“We’ve developed posters, videos and educational resources to give kids a push to try it out,” Linsky said.
Their most successful recruiting tool has been connecting schools to CyberStart America, an online learning system designed as a game to introduce key concepts.
“As they play, they complete challenges and learn about cybersecurity,” Linsky said. “Kids think only particular types of people work in cybersecurity, when in fact, creativity and problem-solving abilities are what you need to be awesome.”
Sutton students started playing two weeks after she covered cybersecurity in the classroom last fall.
“We went over phishing scams, viruses and how to operate safely online,” she said. “By the time CyberStart America was introduced, their interest was already piqued. It contains many tutorials related to our program that they can use to apply their knowledge to real-life situations, such as finding something encrypted in an email. It’s like “Mission Impossible”.
Since the students started the game a few months ago, Sutton has seen them working on it in the study hall, after class, and heard they’re playing it at home. Part of the motivation may be recently introduced financial incentives: for the first time in its three-year history, CyberStart is offering Georgian students chances to win cash prizes of $500.
The money made a difference, Linsky said.
“Last year we had about 900 students involved; this year we have over 4,000.”
In addition to money, students can earn scholarships. Additionally, Buford High received a $15,000 grant to enroll 390 students – the most of any district in the state. Sutton, who attended a cybersecurity summer workshop at UNG where she heard about the program, said many teachers still don’t know about it.
“So many schools don’t have cyber teachers, and it’s so new that many don’t know how to teach it,” she said. “I already knew this program existed, and as it grows, I think more and more parents will encourage their children to learn about cybersecurity. But some are only discovering it now.
Information about CyberStart America is online at cyberstartamerica.org. Details of Buford High School can be found at bufordhs.org.
SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week, we take a look at successful programs, projects, and efforts at area schools, from kindergarten through graduate school. To suggest a story, contact HM Cauley at email@example.com or 770-744-3042.