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UMGC Global Media Center
Cybersecurity Basics in Non-Technical K-12 Education Can Boost Safety Online

Loyce Pailen
By Loyce Pailen

Editor's Note: This is the first of four articles featured on the UMGC Global Media Center during Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

This year’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month theme, “See Yourself in Cyber,” suggests that while cybersecurity may seem like a complex subject, ultimately, it’s really about people and the decisions they make at home, at work and at school.

Today cybersecurity training is generally limited to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum. But by infusing cybersecurity training into the non-technical K-12 education ecosystem, we can make greater strides to equip the next generation with the knowledge it needs to be cyber safe.

Students in non-STEM courses may already learn about staying safe online. Too often, however, they miss out on other cybersecurity fundamentals that could put them on the path toward the numerous non-technical careers in the field, such as policy, compliance and project management. Even students who don’t identify as “technical” should be able to see themselves in cyber.

The upcoming 2023 University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) GenCyber Interdisciplinary Teacher programs will focus on training non-technical high school teachers how to infuse cybersecurity concepts into their existing courses, exposing more students to cybersecurity awareness, fundamentals, concepts and ethics. The target high school courses are English, social studies, history, math, foreign language, health and physical education (PE), library science, music and fine arts.

Teachers will walk away from camp with creative teaching materials appropriate to their disciplines, practiced lesson plans, project ideas for hands-on activities and a network of like-minded teachers for sharing ideas in the future. For example, an English course assignment might incorporate cybersecurity concepts by giving students a sample e-mail and having them identify grammatical errors and other anomalies that could flag the message as a “phishing” attempt.

The 2023 GenCyber Teacher programs will consist of a hybrid, week-long camp in July for 20 teachers. Participants will be able to join follow-on sessions to advance their professional development and support the use of lesson plans in their classrooms. 

Based on UMGC’s experience running previous GenCyber camps and track record in bringing cybersecurity degrees and certificates to adults from non-cyber fields, we firmly believe that cybersecurity concepts, cyber career awareness and ethics can be effectively infused into non-technical high school classes with positive result.

Dr. Loyce Best Pailen, CISSP, is senior director at the Center for Security Studies at University of Maryland Global Campus.