Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Spectrum of Students

Interesting day today.

I was giving a test in my afternoon class. Out of 24 students, 4 showed up with no book, no notebook, and worst of all NO pen or pencil. Honestly, in 14 years of teaching, this is a phenomenon that's new to me. I was more disappointed than I was angry. I was tempted to tell them to go home - and come back when they were ready for class, but instead I found a few pens for them to use. I'm sure many faculty will disagree with my approach, and maybe next time I'll take a more draconian approach.

Contrast that with my evening Linux class. Each student has their own Linux server that they are configuring and maintaining, and I have one in the front that I use for presenting and demonstrating. Part of tonights lesson focused on making remote connections to a server using ssh. I used ssh to connect to and login to a student's server. I also explained public encryption and how we could better protect the remote connection. As I was moving from demonstration back to presenting, my machine spontaneously rebooted itself. At first I thought it was a power issue - we've had power issues in that classroom before. But as I investigated, it turned out that as I was explaining ssh, my students were using ssh to connect to my system and using last weeks lecture on managing processes to kill or restart processes on my machine. We had a good laugh about it after I figured out what was going on and changed my password. The students created a bit of chaos, but in the end they were learning and applying what they learned. Hard to argue with that outcome!

Driving home, it occurred to me that an interesting way to teach the course would be to secure the instructor machine (my box) and have the students try to attack (get into) my system. I would then implement additional security and the cycle would continue. The students would love this approach, but I'm pretty sure they'd defeat me every night!

Photo by Paul Garland

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


ryan said...

No pen or pencil? Wow.

I like the idea of setting up a server to 'hack' into. Hands-on learning is what I found most effective in my early studies.

keep up the good work teaching!


Mark Viquesney said...

I bet those are the same students, that when you review for a test, don't write anything down. And then, right before the test, ask you what's on the test.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...