By Rui A. S. Esteves
Área Metropolitana do Porto (Portugal)
Network of Cybersecurity Classrooms for Kids
Cybersecurity is one of the main topics in the real world, not only in cyberspace. We must be alert and protected because we are all time connected and all time online. Creating courses to teach Cybersecurity to kids, every week learning about cybersecurity and defense using “real world challenges” can mitigate the problem. Whether we are dealing with accounts in the cloud, tablets, or other connected devices, the important thing is cybersecurity learning. Modern technology enables all children to learn at their own pace, repeating material until they understand it, exploring topics more deeply when they find them interesting, and moving on to the next level as soon as they have mastered a given level in a domain. But we can improve security in this process.
Educators and trainers must keep the lines of communication open with their students throughout their childhood years. Encourage children to ask questions about anything they are unsure about. This also serves as an overarching code of online conduct for kids. Any initiative is doomed to failure without confident, well trained staff who are able to see how technology can support and benefit teaching and learning. This means that, those who are involved in learning processes of young students, must be proactive and up to date about the most recent security patch. We believe cybersecurity lessons are so important that the trainer needs to design learning so that students can learn independently and informally. Simply having an Internet connection doesn’t suddenly teach pupils how to learn. There are massive amounts of information online, but this again does not mean that learners will learn – prepared instructors must create a safe path to access that information.
The content of this training must alert of the importance, for example, of strong passwords, and of using a different one for each account. It is also not too early to instruct kids about the permanency of the things they post online – especially in social media accounts. Creating awareness around this issue early enough can potentially avoid problems in the future.
In a basic stage, students learn how to keep antivirus software up to date on all their devices, as well as operating systems and application patches. In the following level, older children even perform regular network scan´s looking for vulnerabilities in the classroom network. This level of tech awareness also raises the benefit of teaching kids how to program codes. The highest level of cybersecurity classes, in young ages, includes understanding of coding and applications architecture in order to practice safe online behavior. Cybersecurity is paramount for the future of technology in education.
School networks are one of the most important innovations in the modern era of education. They have boosted achievement and graduation rates and expanded quality options in communities that most need them.
The term ‘school networks’ may be viewed from many angles. It can refer to the linking of schools in an area, in a region, or country-wide. In large countries, regional school networks are popular, and through such networks, schools benefit from helping each other in areas such as: teaching and learning practices, use of resources, or simply receiving news. School networks can be an enriching experience for all: students, parents and teachers.
Creating a classroom network to teach cybersecurity improves opportunities to reach a high number of students and allows schools to share information about this subject. We understand a school network as a vehicle for improving schools in general. We believe that when school networks create structures that decentralize power and distribute organizational resources and leadership, they also enhance school’s capacity for change. In the process of providing cybersecurity learning, software will assess children with quizzes and challenges continuously while they are studying. Since this is all automated and automatically logged, there will be a radical reduction in the amount of paperwork teachers will have to do in the process of evaluation.
By providing design principles, curriculum materials, technology tools and professional learning opportunities, networks make it easier to create a good new school or to transform an already existing one. As a result, school networks will play an increasingly important role in bringing quality to scale. Smartly managed networks and partnerships can play a vital role in making education more accessible, more collaborative, more cooperative, to maximize the experience of all.
Technology changes at a fast pace, and making it accessible to pupils, teachers and other stakeholders is an ongoing challenge. Mobile technology is the ‘now’. Although, they will play a part in the future, ten years ago mobile devices were very residual and only used in very specific cases. We don’t know what the current technology in education will be ten years from now, but we are sure the focus must be on cybersecurity and data privacy. The future is about access, learning and collaboration, both locally and globally following security rules. Teaching and learning are going to be wide and our data will be more vulnerable in the Internet.
Technology is often a barrier to teaching and learning because of security issues. We think cybersecurity training will be important in the removal of this barrier, promoting security skills at schools in early ages.
Information and communication technology (ICT) is about pupils (and teachers) being consumers of technology. Actively creating programs about cybersecurity would empower the pupil and benefit society. Computing should be taught to emphasize a wider variety of computing languages to be compared with each other as well as to be programmed.
We believe that the event in education that has had the greatest impact on the 21st century education is technology. Its impact is important not only in the development of new techniques for teaching and evaluation, but also on the development of specific characteristics of the 21st century learners, namely on their needs, interests and learning styles. Information is within reach for everybody at any time, and teachers are no longer the only source of information. The new targets of learning are to build skills and not only passing information. The teacher is a facilitator for the learning process that is built on students’ curiosity to inquire knowledge, and the focus is on “inquire” more than on “knowledge accumulation”.
Students are nowadays more familiar with technology. This can put students (and teachers) in a difficult position and may also open dangerous doors to the cyber world where there are false people looking for an opportunity. The solution would be to acquire skills on cyberdefense, recognizing cyberattacks in order to provide defenses, and to develop permanent training for children to keep them update with the most recent technology in this field. Growth in technology brings more benefits to the educational framework, helping students to enhance their career.
The way technology is developing will be in our interest, utilizing it in every possible way. Now students can even attend online classes anywhere, anytime they want by using simple apps. We are sure that, in the near future, online education will occupy the education scene in a significant way and we must create conditions for our students to learn cybersecurity skills.
School classrooms are going to change. Thanks to cloud applications and mobile devices, technology will be integrated into every part of schools. In fact, it won’t just be the classrooms that will change. Field games, gyms and school trips will all be different. Whether offsite or onsite the school, teachers, students and support staff will all be connected.
