology has dramatically impacted the way we use information at work and the way we live in the past two decades.
At work, computers have increased efficiency, enhanced delivery of goods and services, and improved productivity according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2012). Specifically, technology innovation has changed the nature of work and the skills needed to communicate, gather, organize, store, access, retrieve, and process data (Office of Technology Assessment, 1985). The introduction of electrical machines and rudimentary computers around the 1960s allowed workers to perform jobs faster and more efficient. However, for the better part of the 1990s, communication and computing still consisted of transcribing data, storing files in cabinets, physically moving documents from point to point, manually performing numerical calculations, preparing charts and tables, and delivering documents either orally or in hard copy. Preparation of such communications required considerable effort and time to deliver information (Office of Technology Assessment, 1985; Early Office Museum, 2013).
By the mid-1990 the information technology age exploded with the advent of computer technology innovation and the Internet, and further changed the way people work (Aud et al., 2012; Felstead et al., 2007; Freeman & Aspray, 1999, Center for Global Competitiveness and Performance, 2012). A study of typical skills needed at work between1986 to 2006 reported technical know-how as a generic skill needed across all jobs and all industries (Felstead et al., 2007). That is, skilled workers are now required to know how to use technology effectively, and adapt quickly to new technologies. Given these new skill demands in the workplace, the percent of workers using computer technology across occupations were estimated to increase to about 75% in 2010 compared to only 25% in 1984 (U.S. Census Bureau, 1984, 2010). This increase in the use of technology skills can be attributed to the shift from labor intense work to “knowledge work” prevalent in a global economy (Karoly & Panis, 2004; Partnership for 21st Century, 2011).
In everyday life, individuals are able to be more flexible with their ability to work and communicate anywhere, anytime, and anyplace. To be sure, changes in technology have gone from communication over days for delivering mail by the Pony Express in 1860 to today’s real-time impact of the Internet.
With the evolution of computer technology and Internet communications, the World Wide Web, mobile devices, and social media have become the mainstream of people’s lives socially and at work (HR Policy, 2011; PewInternet, 2013, PwC, 2012). Information technology provides instant gratification with real time results creating a cyberspace world. Cyberspace exists entirely with a flow of information mediated through computers and the World Wide Web. More recently, cloud computing has also enhanced access and speed for real-time communication and the storing and retrieval of information. Cloud computing entrusts remote servers with user’s data, software applications, and results of applications (OECD, 2009; PwC, 2012). In turn, popular mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and iPads allow for mobile communication anytime, anyplace, and anywhere.
In short, emerging technologies have changed the way we learn, use, and share information and in the process have also changed the way we live, work and do business (HR Policy, 2011; OECD, 2009; PewInternet, 2013; PwC, 2012).
The Information Technology Literacy Movement
Given the dramatic changes in the world of work as a result of the widespread and more versatile use of technology, it has become increasingly evident that it is essential to acquire basic information technology literacy skills as a stepping-stone for successful participation in today’s world of work. Information computer technology (ICT) literacy skills are now being considered as basic literacy skills along with reading and writing representing fundamental qualifications that are needed in every job from a global perspective (Anderson & Weert, 2002; Center for Global Competitiveness and Performance, 2012; International Society for Technical Education, 2002; HR Policy Association, 2010; Manpower Group, 2011; OECD, 2010; Packard et al., 2012; UNESCO, 2009). To this end, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in 2002 described basic ICT literacy skills as using computers, managing files, word processing, spreadsheets, databases, creating presentations, finding information, and communicating with computers, social and ethical issues, and jobs using ICT (Anderson & Weert, 2002; Center for Global Competitiveness and Performance, 2012). Information and communication technology (ICT) has become one of the basic building blocks of modern society and has resulted in an information technology literacy movement fueled by calls for emphasizing related computer technology skills both internationally and nationally.
International call for technology skills. Advancements in technology have significantly contributed to the global economic growth and an international call for computer technology skills (Aud et al., 2012; Center for Global Competitiveness and Performance, 2012). From an international perspective, a skilled informational technology worker adds value to economic growth in developing new innovative technologies; and as such the supply and demand for such ICT skills is dynamically inter-related for global economic growth (Aud et al., 2012; Center for Global Competitiveness and Performance, 2012; OECD, 2012). Thus, the international call is to raise technology skill levels through quality education and training to promote successful participation in the workplace and economic growth. Based on a review of ICT policies in 49 countries, in 2010 the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) found the need to promote information computer technology (ICT) in higher education, vocational training, and on-the-job training for economic growth.
