Monday, November 20, 2017

Bargain On-line Courses from @udemy #BlackFriday

Last year I purchased two Udemy courses on creating data visualisations in Tableau - both were just $10 as part of the Black Friday Sale. This year Udemy are offering a wide range (over 55,000) of courses once again for just $10 - a no-brainer bargain for learners. For example, one of the courses I am interested in is Building Interactive Graphs with ggplot2 and Shiny, another is Statistics for Data Analysis Using R. Thinking of my own students, there are coursers on Python, R, Data Analysis,  and Statistics - a lot for new learners. Students should certainly consider adding to their portfolio of leaning for just $10 a go.

Image source: Pregnancy and Baby.
Why, may you ask, is a classroom-based Lecturer recommending on-line courses to his students? I already teach Statistics and Data Visualisation modules - it is worrying for students that I am signing up for the above courses? 

The answer is that I am always interested in how others teach in subjects similar to what I do (and of course I am interested in bargains for students as well as myself!). I can learn much from watching others, get ideas for my own class from them, see different examples of data and analysis not covered by the wide range of textbooks that I use, and also get ideas for exam questions. I also almost always find that no matter how often I read a book or watch a video, there is something different that I did not know before which I can add to my knowledge.

These courses can be expensive for students when not on a Black Friday Sale - prices can be up to $145. A huge amount of what you can learn from these courses can be gleaned from a myriad of websites and YouTube videos. But it is a very convenient, and cheap, way to save yourself a lot of searching by signing up for a course with everything in one place. 


Disclaimer:
I am not associated with Udemy and am not involved in promoting their courses. I just think this is a bargain not to be missed!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Six Trends in Data Science

Adam Shapley, writing in Silicon Republic, tells us If you want to be a data scientist, you need to know about these 6 trends. The trends he lists are as follows:
  1. All industries are open, but you should try to specialise
  2. Balance robust academic achievements with on-the-job learning
  3. Data analytics experience is essential, machine learning helps
  4. The GDPR is increasing data governance demand
  5. Make sure you have a solid business intelligence foundation
  6. Keep your technical skills up to date
While I am mostly involved in the education of Data Analysts, this is still an interesting list. I was particularly interested to find that "half of those working in data science have a PhD, whereas less than 2pc of people in the US over 25 years old have a doctorate" (in point 2 above). While a PhD is not a "must-have" for all data science roles, potential employers are sure to take notice. 

Shapley also recommends that Data Scientist learn and maintain news skills regularly. Data science is a complex area, and scientists will need to "demonstrate the most relevant skills and experience to this industry".

Calliostoma zizyphinum (L.).
Image source: UK Natural History Museum.
A PhD can take a long time to achieve - typically 3-5 years. Mine took 4 years and involved a lot of data analysis on shelf shape variation in the painted topshell (Calliostoma zizyphinum) - it takes time to carry out research, analyse results, and write it up. My own thoughts are that a good Masters would also be very valuable in a Data Scientist role - much of course will depend on the level of academic experience sought by employers.

According to Glassdoor, Data Scientist is #1 in the list of Top 50 Best Jobs in America. It rates very high and pays wells ($110,00), today there are 4,184 job openings in the US. A great job like this would make it worthwhile to consider a PhD - even though it could take a long time to achieve, it would be worth it in the long run.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Does anybody trust anybody anymore?

Today I got a letter in the post from my credit card company demanding that under some Terrorist and Money Laundering Act that I provide them with ID and proof of address by return of post. A complete stranger to me will open the letter and enter my details into a computer. Bingo - I am not a terrorist or a money launderer! Yesterday I had to fill out forms to be Garda vetted (yet again) so that I can sing in the church choir.

