Neatness Counts

Now I’m not the neatest guy in the world. As a matter of fact, you know that person in the office that always has a clean desk? that’s not me. As far as my desk goes I use a “piling” system – a pile for important stuff and another pile for the stuff I’m working on. The system is somewhat problematic but that remedy is for a separate discussion. Right now I’m talking about classroom organization and appearance.

As haphazard as I am at my personal workspace I am equally precise with my classroom organization. I believe it’s absolutely critical to present a neat and well organized atmosphere especially when students first enter the training space.

Here’s some of the things I do:

  • Whiteboard is clean, I mean spit-shined, actually, I use whiteboard cleaning fluid with a microfiber cloth.
  • Instructor station is ready, presentation system ready, that means tested and functioning as needed. There’s nothing worse than fumbling with AV equipment during student time.
  • Arrange the desks and chair in a symmetrical fashion – chairs are pushed in all the way and are centered on the student workspace.
  • Limit visible cables to the extent possible – cables that cannot be hidden are the same color and are routed in the shortest, safest path possible. When we added fabric skirts to our student tables the change was dramatic, a much more professional look.
  • Layout student materials in an identical fashion at each student workspace – this where I pay most attention. Each pen, pencil, and highlighter are positioned the same and the student book is laid down face up centered on the closed laptop with its edge flush to the facing edge of the computer.

When a student enters a training space that is clean, well-prepared and visually pleasing they may not say anything, but they will recognize that the instructor is organized, prepared, ready to teach and ready to receive students.

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In reality, it does not take much more time to arrange materials, in military parlance, “dress-right-dress” yet the impact whether conscious or subliminal will be positive.

I realize that this level of precision is not possible in all cases, especially if you have a mobile training class and have little control of the venue. If you have control of your space consider spending a bit of extra time letting your inner OCD take over, it will pay off with a great first impression in the student’s mind and your training will run more smoothly. Also, it’s easier for you to visually recognize exceptions or omissions when every student position is identical.

Use of Document Cameras in Classroom

As trainers, I’m sure you use whiteboards maybe in a pinch, a flip chart for interactive illustrations. Consider also, the use of a document camera, which is essentially an optical camera positioned over a controlled area often called a “stage”. A document camera is the modern version of an overhead projector, is sometimes called a visual presenter or a visualiser.

I have only used cameras from Elmo however Epson and several other manufacturers offer models with various capabilities.

These cameras are great for show-and-tell type illustrations where the object is small or you need to demonstrate detailed features. An example might be, showing hard drive connections or even displaying printed documents. Additionally, I like to use them for smartphone operational demonstrations. Smartphones have the capability to project or cast their display to projection devices a la screen mirroring to Apple TV for iOS devices. However, I don’t like how this looks and feels from the student perspective, I’d much rather show my hand and finger movements while operating the device.

There are a variety of features on modern document cameras. Consider options for lighting, camera resolution, zoom and connectivity to the projection system.  Some cameras even record audio and video during their use.  Size, space, and portability are also a consideration – and oh yeah, cost!

Currently, I use an Elmo with its HDMI output sent to a video matrix switch so I can control its projection to all or some of our classroom’s 3 flat screens.

Here are some photos to start you on your search for the perfect camera.

Cloning USB Drives for Student Activities

There are many reasons to use USB drives during cyber training. You can use them to distribute student activities or produce student handout materials.  In the class that I currently teach we use 6 different pre-configured USB drives during student exercises and in-class demonstrations. Typically students will alter the contents of the USB drives as part of the activity therefore after use, the drives have to be prepared for the next class iteration.

I have tried various techniques for cloning batches of USB drives, including using the EnCase image restore function – this works well if you have the software. I do like the built-in image file compression capabilities, however it is somewhat tedious for cloning several drives concurrently and EnCase’s user interface can be clunky for non-technician users

I have settled on using PassMark Software’s (www.PassMark.com) free ImageUSB tool.  ImageUSB is a simple, easy to use USB drive cloning program.

