For the past eight summers, Buffalo State College’s Computer Information Systems (CIS) Department has offered a free weeklong workshop for Western New York middle and high school teachers. Funded by ongoing Google grants, Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) has attracted more than 225 math, science, and computer science teachers from 10 counties in WNY since it began.
This year, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the CIS faculty still wanted to offer the workshop, albeit in a virtual format. Nine faculty members delivered Zoom sessions August 4–7 on different aspects of cybersecurity, including cyber ethics, network and database security, social engineering, cryptography, data protection, and career awareness.
“Cybersecurity is such a timely and important topic, and it’s included in New York State’s learning standards for K–12 students,” said Sarbani Banerjee, professor of CIS, who helped plan this year’s workshop. “It doesn’t require as much hands-on instruction, so we thought it would be a perfect fit for the virtual format. We also offered two programming sessions—Python and Raspberry Pi.”
Nineteen math, science, technology, and computer science teachers from several WNY schools participated, along with six teachers from the New York City area and one from Istanbul, Turkey.
“That is one of the benefits of offering the workshop virtually,” Banerjee said. “Teachers in faraway places can participate.”
Orlando J. Buria, academic dean and STEM educator at West Seneca Christian School, has been attending CS4HS at Buffalo State for several years.
“Each event has provided me with great classroom ideas and wonderful inspiration to continue to improve my instruction and to encourage more students to study computer science,” Buria said. “This year’s event, with its focus on cybersecurity, was no exception.”
He said the CIS faculty shared detailed descriptions of how cyberattacks occur and how good programming can prevent them. They also introduced teachers to numerous online resources and facilitated a lively discussion of ethics, data protection and security, and cybersecurity competitions.
“They also provided a useful survey of Python, which was valuable,” Buria said, “because I plan to teach AP Computer Science Principles in the fall.”
On the last day of the workshop, teachers presented cybersecurity lesson plans they developed based on what they learned during the week.
“As we increase our reliance on cyber-based technology during this pandemic, and in the years to come as technology becomes more advanced, it’s incumbent upon computer users to know the best practices for protecting their data and themselves.”
“The cybersecurity workshop, like previous CS4HS workshops at Buffalo State, was a valuable community-building event, since the teachers not only learned concepts and skills from the presenters but also from each other,” said Neal Mazur, associate professor and chair of the CIS Department.
Other CIS faculty members who planned and presented the sessions included assistant professors Gang Hu and Guanqiu Qi and lecturers Charles Arbutina, Andrew Garrity, Maria Garrity, and James Gerland.
New this year was an emphasis on bringing the latest information on cybersecurity back to the parents and grandparents of the students learning these concepts in school.
“As we increase our reliance on cyber-based technology during this pandemic, and in the years to come as technology becomes more advanced, it’s incumbent upon computer users to know the best practices for protecting their data and themselves,” Banerjee said. “We provided the tools to do so.”
There was also a focus on the job opportunities available within this realm of computer science.
Cybersecurity jobs are expected to grow by 32 percent over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, the skills gap in this area is significant, noted Diane Dillon, lecturer of CIS.
“The International Information System Security Certification Consortium has found that while there are currently approximately 2.8 million security professionals working worldwide, another 4 million trained professionals are needed to close the security skills gap,” Dillon said. “It’s important to create awareness for teachers and students because there are many lucrative opportunities in cybersecurity. We need to expand the pipeline of talent.”
Photo by Bruce Fox, campus photographer.