Forum speaker tells educators how to get children interested in cyber
By Damon Cline – The Augusta Chronicle
Getting children interested in cybersecurity doesn’t require schools to radically change their curriculum or buy expensive computer hardware and software. Kevin Nolten says it’s as simple as tweaking what already is being taught.
The director of education outreach for the Louisiana-based National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center, which is holding its annual Education Discovery Forum for K-12 teachers in Augusta this week, said creating the “21st century learning environment” starts with introducing the “concept of cyber” into all disciplines.
“If we teach subtraction as a word problem, we say, ‘Sally has three apples at the house and has five friends coming over. How many apples does Sally need to buy?’ The answer is two,” he said. “Kids already know what apples are, so why not change ‘apples’ to ‘gigabytes’ and say, ‘Sally has a computer with 3 gigabytes of memory. She has this really cool program she wants to run that requires five. How many gigabytes does she need to add?’”
“It’s still five-minus-three-equals-two, but what we’ve done is change the context,” he said. “We’ve created an ‘a-ha’ moment where students ask ‘What’s a gigabyte? What’s computer memory?’ That is going to pique a child’s interest in multiple career fields.”
Nolten’s organization is affiliated with the Cyber Innovation Center, the anchor of the 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park in Bossier City, La. The educational outreach initiative is partly funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant.
Experts predict 1.8 million cybersecurity jobs by 2020. Many of those jobs will be in “critical systems” such as electric and water utilities, which are increasingly becoming a target, said Nancy Limauro, Homeland Security’s deputy branch chief of cyber education and awareness.
“To help secure these critical systems, we need to get the advantage to the defenders,” she said. “Our adversaries are not distinguishing between public and private sectors, so neither should we.”
The Augusta event grew out of conversations Nolten had last year with Tom Clark, director of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, which markets the seven-county Fort Gordon Cyber District initiative.
Retired Brig. Gen. Jeff Foley said during opening remarks at the three-day conference that cybersecurity touches everyone.
“I don’t care who it is, what you do, where you live or how you carry about your day-to-day activities,” he said.
With more than 200 teachers representing 22 states, Nolten said Augusta’s Education Discovery Forum is the most well-attended of the previous five forums, including those in Dallas and Baltimore. Augusta’s forum was buoyed by heavy attendance from area counties. Richmond County alone accounted for 70 teachers, which Foley said reflects the region’s investment in cyber.
“The Fort Gordon Cyber District (exists) because Augusta, Georgia – if you haven’t figured it out yet – is going to be a cyber center of excellence for the United States of America,” Foley told attendees. “We’re on our way.”