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On the "why" of package managers

2021-12-24 09:43:00

On the CompTIA A+ Discord we got into a little chat about apt package management. Someone really wanted a real-world example. Since "apt install wireshark" doesn't really tell them much, I typed up the following. 

What we haven't been hitting on here and which might not come up in the objectives either is "why?". Why do we even need yum, apt, brew, choco, dnf and so on?

To answer that in as short a time as possible: installing software can be a tricky thing, because of "dependencies". Software needs more software, which needs more software, to run. 

A piece of software is almost never stand-alone: it needs libraries, drivers, programming language interpreters, supporting tools and so on. And if you start working with Python, Java, NodeJS and so on, you will really get stuck in "dependency hell". 

On Windows, standalone software installs often come as MSI or EXE installer. On Linux they come in the form of DPKG, RPM and other package formats. Now, if you want to run software that was installed via only such an installer, you'll quickly run into problems "Help! I'm missing X, Y and Z! You need to install those too!"

Package managers like Yum, APT, Homebrew, Chocolatey and so on help us with that. They will look at the list of dependencies that such an RPM / DPKG might have and make a grocery list. :) "You want this? Fine, then we'll also get X, Y and Z and get'm setup for you."

That's the "WHY?". It makes sudo apt install wireshark so nice, because it'll fetch ALL the extras Wireshark needs to run. For example. 

Now Overwatch? That's gonna be interesting. Because where do all these packages come from? From "repositories", central databases of software packages. They are often run by the company making your chosen Linux, but there's also independent ones (like choco, brew and more). Plus, commercial vendors also often have their own repositories setup which you can subscribe to. This is how you would install Microsoft's Gitlab, for example. 

Question is: do Blizzard have a repo to install Overwatch from? I don't know. :) tags: , , ,

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Linux+ practice resources

2021-10-10 17:23:00

Here's a list of practice resources I suggest to my Linux+ students, for Bash and Linux in general.

Special mention:

Complete newb level:

Early on, for beginners:

Advanced: tags: , , ,

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Where to go after Security+

2021-10-10 11:32:00

There's a question which commonly comes up on Discord. I thought I'd just make a blogpost out of my most common response.

"I need you to suggest me onto path after security+. I want to develop my pen-testing and web security skills."

Here's a great overview of all kinds of security certification tracks ->

If you're a rookie pen-tester and need a start with the basics, then eLearnSec's eJPT was always a decent start.

Pentest+ is CompTIA's cert that tests for 1-2 years of professional experience (or bruteforce book-learning). In Paul's overview it's lower ("easier") than eJPT, which I disagree with.

For a little more experienced people, eWPT and eCPPT from eLearnSec were also decent. Or, if you want to pack a bit more oomph, go for PWK (pentesting with Kali) from Offensive Security. The capstone to PWK is the now famous OSCP practical hacking exam.

OSCP combines research skills, time management and documentation with technical challenges which are not "too hard" (their difficulty lies mostly in the huge variety offered).

There are many cool sites that offer free or affordable education through labs, like TryHackMe and HackTheBox. Personally I've been a fan of PentesterAcademy, who put out good quality content and whose courses can go really in-depth.

If you have an employer who's not afraid to spend some money on you and you still have budget left, consider the SANS trainings + GIAC exams. They're expensive, but have a good reputation and the trainings are awesome.

GSEC can be considered their next step after Security+. GCIH and GPEN are the GIAC "better-than" certs compared to CySA+ and Pentest+... Their training courses SEC504 and SEC560 are awesome... and ?

Finally I'd like to plug Antisyphon trainings

They offer very good value for money, via online trainings. Some of these are pay-what-you-can, letting you pay somewhere between $25 and $495. Others are fixed price, but well worth it.

Case in point -> Modern webapp pentesting with B.B. King.

That's $495 for 16 hours (4*4h) of online training with a group of fun students and the excellent B.B. King. It goes into a whole bunch of very important tactics and testing methods for modern web applications. Recommended! tags: , , ,

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Another season of classes done, which has left me a bit empty

2021-10-09 17:57:00

Halfway through May I started teaching Linux+ to the cyber-security "Group 41" at ITVitae. It's been 16 classes since then, nearly a hundred contact hours with a marvelous group of students.

And now, like I've had before after finishing a big project, I'm feeling a bit empty. In 2017, not a day after finishing my OSCP exam, I quickly felt empty and lost. And now that I'm officially done with "my" kids, I'm also at a loss. It feels odd, not teaching them anymore.

