Cyber Florida, Florida Center for Instructional Technology and New America Launch New Partnership to Improve “Cyber Citizenship” Skills for K-12 Students

Press Release
Dec. 16, 2020

Tampa, Fla. – In an increasingly digital world, new skills are needed to thrive as a student, consumer, and citizen. This is all the more important as new challenges of misinformation and deliberate disinformation threaten our democracy and even public health. To that end, the Florida Center for Cybersecurity (Cyber Florida) and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology (FCIT), both located at the University of South Florida, and New America, a leading nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank based in Washington D.C., partnered to launch a bold new initiative on the increasingly vital topic of cyber citizenship skills. 

While digital literacy and the ability to discern truth from falsehood or manipulation are essential to modern life, the United States has fallen behind its peers in this aspect of education, harming not just individual students, but overall societal resilience against online dangers. The challenge is made even more difficult by a disconnection between practitioners and the research and policy communities that work on various aspects of the topic, while the teaching tools themselves are not gathered for easy and ready use by educators. 

The Cyber Florida, FCIT and New America partnership will face this problem with a theme of community-building and connecting tools to needs. It will build a sustainable community of educators, scholars, policymakers and practitioners who share a common interest in improving the cyber citizenship skills of our nation’s K-12 students. The joint effort to help students and teachers in this critical area will include: forming a national working group, scanning existing tools and curricula for their connection to the science of learning, and creating an internet-based collaboration platform to provide educators with easy access to cyber citizenship toolkits (comprised of lesson plans, classroom exercises and other educational materials) tailored to their own teaching needs.

“We are all digital citizens now,” said HON J. Michael “Mike” McConnell, executive director of Cyber Florida and former director of U.S. National Intelligence and the National Security Agency, “and unfortunately people—particularly young people—often don’t consider some of the challenges that come with it, things like how to deal with disinformation on social media, or understanding the dangers of oversharing online. This partnership will help young people learn how to be responsible ‘cyber citizens’ as they participate in digital democracy.”

The partnership brings together Cyber Florida’s expertise in both cybersecurity and education with New America’s unique combination of resident cybersecurity, media literacy and K-12 education expertise. It will be coordinated at New America by Lisa Guernsey, director of teaching, learning & tech, and Peter W. Singer, strategist and co-author of the book LikeWar. They will also involve other partners, such as the National Association for Media Literacy Education, with a shared goal of providing expertise and helping to build and lift up a broader community of practice. 

“The challenge of building skills to navigate online threats connects us all,” said Singer. “We are excited to work with Cyber Florida on this exciting endeavor, which will not just connect research with aid to students and teachers in Florida, but also build a new model that can be scaled across the United States.” 

The program will begin by identifying and inviting relevant educators, policymakers and subject matter experts to participate in a Cyber Citizenship Working Group. The project will then conduct a variety of activities, including research and publication of a white paper on cyber citizenship skills and tools, as well as the development and launch of a Cyber Citizenship Portal, a new searchable database of instructional materials, such as existing and proposed syllabi, student exercises and other classroom learning materials, that can be sorted and searched by grade level, efficacy, affordability and accessibility. To be available through both the Cyber Florida and New America websites, the portal will provide educators, in Florida and across the nation, ready access to needed resources and a new hub for a collaborative community dedicated to aiding our youth in navigating the online world safely and securely. 

About Cyber Florida 

The Florida Center for Cybersecurity, also known as Cyber Florida, was created by the state in 2014 to help Florida become a national leader in cybersecurity education, research, and community outreach and engagement. Hosted by the University of South Florida, Cyber Florida works with all 12 institutions in Florida’s State University System as well as other dedicated partners from the private and nonprofit sectors; local, state, and federal government; and the U.S. military to achieve our mission.

About FCIT

Housed in the University of South Florida College of Education, the Florida Center for Instructional Technology provides professional learning, digital content, and technology integration evaluation services to schools and districts worldwide. The Center’s free resource websites average over two million hits per school day from nearly 200 countries and territories. FCIT hosts a variety of resources such as iTeach Professional Learning courses, the TIM Tools suite of technology integration evaluation tools and the College of Education’s iTeach Lounge.

About New America

New America is dedicated to renewing the promise of America, bringing us closer to our nation’s highest ideals. We’re a different kind of think tank: one dedicated to public problem solving. Our team of visionary researchers, changemakers, technologists, and storytellers study and seize the opportunities presented by dramatic social and technological change. We search for powerful ideas, wherever they are, and collaborate with civic innovators around the country to develop evidence-based solutions.