BOX 6.1

Fluency with Information Technology (and Cybersecurity)

A report entitled Being Fluent with Information Technology published several years ago by the National Research Council (NRC) sought to identify what everyone—every user—ought to know about information technology.1 Written in 1999, that report mentioned security issues in passing as one subtopic within the general area of information systems. Subsequently, Lawrence Snyder, chair of the NRC Committee on Information Technology Literacy responsible for the 1999 report, wrote Fluency with Information Technology: Skills, Concepts, and Capabilities.2 The University of Washington course for 2006 based on this book ( addresses security issues in greater detail by setting forth the following objectives for the security unit:

  • Learn to create strong passwords

  • Set up junk e-mail filtering

  • Use Windows Update to keep your system up to date

  • Update McAfee VirusScan so that you can detect viruses

  • Use Windows Defender to locate and remove spyware

Another NRC report, ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary,3 released in 2006, suggested that security issues were one possible update to the fluency framework described in the 1999 NRC report.

Taken together, these reports indicate that in the 8 years since Being Fluent with Information Technology was released, issues related to cybersecurity have begun to become important even to the most basic IT education efforts.


1National Research Council. 1999. Being Fluent with Information Technology. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.


2Lawrence Snyder. 2002. Fluency with Information Technology; Skills, Concepts, and Capabilities. Addison-Wesley, Lebanon, Ind.


3National Research Council. 2006. ICT [Information and Communications Technology] Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

ing and background in this subfield. For example, security understandings are often based on physical-world metaphors, such as locking doors and obscuring sensitive information. These metaphors have some utility, and yet considerable education is needed to teach users the limitations of the metaphors. (Consider that in a world of powerful search tools [e.g., Google’s desktop, and Spotlight on Mac computers], it is not realistic for those in possession of sensitive information to rely on “trusting other people not to look for sensitive information” or “burying information in

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