CSTA, NSA Collaborate for Better Cybersecurity Education

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

A professional group for middle and high school computer science teachers is currently considering ways to educate its members concerning cybersecurity so that they can pass the information along to tomorrow’s workforce.

The Computer Science Teachers Association has announced plans to increase its offerings in cybersecurity education.  The decision came after a collaboration between CSTA and the National Security Agency, who worked to create a cybersecurity program for students.

One major result was uncovered from the initiative: teachers, too, are looking for help in learning about cybersecurity.  Almost 90% of middle and high school computer science teachers in the United States do not have computer science degrees.  Many hold degrees in math or science instead.  While these teachers have a better understanding of computer science than the average person does, their knowledge does not go as far as someone who holds a degree in the subject.

“One of the pieces of feedback we got from the teachers is they thought they could do better at it if they actually understood cybersecurity a little better,” CSTA Executive Director Mark Nelson told TechRepublic this week.

As a result, an eight-hour certification course titled the “Cyber Teacher Certificate” was created.  The goal of the course is to give teachers the tools they need to help their own students learn about a field that is in need of new workers.

Developed with CompTIA and distributed through the online education firm LifeJourney, the curriculum includes a number of topics including compliance, best practices, encryption, authentication, and governance.  In addition, teachers are asked to complete online cybersecurity career simulations and perform real-life mentoring with students prior to the issuance of the certificate.

LifeJourney makes videos to help students gain a better understanding of real-world work in the field they would like to study.

CSTA, owned by the Association for Computer Machinery, hopes to increase these offerings with lessons on diversity in an effort to push for the industry to increase its numbers.

“Cybersecurity job growth is creating career opportunities for students at an unprecedented rate. Educators are actively trying to bring cyber into their classrooms so their students understand their opportunities. Computer science teachers now have a simple and powerful way to bring this capability into their classroom,” LifeJouney CEO Rick Geritz said in a news release.

The company would like to focus on teaching gender, geographic, and industry diversity next.

It is believed that a shortage of cybersecurity courses exists in higher education as well.  CloudPassage, a security firm in San Francisco, recently uncovered that these courses are only required for graduation in three of the top 50 computer science departments in the nation, writes Evan Koblentz for TechRepublic.

Similar efforts are being made in the federal government to increase cybersecurity education, including the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education.  However, the CSTA project is the only one to have been created by K-12 teachers themselves.