I was intrigued a few months ago at a presentation about Bitcoin when the presenter told us that the whole idea of Bitcoin and digital currencies is that you trust no one from the beginning. Trust is defined by Dictionary.com as: 

"reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence"

Guilty until proven innocent
Many people are opposed to the idea of being vetted like this: "I never committed a crime in my life" is true of the overwhelming majority of people. It saddens me that elderly people going to church and who volunteer for activities like taking up the collection at Mass now have to be Garda vetted. It saddens me even more that a few perverts have made this necessary. According to the Central Statistics Office, recorded crime incidents classified as "Sexual Offences" were 2,348 offences in 2016, an increase of 8.6% on the previous year. The population of Ireland in 2016 was recorded as 4,757,976. Using the data above, sex offenders make up 0.049% of the population in 2016. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack using Garda vetting. Yet it has to be done, and is especially important where children are concerned.

The Shoe Bomber
An idiot called Richard Reid, the world's dumbest ever terrorist, tried to blow up a plane with a bomb in his shoe in December 2001. Now we all have to remove our shoes going through security at airports because we cannot be trusted not to do the same. According to the Worldbank, there were 3.696 billion air passengers in 2016, the vast majority of these have to take off their shoes (that over 7.3 billion shoes!). Has anyone been caught with a bomb in their shoe since 2001? Despite this ritual humiliation we all go through at airports, would you get on a plane that passengers were not checked though security?

Exams
People have been cheating in exams since forever. But it is just a tiny minority who take the chance to do this. Hence all colleges have strict rules about exams - no phones, (new) no smart watches, no notes, and no water bottles. Every time a student sits down to an exam, he/she has to undergo the ritual instructions from Invigilators. Many of us also make students submit assignments like essays and projects through plagiarism detection systems such as Turnitin. While we can argue that it is part of the learning process to do this, in the end it is about preventing cheating. Why should an honest trustworthy student have to do this?

Trust no one!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Naked Statistics!

Image source: A Little Stats.
Now that the post title has got your interest - read on...! 

I was recently reading in The Economist a review of a book by Charles Wheelan, called "Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread From the Data". It's quite an old book now (published in 2013), but I've just bought it from Amazon. The piece that made up my mind for me to buy the book was when the reviewer (not named) wrote: 

The reader learns why insurance for low-cost items is worthless and why playing the lottery is a quick way to become poor. More seriously, the book explains the basic statistical approaches used in a 2011 study showing a link between a child’s brain size and autism. And it teems with interesting statistical facts, such as that there may have been an extra 1,000 deaths in the three months after September 11th 2001 because more people chose to drive rather than fly.

The last point is an interesting one and a quick visit to Wikipedia for data on road deaths in the US reveals (using Excel) interesting trends. While roads deaths have fluctuated enormously since 1970, you can see that there is in fact an increase from 42,196 deaths in 2001, to 43,005 deaths in 2002 - an increase of 809 deaths. The trend had been increasing over the previous three years anyway, but there is evidence that road deaths did increase after the 9/11 attacks.  The chart below is really easy to create in Excel (the slowest bit was adding the red label), and I find it is fun to be able to quickly visualise data like this. While road deaths were not caused by the 9/11 attacks (most people of the 43,005 who died in 2002 would have died anyway), it is an interesting thought that in addition to the 2,996 who did die as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks, perhaps the figure should be 3,805 (2,996 + 809)?
Data Source: Wikipedia.






Sunday, November 05, 2017

Graduations

For all parents, graduation day is one very proud and special occasion. I have been very fortunate that I have now attended graduations for all three of our daughters - Claire graduated yesterday from DIT with a Masters in Public Affairs. My chest was once again bursting with pride! There is a serious side to graduation ceremonies - it marks a passing from the education world to the post-education world. Yes - there is the technical bit that each student has passed exams and completed the requirements of a course. But there is more! Experiences gained throughout study such as: making new friends, character building, problem-solving, meeting deadlines, learning, helping others, broadening one's mind - all help make for a more rounded graduate who is more than just a student who passed all their exams. We have a saying in our College that NCI "Changes Lives Through Education". I see this all the time - graduation marks a new exciting phase of people's lives. Graduates should be rightly proud of their achievements (and their parents too)!