To promote ICT skills, the OECD (2012) proposal was to raise the quality of education in skills development effectively so that individuals leave K-12 education with not only a diploma but with corresponding technology skills. In support of such call, the OECD (2012) argued that ICT literacy skills are necessary for all technology-related jobs. Basic computer skills and computer related degrees should be developed through formal education, whereas specialized advanced degrees and sector-specific training is needed for more advanced occupations such as engineers and mathematicians. This international call for the promotion of ICT skills through formal education was further reinforced by the UNESCO in 2012 building upon a rationale advanced by Hawkridge (1990) who argued about the: (a) Need to teach with basic ICT skills to prepare students for their place in society, (b) importance of ICTs in giving students appropriate skills for future jobs, (c) enhancement of teaching and learning with the help of ICTs, (d) role ICTs may have in realizing educational change, (e) promotion of the ICT industry in education, and (e) the expectation that ICTs will reduce costs for education (UNESCO, 2012). Based on the above rationale, UNESCO has advanced the idea of promoting basic ICT skills as a separate subject so students can discover ICT tools, functions and uses, and an integrated stage whereby students would be to apply the ICT tools in different subject areas (UNESCO, 2002). To recap, from an international perspective, it is considered imperative that we teach basic ICT skills that are appropriate for all technology skilled jobs.
National call for technology skills. In, 1983, the A Nation at Risk report called for an overhaul of the education system citing lagging academic preparation and the demand for highly skilled workers in new fields of computer technology (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). At that time, computers were just starting to penetrate every aspect of our lives—in home, factories, and offices—and the report projected that technology would radically transform all occupations beyond health care, and science. The report prompted calls for sweeping education reforms while also noting the need for basic literacy and technology skills in a world of ever-accelerating competition and change in the workplace.
In 1991, the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) responded to earlier calls for sweeping education reforms and published a set of skills that were deemed to be required for successful participation in the workforce. Technology was listed as one of the five-workplace competencies necessary to perform effectively in work. The use of technology was defined as selecting, applying, and maintaining a variety of appropriate applicable technologies. The SCANS (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991) report called for teaching specific workplace computer skills and competencies within the curriculum. SCANS defined information technology literacy as the ability to responsibly use appropriate technology to communicate, solve problems, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create information, and make decisions based on that information (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991).
In 2002, No Child Left Behind Act followed suit with high stakes testing and calls for accountability for increased student academic achievement. The Act incorporated the integration of computer technology skills through access to equipment and professional development. Part D of the Act, Enhancing Education through Technology Act of 2001, specifically called for the improvement of student academic achievement and increased student access to ensure that every student is technology literate by the time the student finishes eighth grade, regardless of the student’s race, ethnicity, gender, family income, geographic location, or disability. The social rationale is the need to teach basic information technology skills in order to prepare students for their place in society and skills that prepare them for future jobs, which also aligns with the international perspective on promoting ICT skills (UNESCO, 2002).
In career and technical education similar legislation also called for related reforms and integration of information technology skills. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, and subsequent amendment to the Act in 1998 called for program improvements to integrate academic, vocational, and technical instruction that prepare students for work or college. Career and technical education (CTE) programs offer students the opportunity to learn specific industry and technology skills relevant to the modern workplace. CTE is a vital component of a 21st century workforce that provides students with real-world job skills (Deloitte Consulting; 2001, 2005, 2012). At the state level, with some customization, related legislation affords states the opportunity to promote CTE and technology literacy according to their own vision. For example, the Florida Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE) were enacted in 2007 to promote career academies and provide students with national industry certification qualifications to meet industry standards. However, although CTE programs are essential components of high school curricula, in secondary schools is not a requirement to include technology as a CTE program. Technology-related courses are considered as elective for graduation purposes (ACM & CSTA, 2011; National Center for Women & Information Technology, 2011; Wilson et al., 2010)
Further, the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics movement (STEM) has reactivated the earlier argument cited by The Nation at Risk report calling a renewed emphasis on education reform and boost participation in STEM-related careers (National Science Foundation, 2010). At issue is the fact that concerning technology, there is no formal education in place to reform. Technology education is, in many ways, taken for granted and considered to be peripheral to science and mathematics (National Science Foundation, 2010, 2012). Similarly, the majority of the states in the nation have recently adopted the Common Core Standards, which essentially represent national academic standards for K-12 schools in the United States outlining what is to be taught in public schools (Core Standards Organization, 2012). In this regard, although the rationale for the Common Core State Standards is to make all students ready for life in a technological society, the standards do not consider technology as a separate subject and continues to treat related emphasis as part of the expectations across staple school subjects (Core Standards Organization, 2012). To fill this void, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) has provided a framework for emphasizing distinct ICT elements as part of contemporary skills, knowledge, and expertise students should master to succeed in work and life in today’s world of work (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2010; 2011). The Partnership for 21st Century Skills highlights the importance of workers to be able to perform a wide range of information, media, and technology skills. Most importantly, the Partnership argues that such skills should be a visible and integral part of the school curricula.
