Missouri teachers to learn cyber skills at GenCyber camp

July 07, 2021

Portrait: Dan LinElementary, middle and high school teachers from across the state will spend next week learning new ways to incorporate cybersecurity lessons into their coursework. It’s part of the GenCyber Camp offered by Dan Lin, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Mizzou Engineering.

“The goal is to reach out to as many teachers as possible to provide concepts about the importance of cybersecurity and what’s behind it,” Lin said. “We help them incorporate security concepts in their daily lessons and help them develop cybersecurity-related activities such as after-school events and science fair projects. Hopefully, students will see that cybersecurity is interesting, and we can build a pipeline for a cybersecurity workforce.”

GenCyber is a nation-wide program funded by the National Security Agency and National Science Foundation with the goal of increasing awareness of cybersecurity and related career opportunities. There are more than 150 camps in the U.S. Lin’s is the only GenCyber camp for teachers in Missouri.

This year, 21 K-12 teachers from schools as far away as Kansas City, Bourbon and Poplar Bluff, are participating in the week-long virtual camp, which starts from July 12. During the program, they will study foundational concepts, conduct hands-on experiments and design curriculum they can take back to their classrooms.

“We’ll touch a little on every kind of existing cyber threat,” Lin said. “Teachers will get information about defense mechanisms they can adopt at the workplace and home, as well as skills they can teach students.”

Participants receive a GenCyber lesson plan template, but they have the flexibility to design curriculum that works best for their individual courses. Past participants, for instance, have incorporated cybersecurity concepts into foreign language assignments, science experiments and math problems. One physical education teacher used what he learned at GenCyber to create a game of tag, demonstrating to children just how quickly computer viruses can spread.

Six teachers who have attended GenCyber in the past have been invited back to share with this year’s cohort ways in which they implemented the lesson plans. By the end of the camp, each participant will have designed curriculum, and the teacher who comes up with the best idea will win a programmable robot. All participants also receive a stipend and a Chromebook.

Lin started the GenCyber camp while she was on faculty at Missouri S&T in Rolla. Since 2015, she has worked with more than 100 teachers from 42 schools in Missouri.