Teaching My Own Cyber Security and Coding Class Online – By Heidi S, 6th grade

Since I started learning about Cyber Security, my favorite things have been to explore what more I can do with my current skills and what more there is to learn. In this class I tried to teach important basics and at the same time leave room to explore ideas in cyber security and coding. Overall, 36 kids from multiple countries like India, Egypt and the US registered for the class! What inspired me to do this class was wanting everyone to learn everything I know and more. This is the first step, and I want to do more in the future. For the future I plan to develop more classes which are a bit more difficult but still doable with the basic knowledge.

The Beginning

I have always been happy to teach what I learn. Being part of FuseBreakers (a NGO student group) got me into coding, cyber security competitions, and introduced me to a whole new way of seeing the cyber world!

I liked the idea of using Google Classroom to teach. Before COVID-19 most people preferred in-person classes, but I could not host a real-life class because I was too busy with school and finding a location and scheduling would have been hard. Then when the opportunity came, with more people online, I put together a Google class and worked on the material during summer and the beginning of the school year. By October I was ready for my class!

Making the Class

When creating the course, I had to think about what devices the students are on. Depending on different devices, you see the Google Classroom differently. The way I figured this out was by making a sample Google classroom and opening it up on different computers and browsers.

Another thought that went into making this course were the time zones. The problem with the time zones for example, is that in Indian time is 12.5 hours ahead of California. When an assignment is posted, it is linked to a particular day, for example Monday. Therefore I tried to find a time that works for most of the assignments to be posted and completed by the students and scheduled them to go live at 5am Pacific Time every day.

Another consideration was how much time each student is allowed on electronics. I kept the work on daily assignments low (approximately 30 mins) and limited Google meetings to once a week.

One helpful feature was the ability to schedule posts! This is very useful to post assignments at the same time every day, even when I am busy with my own schoolwork. I also had to consider due dates. Due dates can help get things done, but due dates can make a person lose interest when it is hard to complete the assignment in time. Therefore I decided not to have due dates, but to send reminders instead.

During the Class

Some challenges during the class were for students to join the class in the beginning. I had to send reminders with the link to the Google classroom quite a few times. Another challenge was catching up. Some students did not join the class after a few days. So once they joined they would have to catch up. But if you join late you could accidentally miss the first assignments and start with the later and harder assignments. What I did was send reminders to students who joined late to tell them to start from the beginning.

One big challenge was to get the students to turn in their assignments so that I can confirm that they have been completed. To get them to do it, I posted videos on how to turn in assignments on any device. Even then it was hard to get everybody to do it. When somebody completed a review of a day, it would imply they must have understood the previous day’s work as well. That’s why I would mark as done all the previous assignments on that topic. Overall in the 3 weeks course, most of these challenges were solved.

The Results

The results of this class were nice to see! The students learned and were excited to learn in the future. One thing I realized with this experience was how hard teachers try to make everything accessible for their students online and in real life. I really appreciate how hard my teachers work for us, especially during COVID-19.

Here are a few things people said about the class:

“I love it and it was a great experience and I enjoyed it. It was also good teamwork. The Scavenger hunt was my favorite because it was very challenging.”

— Middle school student (Egypt)

“My favorite was encode and decode pictures.”

— Middle school student (CA, USA)

“Encrypting and decrypting was my favorite because I enjoyed decrypting words and pictures. I would like to learn more Python.”

— Middle school student (TX, USA)

“I felt like I learned a lot in these classes. Sometimes I had to do the lessons another day because I had schoolwork but it was not too much work. It was really informative.”

— Middle school student (CA, US)

“After 11 years I started programming again, this was a lot of fun. I appreciate Heidi’s amazing initiative.”

–Retired parent (ex. IT engineer)

“Its never too late to start learning something totally new, especially with a teacher like Heidi who has taken a lot of pain, with small details and explaining the concepts making sure we can understand. Hope to see this continuing for a long long time.”

—Grandma (ex. Finance Executive)

“Our very own Heidi showed “Scholar Empowered Learning and “Building a Culture of Greatness” this summer and would like to share her learning with all of you.”

–John Adams Academy Middle School Teacher

Thanks to everyone for their support and participation! 🙂

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