In 2012 a survey of America employers found that across all occupations, the most common reasons for difficulty in filling jobs were lack of technical competencies (hard skills) and lack of experience (Manpower Group, 2012). Hard skills were defined in the survey as industry specific qualifications professional and industry skilled trades, operating mechanical/industrial equipment, and computer IT skills. The survey results reinforced the rationale for the information technology literacy skills movement both internationally and nationally.
Technology Education in Schools
In 2010, the National Technology Plan defines the new model of education as learning powered by technology. Technology allows access to a much wider and more flexible set of learning resources. Incorporating 21st-century technology in meaningful ways to engage, motivate, and inspire learners of all ages to achieve (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). Technology encompasses access, availability, and knowledge of educators. In response to this call, the International Society for Technology in Education created National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S) encompassing a full range of technology competencies that include creativity and innovations, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making, digital citizenship, and technology operations and concepts (International Society for Technology in Education, 2002, 2012; Roblyer, 2000).
Albeit the availability of technology standards and the fact those technology skills are essential for successful participation in the workforce, the treatment of technology literacy in high school varies greatly across states (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2010). Technology literacy credit is only required for high school graduation in seven states and five states provide it as a potential credit toward graduation. Further, in Georgia, a computer science course can fulfill a science credit, while in other nine states it can fulfill a math credit toward core graduation requirements (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2010). In turn, in six other states the districts determine whether computer science is a credit in a core subject or a requirement to graduate. In this regard, Arizona offers computer science as a business credit at the discretion of the districts. Further, thirty-five states offer it as an elective credit and as a suggested graduation requirement (ACM & CSTA, 2011). In the entire country, North Carolina is the only state that offers a mandatory technology literacy exam to graduate (ACM & CSTA, 2011).
Technology education is formally offered in high schools through Advanced Placement Computer classes or in career and technical education (CTE) programs as elective courses in computer and information technology courses as an option to the graduation requirements. CTE programs offer a sequence of courses to fulfill elective graduation requirements. In addition to offering elective courses, CTE also offers career programs that are aligned with industry occupational standards and focusing on integrated academics and real world activities current to industry practices for students interested in related certification. To that effect, students concentrating in CTE programs can earn college credit through dual articulation agreements with local colleges and by earning specific industry certifications. For example, in the State of Florida, CTE offers nine programs related to Arts, A/V Technology & Communication, five programs in Engineering & Technology Education, and thirteen programs in Informational Technology. The most growth in participation rates in the State of Florida includes the Digital Design program (Art, A/V Technology & Communication) and Information Technology, with the latter reporting more than twice the participation compared to the Digital Design program (Florida Department of Education, 2008a, 2009a, 2010).
Despite the numerous programs, and employment prospects in technology-related industry, participation declined in 2007-2010 from 78, 576 to 76,882 students, which fueled the call for boosting participation in the related programs (FLDOE, 2008a, 2009a, 2010; National Center for Career and Technical Education Statistics, 2009). In fact, computers are being pushed out of K-12 education even with the onset of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States (Wilson et al., 2010). For example, secondary school offerings of pre-AP Computer Science courses from 2005 dropped to 6 percent in 2007 and 27 percent in 2009. Further, participation in the AP Computer Science course dropped 20% in 2007 and 35% in 2009 (CSTA, 2011).