So. Best look to the future! Hopefully I'll teach a new group in a few months and until then I'd like to shoot for the DCA and CKA Docker/K8S exams. tags: , ,

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Understanding pam_unix and unix_chkpwd

2020-10-24 23:49:00

One of the benefits of teaching Linux to a group of young adults, is that it forces me to go back to the books myself. The Linux+ objectives cover a few things I haven't worked with yet (such as MDM), but also touches on things I haven't given much thought yet. Case in point: PAM.

Just about every Linux sysadmin certification exam requires that you can work with Pluggable Authentication Modules. They want you to make your SSHd or SU authenticates correctly, or to include pam_tally. So we learn about /etc/pam.conf and /etc/pam.d/* and how to setup an auth or session stack correctly. 

What led me down a rabbithole was this: what if I want to make a Python app that authenticates users? I found references to python-pam and other modules, but most discussions ended with: "You need to run as root, or add your application user to the shadow group."

Initially this felt odd to me because, aren't we teaching everybody that services shouldn't run as "root"? In the end it does make sense, of course, because if any arbitrary user could (ab)use PAM to verify another user's password that'd be problematic. The process might be very noisy, but you could still try to brute-force the password. 

One source of confusion was the pam_unix documentation, which states:

"A helper binary, unix_chkpwd(8), is provided to check the user's password when it is stored in a read protected database. This binary is very simple and will only check the password of the user invoking it. It is called transparently on behalf of the user by the authenticating component of this module. In this way it is possible for applications like xlock(1) to work without being setuid-root."

Stupidly my brain glossed over the important parts (I need sleep) and latched onto the "without being setuid-root". The important part being that it "will only check the password of the user invoking it". 

What made me finally understand the workings of unix_chkpwd is a project of Marco Bellaccini's that I found on Github -> chkpwd_buddy. It should me the proper way of interacting with unix_chkpwd as a non-root user: FIFO pipes. 

$ mkfifo /tmp/myfifo

$ echo -ne 'testing\0' > /tmp/myfifo &
$ /sbin/unix_chkpwd tess nullok < /tmp/myfifo
$ echo $?

$ echo -ne 'testing\0' > /tmp/myfifo &
$ /sbin/unix_chkpwd testaccount nullok < /tmp/myfifo
$ echo $?

$ sudo -i
# mkfifo /tmp/rootfifo

# echo -ne 'testing\0' > /tmp/rootfifo &
# /sbin/unix_chkpwd tess nullok < /tmp/rootfifo
# echo $?

# echo -ne 'testing\0' > /tmp/rootfifo &
# /sbin/unix_chkpwd testaccount nullok < /tmp/rootfifo
# echo $?

Root can verify both my "tess" password and the one on "testaccount", while I could only verify my own password with my normal account. 

What's interesting, is that only the failed validation attempt shows up in journalctl. The successful attempts are not registered:

$ sudo journalctl -t unix_chkpwd
Oct 22 16:08:53 kalivm unix_chkpwd[86131]: check pass; user unknown
Oct 22 16:08:53 kalivm unix_chkpwd[86131]: password check failed for user (test)

To sum it up, if you want a Python app to authenticate the running-user's identity, you can use the python_pam module. But if you want the Python app to authenticate any/every user, then it will need to run as "root". tags: , ,

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No honor among peers: plagiarism is uncool

2008-11-19 20:57:00

T-Rex bullied someone into making his homework!

Well, this is certainly ironic... Not half a year ago my profs at college sang praise of the work I was doing and how helpful it was to publish my notes, calculations and papers on the web. This took a turn today when I received an e-mail from my mentor, asking me to remove all of my work from the web.

Apparently there is no honor among peers and there's a bunch of students that decided to be assholes and completely rip off my work. Of course it was never my intention to help people commit fraud at college. I have faith in my peers and counted on fellow students to have the balls to do their own work.

Publishing my schoolwork was always meant to be an inspiration for fellow students, possibly helping them along in their own pursuits. It'd be great if a glance or two at my work had helped them over that little bump they'd run into. I explicitly mention on my site that people shouldn't be dicks and that my work is not meant to be turned in as their own. I warn the readers that any repercussions following plagiarism of my work are their own responsibility and that I won't be held accountable for their assholish behaviour.

