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Cybersecurity Awareness – A Future Ready Imperative

February 12, 2017

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-9-40-22-amAlmost every adult has had an experience with some form of a cybersecurity breach – spam email, malware, viruses, identity theft. Yet, this is an area of professional development and student education that has not yet found its way into the mainstream of instruction. We are more aware of the stories of such breaches than we are about how to proactively avoid them. We know that we have the potential to be targets of phishing and other cybersecurity scams. We have become aware of the high need to protect student data. Yet, it is not uncommon for us as educators to continue to rely on others, or most specifically an IT department, to address these concerns on our behalf.

cybersecurity-awareness

Image credit – TAPD Cybersecurity Course, Emil Ahangarzadeh

There are however basic cybersecurity habits that we can all practice such as having strong passwords, using secondary authentications for log-ins, making sure there is a lock screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-8-57-33-amin the address bar whenever submitting secure information, hovering over unknown links to see where an address might really be taking us and not responding to emails from unknown senders with news that is just too good to be true.

It is not uncommon to see the strength of cybersecurity awareness and knowledge of safe practices fall along generational lines. Newer teachers are coming out of their college and teacher prep programs with some knowledge of these concepts. They are comfortable navigating the web and doing their due diligence to implement safe cyber practices and research web based educational resources. They are part of a generation growing up with the first vestiges of digital citizenship knowledge.

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Yet, many of today’s educators did not grow up with an emphasis on digital citizenship as a part of their formative education. The concepts are new, the speed of change and adjustments to be made in the digital world are perceived as scary or overwhelming and “just one more thing” to keep up with. Concerns around cybersecurity and fake news are used to justify avoiding  the incorporation of current technology to enhance their instructional programs or engaging with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Voxer to connect with other educators and educational resources. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the sincerity of reasons given to avoid engaging the abundance of resources available to today’s educator on the internet. Is it complacency? Fear of the new? Being overwhelmed by the abundance? Concerns about cybersecurity?

It is important that these concerns are heard and that educational institutions respond by providing training that empowers staff with the knowledge to safely and confidently engage with digital resources. Providing a comprehensive education program will assist in steering the cybersecurity conversation in a direction that supports providing today’s student and today’s educator with access to today’s technology. Cybersecurity education programs allow staff to move forward with more confidence while also keeping them and our students safe in addition to enhancing digital citizenship skills.

Educators and their organizations can connect with user friendly and robust courses through groups such as the the K12 Super Highway Network (K12SHN) and the Technical Assistance and Professional Development (TAPD) program. The coursework  on cybersecurity benefits both educational institutions and the personal lives of educators. The K12SHN and TAPD are offering  this course to districts in California free of charge. There is an initial commitment to have two staff members preview the course and lay the foundation to support a successful rollout of the program. This is definitely part of the brilliance in the design of this course. 

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