A new initiative led by Binghamton University aims to give local teachers the tools they need to help their students navigate through today’s cybersecurity risks.
The GenCyber program will offer a free eight-day cybersecurity camp for 25 middle school and high school teachers in summer 2023, as well as pre- and post-camp outreach activities in K-12 schools. Funding the camp is a $136,000 grant from the National Security Agency to faculty members at the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Computer Science and the College of Community and Public Affairs’ (CCPA) Department of Teaching, Learning and Educational Leadership.
“It’s very important to help students stay safe online,” said CS Associate Professor Ping Yang, who is directing the camp. “We submitted this proposal with the goal to increase cybersecurity awareness in schools and local communities, and to improve teachers’ readiness to develop cybersecurity content. We also want to stimulate students’ interest in cybersecurity careers.”
Yang is the director of the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (CIAC), a joint effort among faculty members from Watson College, CCPA, the Harpur College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Management and the Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
The camp will cover computer and network fundamentals, cybersecurity ethics, cyberbullying, email/web/social network security and cybersecurity careers. Participating teachers will receive $900, a Chromebook, lesson slides and a T-shirt.
TLEL Associate Professor Amber Simpson sees the GenCyber camp as a way to help teachers navigate through the New York State Board of Regents’ new digital fluency learning standards, which need to be implemented in schools by fall 2024. Because she taught at the high school level for several years, she will lend her pedagogical expertise on the K-12 level.
“Part of this project is helping teachers understand what those new standards mean and how it could be implemented in their particular subject area,” Simpson said. “Someone teaching social studies could sign up, so how do these standards and this camp fit into a social studies curriculum? How might this fit into a math curriculum? It’s about helping them make that connection. To be honest, I will probably be learning a lot along with them, which will make this an even better experience for me.”
CS Associate Professor Guanhua Yan, who will serve as lead instructor for the GenCyber camp, enjoys the challenge of instructing a different audience than he usually faces.
“Both Ping and I have taught some courses in the CS Department about computer security, but we are basically teaching security professionals who already have some background in computer science,” he said. “Now we are teaching the teachers and hoping our message will be conveyed to the kids. The purpose is different, and the goal is different. This is kind of an indirect teaching.”
To attract local teachers to the camp, organizers have been reaching out to school districts as well as the Broome-Tioga BOCES. The long-range goal would be to build a local K-12 cybersecurity ecosystem through partnerships with schools, science centers, high-tech companies and Binghamton University student organizations.
“In the past, CIAC has focused on advancing cybersecurity research and education inside the University,” Yang said. “This grant gives us the opportunity to expand the scope so we can work with schools and the local community to make an impact in our region.”