The typical use-case is:

  • Create a physical USB drive in your preferred configuration designated as the Master copy.
  • Use the ImageUSB program to “Create Image from USB drive”, this creates an image file of the Master USB drive on to your local file system
  • When you’re ready to clone drives, mount as many destination drives as your system can support and choose “Write image to USB drive”(s).

PassMark website says you can copy up to 50 drives at once, yet they have not tried that many at once.  My system can only support 7 drives at once.

Image USB Screen Shot:

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You can download ImageUSB for free at PassMark’s website on their product page www.osforensics.com/tools/write-usb-images.html

One word of caution: Make sure you have the correct destination drives selected. Once, when I was cloning drives, doing 3 other things at the same time, I almost overwrote my USB-attached backup Buffalo hard drive with a 1GB USB flash drive image.

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Is It Training or Is It Education ?

So as soon I declare that I won’t have an academic discussion on the science of education, my very next blog post appears to be so. However this basic discussion will help instructors stay focused and ensure lesson plans are addressing their stated objectives.  (You’ll notice objectives come first.)

There is an important distinction between training and education;

  • We train for what we know will happen
  • We educate for the unknown circumstances

Training session: “Hey man, when the light comes on and it glows is red, press the button labeled STOP. When the light comes on and its green, press the button that says GO.”  Simple effective training – sometimes this type of training is called  “buttonology”.

What happens when the light flashes amber?  Well, I don’t know? What is the light connected to?  What makes it go on? Is it important? Is there a manual? Is this a life safety issue?

Imagine yourself on-board  US Airways Flight 1549 on January 15, 2009 when it hit a flock of birds shortly after takeoff and experienced dual engine failure. Your pilot’s has no alternative but to land the Airbus A320 in the Hudson river. At the controls, do you want a highly trained super-pilot or would you want a pilot with a deep understanding of aerodynamics and aircraft systems?

Of course would you want Captain “Sully” Sullenberger at the controls – he was trained AND educated to handle this unique circumstance which no one planned for.  It was the combination of education, training and of course skill and experience which allowed he and his crew to perform the Miracle on the Hudson where all 155 passenger and crew survived. YouTube video (radio traffic and animation) of the event.  Oh BTW, Sully was also a glider pilot – wonder if that training and education came in handy…

Training without the context of education is shallow. With that said, there may be situations where education takes a back-seat to pure training and buttonology. The Military may use this learning model more frequently; however I can imagine with the increasing technical complexity of weapons systems, education on how and why a system works becomes necessary to facilitate the most basic troubleshooting.

The Journey Begins

I decided to start this blog while researching a topic this morning, I found some information which was valuable to my effort. It was then that I realized someone took the time to share their experiences which I found valuable — maybe it’s time for me to give back. Maybe its past time, so here I go for what it’s worth.

I’ll be sharing what works during instructor-led cyber training classes. Over the last fifteen years I have been teaching adult students in various cyber domains, mostly computer forensics.   Being a purist (and a live trainer), I believe live, instructor-led training (ILT) is the best ways to teach these technology topics.

I’m not a teacher by education or by training. I learned by trial and error and by what appears to me to be common sense. So, in this blog you’ll find little academic ramblings about the science of education, there’s plenty of research papers out there.

I caught the “training bug” in the 1980’s when I was in the US Air Force, stationed at the Air Force Academy teaching freshman cadets how to “fly” in flight simulators.  Five other enlisted guys and myself taught the same one hour lesson, 6 times a day, all year long.  This taught me my first 2 lessons in the field of training:

  • Repetition Produces Excellence – we got very good at teaching, reading students and cracking jokes.
    • Sub-lesson: not everyone thinks the jokes are funny, even if they laugh, some get offended. Further, some get so offended they report their instructor up the Chain of Command. More on appropriate use of strong language, adult humor and war stories in a future post.
  • Repetition Yields Boredom (at a level approaching insanity) – fortunately our Chief recognized this and gave us time off and a relaxed working environment at least to the extent he could at a military academy. Thanks “Papa!”

If you have the opportunity to teach with some degree of repetition, use this to improve your delivery and fine tune the various aspects of your interaction.