Thursday, September 27, 2007

What - How - Why

In a previous post, I made reference to my "What - How - Why" way of thinking in approaching the learning process. Let's take a look at that today.

What - The Apprentice
There are a great many people who have purchased image processing software over the years. There are many vendors out there selling image manipulation software from the extremely complex like Photoshop CS3 Extended to Photoshop Elements to Microsoft's Digital Image Suite to Paint. Each one has it's learning curve. Time and again, we find these well meaning folks saying things like, "... let's just fix it in Photoshop." I am not making a judgement here. I am just observing that these people know WHAT they want done, but they don't quite know how to accomplish it or why their chosen hardware / software combination works the way it does or is properly suited for the given task.

To put this into the forensic realm, a user at this level should not expect to be able to explain a process employed (the what) that he/she does not yet know how to do or why he/she chose to do it versus some other method.

From an employee management standpoint, this user should be assigned to work with someone at the Master level in order to increase their knowledge, confidence, and proficiency. A suitable testing methodology should be employed in passing this user on to the next level.

How - The Journeyman
There are those who purchased Photoshop CS3 Extended with a sense of what they want to accomplish, but lack any kind of training - formal or informal. Over time, they've managed to hit the correct keystrokes a few times, and Googled their way into a few tips and tricks. They may have even cruised through the help files or watched a video at Bridge Home. In short, they know what they want and now know HOW to accomplish it. To the extent that they wrote the steps down, they may even be able to repeat these steps later on.

In terms of forensics, this user can identify what he/she wants to do and at least one way to do it. Management may become comfortable with this user working a case by him/herself, but may still want to have a Master level employee check and sign-off on the work product. 

From a staffing standpoint, the Journeyman may be tasked with assisting in the instruction of the Apprentice. Additionally, the Master level employee may task this employee with additional study to add depth and breadth to the user's knowledge base. A suitable testing methodology should be employed in passing this user on to the next level.

Why - The Master
There is power in the why of things. Knowing WHY something works the way it does allows the Master level employee to not only repeat the steps, but also to explain these steps to others (forensics), to teach others, and to know when something is appropriate and when it is not. The Master level employee understands however, that his/her learning has not stopped. He/she must demonstrate leadership by committing to retain this status as Master by continually striving to improve, by continuing his/her education, and by keeping the channels of communication open so that there is an exposure to new ideas and approaches in the working environment.

In terms of forensics, this user can operate independently and/or lead a team of users of all levels. This user becomes the face of the unit in court and in the greater community as casework is presented and explained.

From a staffing standpoint, the Master level employee may serve as the first line of supervision and/or may hold a senior or supervisor title such as Senior/Supervising Forensic Video Analyst or Forensic Imaging Specialist 3.

With all of this in mind, we can use this model to assess ourselves - to take a critical look at where we are professionally and look for areas for improvement. Given a set of instructions or a desired outcome from an investigator or an attorney, we can look at an image and determine what needs to be done. Knowing what needs to be done, most of us can think of at least one way to accomplish the how - or at least know how to Google the what. Learning the why gives us the power to explore alternatives, to build in efficiencies, and to better explain our processes to the court, to our peers, and to the media. Therefore, The why becomes the essence of Forensic Photoshop and the glue that binds together the curriculum.

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