I like to take a selfie each time, so here's me with my three daughters at their graduations:




Monday, October 30, 2017

My Great-Great-Great Grandparents Nicholas Browne and Margaret Barry

Yesterday I visited Mayglass in South Co Wexford. Through a contact via Ancestry.co.uk I had a document that was a typed record of headstones in a graveyard in Mayglass. My great-great-great grandparents Nicholas and Margaret (née Barry) Browne were listed as being buried there - so I decided to check this out. The graveyard is small, with lots of headstones with faded writing that was difficult to read. After about 20 minutes searching I found them! Curiously Nicholas is shown on two headstones that are side-by-side. He died 156 years ago on 24th July 1861 aged 65 - this means he was born in 1795 or 1796. Margaret died on 26th February 1898 - her age is not given.




An intriguing possibility is that both are related to famous 19th century navy men - Admiral William Browne (founder of the Argentine Navy) and John Barry (founder of the United States of America Navy)! I’ll be doing my best to try and find out if this is the case. It’s a long shot, but I’m sure it is a nice unique link to the sea.

Here's the path from me to my great-great-great grandparents Nick and Maggie:

Click Image to Enlarge.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"Never memorize something that you can look up" #Einstein #InstantLearning

Should've gone to YouTube!
I wonder can you learn how to do anything you want on YouTube? Yesterday I went about fixing my broken car key fob. I had to buy a replacement shell, get a new key cut, and take the transponder and circuit board out of the old key and insert into the new key fob. Easy?

Getting the new replacement shell and key cut was the easy part - thanks to the extremely helpful people in Central Key and Hardware Ltd on Parnell Square East. The guy there opened up both key fobs and showed me the insides and gave me advice on what to do. It looked very easy.

Not so!

First - my car is a Hyundai, the new fob shell was from a Kia. While almost identical, they were not exactly the same. The Kia version had a screw under the badge. While trying to cut out the Hyundai badge I found out that my Swiss Army knife is very sharp and can easily stab my thumb. Ouch! It was only then that I tried YouTube, and of course I immediately found a video that showed me how to do the job properly step-by-step. This is not the first time YouTube has come to my rescue - and I'm certain it is now a "go to" place for lots practicals tasks like this.

As an educator I wonder about the future consequences of so much educational content being made available on YouTube. As I write, there are 13,429,780 views of my 154 videos on my YouTube channel - so I am using this medium myself to get educational messages across to learners. The great Albert Einstein once said “Never memorize something that you can look up”. Is there a need for students to study for a year, two years, or more in order to be ready for a job? Could they not look up what they need as they need it? Instant Learning is becoming more-and-more of a phenomenon (there's even a book about it: Instant Learning - How to Learn Anything Instantly!). Learning curves will become shorter, or perhaps non-existent. In today's fast paced world we need to learn more quickly and absorb information a lot better - YouTube is not the only answer to this, but for me it is becoming one of the most advanced and important educational resources that humans have ever created. Long Live YouTube!

In case you ever need to change a key fob on a Hyundai - here's the video:


Friday, October 20, 2017

It's #WorldStatisticsDay! #167

H.G. Wells.
Image source: Wikipedia.
Today is a dedicated World Statistics Day - it's been around since 2010, but I never heard of it before. It's a nice idea to promote statistics in this new age of Big Data. Statistics is the science of data, and of course we have had numbers for a very long time. The English writer H.G. Wells once said that "Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write" - maybe he is finally right! Data Analytics courses are amongst the most popular ones for students at the National College of Ireland. This is our fifth year running a Higher Diploma in Data Analytics.

I have been teaching statistics for six years. This year is my busiest ever - I have 167 students in three separate classes studying the Business Data Analysis module. I have to say that I love it, and the students are great to work with! I'm getting fonder of this subject every year - I am starting a plan to convert my lecture notes into a textbook to go with my modules. My statistics videos are also growing in popularity, this allows me to reach beyond my 167 students to the world. 

So - thinking of a statistic for today I thought that 167 would be most suitable!

