Project Manager, Security Education
“Can I have a sticker?” is a request I’m very familiar with.
Before my life as designer for the digital rights community, I was a fledgling elementary school teacher, rewarding collective good behavior with stickers at the end of class.
It’s hard being a new teacher, but thankfully there are resources: networks of teachers in similar districts teaching the same subject matter, websites where you can download, remix and share materials, and places where you can review alternative ways of structuring lessons. When I didn’t find the resources I needed, I made my own, and found that I loved creating and sharing educational games, slides and handouts.
I went to an education master’s program to immerse myself in the practice of making free, accessible learning materials for groups in need. After hearing many intelligent people disclose that they felt defeated when learning privacy-protecting tools, I focused on making digital security approachable for non-technical audiences. Designing security educational materials led me to EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defense (SSD), and I’m excited to be giving back by expanding SSD as a resource hub for security educators.
In 2016, EFF received a flood of digital security requests: from groups asking for trainings for their communities, to EFF members and civil society groups seeking guidance about how to teach digital security. Though EFF provides trainings on a limited basis, the solution was not to send more staffers to train. We decided to expand our educational materials in SSD for those who want to help their communities learn digital security.
Teaching is an art that requires mindful facilitation, a thoughtful layering of content, trust, and a deep sensitivity to the implicit needs and concerns of the audience. The additional challenge of teaching a topic like digital security is to factor in learners’ varying levels of fear, distrust, personal safety, linguistic and technological fluency, and contexts. Moreover, each person’s relationship to their devices directly affects their learning experiences, including what machines they use, how they interact with social networks, their daily workflows, their attitudes towards adopting new tools and practices, and their comprehension of various risks. What people learn—or don’t learn—has real repercussions.
What people learn—or don’t learn—has real repercussions.
Nobody knows this better than digital security trainers working within movements and with at-risk groups around the world, and we’ve been tremendously fortunate to learn from their expertise. We’ve interviewed dozens of U.S.-based and international trainers about what learners struggle with, their teaching techniques, the types of materials they use, and what kinds of educational content and resources they want. We’re working hard to ensure this is done in coordination with the powerful efforts of similar initiatives, and we seek to support, complement, and add to that collective body of knowledge and practice.
The project also requires frequent critical assessment of learners and trainers, with regular live-testing of our workshop content and user testing evaluations of the SSD website. It’s been humbling to observe where beginners have difficulty learning concepts or tools, and to hear where trainers struggle with using our materials. With their frustrations fresh in mind, we continue to iterate on the materials and curriculum.
Expanding SSD for trainers is a cross-organization initiative requiring interdisciplinary expertise. It’s been amazing to project plan with Kim Carlson, Jillian York, Eva Galperin, Noah Swartz, Bill Budington and Danny O’Brien, and collaborate with Elliot Harmon, Camille Ochoa and Shahid Buttar to meaningfully incorporate Electronic Frontier Alliance participation and U.S. trainers’ concerns into the process. I’ve learned so much from our adviser Carol Waters, whose work on the state of trainings for journalists and the security curriculum for LevelUp first inspired me.
It’s been a dream to collaborate with the training community on improving learning outcomes. I’m moved by our shared vision for sustained impact, and how these efforts will help people to be safer. Together, we can improve as security educators and help communities in need learn about digital safety.