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As Bad Information Spreads, Florida Schools Seek To Teach ‘Digital Literacy’

Greg Myre, NPR |

A new program on “digital literacy,” with a focus on topics like disinformation, is in the pipeline, thanks in part to Mike McConnell. His long career in national security included one stint as the director of national intelligence (2007-’09) and another as head of the National Security Agency (1992-’96).

McConnell is executive director of Cyber Florida, which is based at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The group works with kids throughout the state at universities, high schools, and even those in younger grades. Cyber Florida helped set up the cybersecurity program now being taught at many Florida schools. The new project, Cyber Citizenship, is even more ambitious. “We think if we can do this for Florida, we can replicate it across the nation,” he said.

Another key partner in this project is New America. The Washington think tank is curating dozens of the most promising online tools and building a site designed to be user-friendly for teachers, parents and school systems nationwide.

“What we want to do with this project is create a one stop-shop, a searchable database,” said Lisa Guernsey, head of the Teaching, Learning, & Tech program at New America. “We’re designing it for Florida educators first. But from the beginning, we’ll also make sure it’s open to all educators across the country.” New America plans to have this portal up on its website by summer. Teachers and school districts could search for the material that best suits their needs, Guernsey said.

Separating fact from fiction online is a major challenge for the country as a whole, as evidenced by the swirling claims surrounding last year’s presidential election and the ongoing pandemic. Yet schools nationwide are still trying to figure out how to teach digital skills to a younger generation that increasingly lives, studies and plays online.

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