To Teach is To Learn

If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.

-Ancient Hindu proverb -Yogi Bhajan

-Famously paraphrased & sometimes attributed to -Richard Feynman


Recently I was asked to put together a Wi-Fi 101 course for a customer's IT department. They were in the process of upgrading their wireless infrastructure and wanted everyone to be on the same page. This alone is quite unique in my experience. Generally, a wireless project is done with the fewest possible IT employees. I was delighted to see that they wanted the entire team to understand the process.


If you think you know a subject, try teaching it.


The training project included a Wi-Fi 101 type training for everyone in the department and custom training on surveying and design for a smaller group. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to participate in some excellent Wi-Fi training, and some not so great. This was going to be one of the great ones, or so I thought.


In creating the coursework, I had a ton of material to pull from. The CWNP study guides came in very handy, as did the gigantic Sybex CWNA study guide. User guides from the software and hardware that the customer wanted to include. But my favorite resource is the wireless community. So many Wi-Fi engineers have put their knowledge out on the interwebs, Youtube, blogs, vlogs, whitepapers. If you need it, someone has likely blogged it with passion. I used a lot of it, all attributed. With the pandemic, there seems to be a push to post more than ever.


There is so much cool stuff that can be used to demonstrate Wi-Fi concepts. My biggest problem was trying to limit myself to just what I needed for a 6-hour class. I ended up with 163 slides, which works out to about 2.2 slides per minute, not including lab time or breaks. Now I can do an hour on a single slide. If it is a subject I am passionate about, I can talk. This was going to be a problem.


I set up AP's configured for different lab exercises. Client device RSSI sensitivity at multiple measured distances, Locate Rogue AP, Find dBm edge of coverage, etc. I also laid out some of my favorite tools, Fluke AirCheck, NetAlly AirCheck G2, the entire Metageek suite, Ekahau Sidekick, Adrian Granados' apps. I even set up my Cradlepoint with LTE connectivity in case the local LAN wasn't available. The problem was that I had too much content goodness to fit in lectures, labs, and breaks in the allotted time.


I fixed this on-the-fly by breaking the course into multiple sections, mandatory and "extra," and taught the basic to all the classes and split the "extra" between classes. Fortunately, everyone was from the same department. They could share what they learned with each other. I also blew right through most of the breaks, always a mistake. Even though I think this stuff is cool, not everyone else does. Some of the attendees had to be there. Wi-Fi wasn't their focus on the team. You can really feel when the room isn't with you anymore. I appreciate it when an instructor creates a schedule and sticks to it throughout the day. I forgot that when I was the instructor.


In the end, I received good feedback, and by good, I mean honest. The students called me out on the things that I knew I fell short on, not enough breaks, more lab time. The content was good but rushed. I get it, I felt the same way. I used this feedback for my next courses.

  1. Respect the subject, cover the necessary topics. Not everything

  2. Respect the students time, provide useful information

  3. Don't skip the breaks

  4. Students like well thought out labs

This training came at a time in the Covid-19 pandemic, where we were able to separate students each with their own table in a large room and maintain proper social distancing. That has since been restricted further, and more and more courses are being offered online only. I have attended some of these courses, it's tough for instructors to match the in-person experience. Some are meeting the challenge using various methods to keep students actively involved in the learning. I guess I am an old-timer in this respect. As a performing musician (in an earlier life), I appreciate the interaction you get from the audience. I would find it very difficult to work without that. I have a lot of respect for those who can pull off remote training.

When it comes to public speaking, nothing beats being prepared. It helps to be passionate about the subject you are teaching. When you love the subject matter and know what you are talking about, presenting it can be a breeze.


I think it is our responsibility to pass the knowledge we have gained through hard work on to others. We don't all need to keep making the same mistakes. In another previous life with the US Navy we were told you are always training your replacement. In order to move up there needs to be someone capable of taking your place.


Final thought:

Never think that what you have to offer is insignificant. There will always be someone out there who needs what you have to give. Remember, you were there once also.


--WirelessKahuna

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