April 24, 2014


Going to the doctor and worrying about cybersecurity

For most people, going to the doctor means thinking about co-pays and when they’ll feel better. For me though, it means thinking about those plus the cyber security of the computer systems being used by the medical professionals.

I’ve spent more time than usual visiting doctors recently. I broke my hand – sure I’ll tell you how.  It was a hit-and-run accident with a woodchuck. I was riding my bike, the woodchuck ran in front of me, I ran over him, and he fled into the woods, leaving me lying on the ground moaning in pain.  Okay now that we got that out of the way…

So the emergency room doctor ordered a CT scan (to check for a concussion and the presence of a brain) and various x-rays.  I thought  about the computer controls while in the CT scanner, but what was really interesting was when the hospital emergency room digitized  the results and gave them me on a CD to provide to the orthopedist.
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What is the 21st Century blackboard?

In the fall I’ll be back from the FTC and teaching again. I want to draw on the wisdom of FtT readers to help me figure out what technology I should be using to present material to students in the classroom. It’s a lecture class, teaching security and privacy to a class of 175 students, mostly computer science majors.

What should be my primary technology for presenting material?

In recent years I have preferred a technology called a “blackboard.” For those not familiar with this technology, it uses a large flat light-absorbing panel (the “blackboard”), across which I scrape a small cylinder of soft rock (“chalk”), leaving a residue on the board. I like the blackboard because it regulates my pace of presentation, because it allows students to see a lot of material at the same time, and because I can go back and modify / emphasize / point at material I have written. I like the physicality of the board — I am right there next to the board, the lights are on, and I can point at things for emphasis. (But I don’t like turning my back on the students while writing, nor the dust that gets on everything.)

I dislike canned PowerPoint style presentations for lecturing, because there tends to be less material visible to students at a time, because it gives me less opportunity to improvise in response to student questions, because it is less natural to refer to past material or emphasize a point, and ultimately because I think it pushes me toward an overly scripted lecturing style that conveys less nuance and enthusiasm for the material. I used to lecture with PowerPoint but for the last decade or so I have used the blackboard, and I think my teaching is better that way.

But it seems to me that there should exist a higher-tech approach that combines the advantages of the blackboard with the advantages of electronic media. I want something that I can use in an existing tech-enabled classroom, and that will scale up to a class of, say, 200 students.

What should I use? Please educate me in the comments.