One of the reasons I teach is related to one of my goals for my own life. I try to make it a habit to learn new things, to change my point of view on various topics, to see the other side of a discussion, and to open myself up to new ideas, concepts, methods, and subject areas. I want the same for my students.
Currently I am teaching a course on wireless security, a technical course with many topics that we just lightly touch on to get an overview. One of the topics has to do with the certificates issued to secure websites to authenticate who they are and encrypt the communication on the site. Think things like filling out banking information, registration forms, or payment on any retail website.
Search engines, such as Google, have recently been securing their websites, and encrypting search terms. One way to see that is look in your browser address bar. If it says “https” instead of “http”, and if there is a lock icon, then it is a secure site. You can click on the lock and see the certificate information. Your experience in other browsers may be somewhat different.
I wanted to do more than just show the certificates to my class. So, I had them search for my blog, this blog, using the search term Byzantine Vectors or byzantinevectors. Then I showed them the WordPress statistics, which show the search engine used for the referral, and the search terms. Except that the search terms didn’t show because they were encrypted. (I was surprised to see that there wasn’t 100% consistency on this, and the search term came through sometimes.)
The students were actively engaged as they participated in making the searches. I think they were also energized because I revealed something of myself to them, my blog. I briefly discussed this blog, mentioned that I had a couple of others. I asked the nine students if any of them had blogs or were interested. One said he was interested. Most of these students are late 20s/early 30s, come to class after working all day, and generally wouldn’t think of blogging or even being wide awake and active in a Friday night class. But now I see something that might interest them. I am opening their minds to some new possibilities.
How can I capitalize on this experience? Well, like I’ve known all along: engage the students in activity, be open about my own life beyond the knowledge I’m trying to transfer, and bring in the technology that connections are made from. Though teaching in a pretty closed institution, I can open up my own classroom.