Cyber Resilience Education for Primary & Post-Primary Schools ▶


Dr Rachel Farrell - University College Dublin


On 14th May 2021, the Health Service Executive (HSE) of Ireland suffered a major ransomware cyber attack which caused the entirety of it's IT systems nationwide to be shut down. It was the most significant cyber crime attack on an Irish state agency and the largest known attack against a health service computer system.

The advent of the COVID-19 global health emergency has also rendered individuals and society extremely vulnerable to cyber crime due to our increasing reliance on online technology to mitigate the impact of social distancing necessary to slow down the spread of the virus. While some describe cyberspace as the sliver-lining of the health pandemic, there is evidence that malicious actors are exploiting these vulnerabilities to their own advantage (Council of the European Union, 2020) which could be the catalyst for an impending “cyber pandemic” (OECD, 2021).

To facilitate the development of cyber resilience education, the most recent National Cyber Security Strategy (GOI, 2019-2024) seeks to “support the development of a Junior Cycle short course in cyber security, which will provide for the inclusion of cyber security education in second level” (Ibid, Measure 12:4, p. 39). A team of teacher educators and researchers from the School of Education in UCD have led the design and implementation of a pilot of this junior cycle short course on cyber security, entitled Cyberwise assisted by a cross-sectoral multi-disciplinary working group comprising members of the School of Computer Science, DECC, NCCA, CESI and Cyber. A bespoke website hosting up-to-date student-centered resources and teacher professional development supports emanating from the project are freely available to the wider education community @

This design-based study (Brown, 1992) will evaluate the democratic pedagogical partnerships (Farrell, 2021) that will evolve through the enactment of the expansion of the Junior Cycle short course to cyber resilience education for all supported by collaborative engagement across a multi-disciplinary team underpinned by the notion of expansive learning (Engeström & Sannino, 2020).

This team will work collaboratively to design and implement blended modules for student teachers and established teachers engaging in continuing professional development in the School of Education in UCD. The module specifications and resources that will be generated will also be available to support teachers, parents, industry and government departments in creating awareness and providing education to combat the threat of cyber crime and cyber attacks in their own sectors. The project will involve the setting up of the UCD Centre for Cyber Resilience Education in Primary and Post-Primary Schools (CREPS) as a sustainable and self-sustaining infrastructure to support cyber resilience education for all. The purpose of the Centre will be to project manage and evaluate the development and implementation of cyber resilience education across the continuum of primary, post-primary and third level teacher education programmes in Ireland that may also be adapted for the international context.