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DSU camp gives teachers new tech knowledge

June 23, 2017

Teachers don’t just talk about being lifelong learners, they live it.

Fifty teachers spent June 19-23 in Dakota State University classrooms, learning about technology tools and techniques which they can share with their students this fall.

GenCyber teacher camps are free for the participants: tuition and room and board are sponsored through grants from the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency. The camps, held in 18 states, are designed to improve teaching methods for delivering cybersecurity content in K-12 computer science curricula.

About a third of this year’s participants were returning teachers from the 2016 camp. “My kids loved what I took back last year,” said one teacher during introductions on the first day, and another added that students “are wanting more, more, more technology.”

Students may be eager to use more technology, but College of Computing Dean Dr. Richard Hanson reminded the teachers that four things are necessary when using technology – clarity, respect, safety and responsibility. The hands-on sessions, taught by DSU faculty, provided the teachers with the experience to present these new tricks to the students so they won’t “get into trouble with them,” said one teacher.

“There is no one more important in preserving the digital health of our kids than you,” Hanson said.

Elementary teachers, STEM teachers and technology coordinators attended five workshops each day for five days. Rob Honomichl, the camp director and instructor in the College of Computing, said the sessions would not make the teachers tech experts, but would expose them to a variety of technology topics. One session explored programming with Python (a general-purpose program language); in another, the teachers each worked with a Raspberry Pi (a small, affordable computer). Honomichl said the Raspberry Pi “is a great way to put technology in people’s hands.” It was, in fact, built for education, and he noted that curriculum resources are available on the Raspberry Pi website.

Andrew Kramer, a recent DSU graduate and adjunct instructor facilitated a session on soldering, which is “a great skill to have if you’re working with electronics,” he said. Because of the high temperatures involved in soldering (about 400 degrees), it is an appropriate lesson for junior high and high school age students.

Kramer also led a session on physical security, namely lock picking. For professionals in the technology industry involved with penetration testing, breaking in can be physical as well as digital, he said, so choosing a secure door lock is important. A lock picking kit, soldering supplies and Raspberry Pi were among the giveaway items the teachers took home from the camp, in total valued at about $350, said Honomichl.

Home for most of the teachers is South Dakota, Minnesota or Iowa, but one traveled halfway across the country to attend the camp. John Tucker is an instructor and technology coordinator at the Odyssey Charter School Junior/Senior High School in Palm Bay, Florida. He was unaware of Dakota State’s reputation with technology until he was looking on the National Security Agency website for a cyber security doctoral degree program.

DSU also hosts student camps, and Tucker plans to bring some of his students to Madison for the 2018 events. Many of the 700 students at Odyssey are minorities or immigrant students, he said, and 83 percent are at the poverty level. He said DSU’s camps would be ideal because “the size of (DSU) is a benefit to students like mine, so they don’t fall through the cracks,” he explained. His supervisor at the charter school has been very supportive of his plans. “The administration (at Odyssey) is on fire for anything STEM or technology,” Tucker said, “because that’s where our kids’ interest is.”

Kids will soon be attending GenCyber camps at DSU: A GenCyber camp for 120 middle school girls begins on June 25; two co-ed high school camps are being held, with 200 students attending the week of July 9, another 200 during the week of July 19. All student camps are enrolled to capacity.