We’re in a national crisis. Many kids know how to point and click, but they don’t know how the underlying technology works or worse yet, basics on how to keep themselves and their information safe online. This leads to bad choices. To make it worse, most teachers lack resources to teach technology to teenagers. In a talk at DerbyCon 2014, Professor Phil Fitzpatrick explains why our kids need to learn fundamental computer skills in a fun and ethical way; through education and competitions like CyberPatriot. It’s a discussion of why high school students should learn more than just simple computer applications and what security professionals can do to help.

Below are are problems as we see it:

–  The general public understands that most jobs out of high school, are based in knowing and having IT skills. Yet, most parents hand off their kids starting in 6th grade assuming all areas of education are covered, especially technology.
–  High schools are trying to answer the call for more IT workers by adding technology classes to their curriculum. However, they don’t have a lot of room for a variety of courses because of school year length, teaching expertise and availability, and their nature of school environment.
–  Kids only need to take one technology course to graduate and they look for the easy “A” rather then what will help them with their careers.
–  Schools are challenged with keeping the curriculum and technology up to date to meet current needs.
–  High schools are more concerned with getting students ready for college or working by teaching necessary life skills.

There are solutions available:

–  Establish technology academies in schools that teach a variety of cyber skills, not just what’s on the computer science AP test.
–  Provide courses in application develop, systems and network administration, database management, and cybersecurity.
–  Encourage teachers to build their knowledge base on different computer skills needed by industry.
–  Use grants to ensure technology is up to date.
–  Promote competitions and clinic like US CyberPatriot (http://www.uscyberpatriot.org/).
–  If you’re an IT or Cybersecurity Professional, become a mentor. These kids need someone with experience to help guide them in the journey. They’re not looking for an expert, just someone who cares. AND it’s very rewarding for the mentor.

Lastly, educate yourself. Here are some links to get you started:

–  Cybersecurity’s hiring crisis: A troubling trajectory – http://www.zdnet.com/cybersecuritys-hiring-crisis-a-troubling-trajectory-7000032923/
–  Developing the Next Generation of Cyber Leaders – http://www.serco-na.com/docs/materials/2012-cisse-nextgencyber.pdf
–  DoE: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: Education for Global Leadership – http://www.ed.gov/stem
–  Cyber-Security, IAS and the Cyber Warrior – http://www.cisse.info/archives/category/29-papers?download=297:p11-2012
–  High School 12-Week Cybersecurity eLearning Pilot – http://www.cisse.info/archives/category/29-papers?download=295:p09-2012
–  Secure Coding Education: Are We Making Progress? – http://nob.cs.ucdavis.edu/~bishop/papers/2012-cisse/seccode.pdf
–  Where are the STEM Students? – http://www.stemconnector.org/sites/default/files/store/STEM-Students-STEM-Jobs-Executive-Summary.pdf
–  ACM: Toward Curricular Guidelines for Cybersecurity – http://www.acm.org/education/TowardCurricularGuidelinesCybersec.pdf

Also see the previous post, “Hacker High – Why we *need* to teach hacking in school.”

Please help be part of the solution by promoting cyber education in your community.