Sneak preview: Cybersecurity learning standards coming soon

Distance learning provides students with a real-world example of how to safely operate in cyberspace
By: | January 6, 2021
rveys have shown that just under half of U.S. students have access to cybersecurity instruction. ( have shown that just under half of U.S. students have access to cybersecurity instruction. (

Online learning provides educators with a new opportunity to teach students about digital safety and citizenship as a nonprofit group prepares to release cybersecurity learning standards later this year.

The standards, which will cover K through 12, will guide educators in integrating cybersecurity into core subjects and developing cybersecurity electives, says Kevin Nolten, the director of the nonprofit CYBER.ORG.

“Distance learning has opened the doors, providing students a real-world example of how and why we need to learn how to safely operate in cyberspace,” Nolten says.

“When all students are connecting, when all students are putting info out on the internet,” he adds, “students needs to know how to safely transmit information and what information not to share.”

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Surveys have shown that just under half of U.S. students have access to cybersecurity instruction, Nolten says.

CYBER.ORG is using a federal grant to develop cybersecurity standards, which should be released in August after a public comment period.

Nolten envisions states wholly adopting and assessing the standards, integrating them into existing computer science standards or blending them into math, English and science standards.

Weather apps and equity

In elementary and middle school the standards will focus on foundational skills like digital citizenship, privacy and safe communication, such as how to maintain a positive digital footprint.

For example, students would learn how the weather apps on their smartphones are tracking their location, and how they can protect their personal information.

Students might also learn about the technology that is designed to prevent the hacking of self-driving cars.

High school would develop two cybersecurity pathways. One would continue to focus on digital citizenship and tech skills while the other will prepare students to seek college degrees and careers in the cybersecurity sector.

Blending cybersecurity into other subjects would ensure greater equity, Nolten says.

“By integrating into math, science and ELA, we get every student, not just those who self-select,” he says. “That’s where racial and gender numbers for cybersecurity replicate and match the communities.”

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Grants have also allowed the organization to provide schools with cybersecurity learning content and professional development at no cost.

Since the shift to online learning, many teachers have become more eager to teach cybersecurity, Nolten says.

“Teachers are gaining confidence in this digital age,” Nolten says. “Online learning is breaking the barriers for teaching cybersecurity to students.”

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