Anyway... It's dilemma time! I dislike the thought of hampering my old profs in their daily work. They made me feel at home at HU and they taught me a lot. On the other hand, I believe that removing my work from the web will only amount to fighting symptoms. Students will always share papers among themselves, it's just that mine are more visible. Besides, it's a very real possibility that at least a dozen students have already downloaded every single file I put up on the web, so it's impossible to stamp out any copying from my work.

I explained to my mentor that this high visibility of my work could also work in their advantage. If they'd consider using anti-plagiarism software like Ephorus, all the work turned in by students would be automatically checked against any papers findable through the web including mine.

I'll be honest and admit that having my work up on my site is also in part down to my sense of pride. I'm fscking proud of all the hard work I did last school year and I believe that my papers are also a testimony to my qualities in documentation and education. Call it my portfolio if you will.

I'll mull things over a bit and have another chat with my profs. Let's see if we can find some common ground in this. tags: , , ,

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All my term papers for History 2 (Geschiedenis 2 - Vakgedeelte)

2008-06-19 21:37:00

One of the few second year's courses that I got out of the way in my first year at college is History 2, ie Geschiedenis 2 - Vakgedeelte. I'd planned on leaving the didactical part of the course until the next year.

The workload for this course isn't that high and it mostly depends on the students reading a whole book on the history of mathematics. Starting at the arithmetic of the Egyptians and Babylonians we proceed through India, Arabia, the middle ages and the Renaissance to discover how maths evolved through the ages. Surprisingly most of the really interesting stuff starts around the seventeenth century. -Astoundingly-, over 90% of the maths we know was invented after 1900. o_O

Biography of Euclid

As part of the preparations for our exam, each student was asked to write a two page biography of a famous mathematician. I was assigned Euclid (Euclides in dutch).

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.

Summary of "Math through the ages"

This course relies on a syllabus made by the Hogeschool and the Math through the ages book by Berlinghoff and Gouvea ( Since the book's rather voluminous I reckoned I'd write a summary of the whole thing, with some stuff from the syllabus thrown in.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.

Assignments 7.3 through 7.6

One of the minor assignments we were given was to work out a few ancient, dutch math assignments. Well, ancient? Sixteenth, seventeenth century like-stuff. It was actually fun to try and decypher the instructions given in the original texts.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here. tags: , , , ,

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Interviewing at regional high schools

2008-05-22 21:49:00

Today I took a few hours off from work, so I could go out for an interview at Oosterlicht College high school. I'd seen on their website that they were looking for math teachers and thought I ought to give it a whirl.

Their school is quite large, with around 1800 students at their main location, but I've heard good stuff about them. Besides, the school's been divided into two virtual departments, meaning that I'll only interact with about half of that number of students. In this case the job I'm shooting for is part of the VMBO track (the bottom of three ranks in the dutch high school system).

I had a nice talk with the section chief and the head of the maths team, which lasted for about 75 minutes. I think they were at least moderately interested in having me on their team and we agreed that I'd come and observe the school in full swing RSN(tm). If, after those few hours, I'd still like to work at the OC, then we'll have our official talk about the terms and such. So far, things are looking good :)

I was also reassured that, as a teacher, I wouldn't have to earn a lot less than what I'm getting right now. In the dutch educational system (primary and high school), personnel is divided into four salary groups: LA, LB, LC and LD. As a high school teacher I'd rank in LB, meaning that I'd start out at 2250 euros a month. However, since most schools are willing to match your current paycheck if you're leaving another field, I'd be making more. This would put me over halfway of the salary playing field in the LB class. In the end, this means that I won't be taking a pay cut, but that there is definitely less space for me to grow in the future.

Anywho... I'm quite excited about my first interview in the educational system! I was a bit anxious before we got started, but I soon felt at ease. It was just like any other interview I'd been too. Just a bit friendlier and for once I wasn't the stronger party :) tags: , , ,

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"Banenmarkt", what an afternoon

2008-05-14 21:08:00

Wow, I am -beat-! =_=

The 1.5 hours I spent at the Banenmarkt at college really took it's toll on me :) It was a great gathering and I managed to speak to everyone I wanted to just barely within the time limit.

I dropped off a total of eight resumes, spoke to reps of eleven schools and have a few very good prospects. I also spoke with folks from three other educational organisations and their information was rather valuable as well (such as the perfectly swank Het Utrechts VO in kaart booklet).

