April 2017 Recap

Whoa! April is gone! April is by far my most favourite month of all because it is my birthday month. That’s when I could have more reasons to indulge and enjoy. Plus we get more discounts on everything on birthday month. More reasons for shopping! Although there’s nothing big on my birthday, I always have these mixed feelings. On one hand, I was happy to eat more and to celebrate. On another hand, it’s a reminder that I was getting older. Sigh! Anyway, I had a wonderful time with the husband during my birthday weekend (my birthday fell on Monday which coincidentally was a public holiday). We stayed at a hotel in city centre where I got complimentary stay and we indulged in various food over the weekend.

The husband even bought me some presents while we were supposedly window-shopping. Haha!

Of course, I simply can’t resist such a nice blue coloured bag. I also finally gave in to this music box that I wanted for quite some times. I bought one of Taipei 101 during my trip to Taiwan but I couldn’t find the NY Empire Tower. I knew all along that there’s a local shop that is selling all these music boxes but I couldn’t bring myself to spend too much on this. Since it’s my birthday and the husband was buying, no point to say no, right?

Teaching/Administration

The short semester finally ended, just few days before my birthday. Everything was rushed with the examination started the following week. On that first week of examination, I had to bring some students to participate in a national competition. We had to depart quite early in the morning because the journey to the destination took at least 2 hours. Before the competition day, I had organised practice sessions on almost every Saturday in April. With the examination period in between the competition, I have no idea how they performed. I guess it really doesn’t matter as long as they had try their best.

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At the end of semester, the most dreaded routine is grading. Considering much lesser grading load this round due to lesser courses offered. Another reason I was assigned lesser was due to the high amount I did in last 2 long semesters.

Reading/Writing

Seriously, April passed by in a blink of eye. I don’t feel I have done much reading so I can just forget about writing. I’m still trying to establish a better morning routine since I always arrive at office before 7 a.m. However, there’s always something that got in my way and I simply couldn’t be productive. I hope I will have better progress to report next month. Keep my fingers crossed!

Teaching Evaluations

As a member of the teaching staff, I get to be evaluated by my students near to the end of every semester. I normally see the evaluation feedback in the following semester and I have to acknowledge the ratings and comments given and to reply with my own feedback if necessary. For the first semester when I started teaching, I was very nervous to get back my evaluations. As I was new in academia, I didn’t know if I did good or if my students liked me.

The subject is quite boring. May add in some interesting material.
If possible, lecture note should be presented in a simple & plain English because too definition based will make it difficult to understand.

This was my very first feedback in 2014. It was my first time teaching an information security course. I did realise the lecture slides were a bit too wordy but being new I didn’t dare to reword them.

Interesting teaching way and we can get the knowledge faster.
A good lecturer indeed!
The best lecturer! I really understand what she teaches in class. Very good! I hope in the future she also teaches us. I think majority will agree with me.

For the following year, I received much positive feedback. Of course, I’m pleased.

Explains clearly scope and intro what to be learnt. Great teaching method with examples. Suitable pace. Clear and loud.
Clear explanation on what to be done. Clear steps on how to do. Extra info for students. Solves problems well with patience.
Explains every question clear. Communicate well with students. Teaches and explains with examples. Best tutor ever!
Teaching very clearly. Easy to understand. Answer students question with easy example and explanation.

As I get more comfortable in teaching, I got slightly better feedback, though I also got a few evaluations without any comment. Asian students generally don’t like to voice up their comment, no matter good or bad, on such formal platform. However, on social media, they are totally different people altogether, with mostly complaints. I have heard ‘horror’ stories of students complaining about lecturers on social media so I tend to avoid reading any of them.

Lecturer is full of knowledge.
She is a patient lecturer. We know a lot about information security from her
Very nice tutor. She is very experienced, knows a lot of thing.

This feedback was the latest from last semester where I did another information security course. I’m actually quite surprised that my students saw me as experienced and full of knowledge. Although I feel I have improved, I still don’t see myself very experienced yet. Anyway, I’m still glad to get such positive feedback. It means I’m doing something good and my students feel it.

So, if you are a teaching staff, what kind of feedback you have received? Is there any interesting or funny feedback?

