Day of STEM recently hosted Steve Morrill, teacher at American High School, Loyola Blakefield, for a Cyber Teacher tour of Australia. We sat down with Steve to find out more about teaching cybersecurity in the classroom.
What is a Cyber Teacher?
The cyber teacher has the ability to realise how to take very simple everyday topics and link them to today’s digital world. Many teachers make the assumption that today’s students are digital natives and understand everything about technology; not true. They may know how to use some of the technology, but very few actually know how it works, or what the long term effects of its misuse may be. The Cyber teacher’s job is to help make our students better cyber citizens of their world.
What is the value of teaching cybersecurity in the classroom?
As more and more of our resources move to the digital world our students must be fluent in the language of cyber. They don’t all need to be computer programmers, but all students should have basic knowledge of how cyber affects all other subject areas. One of the basic lessons I introduce to my students is vocabulary. They need to understand the vernacular used within the cyber domain. For example, I like to see if they recognise terms used in specific careers like Senior Security Researcher.
Do students enjoy learning about Cyber?
My favourite example is one of my former students. This student was an exceptional writer. He won every writing competition offered at our school. He had his heart set on becoming a journalist and was accepted at all of the schools he applied to. One day in his senior year he decided to tag along and attend one of my cyber competition meetings. After participating in a couple of meetings he became very interested in cyber and participated in a couple of competitions. As a result he’s pursuing a double major in journalism and computer science, and he continues to participate in national cyber competitions. He’s also doing related research under one of their PhD’s and is performing extremely well.
How did you integrate it into the curriculum?
This has been the challenge and continues to be. Next year, Cyber will be an official for credit class in addition to Ruby and Python programming. Now in our third year the reception is much warmer than when we started. Faculty, Staff, and parents are seeing how passionate their children have become with the topic and that excites them. Now with scholarships and job opportunities from industry everyone has become more receptive of the program that there are tangible benefits of participating.
What advice do you have for other teachers trying to build a cyber program for their school?
Make sure you have the time to invest in building a program like this. Make sure your administration knows exactly what the students are learning. Market this to all students, not just those you think are tech savvy. Building a constituency among teachers, parents, and students is critical.
What can I do now?
Day of STEM offers a Cyber Teaching Program.
Comprising of four modules, including an in-class Optus Cyber Security Challenge for students, the certificate provides teachers with the basic building blocks to teach cyber in Australian classrooms.
For more information and to register: https://dayofstem.com.au/