CTE CyberNet was developed as a starting blueprint that could be adapted to the unique needs of local education ecosystems. In its first cohort of three academies, CTE CyberNet developed and refined the design process for implementation in communities with a range of stakeholder needs. With input from subject matter experts, the U.S. Department of Education identified three Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) Regional Resource Centers (CRRCs) uniquely qualified to design, host, and lead the inaugural cohort of CTE CyberNet academies during summer 2020 and the 2020-21 academic year. The three 2020-21 CTE CyberNet academies were:
Each 2020-21 academy location has a distinctive education ecosystem, and they collectively have complementary strengths and areas of need. Each institution adapted the academy approach to best suit its local context and serve its participating teachers.
Across the three locations, more than 100 teachers applied to participate in the 2020-21academies. In June of 2020, each CTE CyberNet academy began its summer intensive session with 10 teachers. While academies planned to conduct the summer intensive sessions in person, the academies quickly and effectively pivoted to a fully-virtual model due to COVID-19. During the summer, teachers undertook 80 hours of rigorous, virtual professional development delivered by instructors from the CRRCs. Professional development activities were also offered through an accelerator program during the 2020-21 academic year.
The academies included technical content such as network security, encryption, and hardware scans, and emerging topics including artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing. Teachers were introduced to hands-on interactive activities, challenges, and simulations. Academies also convened for a series of virtual panels exclusively for CTE CyberNet teachers. The panels highlighted topics including the federal government’s commitment to cybersecurity education, featuring representatives from ED, NIST, NSA, and DHS, as well as private-sector workforce needs, featuring leaders from Mastercard, Northrop Grumman, and Offensive Security.
“[CTE CyberNet] provided me with valuable activities, tools, and a virtual environment for my students. These are the types of resources I need to build an effective, successful, and sustainable program.”
- Chicago Academy teacher participant
After the conclusion of the summer intensive session, the academies commenced their formal accelerator programming, which ran the duration of the school year. Each accelerator was designed to reinforce content learned during the summer intensive session, build more advanced domain knowledge, and help educators navigate the day-to-day challenges of teaching more rigorous cybersecurity programs. The accelerators have effectively supported teachers to bring enhanced cybersecurity coursework into their classrooms. Many are integrating advanced topics and approaches into new cybersecurity courses, and some are pursuing dual-credit agreements with local community colleges. While each of the sites designed their academies to serve their local CTE teachers, as part of the CTE CyberNet, the teachers were connected to a national network of educators and experts committed to advancing cybersecurity education.
The Chicago Academy, led by Moraine Valley Community College, is focused on ensuring teachers are capable of helping their students attain in-demand credentials, namely industry certifications and two-year degrees. These two focus areas are particularly important given the local context. In cybersecurity, credentials are essential to connect with a career pathway, particularly in the Greater Chicago area. Local employers most commonly use credentials to determine whether candidates possess requisite skills. Employers also perceive two-year program graduates as well-prepared for cybersecurity careers.
The Chicago Academy introduced a professional development initiative to the area that offered a higher level of rigor and new connections with local community colleges. To identify growth areas for teachers, the academy conducted an extensive gap analysis on local CTE cybersecurity curricula and in-demand credentials. This analysis identified six technical knowledge areas that would require attention during the intensive. These high-level knowledge areas aligned to both industry-recognized credentials and the NICE Framework, which were used to supplement existing curricula. The academy’s instructors also leveraged their extensive educator network to facilitate discussion between K-12 and community college faculties.
Throughout the summer intensive session, the Chicago Academy was able to impart skills that aligned with an industry certification and positioned high school teachers to develop articulation agreements with nearby community colleges. These agreements will help the participating teachers introduce more advanced curricula and make dual-credit enrollment available to their students.
During the accelerator, the Chicago Academy continued with its credential-driven approach. The academy has worked to reinforce unfamiliar content in group learning sessions — especially topics on certification exams that were not covered in-depth. The academy has also supported continuing curriculum development, and has made its virtual environments accessible to everyone for use in the classroom.