A few reps seemed moderately positive about my suggestion of combining a teaching position/internship, with a full-time supporting role at their school. So that's a good sign :)

Right now, while I am still able of forming coherent sentences, I'm making sure I get all their contact info into my address book, so I can't lose it. After that I'm off to bed... I need some sleep... tags: , , ,

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It's official: I'm job hunting as a teacher

2008-04-28 18:16:00

As the title suggests: I've officially started hunting for teaching positions for next school year. So far I've found a few very interesting schools that are actually quite close to home!

Let's see how this pans out.

Any of you Snowers reading this: no need to fret yet. I'm NOT running out on you on a moment's notice ;) tags: , , ,

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All my term papers for Student Care 1 (Project Zorgverbreding)

2008-04-21 09:01:00

In my third semester I only took one class, because I'd fallen behind in my work a little bit. Luckily, the semester's project Student Care (project zorgverbreding) wasn't very complicated.

In this course, students will explore the care for students with learning and personality disorders. ADHD, ADD, Asperger, Tourettes, Anorexia... You name it, we've got it. The assignment for each project team was to pick a number of disorders, each of which was to be studied on an individual basis. Each team member would report on the specifics of his chosen disorder, including information such as:

My chosen disorders (I accidentally picked two, instead of one) were anxiety (angststoornis) and mood disorders (stemmingstoornis, depression et al). Below you'll find my big report on the subject, two summary sheets and a flyer.

Individueel verslag

Each of the team's members was to compile a document on his chosen disorder. Mine covers anxieties and mood disorders.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.

Informational flyer

The docent offered extra credit to each team for making additional, informational products. I took the time to create flyers for each of our disorders, based on the reports everyone'd written. My flyer is a compilation of the two summary sheets below.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.


In the course of our project, we were to hold a small presentation for other project teams. As a basis for this presentation, each group member wrote a summary of his materials.

These documents are available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here and here.

Mind maps

In order to keep my research for this project organised, I've worked with so-called mind maps.

These mind maps are available as .PNG files and can be downloaded here and here. tags: , , ,

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Ephorus, anti-plagiarism software for teachers

2008-04-13 18:30:00

Recently, we were discussing a few anti-plagiarism measures over at the forums. Plagiarism of course being a rather stupid and bad thing to do if you want any form of education.

One of the checks so far is to just take any suspect sentences and plonk them into Google. This actually works miraculously well, seeing how Google indexes the hell out of half the Internet. The only downside to this approach is that you really only ought to apply it to suspected plagiarism, because you really can't copy and paste a whole document into Google's search bar.

To make things easier, some people have tried their hand at making a Google frontend, but with little success. So we'll have to turn to commercial companies who have their proprietary front ends and search methods.

Enter Ephorus, stage left.

Ephorus anti-plagiarism

On their website, Ephorus boast about their services like any good marketeer would. The emphasis in the following is mine.

Never search for plagiarism yourself again? An end to all irritations and qualitatively better papers? No problem. With Ephorus, you can prevent plagiarism with no extra effort. Moreover, with this anti-plagiarism market leader, you will be assured of the best service and the lowest prices. With Ephorus, teaching will be fun again!

Not only teachers and students benefit from Ephorus. Examination boards also see an improvement in the quality of papers. And since teachers no longer lose precious time investigating possible plagiarism, more time can be devoted to education.

Alright, sounds like a sales pitch, right? :) You'll notice that I bolded out two fragments that are rather important: they make it sound like Ephorus is the end-all-be-all solution to spot plagiarism. Sadly, this is simply not true. I'll explain this in a little detail shortly, but the gist of it is that Ephorus only checks materials they have access to through the Internet (eg Google search) and from their own database.

Ironically, their best source of original texts and information are their own clients. By submitting a document for verification, the customer allows Ephorus to keep said document in their database for future reference. This is also why recently students have been clamouring about copyrights on their documents. While teachers and schools are made aware of the fact that documents will be stored indefinitely, students are never told such a thing. The only thing they see is an upload form that asks for their details. No warnings, no disclaimers, no nothing. I guess Ephorus leaves that up to their customers.

The legalities behind all this are debatable. There's such a thing as fair use for academic purposes, but one could reason that Ephorus' goals are not purely academic.

Toying with Ephorus: a cursory glance

My initial impressions of Ephorus were good! The interface looks clean, well designed and calm. There's nothing there to confuse you and it's a good example of form following function. The interfaces is divided into a few sections:

You will find screenshots of most parts of Ephorus at the bottom of this page.

So far I've found a few small nags with the Ephorus online interface.

