Teaching basic networking?

I'm getting a CyberPatriot team started at my school, and we've gone through a lot of basic Linux stuff. We're at a point now where we need to start teaching some basic networking. IP subnetting, router basics, L2 switches, really basic stuff but they need to have a solid understanding for when we do move on. I have a reasonably good grasp on the stuff, and I can explain it pretty well, but I'd like to introduce the concept of the OSI model and I'm not sure how to teach that without making it confusing and boring.

Do any of you know any good ways to teach basic networking? Most of the team are very visual "hands on" kind of kids, so if I can do demos with GNS3, show graphics/animations, etc. instead of just death by PowerPoint that would be preferable. Suggestions? I've got a few weeks to prep the first lesson.

Give them a couple of junk desktops and one with PfSense or some other router software on them, then give them a list of things to do and help them through it. Imo its easiest to learn and gain interest in something by being experienced to it, instead of just reading off a powerpoint slide or out of a textbook.

Problem is there's actually four "teams", each one comprises of 3-5 kids, making about 20-25 kids depending on who shows up. And we have very limited funding and half their personal laptops are 32 bit Pentium crap with no Intel VT extensions. So it sort of has to be in the "lecture" format I think. Is there a way to do a web-based networking lab for free? Like GNS3 except browser based running on a server somewhere?

Edit: Myself (I'm a student) and one of the adults have access to some pretty good server resources though, that's why id like to do a "cloud networking lab" sort of thing. I'd love to do physical hardware but right now we can't afford to buy even a small switch/pfSense hardware for each team. Figuring reusing old desktops it'd be about $40 per team minimum, which adds up. Good suggestion, I'm not trying to poo your ideas, just not sure it's practical for us.

I'm not aware of any software that meets that description, as I too am a student that is going into the field and all my networking knowledge is currently self taught xD

Maybe you could combine all the teams and do it where the students have to work together to do stuff. Maybe something like a Socratic seminar where they have to discuss why something would work to meet their objective and then once the group decides, a couple of the students can implement it while the rest work on the next problem. It would take a good bit of moderating by the teachers, but it could be a cool way to hopefully get everyone involved. Maybe you send 5 students at a time to work on the problem, and once they finish they have to come back and explain what they did for the group to hear. That way in theory everyone would get hands on, everyone would hear the explanation and problem solving procedure, while still keeping costs relatively low since you only need one set of machines.

Other than that, I would suggest looking around online for stuff that is common. Maybe look through the CompTIA Network+ course material and come up with lessons to teach stuff from the certification. This may also come in handy:


Maybe look through and use those simulations or teach from the course guides.

I helped my co-workers daughter 2 years ago on Cyber Patriot. My opinion of the program is pretty low. It seems like it's a Junior Cisco shill program designed to get students to commit brand loyalty to Cisco related security, and to frame everything through a Cisco lens. I thought it was pretty bluepill stuff.

I definitely don't think the competition itself is the best (I would rather use GNS3 than Cisco Packet Tracer, and the training materials provided by CyberPatriot are horrifyingly bad) but it provides a platform for teenage nerds to get together and learn about cybersecurity, so for that I'm thankful. But I agree, it's sort of a "toy" cybersecurity competition, at least until you get up into the higher levels, and I definitely notice the Cisco product placement everywhere.

Awesome, thanks!

It's funny you mention the Socratic idea, the other leaders and I already talked about handing over teaching to the teams in the future. We just want to get a rudimentary knowledge for everyone, plus it gives us a chance to figure out who's serious and who's here to joke around. Definitely will keep that in mind though, and thanks for the link that looks handy.

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