In this context, the integration of technology skills are emphasized in the overall frameworks of educational policies of STEM and Common Core standards without specificity on how and what technology tools to use in order to accomplish projects that incorporate the Internet, produce and publish writings, link to other information, and display information flexibly and dynamically (Core Standards Organization, 2012). The demands of high school graduation requirements leaves little room for students to take direct instruction on learning specific technology skills needed in work or further education (ACM & CSTA, 2010; National Center for Educational Statistics, 2011).
Research on Information Technology Workplace Readiness Skills
Given the fact that some students elect to take some technology-related courses for graduation, while others may complete high school without formal technology education, what is the impact on workplace readiness? Further, what is the post-secondary education readiness regarding technology skills and the implications for successful participation? Related research is reviewed below.
Technology Workplace readiness skills. In general, available research suggests that initial workplace readiness is deficient including basic technology skills. For example, in a study of workforce readiness, the Conference Board (2006) reported that 40 percent of employers thought the overall preparation of students with basic entry-level skills were deficient (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006). The results were consistent with a prior study reporting that 60 percent of employers found high school graduates lacking basic skills with 54 percent of students entering post-secondary school in need of basic remediation courses (Achieve, 2004a, 2004b).
Research studies found that specific employability computer skills included office suite proficiency in word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentation and graphics software (Jennings & Wilson, 2007; Jennings et al., 2007). Other research reports on specific computer technology skills found that students entering work and/or college lack the necessary proficiency skills required to use computers (Wallace & Clariana, 2005; Hardy, Heeler, & Brooks, 2006; Stone & Madigan, 2007; Tesch, Murphy, and Crable, 2008; Kaminski, Switzer & Gloechner, 2009; Grant, Malloy & Murphy, 2009; Daggett, 2010; Hanson et. al., 2011a, 2011b; McDonald et. al., 2013).
A survey of literacy, numeracy, and computer skills for the workplace found that computer skills varied the ease of sending and receiving e-mails (88 percent), accessing websites (79 percent), searching the Internet for information (78 percent), Word processing (66 percent), using social networking sites (45 percent), and using spreadsheets (34 percent) (UNISON, 2012). Respondents to the survey wished to improve skills to gain confidence and perform better, work quickly, get more done, and take on additional tasks. The same survey found that technology literacy was valued at work because employers perceived that it enhanced productivity and performance, reduced errors and wastage, improved customer relations, improved internal communications, reduced absenteeism, and contributed to effective staff training (UNISON, 2012).
Post-secondary readiness technology skills. Overall, it appears that students entering post-secondary education believe that their technology skills are more refined than what they actually are due, perhaps, to the idea of frequent use in daily life (Friestad -Tate, 2002; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2004; Hardy, Heeler, & Brooks, 2006; DuFrene & Clipson, 2010). For example, Kaminski Switzer & Gloechner (2009) collected data from incoming freshman students and found that perceptions of attained computer technology skills were higher than when they graduated four years later. In turn, Katz & Macklin (2001) while studying the growing importance of computer technology literacy in higher education found that students performed better academically with more basic and intermediate computer application skills.
The Katz & Macklin study surmised that student’s perceptions of computer technology skills were higher due to the interactions with the Internet and concluded that integrating technology with learning specific computer software applications improved the quality of computer skills. The message was that integrating technology is not enough; educators must instruct students on how to use specific computer tool-based software used within the content being taught.
Overall, the body of literature on proficiency and extent of use of computer and information technology skills at work and in college is limited. Available research suggests that student perceptions do not always signify that they have the knowledge to perform the tasks to integrate technology that is expected. Thus, further research is needed to contribute to this line of inquiry.
To be sure, computer technology has become more evident in everyday life, school and work (Center for Global Competitiveness and Performance, 2012; OECD, 2012; Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2011; UNESCO, 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2010a). The question is what specific technology skills should be considered as basic skills for successful entry in the workforce and post-secondary education (OECD, 2013).
To address the above question the conceptual framework for the study is informed by a set of eight IT tasks domains in basic computer operations, word processing, using spreadsheets, using presentation software, using graphics software, using databases, using computer networks, using electronic information and telecommunications provides the situational context in the conceptual framework. These IT tasks represent basic contemporary competencies that provide the situational context in the conceptual framework (Florida Department of Education, 2009b, 2012, 2013; Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006). Research studies have defined the following IT domains as basic skills that are most common for entry level requirements in work and in college and provides a basis for this study (Florida Department of Education, 2009b, 2009c, 2012, 2013; McCoy, 2001; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006). The conceptual frameworks are drawn from the literature and the conduct of inquiry by isolating those specific skills (Bailie, 2011; Skulmoski, Hartman, & Krahn, 2007).
