Iowa State developing nation’s first school curriculum for computer security literacy

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University researchers are developing the nation’s first computer security literacy curriculum designed for middle school and high school students.

During the IT-Olympics computer competition for high school students April 24-25 at Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State cyber security experts will lead a workshop to introduce teachers to the curriculum and its learning materials. The complete teaching program will be free to teachers and is scheduled to be ready for the 2015-’16 school year.

“This project will enable teachers across the state to be able to help their students be safer online and will continue to position ISU and the state of Iowa as leaders in cyber security education,” said Doug Jacobson, a University Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State.

Teachers interested in the program should contact Jacobson at 515-294-8307 or

Normally taught in college computer science departments, courses in computer security literacy help students recognize and respond to security threats such as malicious software, unsecure wireless networks and online scams. The curriculum will help students make informed decisions about their own online security. They’ll also learn about the potential benefits and consequences of these decisions.

In addition, because online security threats continually change, the curriculum will teach students to adapt their learning to new circumstances.

The finished course materials will include lesson plans, short video modules, presentation materials, current events topics, quizzes and in-class activities.

Iowa State will also develop a website containing a series of lab exercises that allow students to experience – and respond to – various security vulnerabilities in a controlled setting. By requiring frequent, hands-on application of learning, the curriculum is designed to encourage the transfer of classroom learning to the students’ real-world interactions with Internet-connected devices.

The curriculum is designed to work either as a stand-alone course or as a series of smaller units that could be incorporated into an existing course.

This project is supported by Iowa State’s Information Assurance Center, Iowa State Information Technology Services and the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, the Technology Association of Iowa and its HyperStream program provide a venue for Iowa State faculty and students to interact with middle school and high school teachers across the state. HyperStream is one of 10 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs approved and supported by the governor’s STEM Advisory Council.