167 Candles - Happy World Statistics Day!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It's Official - Windows Phone is Dead via @flipboard

So - Microsoft has confirmed that it will no longer develop new features or hardware for Windows 10 Mobile phones, finally giving up on mobile. No sign of rumoured Surface phones either. I tried my best to persevere with my Lumia 950, but in May of this year I finally abandoned the Windows phone. The "App Gap" was just too big, with developers basically refusing to create versions of Apps for Windows. This is not difficult to understand why - iOS and Android account for 99.4% of mobile phone operating systems.

It's always a pity to see a technology fail. Apart from the App Gap, my Lumia was actually quite good - the 20 mp camera is fantastic, neither Samsung or Apple are offering this yet. I had a 64 GB SD card which was great - no space worries. I keep it as a spare, and have a Vodafone sim card in it for travelling down to the country where the Virgin Media (via Three) network is shite. If my iPhone were to break down, I'd switch back to it for a while, but following Microsoft's announcement it would not be for too long. Basically it is now just a WiFi enabled camera.

The Windows Lumia 950.
Image source: Windows Central.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My 100th plaque @OpenPlaques

A couple of years ago I started to upload photos to the Open Plaque Project - most are from around Dublin, but now I watch out for them everywhere and take a photo. If it's not already uploaded, I do so. The inscription is also uploaded, plus the location - I can add as many photos as I want, so I usually do close-ups and medium shots. This weekend I was in Gorey in Co Wexford where I came across several plaques, three (all related to Bishop Ram) of which are suitable for Open Plaques. The stone plaque for Miles Byrne is probably not suitable - the site aims to show "where they are, we identify who is commemorated on them, what those people are notable for, and what their connection is with the place where their plaque is installed". This plaque is not located in Monaseed which is about 7 miles away from Gorey (Jez - if you are reading this perhaps you might comment?).

The Market Square plaque is my 100th one uploaded! This pales into insignificance beside the wonderfully named "Spudgun67" who has uploaded 1,549 plaques. 

Here are the plaques, with Open Plaque links:

Open Plaques link.

Open Plaques link.
Open Plaques link.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Great Data Visualization from @Tableau #OLOUGHLIN #DataViz

My surname "O'Loughlin" to me is a very Irish surname. Anyone with an "O" and an apostrophe must be 100%Irish - right? Here's an extract from my book "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" about the O'Loughlin name:

O'Loughlin's Pub in Ballyvaughan.
One of the things that attracts people to different parts of Ireland is the search for ancestors, and I am no different. North Clare is O’Loughlin country, and for a short time I travelled the Wild Atlantic Way in search of my own ancestors. A short distance after Black Head I stopped at the side of the road to look down at a castle which is visible for a long way along the beautiful ride on the southern side of Galway Bay. It is the sixteenth century Gleninagh Castle and it was built for the O’Loughlin chiefs who were resident there up to the 1840s. It was lived in up to the 1890s, but is still well preserved. I wondered if any of my direct ancestors had lived there. There is no shortage of people with the O’Loughlin name in County Clare, and this northern region of the county is where the name O’Loughlin originates from. At the end of the tenth century some of the Irish upper classes started to adopt Viking names such as Lochlainn, and it is thought that some of the County Clare families did so as well. The Vikings were known as na Lochlannaigh in the Irish language. My dad Joe has told me that his grandfather, also Joe O’Loughlin, was born and reared in County Clare, but he does not know which part. It could be that the O’Loughlins are descended from either the Vikings themselves, or from a County Clare family that adopted the name.

Yesterday I came across an excellent Data Visualization by Mike Cisneros on Tableau Public, which illustrates the association between surnames and racial groups. You can enter your own surname (must have appeared at least 200 times in the 2010 US Census), and enter an estimate of the assumption of which race your name belongs to. I entered 99% for O'Loughlin as "white" and was surprised to discover that this was not a correct estimate. According to Cisneros's graphic, only 92.1% of O'Loughlin's are classifies as "white" - I was off by 6.9%. So in the United States there are 7.9% of "O'Loughlins" who are not classified as "white". Cool!" There are only five races listed:

  1. Native American/Alaska Native
  2. Asian/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  3. Black/African-American
  4. Latino/Hispanic
  5. White


You can view the full graphic at Tableau Public, and try out your own surname.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The downside of technology #Fitbit

In my statistics classes I have a topic early in the semester about "Thinking Statistically" and cite many examples of how data are gathered on a daily basis. One of the good stories I use is about a research project by the Dan-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston where 6,000 over-weight women have been given Fitbits to track exercise over a six year period - I try to get students to think how much data there will have been collected by the end of the study. You can read about this in the Irish Times: Does wearable technology deserve clean bill of health?
This is the Charge HR Fitbit that I use.
Image source: Walmart.

