Imagine teaching over one million students in over 160 countries how to design, build, troubleshoot and secure computer networks.  The Cisco Networking Academy program operates over ten thousand academies worldwide in secondary, post-secondary, and alternate environments ranging from workforce development programs to prisons.  Towson’s IT Affiliate and Cisco Support and Training Centers, located at the Continuing & Professional Studies, manage and support over sixty academies throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, providing technical support and professional development resources.

How is Towson helping Cisco Academies to support educational reform?

Academy curricula are aligned to the STEM National Career Cluster Standards and Common Core Anchor Standards in Language Arts and Mathematical Practices.  This summer, Towson’s Cisco Instructor Training Center will offer a three-day workshop for high school IT instructors in embedding Common Core experiences in IT instruction.  The activities and lessons produced from this workshop will be shared through video and other technologies. Three summer “boot camps” for Cisco instructors to earn A+, CCENT, and CCNA certification will continue to raise the bar on quality instruction.  National and state Common Career Technical Core Standards are due for release over the coming year, and professional development to support them will be a key future project for Towson’s Support and Training Centers.

What’s happening in Maryland’s Cisco Academies?

It’s an exciting time to be a Cisco Academy in Maryland:  in response to Governor O’Malley’s goal to make Maryland the “cyber hub of the nation,” the Maryland State Department of Education has designed a high school career and technology Cyber Security pathway partnering Cisco Academy and CyberWatch curricula.  Students following this pathway can earn up to three industry certifications (A+, CCENT, and Security+) along the way.  This new pathway, along with the two existing Network Engineer and Computer and Network Support pathways, provide Maryland students with a wide range of career and college opportunities.

Six two-year colleges were the first community colleges to be named National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Information Assurance recently by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Three of the six institutions–Anne Arundel Community College, Hagerstown Community College and Prince Georges Community College—are Maryland Cisco Academies.

What “core beliefs” are driving all of this?

Career and technology programs everywhere need to meet the 21st century learners’ needs and expectations, and meet national goals of graduating secondary school students who are truly prepared for success in both college and career.  Towson’s Cisco Support and Training Centers’ goal is to understand and support what Cisco instructors are doing well, identify areas of need, and give instructors the resources to practice those skills in the classroom.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated in April, 2011, that, “Once CTE programs deliver on the promise of truly preparing students for success in college and careers, their successes will make a compelling case for further investment.”  Towson is helping to ensure that the world’s largest 21st century classroom can meet that challenge.