IST hosts cybersecurity training for middle and high school STEM educators

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Twenty-six middle and high school science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers participated in the first-of-its-kind NittanyGenCyber Camp, held July 30 through Aug. 3 on the University Park campus. The educators gained hands-on experience on how to bring fundamental cybersecurity principles and their intersection with data science into the classroom.

The camp was hosted by the College of Information Sciences and Technology and included presentations from Dongwon Lee, associate professor of IST, Anna Squicciarini, associate professor of IST, and Nick Giacobe, assistant teaching professor of IST and director of the college’s undergraduate programs.

Funded through a grant from the National Security Agency (NSA) and National Science Foundation (NSF), the camp is part of the national GenCyber program, which aims to increase interest and diversity in cybersecurity careers and improve teaching methods for the delivery of cybersecurity content in K-12 curricula.

“Researchers and other organizations have identified [that] somewhere between 130,000 and 209,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs exist in the U.S. today,” said Giacobe. “Worldwide, those estimates climb to nearly 3.5 million unfilled cyber jobs by 2021 [according to Cybersecurity Ventures]. Regardless of which numbers you follow, the point is that there is a significant gap between the skills of the talent pool we have today versus what companies need today and tomorrow.” 

Lessons throughout the weeklong camp included cybersecurity basics, cryptography fundamentals, online safety, and cyber frauds and online misinformation, all customized for STEM teachers who are delivering cybersecurity concepts in their classrooms. The educators were trained in the basics of cybersecurity and data sciences, and were given guided instruction on creating lesson plans for course content.

“I gained a lot of resources to use for my students,” said James Byrns, a computer programming teacher at State College Area High School in State College, Pennsylvania. “Students will be able to interact with the material and then reflect on it. It’s about creating engagement and seeing how it impacted them and their world.”

Fellow camp participant Katy Gallagher, a 1985 alumna in business administration, and computer teacher at West Shore Middle School in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, agreed.

“It’s been very valuable,” she added. “With the world my students live in and the technology they use, without even thinking about it, it’s essential that they have some of the fundamental background skills of what they’re doing and how it could possibly impact them.”

Those skills, the educators hope, will prepare not only future cybersecurity professionals but also engage students in how to keep their information safe.

Concluded Lee, “By exposing middle and high school students to the topics of cybersecurity early on, we can immediately raise the awareness of the importance and implications of cybersecurity issues among students, and eventually increase the workforce to address the shortage of nationwide cybersecurity talents.”

Last Updated August 08, 2018