Today I read in The Sidney Morning Herald: "Fitbits in schools a step in wrong direction, make kids less active, study finds". While the idea of giving Fitbits to teenagers appeals to me in that exercise is encouraged and tracked, the SMH reports that such trackers in schools "has been linked to poor self-esteem and negative feelings of alienation and inadequacy" and that the devices can actually "demotivate children". The study by the University of Birmingham (which is not referenced) reported "feelings of inadequacy and lower self-esteem among pupils". There is a suggestion that setting "unattainable targets" is a major factor in demotivating students. Unintended consequences? I must confess that I had not thought of this. I would hate to see Fitbits being taken away from students because of this.

In the main I am in favour technology being used and data such as activity being tracked. This could leads to a significant addition to research over long periods of time that could aid in the treatment of illnesses and conditions. Imagine tracking heart rates over a half a lifetime to look for early signs of a heart attack. Assuming that data privacy is respected, these data will make a valuable contribution to science. I am in the "opt-in" camp rather than the "opt-out" - data such as this must be voluntarily collected under the same rules, for example, that clinical trials are conducted.

There is another thing - wearable technology is taking off. While we may not be using a Fitbit, the Smartphone in our pockets can do exactly the same thing. I see watches becoming smarter - the day will come when almost all watches will be smart. What then? The above report suggests that it has been a bad start for wearable technology for secondary school students. With more planning and reflection on what has happened so far, perhaps realistic goals can be set for students so that they don't feel demotivated by not reaching 10,000 steps in a day. We can learn from this "mistake" (my word).

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

New Avatar #DraganEffect #ego

Last year I wrote about experimenting with The Dragan Effect for photography - named after the Polish photographer Andrzej Dragan - the effect uses "dramatic lighting and editing techniques that enhance the tonality and skin texture of the images subject". This is done using Corel PaintShop Pro X7. Recently I have grown a bit of a beard, and wondered if the Dragan Effect could improve the look - here is the result:


The photo was taken with my Windows phone's 20MP camera (the only good thing about this phone). I tried it with both a serious face and with a bit of a smile - I prefer above. I think it does make me look a bit older as it emphasizes wrinkles and the greyness of the beard. This will be my avatar for the next while! 

If you have Corel PaintShop Pro, check out this video which takes you step by step through the process. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Launch of IFS Apprenticeship Programme @NCIRL

Today I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the IFS Apprenticeship programmes in the College - the programmes in FinTech were formally launched by the Minister for Education Richard Bruton. These new programmes are aimed at providing students with both on-the-job training and classroom - it is an exciting opportunity for the new students, and the College. The apprenticeship model in popular in other countries and is now becoming a new model for recruitment here in Ireland. Good luck to the new apprentices!


Richard Bruton is a fine public speaker. He did not use notes today, and spoke as if his entire speech was scripted. I recall seeing him doing this before at a launch of new offices for SmartForce in my previous job during the 1990s. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Can you really be over-qualified? via @IrishTimes

According Carl O'Brien, writing in last Friday's Irish Times, Irish workers are most ‘overqualified’ in Europe. This is based on "research carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) between 2000 and 2011". About 60% of our school leavers progress onto third level education, and this is projected to rise to about 70% over the next decade - one of the highest rates in Europe. Of course not all of these students will leave college/university with a qualification, but most will. 

So - can you be overqualified? Is it OK to have "bar tenders who have university degrees"?

My view is that there is no such thing as being overqualified. There - I said it!

Of course, I work in the third level sector so I guess I would say this. 

