Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Greenfoot and robots

One of the criticism of the using robots for teaching problem solving is they are finite resources, there is a risk that some students will dominate the programming in group work. To address this a new feature has been added to the teaching of problem-solving activities. There are now two parallel activities  as well as programming a robot; there is a separate programming exercise carried out at the same time which replicates some of the same actions of the robot but this time on screen.
Figure: Robot pushing a barrel

These exercises are based around the increasingly popular Greenfoot software (http://www.greenfoot.org/download/) which is free to download and use. This can be put on as many machines as are need enabling more people to have a go at programming.

The exercises initially gets participants to set-up the world, place a robot within it and get the robot to move across the screen. Building on the each previous exercise, the complexity increases and includes challenges (such as in the figure) where the robot pushes a piece of rubbish (in this case a barrel) off the screen.


A series of other activities based around controlling a robot or robots in an environment has been developed. 


The nice feature of both the robot and Greenfoot exercise of these is that all the activities are Java based. The extra feature that Greenfoot provides is flexibility. The students can download this at home and work on it on their own machines, whereas the robots can't be taken home.
Anecdotally, initial student feedback has been positive, with some students creating solutions to some of their own problems.

Some of the material can be found at: http://www.computing.northampton.ac.uk/~scott/greenfoot_ex/sco1/default.htm

Friday, 25 November 2011

Model for Computer Forensics

An paper on teaching computer forensics was recent published at 7th Annual Teaching Computer Forensics Workshop University of Sunderland on the 10th Nov 2011.


An Embedded Pedagogic Model for Computer Forensics within an
Undergraduate Programme
Authors: Ali Al-Sherbaz , Amir Minai, James Xue, Rashmi Dravid , The University of Northampton


Abstract
The discipline of computer forensics which has a strong mutli-disciplinary background derives from the computing subjects in networking, programming, security and mathematics. Increasing awareness of cybersecurity and emphasising the need for a common vision among students addresses the challenges. The proposed pedagogic model is to embed the computer forensics materials within the undergraduate modules to extend students’ knowledge and skills in a practical context. However, it is also recognised that the depth of knowledge required learning such topics as cyber security should be offered from the underlying principles to their abstraction.


Cyber crimes are on the rise however, Cyber security professionals are in a depressingly low numbers. The lack of focus on this area has certainly resulted in a limited number of experts. Today, there is a demanding need to create new cyber security jobs, which should hopefully bring leverage to the uncontrollable rise of cyber crimes. It is, therefore, necessary to develop the analytical skills which create challenges in building a constructive approach to learning. Also, reflecting the technological fluctuations, it is seen as essential for students to be continuously updated.


The proposed model focuses on the delivery and assessment of certain computing modules, with an evaluation of its efficiency on the use of time and effort in order to satisfy the minimum requirements of the curriculum. The study has also discovered that some of the modules already cover part of computer forensics implicitly. Therefore, highlighting these topics to the students and making them more visible as computer forensics is one of the main objectives. Another objective is to enhance the existing computing modules by dedicating certain amount of lecture time on computer forensic related concepts. The model can then be adopted by Universities when considering developing new modules.


Over  the  last  few  years  there  have  been  large  increases  in  cyber-crimes  which  have  threatened individuals and organisations. To reduce the threat it is imperative that the computing courses within universities increase the level of student awareness by providing them with professional education in computer forensics and cyber-security without the need to create a separate specialised pathway.