All in all I'm well pleased with the Ephorus interface. It's user friendly enough and is pleasing to the eye.

Testing Ephorus on some real documents

Of course, what would a software review be without putting it through its paces?

I've selected a few documents from my own schoolwork and a few other sources and I've submitted them to Ephorus. These documents are:

Analysis 1, DO10 One of my original works and never before published on the Internet.
Statistics 1, DO5 One of my original works and available on my website since last year.
Border-line op school A document written by one of my project team members at school. Never before published on the Internet. Also, at least 40% of the text was copied straight from books.
Pride and prejudice Well, we all know this book, right? The classic by Jane Austen which has been freely available on the Internet for years.

The first document came out as expected and only slight traces of "plagiarism" were found. It scored a 3%, 2% of which was accredited to other documents that I'd written. Ephorus has marked parts of my cover page and my student information as being straight copies, which isn't remarkable. The final 1% came from the fact that I had literally quoted one paragraph (properly cited by the way) from a book.

By turning up the strictness a notch, another 2% were added to my score. Apparently the words Maar dat was niet het doel van were found on two separate pages on the Internet.

The second document I'd submitted came out as expected as well: 96%. Of course, I'd expected a 100%, because the file itself has been on my website for over half a year now. So that's a bit odd. What's even stranger is that the cover page and information that was picked up for the first document wasn't flagged at all this time.

Disturbingly, my group member's document scored a measly 3%, in spite of his liberal copying. This can only be accredited to the fact that Ephorus cannot and does not search through books. Ephorus only relies on digital resources that it has free access to.

Finally, Jane Austen's Pride and prejudice was properly picked up at 98%. It would've been scary if Ephorus'd missed out on this ^_^

Personally, I think that the look and feel of the reports are just right. They could've been much prettier, or take the original document's formatting into account, but I reckon that would detract from its purpose. The reports offer just what a professor would need:

Fiddling with the strictness controls shows me that it modifies the amount of words that do NOT have to be similar in one sentence. By setting the level to "strict", Ephorus will also point out any lines that share a number of words (but not all of them) with another source.

In conclusion

Earlier, I promised to tell you why Ephorus isn't the end-all-be-all solution to plagiarism. And it's not something that only applies to Ephorus, but something that goes for all of its competitors as well.

This software does not search books, magazines, research papers and other published print.

Case in point: my classmates document came through fine. This means that teachers will always need to be on the lookout for plagiarism anyway. Ephorus and its ilk are just a first barrier that documents need to get through. And it's in that respect that I quite like Ephorus.

I'm glad that the Ephorus team gave me the chance to try out their software. I'm convinced that it makes a nice addition to the teacher's toolbox, even if it doesn't save him much work.














The Ephorus name and logo are of course copyright of Ephorus. All my screenshots were taken using the demo version of their website. tags: , , , ,

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Interesting debate on work ethics

2008-02-23 15:55:00

Here's an interesting question for you: if we want our kids/students to put in effort in their work, why don't we do the same? Isn't that a bit two-faced?

Case in point: my own studies. It's been suggested a few times that I'm working myself into my grave at school, by putting so much effort into each and every assignment and report.

It's true that, for most of my reports, I put in extra research that isn't needed. Without said research I feel that I'm doing a half-assed job, because I wouldn't completely understand the subject matter. I enjoy studying extra materials from a field that I'm only in the process of entering, because without them I feel less confident. I've even been complimented on my efforts by a teacher or two.

However, now people (both teachers and fellow students) are suggesting that I could save a lot of time by skipping all that research. "Just find the answers to the questions and move on." "Don't bother with all those nice looking reports." "Do you really think someone's going to read a 25 page paper every time you submit one?"

Now, I'm not disregarding their suggestions, because it's certainly true that I could do with a little spare time. Too much work and no play and all that. So yes, I will start accepting 60-70% as a good score as well.

However, the problem I have with all of this is that we would -love- to have our students go apeshit over their course material! We'dn love it if they got totally enthused about maths, or english lit, or PE. So why are we so quick to jump to the "easy road" ourselves? That just feels illogical to me and actually a little bit like a betrayal as well. tags: , ,

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A summary of "Identiteitsontwikkeling en leerlingbegeleiding"

2008-02-16 21:05:00

As I've said, one of the killer first year's courses is Kijk op leerlingen en leren. Aside from a number of term papers and research that need to be done, there's also a big exam.