Shared applications and documents in the cloud (for example) will enable more social lessons. And for this, private data are circulating on Internet. Students get an opportunity to collaborate productively using technology in the classroom. It is easy to make students work on documents together using web applications. They could be in the same room or in different countries. These are all good skills for students to have. Of course, these collaborative tools carry some risks because they are online. The cloud in an excellent backup for the classroom; but students must be aware of where they save (and logon) their files.
As a new subject in the curriculum, cybersecurity must have in focus child’s happiness during learning as the most effective long-term way of learning and acquisition of new skills. Digital materials in classrooms can be easily personalized, especially in the first grades when it’s highly important to focus children’s creativity into learning. In all the rush to splash out on new devices, are we in danger of forgetting that ICT should be a means to secure subject/cross-subject learning, not merely an end in itself?
Closing the knowledge gap about cybersecurity will require a rather refined approach to diversify learning experiences. Many children had bad experiences while learning; therefore, they try to prevent any other experiences by eliminating the topics entirely. Using technology to prevent themselves from other technologies creates a healthy competition that would enhance their abilities to solve problems while providing them with positive results that will give them more confidence to become self-learners.
It is pivotal to create a culture of cybernetics and cybersecurity and to enable important conversations about these topics in classrooms, in addition to extra activities to train children on cybersecurity and the development of contents.
It is important:
- to enable children and students to report when they recognize a cyber bullying attack;
- to prepare them to handle that situation when it happens;
- to build a steady flow of skilled IT specialists to provide defenses into the future too;
- to fill the lack of contents, materials for training children from age 3 to high school graduation, cybersecurity, cyber safety and cyberethics. I think the problem is: Cyber-attacks are not advertised and seldomly reported in schools by students. Children and youth are at particular risk, as they have no training in recognizing a cyberattack and its consequences;
- courage and develop new specialists by attracting the brightest individuals when they are still at school. This way, the government can prepare these students for a productive career in cybersecurity, as soon as they leave school or in some specific courses at the University. This means that the country is building a steady flow of skilled IT defense specialists to provide safety into the future too.
Some helpful tips to teach kids in a cybersecurity training:
- Do not give personal information to strangers online;
- Make online accounts safe (verify HTTPS and SSH protocols, for example) and use strong passwords;
- Social Media Netiquette. Be a gentleman or a lady in social networks;
- Detect Cyberbullying for him/herself or for someone else;
- Never reply to “friends” on social media asking for money or clicking on suspicious links they send. Once again, if you don’t know the person, do not accept their friendship request;
- Don’t download all apps you like.
Believe in a good future
Today, children use a lot of devices for playing online games, watching YouTube videos, and chatting with friends, all with a common feature: they are permanently connected to the Internet. We think in classrooms the scenario will soon be the same. Every child will be given a device, which they will keep all day and all year round. Essential applications and educational contents will be pre-installed, so the child can continue studying, even if he/she goes on a camping holiday in an off-grid location. Update security configuration is important to have safe child accounts, and access to the web and apps could be restricted completely or partly, all the time or at set times, and this could be done directly on the device, using an adult account, or remotely.
Today, children may seem pretty sharp with technology and the Internet; however, we forget that they’re still learning (and so are we) and they may not always be prepared to spot the risks and pitfalls of being constantly connected. The best way to fight cybercriminals is through education, and that can start at any age, says a Symantec employee. Nowadays, schools, educators and parents are getting more and more concerned about what young students do on the Internet. They know that there are lots of malicious viruses; they fear children’s naivety, innocence and the potential of severe cyberbullying. Revisiting the issue of adapting lessons in cybersecurity to a child’s age must be a recurring theme for these networks of cybersecurity schools.
With these highlights children even understand what constitutes staying safe online themselves. This leads back you the argument of how much should schools be involved in creating specific subjects in this field. But the fact remains that it’s never too early to start having the “talk” with kids about cybersecurity and cyberdefense. It’s a process that evolves right along with the rest of a young person’s education.
Questions for further discussion
- What do your students know about data protection?
- Can your students recognize a cyberbullying attack?
- Are schools in EU prepared for GDPR?
Britland, M. (2013). What is the future of technology in education?. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/jun/19/technology-future-education-cloud-social-learning
ET2020 Working Group Schools 2016-18. (2017). Networks for learning and development across school education. European Commission. Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/networks-wg_en.pdf
Murray, J. (2015). Technology in the Classroom: The School of the Future. TechHub. Retrieved from: http://www.teachhub.com/technology-classroom-school-future
School Education Gateway. (2017). Poll on school networks and partnerships – Results. European Commission. Retrieved from: https://www.schooleducationgateway.eu/en/pub/viewpoints/polls/poll-on-school-networks-and-pa.htm
Symantec employee (2018). Cyber safety guide for middle school kids. Norton. Retrieved from: https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-kids-safety-middle-school-kit-a-broader-world-of-cybersecurity-protection.html
Vander Ark, T. (2017). How School Networks Work and Why That’s Important.
Getting Smart. Retrieved from: Available at: http://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/02/how-school-networks-work-and-why-thats-important/
Rui A. S. Esteves is passionate about bringing together organizational and civic participation around social causes. He advocates clear goals for the benefit of community well-being. He wants to interconnect his professional experience with social development, focusing on leading change and social intervention projects, innovation and social responsibility. He believes in the networking, cooperation and synergies that are established by a common goal among various actors in society – business and civil – based on sustainability and social responsibility. Experienced Information Communication Technology (ICT) teacher in a secondary and professional schools with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. He currently works as IT administrator in a regional public organization (Porto, Portugal). He is skilled in Requirements Analysis, ITIL, IT Service Management, Software Project Management and Windows. He is a professional in education, graduated in Computer/Information Technology Administration and Management, and a master’s degree in Information Systems (ITIL Framework).