Computer operations include the basic understanding and rudimentary operations of various computer hardware and software components. Basic computer skills such as using Window operating systems, Apple operating systems, setting up a new computer, adding a new user account, viewing contents of the hard drive, using external hard drives, formatting drives, selecting appropriate software program, copying files to CD, DVD’s or other media, managing files and folders, backing up computer, virus protection, pop up blockers, spyware blockers, firewalls, filters, maintain password security, toggle between software programs, and speed of keyboarding skills (Florida Department of Education, 2009c, 2013; Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006). Having computer operations knowledge is just the beginning focus of basic computer skills (Florida Department of Education, 2009c, 2013; Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006).
Word processing includes creating business documents by formatting the information to create letters, mailings, newsletters, flyers, reports, and brochures. The basic word processing skills include creating a new document, opening a document, saving a document, insert images, bullet list and change bullet types, change font, color, and text size, change word color scheme, show/hide track changes, change line spacing, sort lists, add a source and create a bibliography, hide/show formatting marks, create tables, copy and paste text, place text in columns, save in different formats, create mail merge, hyperlink to other document, add header and footer, use find and replace existing text, indent a block of text, insert section breaks, and add a watermark (Florida Department of Education, 2009c, 2012, 2013; Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006).
Spreadsheets includes creating databases, entering data, formatting data, creating formulas, incorporating graphs, and exporting data. The basic spreadsheet skills include setting margins, entering data, create formulas of MAX, MIN, AVG, and SUM, apply number, time, date, currency, and percentage formats to cells, use an absolute reference in a formula to calculate a value as a percent of another value, hide rows or columns, delete rows and columns, change row and column widths, conditional formatting, analysis, sections breaks, headers and footers, sorting and filtering, creating a query, and inserting images, charts, and smart art objects (Florida Department of Education, 2009c, 2013; Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006).
Presentation software includes communication and collaboration of presenting data of content with visual appeal with slide transitions, animations, and sound. The basic presentation skills include save, close, and open a presentation, create new, design, page setup, header and footers, adding images, sound and video, animating objections, transitions of slides, creating layouts from master slides, add connectors between objects and group objects, copy slides, modify slides, hide slides, hyperlinking, save as a movie, packaging presentation, modifying slideshow, and viewing slideshow (Florida Department of Education, 2009c, 2013; Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006).
Graphic and imaging skills include uploading, editing, and file types for appropriate software program. The basic graphic and imaging skills include resizing image, resolution of image, cropping, downloading, uploading, optimizing images, printing handouts, change colors, brightness/contrast, hues, and saturation, and understanding and using camera raw files (Florida Department of Education, 2009c, 2013; Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006).
Database software involves creating databases, entering data, and creating reports using sort, queries, and mail merge. The basic database skills include creating a new database, editing a database, entering data, retrieving data by sorting and creating a query, running a query, running reports, using multiple databases, setting primary keys, and creating forms (Florida Department of Education, 2009c, 2013).
Computer Networking would include wireless connection of devices such as printers, tablets, and cell phones. The basic computer networking skills include installing wireless devices such as a computer, printer, and cell phone and using a network using a Local Area Network (LAN) (Florida Department of Education, 2009c, 2013).
Electronic Information and telecommunications refer to skills using the Internet, E-mail, teleconferencing, and collaborating resources that are available online. The basic skills include sending and receiving e-mails, opening and sending attached documents, managing folders, deleting e-mails, configuring e-mail, set-up address books, creating group e-mails, cloud computing, using drop boxes, teleconferencing, creating webpages, tracking visited websites, using collaborating tools via the Internet, siting accurate resources, locating sources over the Internet, access information via libraries and encyclopedias, identify and use the address bar in a web browser, follow copyright and plagiarism policies, user interaction of online such as Wikispaces or blogs, and cloud computing regarding drop boxes (Florida Department of Education, 2009c, 2013).