March 2017 Recap

I have wanted to write this kind of post for a long time after being inspired by Dr Ana’s monthly round-up posts but being the procrastinator me, I didn’t get it done any earlier. Since it’s now Week 6 of a 7-week short semester, I guess it’s time I put this in writing and hopefully I get to keep this as my monthly habit.

Teaching

As it’s short semester from March until end of April, I’m teaching 4-hour per week for the Introduction to Computer Security course in Bachelor degree level. I have taught this course before so teaching this semester is rather easy with less preparation. What I noticed I have improved was probably I could paint a better bigger picture about information security now after a few rounds of teaching similar courses and after more reading of CISSP. I shall share more about my last course evaluation by the students soon. From their comments, I think I have made good progress with my teaching.

Administration

Although I only have 4-hour classes, my schedule is as busy as ever due to my additional admin role in scheduling the whole department’s workload for this semester. This means I have extra planning tasks to do and more follow-ups too. Extra works have to be done in preparation for next coming semester where the new academic year begins. I also got busy by organising two invited guest lecturers. One is a professor from Teesside University and he shared interesting stuff about big data in relation to cybersecurity. Another invited guest lecturer is from Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and he shared good stuff about cybersecurity and the threats to Internet of Things (IoT).

Reading/Writing

I wish I can schedule more daily reading time. Sadly, I still haven’t come up with a fix daily schedule that really works for me. For writing, I don’t have any writing goal at the moment, though I wish I can write more, just to get my ideas flowing and improving my writing skill too. I shall try harder.

Research

As part of the final year project supervision, I have discussed some research areas that I’m interested in with my students. I’m particularly intrigued by insider threats and the ways to detect and prevent them. I’m also interested in Security Education, Training, and Awareness (SETA) program, specifically in looking at how to do an effective implementation. These are still at initial proposal stage, so we will see how things go in next few months.

Community Work

This is just to share that I have been a volunteer tutor for the past 12 years and I’m proud to be of service to others. I used to tutor Malay language (Malaysia’s national language) to local students who stayed at the community centre. Since its closure end of last year, I was offered the opportunity to tutor elementary English to refugees. This experience in working with refugees is so different, not because of their backgrounds (I never ask) but I came to realise that learning difficulties are real. It’s sad to see some are trying so hard just to learn and yet some (privileged ones) just don’t even put in any effort. This experience got me to learn to observe more and to revise different strategies to help those in learning better.

I guess that’s all for March. Hopefully, I have more to recap for April. I guess April shall be more exciting because it’s my birthday month. Haha!

My reading list for 2017

I have tried my best to read as much as possible according to my study plan since my last post. Am I successful? I would say far from it. I’m still at Chapter 1, though I’m already at page 130. However, the start of Chapter 2 is at page 189. So another 50 pages more to go. Another reason I’m far from completing my reading is because I read other books in between too. My reading list is rather lengthy by now because I’m too greedy. I wish I have all the time to do just reading.

Let’s look at my current reading list for this year:

CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, Seventh Edition – my aim is to read, practice the exam questions and take the certification exam this year. Of course, I read too in preparation for teaching most of the InfoSec courses in my campus.

CompTIA Security+ Study Guide: SY0-401, 6th Edition – the undergraduate programme under my care is going to incorporate this certification as part of the syllabus so I’m reading it to see its coverage and to reinforce my InfoSec knowledge. This book is an easy ready so far. I have completed Chapter 1.

Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World – being an InfoSec enthusiast, Bruce Schneier is a big name in the field. I love his books. I’m so happy to find this book in my campus library. I read it for leisure at home and already halfway through. I wish my campus library has more of his books.

Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door – started reading this out of my interest in cybercrime. It’s really an interesting story and I’m really impressed with Brian Krebs’ journalism dedication in revealing the dark side of the cyber world. 

Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions – I got this book quite long ago with the intention to learn the best technique to captivate my students with my lectures. I was hoping with some good techniques, my students would not tell me that they have forgotten whatever I said in lecture. 

The Dance of the Possible – I have been following Scott Berkun for years and I’m quite in love with his books. Being his fans, we got to download his latest book for reading and review (for a very limited time). I have finished the first few chapters and they are really interesting on how we think about creativity.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – I read recently that this book is so good so being the greedy me, I went to search for it and found a copy. I have read the first few pages and they are really interesting. I wish I can write like Yuval Noah Harari. Another great author to admire.

