When your students become your hackers

by James Reid18 Aug 2015

An article published in iSchoolguide last month showed just how serious a matter cybersecurity is in 2015.

The National Security Agency (NSA) is now offering free summer camps to students to educate them about responsible hacking, cracking, and cyberspace defence. The push represents the growing role ICT is playing not just in schools, but in society as a whole.

Like any other privileged information, the knowledge to hack into a secure network must be entrusted to an individual who will use it responsibly.

Needless to say, students play an important role in recognising the vast power such knowledge can wield - a point made clear by Darrell Andrews, one of the NSA summer camp’s instructors.

"Now, I don't want anybody getting in trouble now that you know how to use this puppy, right?" he warned.

Closer to home, a report that appeared in The Age last week might have validated many principals’ fears when it was revealed that school students are increasingly using hacking techniques to access blacklisted websites.
 
A survey by the Monash University revealed that nearly 60% of 1,200 Victorian secondary students surveyed admitted to routinely using their teachers' passwords, setting up their own networks or learning hacking techniques to access blacklisted websites.
 
However, while the students boasted about their ability to bypass internet filters, a majority of them believe rules on digital technology should be changed, saying tight restrictions showed schools were out of touch.
 
"They're [mobile phones] not always a distraction and can be helpful in classes, but most teachers don't use them to their advantage," one student told The Age.
 
Students want freedom to choose how and when they use their own technology, and question the teacher's' right to confiscate their devices.
 
Lead researcher at Monash, professor Neil Selwyn, said regulating the internet had proven problematic for many Victorian schools, adding students would “always be one step ahead”.
 
"Kids will always be one step ahead of any filter or software restriction you apply. It's not a simple task, I do sympathise with schools," said Selwyn.
 
The professor said the level of filtering for many websites was excessive, adding schools should instead focus on building trust with students and allow social media, which he said could have educational benefits.
 
"We're seeing a generation clash and culture clash between students and schools. Some schools are making a lot of work for themselves by regulating technology use so heavily,” Selwyn said.
 
"Often these are problems which could be avoided by being more open and trusting with students. I'm sure in ten years time, most schools will not be blocking websites and banning devices".

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