To learn more about the Chicago Academy, please contact the academy lead, John Sands, at email@example.com.
The San Antonio Academy, led by San Antonio College, leveraged the cybersecurity industry’s growing interest in education to ensure that its teachers had equal access to instructional resources. The academy’s emphasis on industry stems from San Antonio’s exceptionally strong cybersecurity community, which is home to corporations, federal government offices, and military bases. With cybersecurity so highly valued in the surrounding community, the San Antonio Academy was well-positioned to make connections and resources available to educators.
The San Antonio Academy connected with representatives from Kali Linux to provide materials and guidance for strengthening lessons on offensive cybersecurity, such as penetration testing. The academy also partnered with Amazon Web Services to provide cloud computing credits through AWS Educate, which ensured teachers had access to the full range of learning modules. The academy leads took advantage of free and low-cost resources available for cybersecurity instruction, such as the Canvas learning management system, the Tenable.io vulnerability management platform, and the Splunk security operations suite. The intensive also emphasized preparing teachers for the CyberPatriot student competition, which is highly respected by industry employers and a hallmark of the local cybersecurity community.
Leveraging the cybersecurity industry’s support for education helped the San Antonio Academy procure mission-critical materials and maximize its potential. Through a well-connected initiative like CTE CyberNet, the academy was able to close the gaps for teachers who might otherwise be unable to fully participate. Attaining resources to supplement classroom teaching can be difficult, and San Antonio’s approach can help other cybersecurity educators see what’s available both locally and nationally. Industry outreach and connections are especially valuable for an applied science like cybersecurity, which requires practitioners to make the subject matter come to life.
A highlight of the San Antonio Academy’s accelerator has been mentorship for teachers and students participating in CyberPatriot. CyberPatriot is a highly regarded competition among institutions in the area, and teachers have been enthusiastic about participating. The academy leads have become formal mentors and advise a number of teams, including several that are newly fielding CyberPatriot teams. Students and teachers alike are finding the experience rewarding.
To learn more about the San Antonio Academy, please contact the academy lead, Kim Muschalek, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The South Dakota Academy, led by Dakota State University (DSU), experimented with teaching and learning formats to accommodate different backgrounds and abilities. Though the academy’s lead institution had previously hosted GenCyber summer camps, it had never offered asynchronous, remote professional development like CTE CyberNet. In fact, there was no initiative facilitated by a statewide postsecondary institution that accommodated a range of different experience levels and circumstances.
The South Dakota Academy used CTE CyberNet's adaptive, flexible model to pioneer new approaches to cybersecurity education. One of its primary adaptations was designing the intensive to offer remote, asynchronous learning, including online instructional materials, discussion boards, and virtual office hours. Given the academy’s rural setting and statewide reach, it was uniquely positioned to pilot distance learning for cybersecurity professional development. Many of the participating teachers reside outside of commuting distance, and prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the academy had designed a hybrid teaching model with both in-person and remote instruction. Additionally, the academy’s 10 distinct subject matter experts each designed lessons on their respective specialties. The close relationship between the Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences and the College of Education also positioned the academy to try new pedagogical approaches.
The South Dakota Academy’s focus on pedagogy can offer actionable insights for future CTE CyberNet academies in similar contexts. Many teachers approach cybersecurity professional development initiatives with varying levels of experience and could benefit from asynchronous learning styles. In the wake of COVID-19 and an increase in virtual schooling, experimenting with this instructional style may prove even more essential. The academy’s approach created flexibility and feasibility amid especially difficult circumstances. Its participating teachers also found ways to virtualize support for and connection with one another, by taking the initiative to set up a Slack channel across the entire CTE CyberNet community.
Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the region, the South Dakota academy will be formally kicking off its accelerator programming in the spring. During the last few months, the academy lead and instructors still had the opportunity to provide ad-hoc guidance and support to teachers as they incorporated learnings into their classrooms.
To learn more about the South Dakota Academy, please contact the academy lead, Rob Honomichl, at email@example.com.