The conceptual framework provide a reference for technology literacy skills and identify basic skills shared both at work and in further education in comparison to the perspectives of recent high school graduates who have transitioned into work or post-secondary education settings (Bailie, 2011).
Chapter III: Methods
The purpose of the study was to identify the basic information technology literacy skills needed for successful participation in further education and work from the perspectives of recent high school graduates. Derived from the purpose, three research questions guided the study:
1. What are the basic information technology skills needed for participation at work upon graduation from high school?
2. What are the basic information technology skills needed for participation in
3. What are the basic information technology skills needed for participation in further education and at work?
The research design, participants, data and instrumentation, data collection procedures, and analysis to address research questions are described in this chapter.
To address the research questions and conduct the study, a modified Delphi technique was used to gather perspectives of interest from recent high school graduates and build a consensus on what information technology skills are needed in further education and work. The Delphi technique is a research method often used to gather input and clarify topics and/or content of interest drawing from the perspectives of expert panels representing the field serving as the context for issues of interest. In this regard, the Delphi technique also allows the identification of areas where divergent views are located in a given field. In general, the method is rooted in the idea that it is possible to build consensus on topics that matter in the field based on the collective input of expert panelists (Nworie, 2011; Stitt-Gohdes & Crews, 2004). In general, the Delphi method offers reliability and generalizability of outcomes guided by principles of anonymity and of participation through the process of rounds for data collection and analysis (Day & Bobeva, 2005; Linstone & Turoff, 1975; Skulmoski, Hartman, & Krahn, 2007; Weigel & Hazen, 2014).
Typically, a Delphi study includes two or more rounds of input from expert panelists with the first round usually targeting the identification of baseline content to be clarified in subsequent rounds (Delbeq et al., 1975; Linstone & Turoff, 1975). In this study, three rounds were used following the general premises of the Delphi technique. The only modification was in the first round whereby the conceptual framework for the study was used to pre-determine basic technology skills to elicit initial input from panelists, rather than requiring the panelist to identify those skills themselves. This modification is supported in related research suggesting that sets of pre-determined items drawing from the literature can be used to guide the initial inquiry following a Delphi technique (Bailie, 2011; Stitt-Gohdes & Crews, 2004; Skulmoski, Hartman, & Krahn, 2007).
Given the premises of the study, a modified Delphi technique is best suited to conduct the proposed inquiry as it preserves the method’s general approach and intent. That is, based on the input of panelists representing recent high school graduates who have transitioned to work or post-secondary education, the Delphi method will allow the facilitation of consensus on basic technology skills needed at work and in college.
Selection of Participants
The target population for participation as study panelist was students who graduated from a high school to be referred herein as Florida High School within a three-year time (2010-2012) frame. The target population of high school graduates included 97 in 2010, 106 in 2011, and 80 in 2012. The Florida High School serves 9th-12th grade students, and is a rural school located in the ninth largest county in the state of Florida.
Based on an average annual graduation rate of 94 students, the target population included 283 students with potential to serve as expert panelists. High school graduates are considered “experts” because they can provide insights of interest due to their direct knowledge and personal experiences with computer literacy in either the workplace or college (Wilson & Moffett, 2010). To ensure input and consensus on the technology skills of interest at work and in college, two independent panelist groups were selected for participation in the study, one representing high school graduates in the workplace and the other in college with a minimum of 15 panelists in each group. The target participation per group aligns with guidelines for conducting Delphi studies depending on the homogeneity of the participants (Delbecq et al., 1975).
For panelist selection in each group, a purposive sampling procedure was conducted. Purposeful sampling is where the researcher intentionally selects participants in a specific group because they clearly represent the phenomenon of interest and can provide related insights such as—in the case of this study—high school graduates who are either at work or college and can provide insights about the use of technology skills (Creswell, 2008). Contact information of students who graduated in 2000-2012 was obtained from the Florida High School database. Approval for data access was secured following proper procedures for conducting research involving human subjects as per University of South Florida and school district guidelines. Students selected for participation had at least one year at work or in college.
Prospective participants were called or e-mailed depending on the information available on the Florida High School database. Contacting graduates continued until the minimum of 15 volunteer panelists was reached for each group. Once participants were identified, gender, ethnicity, and graduation year was directly verified. In addition, the extent of computer course-related taken in high school was verified based on student records from the home school database to profile study panelists.