This exam presents the students with a number of cases that they need to assess using the experience they've gained throughout the course. During the exam, students are allowed to refer to the course book, Identiteitsontwikkeling en leerlingbegeleiding by van der Wal, de Mooij and de Wilde.

Below, you'll find my summary of four of the book's chapters. I didn't have time to tackle the chapter on the development of intelligence.

My summary is compiled as a 50+ .PDF document. You can download my summary here. tags: , , ,

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All my term papers on Student Identity Development

2008-02-16 20:52:00

One of the killer courses in the first year of the teachers education at Hogeschool Utrecht is Kijk op leerlingen en leren. This course has a twofold focus and is tested in three seperate ways. The two main subjects of this course are identity development in students and a new approach to teaching known as The New Learning (Het Nieuwe Leren).

Testing is done as follows:

  1. An exam on identity development in teens.
  2. Five term papers on identity development.
  3. A group project on Het Nieuwe Leren, with a bunch of papers as output.

To help prepare for the test, I've written a summary of the book that we used in class. The book in question is Identiteitsontwikkeling en leerlingbegeleiding by van der Wal, de Mooij and de Wilde. Here's the summary.

The page you're currently browsing features all of my term papers on identity development and all of the papers I wrote for the group project.

Dossier opdracht 1

As an introduction to this course all students are asked to look back at their own teenage years. They're asked to speak candidly about their days in high school, their sexual development and their identity as a teenager.

Since this document contains a lot of stuff that hits a bit too close to home, I won't be putting it up on my website.

Dossier opdracht 2

This paper contains a few assignments about chapter 2 from the course book. The chapter covers basic identity development, including the various influences that work on a teenager.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.

Dossier opdracht 3

This paper contains a few assignments about chapter 3 from the course book. The chapter covers the development of intelligence and learning processes.

I haven't done this one yet ^_^

Dossier opdracht 4

This paper contains a few assignments about chapter 4 from the course book. The chapter covers the sexual identity of teenagers and how they cope with the changes their body and mind go through.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.

Dossier opdracht 5

This paper contains a few assignments about chapter 5 from the course book. This chapter covers student guidance and counseling. It explains what to do with students who have learning problems, or various disabilities.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.

Group project on The New Learning

The second, huge part of this project involved research into The New Learning, or Het Nieuwe Leren as it is known in the Netherlands. These "new" (or actually "reinvented") teaching methods have led to a lot of changes to the dutch educational system and as you can imagine it has led to a lot of fighting as well.

Our group of four was asked to investigate various parts of Het Nieuwe Leren, including the didactical and historical backgrounds. We produced a number of documents, but you'll only find my own documents on this site.

The following documents are available for download: tags: , , ,

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I taught my first class today

2008-02-07 15:50:00

The Cals College in IJsselstein

Oh. My. God. I was so nervous this morning, it's unbelievable!

This morning I headed over to the Cals College in IJsselstein, to teach a class for the first time ever-ever. Before that, I had an appointment with the school's student care coordinator, to discuss another school assignment. Fifteen minutes before my class, I was in pretty bad shape though. Crampy stomach, cold and clammy: also known as "nervous".

The same went for the first two minutes of my teaching: I had a shaky voice and kept losing track of my story. After that though, things were fine :)

The students in my classroom were nothing short of awesome. Just like my classmate had predicted, they were very kind ^_^ They were very attentive and they were fast on the uptake. They all managed to finish the whole stencil of assignments, with only a few making minor mistakes. I couldn't have wished for a better class.


Klas 1DLW, heel erg bedankt voor vandaag! Ik ben heel erg blij met hoe het is gegaan en had geen betere klas kunnen vragen voor mijn eerste les. Heel veel succes nog met school en misschien tot ziens :)


One point of important feedback that Gineke gave me: at this level of education, the questions I ask to verify the students' learning process are too open. Instead of asking if everyone gets it, I should ask more closed questions to see if people give the correct answers. Were this VWO instead of VMO (uni-prep as opposed to vocational school), -then- I could've asked open questions.

Of course, there was more feedback, but I'll put that in my report for school. This will be published in the School section in a few days.

Here's a snippet from the videotape I made for my portfolio. tags: , , ,

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A sneak peek into my class

2008-02-05 22:36:00

Here's a little taster of the stuff I'll be using in Thursday's math class. I'll be introducing the kids in a VMBO-BL class to the notion of negative numbers, which can be quite a challenge. I mean, how the heck do you explain to a twelve year old that there's something smaller than zero?

