Students get a lesson on internet safety

Do you know how to keep cyber-safe? What’s the best way to protect personal information and reduce exposure to malware? CSIRO spent Safer Internet Day (Tuesday, 6 February) showcasing best digital practice with a focus on cybersecurity, by bringing real-world STEM skills and research into Australian schools.

CSIRO’s STEM Professionals in Schools and Data61 visited Melbourne Girls College to talk about the changing nature of the data driven world, opportunities for data science and technology based careers, and equip teachers and students with the knowhow to stay safe on the internet.

Year 7 students participated in an interactive cybersecurity quiz, which demonstrated the relevance of STEM digital skills to everyday life.

Earlier this week, Director of CSIRO’s Education and Outreach Mary Mulcahy said students would learn “to connect how using social media or browsing the internet can relate to what they learn in the classroom and their daily activities”.

Careers in cyber security are on the rise, with an anticipated shortage of 1.8 million information security professionals forecast by 2022. In Australia, women make up one in three students studying STEM – a proportion that needs to rise to deliver a diverse set of skills for the country’s growing cyber security needs.   

CEO of CSIRO’s Data61 Adrian Turner said it was important to promote safer internet habits in Australia’s next generation of STEM leaders in light of recent events that have affected millions of people worldwide such as the Spectre and Meltdown security flaws in hardware and Wannacry attacks.

“These students are our future innovators, scientists and engineers,” Mr Turner said.

“It’s essential to equip them with the skills they need in school, and to capture their interest in cybersecurity and why it matters now and in the future so they can see how much of a crucial role it is and will continue to play in Australia’s data-driven future and digital economy.

“Diversity in technology is an issue not just in Australia, but around the world. Our STEM Professionals in Schools program is one way CSIRO is aiming to improve this, by reaching students and talking to them about the opportunities available and what these real world scenarios look like, before they get to university.”

STEM Professionals in Schools partners teachers with STEM professionals from industry, government and academia to share expertise and knowledge. The program aims to enhance teaching practices and student engagement in STEM subjects and STEM-related careers.

Melbourne Girls College Science Teacher Wendy Keen is a volunteer in the program and recognises the positive impact it has on her teaching skills.

“Learning firsthand from a STEM professional what they do in the workplace and applying these skills to support the delivery of the school curriculum has improved my confidence in STEM subjects and has increased the knowledge of my students,” Ms Keen said.

“In high schools, most students have access to a digital device so to be exposed to world-class researchers to help students increase their STEM learning, and stay safe, is extremely valuable.”

Safer Internet Day is an annual, worldwide event to help encourage a safe internet environment. This year’s theme is ‘Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you’.

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