New Brunswick Developing Digital Literacy Standards for Schools

FREDERICTON– The New Brunswick government announced Monday that it’s investing in the creation of digital literacy standards for the province’s schools.

The creation of the standards will be in co-operation with the University of New Brunswick (UNB).

The goal of the digital literacy standards is to help students protect themselves online and prepare them for the jobs available in the digital and cybersecurity fields. 

Tyson Johnson, COO of CyberNB, the cybersecurity arm of Opportunities New Brunswick, said the standards will apply to students from Kindergarten through Grade 12.

“There’s a K-12 program that’s being developed and the goal is really to introduce students in New Brunswick to digital literacy,” said Johnson, in a phone interview with Huddle. “And ultimately get them more engaged and hopefully pique the interest of a lot of these young students to know that there is a future in cybersecurity but also in digital [fields] overall and show that’s a real opportunity for students as they get prepared for selecting what they want to do in post-secondary.”

Left to right: Deputy Premier Stephen Horsman; Opportunities NB CEO Stephen Lund; UNB PhD student Matt McGuire; Minister of Early Education and Childhood Development Brian Kenny and UNB President Eddy Campbell. Image: Submitted.

The province says phase one of the project, which involves the development of a draft set of the standards, is already underway, with the work being done by UNB PhD student Matt McGuire. Phase two involves consultations with teachers, industry professionals and government to ensure the draft standards are validated by stakeholders. Johnson says the final version of the standards should be completed by the end of this year and implementation would start to take place in 2019. 

For young students, Johnson said the standards will focus on online safety, which may cover things like what emails to open and not to open and what email attachments could be dangerous. It will also cover the consequences of opening dangerous material and how cybercriminals take advantage of it.

For older students, Johnson said learning will become more hands-on, with the introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless kits, coding, software development and career possibilities in the digital and technology fields in New Brunswick.

“Really get them keen to understand that if they have an aptitude for that or if they have a real knack for that, there’s a future there that can actually be accomplished without leaving the province. It matches up with our university and post-grad programs as well the ecosystem that we’re bringing in around cybersecurity and all the different companies we’re attracting into the province,” he said.

“The goal would be to know that your son or daughter as a New Brunswicker can graduate and stay in the province and have high-paying and valuable positions within the ecosystem.”

The price tag of the project is $80,000. The province says $40,000 of this amount will be covered by UNB, while the remaining investment will be split evenly between the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Opportunities NB.

 Johnson says the set of standards they create have the potential to be adopted across Canada in the future.

“From the CyberNB perspective, yes, we would certainly welcome a national adoption of the standards that New Brunswick is leading the way on. Our goal is to make students in New Brunswick the most digitally literate of any province in the country and the success of that should hopefully stimulate other provinces to look to what we’re doing and hopefully adopt,” he says.

“We’re very open to that. We want to see if we can have the rest of the country adopt the standards we’re working hard on, here in the province.”