Of course, people will immediately point out things like temperatures, debt and years B.C. Thing is, those are only examples of negative numbers and they don't explain how or why. They just show that it's possible, but a child may not instinctively understand how these figures work.

So, this should prove to be interesting! The picture shown above is part of a stencil I'm putting together for the students. It's part of the first assignment they'll be making, pointing out the height at which various objects reside. I'm very curious about how it'll work out :) tags: , , , ,

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It's finally going to happen!

2008-01-30 18:05:00

Well, it's finally going to happen! I've been putting this off for a long while, but Marli kicked me hard enough to get over it.

I'm going to teach a class.

The very thought still makes my stomach do somersaults, it's silly really. This is exactly what I'm studying for, so I ought to be longing for this moment! Of course, I realize that stage freight is something completely natural, but to be putting it off for months on end is just stupid. But now it's going to happen! In part because Marli got me out of my rut and in part because I'll fail my VAKDID2 class if I don't D:

My classmate Gineke is giving me a huge break, but letting me teach this class to one of her first year's groups. She tells me their absolute sweethearts, so I really have nothing to worry about.

In a week's time (OMG!DEADLINE!) I'll be introducing a group of first year's students to the concept of negative numbers. On the one hand this deadline's great, since it's putting some real pressure on me. On the other it's a bit scary, because I really have to push myself hard to make it.

I'm going to teach a class.

My very first time, in front of a room filled with youngsters that -aren't- there to listen to me talk about anime or Japan. My very first time, trying to educate the young. My very first time, making my career switch more real than it ever was! This is why I've been working my ass off the past few months. I need to remember to enjoy the experience and not just try to be perfect.

I'm going to teach a class.

Oh my!.. tags: , ,

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Speaking of educators...

2007-12-11 20:17:00

As you can imagine, this whole deal about the New Learning has the whole country in uproar. Teachers, educators, students, parents, scientists, educationists and simple bystanders: everyone has an opinion, well-informed or otherwise.

And of course, as things go with conflict, most of the people are only willing to see things black or white. "You're with us, or against us!" Stuff like that. To aid each party in their cause, public fora have appeared on the Internet: the opponents seem to gather at Beter Onderwijs Nederland, while the proponents assemble at Natuurlijk Leren.

So far I haven't joined any discussions at the latter, opting instead to visit the BON site. This is in part due to the fact that I like their website design a lot better (it's more transparent). BON's opponents typecast them as grouchy, old men who are completely stuck in their ways and who disparage any ideas that are not their own. And unfortunately they're not doing much to break down those stereotypes.

So far the questions and opinions I have voiced (which partially contradict their own) have been met with derision and hidden insults. Which is a shame, because I think there's a lot to learn from healthy discussions. I'm still studying to become a teacher, so I'll grasp any straw that may include some new information.

Of course, I have no desire whatsoever to have my ambitions quashed by snide remarks. I'll try and maintain a level head in my forum discussions. Developing a thicker skin may actually help protect me from students later on. ^_^ Of course, if things keep going like they are I'll just leave BON again. Practicing my debating skills is one thing, letting people sap at my enthusiasm is something else entirely. tags: , ,

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How do you make grownups re-learn basic maths?

2007-11-15 13:20:00

This semester, the didactics course that's part of Analysis 1 focuses on the teaching of basic maths to children. What kind of troubles do they run into? What are common mistakes they make? How does learning maths even work?!

Of course it's a bit hard for a bunch of grownups to sympathize with the issues kids run into. Adults have been calculating things in their heads for decades and everything's become an autoamtic process.

8 + 5? The answer "13" automatically pops up in my head. No need to even think about it. 2 x 20? Boom! "40".

So how do you make adults relive their days of learning basic maths?

By making them do maths in base-8, ie octal counting.

Using the classic method known as the Land of Okt (het land van Okt), aspiring teachers are introduced to the problems of learning maths. We're using a book published by APS, though there's also a book dedicated to this specific subject.

I have to say that it's an interesting and somewhat frustrating experience. It feels odd break down addition and multiplication into steps again. Ie: 3 + 9 = 3 + 5 + 4 = 14. Or: 4 x 5 = 2 x 12 = 24. Don't even get me started about fractions :D

Yeah... Good stuff! If you're curious to see some of the assignments we're doing, check the Wiki page for week 1. tags: , , ,

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W00t! New books have arrived.