See, I’m not kidding that I’m greedy when come to books. I wish I have all the time to just read these books. No doubt, I have been doing a lot of readings since I joined academia. Reading students’ assignments, reports, and the like. Haha!

Study plan for #CISSP

Just like any studying in whatever level, you need to have a plan. Of course, a lot of efforts are required to follow up with the plan and most importantly to make things work. In my opinion, studying for professional certification should not be harder than getting a PhD but it still requires a lot of effort in studying. Although not as tedious and long process as getting a PhD, CISSP is considered one of the toughest examination (where its coverage being infamously quoted as “an inch deep and a mile wide”) that requires serious studying to pass the certification.

Due to its enormous coverage, studying all the materials takes a very long time. For a start, choosing which study guide to start with has already taken me months. Many who have passed the certification have recommended a long list of books and study materials to improve the chance of success. However, none of these books they recommended are less than 1000 pages and many actually recommended a read from cover to cover for at least one of the study guides, not once but twice. Taking their advice, my first step is to decide which study guide to invest in and I chose this All in One CISSP Exam Guide by Shon Harris.

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I found this boxed set in one of my local bookstore which I’m thankful for because sadly most of the good books are generally not available in my country, so when I found this I was elated and bought it right away. After reading on and off about CISSP for a few months, I actually fell in love with Shon Harris books. She was a great author with her well explanation in everything. Her book is the most comprehensive, therefore some may feel it is simply too much information to study. I decided on this because this book can serve as my dedicated reference guide even after the exam, so it is a good investment. Furthermore, this boxed set comes with Practice Exams which is valuable. One cannot just study without some practice for the exam.

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See, I’m not joking about the thickness of this book. A total of 8 domains with 8 chapters and I’m supposed to study them cover to cover so I need a good plan to infuse studying of CISSP into my daily routine. It is not going to be easy with my heavy teaching hours during the semester but I believe it is doable with proper planning. I must learn to work with smaller chunks of free time in between teaching and admin workloads.

So before I can begin with the plan, I must first set a realistic timeline, i.e. when will I be ready to sit for the exam? I estimate to study 2 domains in one month so I need at least 4 months to complete everything so I set July to be the month to take the exam. Sound realistic enough? Should be for now.

Here is my study plan for the next 4 months:

studyplanOverall Tasks:

  • Read and make notes especially all the important concepts and terminologies
  • Complete practice exams at the end of each domain
  • Revisit areas of wrong answers
  • Cross reference with at least one other official study guide

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CISSP (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional Official Study Guide

This study guide has 21 chapters and it is more than 1000 pages long. What I value most of different study guides is the practice exams at the end of each chapter where I can try different type of questions and see how ready will I be.

Now that my plan is set, next should be to make sure I follow the plan. Wish me luck!

 

Exploring OneNote for Extraordinary Productivity

I’m happy to be back to office from my Chinese New Year break. I have to admit that I had been living a ‘pig’ life during this break where I only ate, slept, and watched TV every day. Anyway, I’m happy to have time to sit here and update a post. Today I wish to share about Microsoft OneNote and how I use it as part of keeping up with the Extraordinary Productivity.

When I first tried out OneNote, I was quite impressed with all the options available to customise my Notebook. I can create multiple notebooks which I can switch one to another easily. Each notebook can contain multiple sections (just like divider/folder for physical file) and each section can contain multiple pages. Let’s take a look the options to make my page:

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There are simply so many tags to choose from and a search/filter can be done through these tags. I’m a big fan of To Do list, of course. They are very easy to create with keyboard shortcut Ctrl+1. Putting a tick to each task simply makes me happy.

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Here is how they are look like on a page.

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If you prefer to have real notebook feel with rule lines or grid lines, fear not! You have various options to choose from.

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Finally, here is how I use OneNote. I created JennNotebook where I keep sections of Writing Ideas (where I keep ideas in various pages for writing blog post like this), Academia (where I keep track of things to do during the semester), Cool Tools (links to online tools I want to try out more), and Meeting (where I keep notes of meeting). I literally transfer my extraordinary productivity method from physical page to online OneNote. The best thing is this OneNote sync to my phone or any device with OneNote on mobile. I do not carry any physical notebook with me now, though occasionally I still like to scribble on the paper for some impromptu notes.