A set of basic technology skills were identified through a review of literature and informed the Delphi study protocols used to elicit the target input and consensus from panelists (Florida Department of Education, 2009b, 2012, 2013; Grant, Malloy, & Murphy, 2009; Tesch, Murphy, & Crable, 2006). The basic computer skills address eight domains of specific computer competencies. The eight domains of computer competencies statements include 24 basic computer skills, 23 word processing skills, 21 spreadsheet skills, 20 presentation skills, 12 graphical and imaging skills, 8 database skills, 4 networking skills and 20 Internet and telecommunications skills. This initial set of basic technology skills served as the basis for the protocols used in the iterative process of the Delphi study to inform the rounds of inquiry (Day & Bobeva, 2005; Delbeq et al., 1975; McCoy, 2001; Linstone & Turloff, 1975; Skulmoski, Hartman, & Krahn, 2007; Young, 2012).
Data Collection Procedures
Participants were informed verbally about the voluntary nature of their participation and the expectations associated with three rounds of consultation. As recommended by other researchers, all participants were given one week to respond during each round (Delbecq et al., 1975). During each round, as called for the method, participants had the opportunity to verify or change their responses upon engaging in further discussion of collective responses (Young, 2012). The online web service SurveyMonkey was used to collect data for all three rounds.
Round One. In Round one participant’s were provided with a set of computer skills relating to eight domains including spreadsheet skills, presentation skills, graphical and imaging skills, database skills, networking skills, and Internet and telecommunications skills. Participants were asked to identify technology skills needed at work or in college and list any additional skills they felt are needed but not included in the list relevant to each of the eight domains. Panelists were also asked to provide a brief rationale for skills identified as needed in their respective context. See Appendix B for the set of technology skills used for the first round of the study. The surveys distributed were specific for work or in college, dependent on which each expert panel was participating in.
Round Two. In the second round participant’s were provided with a set of revised basic technology skills rated as needed in Round One. Participants were asked to select the top 10 skills that they considered to be essential for their corresponding context and provide a rationale for each selected skill (Young, 2012). See Appendix E and F for second round surveys of the study. The surveys distributed were specific for work or in college, dependent on which expert panel was participating in.
Round Three. In the third round participant’s were provided a set of basic technology skills identified in Round two in their corresponding context (work or college). In this round panelists in each group were asked to review the set of skills and agree on the top 10 skills identified as the top 10 skills in their respective context. Participants were asked to rank-order the top 10 skills in terms of importance and justify the ranking of each skill with a brief rationale including examples of use in their particular context. Consensus was determined when 80% reached an agreement on the final order of skills (Ulschak, 1983). For this purpose, each participant was provided an opportunity to revise rankings. At this stage participants had an opportunity to explain their reasoning, provide additional clarity, and to further comment on others’ opinions to reach a consensus as suggested in related literature (Nworie, 2011). See Appendix I and J for third round surveys of the study.
Descriptive statistics including averages and percentages were used to summarize and describe results (Young, 2012). Consensus results used to answer research questions one and two regarding the basic essential technology skills needed at work and in college. The approach to obtaining a consensus in the Delphi study was defined as the highest percentage of agreement by panelists in terms of selecting skills as needed in their corresponding context (Linstone & Turoff, 1975; Stitt-Gohdes & Crews, 2004). In Round one, the highest percentage of agreement reported for at-work and in-college groups was consistent and sufficient to identify skills needed at work and in college by the corresponding panelist group. Because one panelist in the “at work” group produced no usable information, the highest agreement for this group was 91% consensus in Round One, while 100% was reported for the “in college” group. In Round two, because the goal was to identify 10 top skills in each domain, the highest percentages reported for at-work and in-college groups varied significantly. Thus, the approach to obtaining a consensus in Round two was achieved by setting an 80% criterion often used in Delphi studies (Ulschak, 1983), which in some cases yielded less than 10 skills based on this criterion. In Round Three, the same criterion of 80% consensus was used for confirming agreement on the top 10 skills in each domain and their ranking in terms of importance in each context. Finally, an analysis of skills identified as important in both settings was conducted to address research question three regarding skills needed at work as well as in college. The analysis of panelists’ exchanges in the consensus-building process commonly used for qualitative data to capture the shared reasoning for the justification of technology skills recognized as need at work or in college.