Midterm Proposal: Cybersecurity Workshops for Educators

Cybersecurity Workshops for Educators

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

General Description

Introduction Teaching and doing research in academia offers the opportunity to work with students from a diverse range of backgrounds. While this range of experiences enriches any educational context, it is also important to acknowledge that with it comes a range of differing needs. While this range of experiences is given some attention, in regards to making the university accessible, we are in many cases still neglecting the security and privacy rights of particularly vulnerable members of our community. When it comes to integrating technology into the classroom, the digital rights of students and participants are an afterthought. The violations of our digital rights has become the norm, with the acceptance of a digital tools Terms of Service being a foregone conclusion.

It is the assumption of this project that in developing a critical understanding of digital tools and media, academics will actively pursue more ethical alternatives to current practices. Following the cryptoparty model, this project will introduce participants to concepts such as “digital rights”, “threat modeling”, and “holistic security,” and discuss how to introduce these same concepts in an educational and research context which prioritizes consent.


Persona 1:

Marty McFly, 50, is an associate professor in Theory & Composition teaching a new course on collaborative music composition online. While his mind rushes with the various tools his students could use for their final, a collaboratively composed piece hosted online, he has some concerns. He has seen some pretty “heavy” implications when an old friend of his was doxxed, and Marty personally found his own work stolen on YouTube. He would like a space to discuss these concerns and potentially learn of alternatives he can be more confident in implementing.

Persona 2:

Griff Tannen, 22, is starting his graduate research criminal justice. He suspects that the increased mobility offered by hoverboards contributes to the spread of crime in urban areas. For his first project will collaborate with a researcher abroad and collect data from prisoners via interviews and surveys. Since this is a protected population according to IRB, he wants to be sure his research design handles information as securely as possible; however, his research group heavily relies on OneDrive cloud storage. He remembers in 2011 hearing about Microsoft, the owner of OneDrive, being a member of something called “PRISM”. Looking online however he can’t make heads or tails whether or not this is a secure place to share participant data.


Marty and Griff hear about a workshop for academics such as themselves hoping to improve the security and privacy of their students/participants. Marty attends the workshop at the Graduate Center, but due to a schedule conflict Griff simply accessed the presentations/materials which were made available online.

Three Iterations

Ideal Version: Title: Digital Sanctuary: day of workshops and panels privacy-conscious academics

In the ideal version of this project, I will be able to reserve the skylight room at the Graduate Center as well as two additional classrooms on the 7th floor. I would also request for the skylight room to be livestreamed with the built-in AV equipment so that the three panel sessions can be available online. The day would be a six hour period divided into three 1 hour and 45 minute sessions, with 45 minutes reserved for breakfast and lunch. Each of the three panel sessions will divide the first hour for presenters to discuss their work, with the last 45 minutes dedicated to a discussion and Q&A session. Three workshops will be conducted concurrently, each of which will be repeated once and staggered so that all workshops can be attended by a participant. The three workshops will potentially center the following topics (1) Privacy and Security in a Digital Classroom , (2) Securing and Sharing Data and (3) Discussing Digital Rights. During and after the event, a simple website will be hosted for materials needed by presenters as well as links and hosting for the live video streams. In my current position I would not be confident in being able to complete this event in its full scope, however I do think with a few dedicated collaborators this would be an obtainable outcome

This iteration of the project would be the most time intensive. While it would only require a modest budget relative to other events, it would still require applying for some level of funding– a process in itself very time consuming. Additionally, even an optimistic reading of the time involved in booking and confirming collaborators would likely take well over a month. Fortunately the network required for recruiting such participants is a strength I bring to the project, as I regularly attend and network at similar events. Finally I do dread the investment in publicizing the event, as this was my role in a similar event (Pedagogy Day). With all these in consideration, a charitable timeline may put this event in the early Spring 2019 semester. However, without an investment of collaborators this semester it would likely only be feasible for Fall 2019. A collaborator familiar with experience navigating the Graduate Center in service of such events would be the most helpful addition to making this project a reality, and I would need to be in touch with them by this summer in order to make a manageable timeframe. Additionally, while I would be capable of building a simple website for hosting materials, a more skilled web developer would be useful building a more useful and accessible site.

Moderate Version: Title: Digital Rights and Pedagogy (Pedagogy Day Workshop) In addition to morning presentations on innovative pedagogical methods, Pedagogy Day often offers an afternoon of workshops. Last year these were 1hr 15min workshops, while in past years there have also been pedagogy workshops hosted by the GSTA throughout the semester, offering 2 hour time slots. Given that this event is hosted by the psychology department, where I have previously helped coordinate the event, and have also co-taught a pedagogy workshop, I am confident that I could– if not host my own workshop– at least find a way to collaborate with another student for a more synergistic event. A potential drawback in designing a workshop for pedagogy day is the restriction of discussing digital rights strictly as it relates to the pedagogical process. While this is feasible, it puts a limitation on the scope I would hope to cover in such a project. Still, by reaching out to the GSTA this is something I could further negotiate. Finally I would still want to develop some online resource for the workshop, perhaps with an interactive element so that it can be used in the workshop itself.

Relative to the ideal version of this project, the time investment in the project would be greatly reduced. The most time consuming task in this iteration would be the development of the online resource. I am confident in my ability to complete a simple presentable website in 4-7 days, potentially using the academic commons as a sandbox for tools educators may not be familiar with. Depending on the tools I and a collaborator wish to share, however, this aspect of the project can quickly exceed my expertise in which case I would need the assistance of a web developer. While I have many prepared cybersecurity workshops at my disposal, I think it would be useful to bring in a student collaborator to help co-facilitate the workshop in order to ensure it is pertinent to the expectations of those attending pedagogy day.

Minimal Version: Title: Academic Cryptoparty (Informal workshop)

In this iteration of the project, I would simply reserve space at the Graduate Center for a two hour cryptoparty. In some respects this would involve more work than the moderately viable option, as I would need to book space and promote the event myself, but conducting my own workshop would allow me to build off work I have already completed in conducting cryptoparties. This version only requires the bare-essential skill building to adjust my previous work to be more appropriate for an academic context. Namely, I would need to become more familiar with the CUNY academic commons and its compatibility with other tools. I would also need to do some research in regards to vulnerabilities of current tools (i.e. Blackboard) not typically discussed at general cryptoparties. I’m confident in my ability to acquire all the necessary information and experience online.

This version of the project would only require 3-5 weeks of preparation, as it would be primarily the adaptation of educational materials I already have access to and am familiar with presenting. The biggest obstacles would be in publicizing the event and ensuring it covers topics most enticing to academics. The more broad the framing of the workshop is, the more appeal the workshop may offer. However, it would become more difficult impart specific useful skills for participants. Additionally I would need to research the most common tools used in instruction and research with human subjects to better understand known and potential vulnerabilities–as well as learning how to use and teach relevant alternative.


  • James says:
    Are these educators provided with the proper tools to educate students on the topic of internet security where the subjects like risk factor, recognition and resolving are covered?

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