I have seen OneNote being used on Surface with the Surface pen and the usage of OneNote is so much and the only limit is our imagination. I’m so tempted to buy one just for that! Maybe I should just get one in the hope to increase my productivity. Haha!

 

Reflections on 2016

I hope I’m not too late in writing my reflections for 2016. Writing anything nowadays is becoming quite hard. My thoughts are rather incoherent and I’m quite distracted with the endless tasks at work. Or is it simply the Internet? I’m stealing some times away now since the semester has ended and I can try to relax a bit before the examinations start and the grading madness begins.

So here are some of the things that happened in 2016 that I would like to reflect on.

Career

It’s my third year working in academia and I have accustomed to the academic environment by now. I have also established my own specialisation in information security and computer networking areas. I’m working hard to become more expert in these areas. It’s just the beginning but I guess it’s a good start. It’s also a good thing that I know what I want to specialise in. I have seen many academics are rather lost in finding their area of specialisation which in the end they are always teaching something that are not in their interests. Anyway, I’m glad I had been given various opportunity to improve myself including a sponsored CISSP training paid by the faculty that literally reinforced my area of interest.

Early in 2016 I had been given an opportunity to conduct a public course on computer networking for working adults. Although I had to work on Saturdays, the pay was pretty good and the experience was the most valuable for me. Teaching working adults was so different from my usual playful adolescent students. These people were paying good money to learn from me and I did my best to share my knowledge and skills.

2016 had been a great year for me in attending conferences. I attended one in Langkawi beginning of the year and I attended another one in Sandakan near to the end of the year. I had also visited branch campuses in different states beginning of the year. I would say working in academia has increased my travelling for work as compared to my many years working in the industry. I guess it’s a good thing to be able to travel and meet new people and learn from the experience.

I also would like to note that I attended a free workshop conducted by my ex-student who is now a talented trainer in that company. The proudest moment as a lecturer to experience first hand how well my student has become after graduation. What a satisfying moment as an educator!

Personal

On this level, I would want to reflect briefly about my father’s passing in March 2016. He had been bedridden for more than 14 years due to stroke attack so honestly I felt his passing was not a bad thing for him or for the family. I was not very close to him but he was a great dad.

In May, I got the longest semester break ever due to readjustment of semester dates. I took the opportunity to travel with the husband to Taipei, Taiwan and we shopped and ate so much. We continue to our island holiday in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and we experienced our first steam train ride from North Borneo Railway. It’s not cheap but the experience worth it.

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Gaya Island

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North Borneo Railway

It’s the best longest holiday ever for me and I won’t get another chance at that now because the semesters are back to back with maximum 3 weeks break for the students. For academic staff, we get much lesser due to meeting and other workload.

Writing/Reading

Writing was scarce in 2016 and I feel very bad about it. I have to admit it’s my bad time management and I seriously hope I can improve my writing productivity this year. I actually had a lot of writing ideas but sadly I didn’t get the time to really sit down and put my thoughts to words.

For reading, I actually did some but mostly CISSP books or information security related topics for teaching purposes. The only book I managed to finish reading in 2016 was The Art of Deception by Kevin D. Mitnick (also related to information security area that I teach).

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I started leisure reading other books such as Spam Nation by Brian Krebs, Impossible to Ignore by Carmen Simon (recommended by Scott Adam), and The 5 Choices but I still haven’t finished any yet.

Teaching & Learning Tools

On the tools that I used in my courses, I had explored a bit more in blogging as part of students’ assignments presentation where I also encouraged peer assessment as blog post comments. I had also extensively used Google Form for conducting online quizzes. I really would like to share more on these tools one of these days. I have also started using Microsoft OneNote and I kind of like it. I have customised it to improve my productivity based on the Extraordinary productivity method. OneNote is also a very good tool for ideas collection and creation because you can easily create different notebooks and within them you can create different categories in pages and in tabs, just like you have in physical file. I would like to share about this too soon.

I guess that’s all I have for now. Not bad for a start with more than 800 words today. Haha!