A cybersecurity and computer science initiative for students to “Code Their Dreams”

In this piece by Marsali Hancock from EP3 Foundation, we learn how a mum launched cybersecurity and computer science initiative reaching over 13 million students: The firm teaches children and college students that they can “Code Their Dreams”

In the same year, 2016, Sara White published “Top U.S. Universities failing at Cybersecurity Education”, Gozde Erbaz decided to do something about the lack of cybersecurity education for her daughter. She founded CyberRobin. Today, less than five years later, CyberRobin reaches over 13 million students teaching cyber­security, computer science and computational thinking.

Erbaz recently travelled to the United States to present at the Code.org international conference and meet with education and industry leaders in Silicon Valley. Please let me introduce you to Gozde and let her share how you can improve your child’s ability to “Code Their Dream.” Her success in scaling nationwide cybersecurity is unprecedented.

Why do children need to learn cybersecurity skills and computer science?

The first Internet transmission occurred in 1969 with a simple message between two universities. Now, every day, 294 billion e-mails are sent, 22 million hours of television and movies are watched on Netflix, and approximately 864,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. With the pro­liferation of these technologies, more and more of our world becomes digital and as our dependence grows, so do the risks to our health,
well-being, and safety when not secure and protected. To participate in a digital environment, we must understand it and be fully computer literate. Computer literacy includes more than just learning to code.

We must also understand how data transmitted via code may be used, and how to protect it.

What got you started?

When my daughter enrolled in a highly ranked international middle school, she began learning computer science, how to code. Unfortunately, her curriculum did not include cyber safety, security, or ethics training. It also omitted data literacy or understanding how information is used in the digital economy.

I want my daughter to thrive. I want her to fully participate online and meaningfully benefit from connected technology. To thrive, she must learn and adopts new skills and competencies that promote her health, wellness and improve her future opportunities. This won’t happen by osmosis. She needs instruction and reinforcement at home.

I know a great deal about cyber threats and danger because, in my professional life, I am a cybersecurity professional. Cybersecurity is an essential component of the broader field of computer science. And in a world where cyberattacks and hackers are rampant, we need a rising generation of cybersecurity leaders. As Founder and CEO of CyberRobin, a cybersecurity company, I am very aware of what really happens online, particularly when malicious actors target individuals or information systems. That is why I was very disappointed that my daughter and her fellow students were left to naively and blindly create within an environment without understanding even basic risks and cyber threats.

Teaching computer code without teaching cybersecurity is like teaching children to create new paths or pipes for water without teaching them that not all water is safe to drink.

Sometimes, malicious people take over, damage, misuse or pollute the students’ “paths, pipes and water.”

What are the risks to children and schools when unprepared?

In unprepared hands, children’s futures are at risk because of the Internet. Not all children thrive when using connected technology. The United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced in 2018 that more than 175,000 children join the Internet every day and that digital access offers them many benefits, opportunities, and risks. However, child abuse images, cyberbullying, access to harmful content, and misuse of private information have led to new and increased childhood risks (Unicef, 2018).

In addition to teaching children how to be safe, balance their screen time with offline activities, and build emotional resilience to hurtful content, we need to protect their data from misuse. This is particularly true for their data collected and used by schools and their vendors because it is full of very sensitive personal information about their family, home location and life, and personal strengths and weaknesses. In the wrong hands, my child may be excluded from opportunities or targeted for grooming, commercial or political radicalisation or abuse.

Does every child need to learn computer and cybersecurity?

Currently, few women and girls choose careers in computer science and even fewer choose cybersecurity. I firmly believe that every child learning to read can also be taught computational thinking, coding, and cybersecurity skills. Not that long ago, very few people were literate and had access to libraries. In 1820, only 14% of the worlds’ population could read and write. Now, these stats are reversed, with less than 14% of our global population illiterate. Most of these unfortunate uneducated adults are women living in southeast Asia and Africa. The only reason children are not learning computer science or cybersecurity is that it is not taught.

Most teachers don’t know these skills, let alone how to teach them. If they could, they would. That is why I created CyberRobin. I wanted a way to give my daughter, her teachers, and other students access to computer science and cybersecurity curriculum and activities appropriate for their age and setting. I also wanted to ensure that every child that wanted to participate could not only students with literate and financially stable parents.

So how do you include students who don’t have money to pay for lessons or classes?

My inspiration combined TOMS shoes and Robinhood, the English folklore outlaw that robbed the rich and gave to the poor. TOMS shoes, when one pair of shoes is purchased it covers the cost of donating a second pair to someone in need. With RobinCode, when a parent or sponsor covers the price of one student, it includes the costs of two students. Additionally, we partnered with the Ministry of Education to include cybersecurity and computer science in schools across the country. We teach all children, young five-year-olds and college students that they can “Code Their Dreams.”

What languages do you support?

We have curriculum, training and professional development in English and Turkish. Over 83 million people speak Turkish. Our roadmap includes localising content for Arabic, Spanish, Hindi, and Chinses speaking communities.

Who are your partners?

How can my child, grandchild, or neighbourhood school access computer science and cybersecurity training? Be the catalyst in your neighbourhood. Go to marsaEP3Foundation/RobinCode to build a generation of cyber aware youth able to create, code, compute, analyse, and protect data while also considering the ethical impact of Internet-enabled technologies on humans.

Teach and learn computer and data literacy that includes cybersecurity, computer science, computational thinking, cyber safety, digital wellness, data analytics, neural networks, coding and cybersecurity.

Go to RobinCode.org to learn how you can sponsor curriculum and activities.

Sign up for Robincode face-to-face after school workshops, professional development for
teachers or in-school curriculum. We leverage free resources like Code.org and then build a framework to enable a comprehensive, age, and technology appropriate approach. Students in your neighbourhood can benefit from connected technology and look forward to a bright future.

Sponsor one child, and we will help teach two. Together, we can help you prepare your child to be fully digital literate, not just code, or how to use an application. Together we can help youth be confident and competent online and contribute to protecting our digital assets and infrastructure. We all benefit when children are prepared.

See this video for more details:

*Please note: This is a commercial profile

Contributor Profile

CEO
EP3 Foundation, CyberRobin
Phone: +1 4088 007 202
Email: marsalih@gmail.com
Website: Visit Website

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