2007-10-31 20:22:00

Three new books and a pamphlet

This year's second semester will start in about a week. In preparation for my new courses I've been ordering books left and right. Luckily I already own the most expensive book on the list, so I won't have to get that one.

On the pile on the left you see:

* Identity development and student counseling

* Maths for students between 12 and 16

* Teaching effectively: learning maths

* A pamphlet entitled Don't touch me!

The last two items weren't on the official book list, but I decided to get them anyway. Learning maths because it will make a nice addition to my current library. Don't touch me! because I am very curious how one would handle a situation where kids are harassed by others.

This leaves two syllabi that I should buy at school. After that I'm all set. tags: , , , ,

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Cellphones, blight of any teacher

2007-10-07 13:07:00

I'm researching some high school maths projects online, for Statistics 1. In a few cases some actually useful stuff pops up on YouTube. However, when following a few of the YT links I quickly stumbled upon movie on movie of kids misbehaving in class.

It's not the usual tomfoolery like wisecracking or being allround noisy though. No, it's the constant mucking about with cellphones that gets to me. Snapping pictures of each other and messing around with the video camera, trying to be as silly or cool as possible. It's horrible how distracting those gizmos can be!

If I can find the time I'll try and read some teachers' fora, see what how the pro's handle cellphones in class. If it were up to me I'd build an EMP box and just fry the lot.

Then again, I should also keep in mind that not every class is going to be like this. It's only the silly, annoying kids that pop up on YouTube :) tags: , , ,

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Teaching is popular. Maths even more so.

2007-08-31 07:00:00

Last night was the school year's official opening at Hogeschool Utrecht. Around 17:00 all aspiring tweedegraads teachers gathered in the cafeteria for a speech from the rector. It was interesting to see that the group was both large and varied. I reckon there were about a hundred people there, maybe one-twenty. Aged between twenty and somewhere in their fifties I saw a lot of caucasians, mixed in with a few turks and moroccans.

One startling realization was the fact that almost 50% of the group were there for the same degree I was after: tweedegraads maths teacher. I guess either it's a popular passtime, or people have caught on to the fact that maths teachers are sought after. All in all there's sixty people starting the maths course this year. Wow!

After the whole introduction and a tour of the school building (which we'll be leaving come January, to move to a new one) there were drinks. I finally got the chance to meet some of my fellow students. It's slightly daunting to know that a whole bunch of them are already in education, but I'm not going to let that get in my way :)

So far they seem like a nice bunch of people! There's the strong-and-silent guys, the rowdy drinking-after-playing-footbal guys, the silent-and-mousy women and so on. There was also this one woman (I think she's in her forties though I'm horrible at guessing ages) who's great! She's absolutely bubbling with enthusiasm for the course! Kind of like how I felt after my intake with the coordinator :)

Yes. This is going to be an interesting year! tags: , , , ,

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Travelling to Brussels, teaching a course

2004-02-10 08:01:00

Ah! This feels so incredibly good! ^_^

Today I'm travelling to Brussels, instead of heading off to the office like any other day, to give a short course to our IT colleagues over there. We're busy on a very exciting (and tiring) project which involves migrating hundreds of servers from London, over to the EU mainland. These servers will be placed within domains which involve a certain piece of security software that we use at $CLIENT, and the course I'm about to give covers just that!

Anyway. Not to delve too much into our company politics :) The reason I'm feeling so well this morning (it's about 8:30 now) is because I get to take the Thalys train into Brussels! This involves getting up at five in the morning, riding a luxury cab to Schiphol airport and then getting on the train around 7:15. $CLIENT even sprang for a first class ticket for me! So that means that I get to sit in a _very_ comfy seat, while working on the company's laptop and getting pampered by two lovely ladies. Don't you just _love_ a good, free breakfast?!

Speaking of pampering: I just booked a cab ride in Brussels _from_ the train! ^_^ This is so weird! I just can't help feeling giddy with excitement. (Gee Cailin! I guess you don't get around much, do you?!)

And speaking of laptops: right now I'm working on this HP Omnibook I borrowed from the company. It's running NT4, so it's both slow and instable : ( But my experiences during the last two weeks have lead me to decide that I seriously want a laptop of my own. Preferably an iBook of course! It's unbelievable how bloody useful these contraptions are and the amount of work I can get done with them while on the road!

Aniway, I'd better get back to work now! I'll be arriving at Brussels around 9:30, so I'd better review my course material one more time *shudder*

Cheers! tags: , , ,

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