My first business card.
Let me tell a quick personal story. When I was getting my first ever business card, I was asked for details such as job title, phone number, etc. This was about 1994. I still had my graduation in 1988 fresh in my mind and I wondered if I would be allowed to add either "Dr" before my name, or "MA, PhD." after my name. My manager at the time said an emphatic "No". He did not want to intimidate anyone with fancy letters (I was one of only two PhDs in the organization at the time). So I accepted the decision despite being bitterly disappointed - I was very proud of my degree (as all graduates should be). Today of course, I do have the "fancy" letters on my business card - but I do work in a College where things like this are accepted and expected. 

Attending College and getting a degree means many things. For those studying subjects such as Medicine, Pharmacy, or Law - it is a career decision made before going to College. A degree is obviously needed for these types of careers. If I ever end up in an operating theatre facing a surgeon's knife - I am not going to ask for someone else to do the job if my surgeon is over-qualified to wield a scalpel. For most other third level students, the three or four years in College may be something else completely. I studied Marine Biology - but never worked as a Marine Biologist. Students learn so much more in College than just what's on the syllabus. I'm sure if we asked all graduates if they regretted attending College - very few would say that they did.

So - the next time a bartender with a degree serves me a pint I will be thinking "Good for you!". Your degree did not make you a better bar tender or a better person than another bartender who does not have a degree. You will both have had different life experiences - neither is better than the other. Be proud of your achievement in gaining a degree, you might never get a chance like it again. You are not over-qualified.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Students Don't Take Notes Anymore?

While taking my usual perusal through the very funny Waterford Whispers News this morning I had a giggle at one of their latest posts: Fucking Loser In Front Of You Actually Taking Notes During Lecture. In this post a student who doesn't take notes thinks others who do are "losers" while scribbling rude drawings and checking out Snapchat and Netflix. Funny - maybe, but real?

When I first became a Lecturer in NCI in 2002, most students took down notes based on what my slides showed on screen. It appeared to me that students took note of my bullet points word-for-word, and I often wondered if they were listening to anything I said. Basically, at the time this was the only way for them to have material from class - no Moodle or Blackboard in those days. For those of us Lecturers who knew a bit of HTML, we then started to put our notes on web pages. While this worked for some students, it is hard to believe that many at that time had no email address or access to the Internet. Moodle changed everything for both students and Lecturers. For students, it was an easy way to get notes and saved a lot of note taking in class, for Lecturers it was an opportunity to provide not just notes, but other resources (such as case studies, web links, quizzes, and exercise files) as well.

Many Lecturers create quite elaborate notes, often based on PowerPoint slides created by textbook authors. I create my own and sometimes use very modified (by me) textbook versions. Perhaps because of  this, or maybe it is part of a wider condition - I too notice that students very rarely take notes in my classes. While my notes are no substitute for a textbook, I know that many students who choose not to buy a textbook rely on my notes (and videos). I am often asked by students if they really need to buy one of the recommended textbooks - my answer always is that there are some copies in the library, but good luck trying to reserve a copy in the days and weeks leading up to the exams.

Taking notes is a great way to really learn - it helps with your writing, understanding, memory, exam revision, and is a useful record of information. The Horry Georgetown Technical College has a really good (and short) presentation on how to take and review notes. If you don't take notes in class, the presentation below will really make you think:


Monday, September 25, 2017

Great day out at Ladies' All-Ireland Footaball Final #Mayo #Dublin #SeriousSupport

First - a confession. I have never ever attended a ladies football game of any kind. I never really thought about it, and certainly did not consciously avoid them. So when Mayo and Dublin lined up for the Ladies' All-Ireland Football Final in Croke Park, it was my first ever ladies match. It was also my first football All-Ireland Final since 1980! A huge crowd of over 46,000 attended - a record! 

We certainly had great fun with both teams of girls playing their hearts out. Dublin had lost the last three finals, so they were in a determined mood. Mayo were very wasteful, missing a lot of easy chances. They did not help themselves by having three players sin-binned - that's equivalent to being down a player for 30 minutes in a 60 minute game. After the third sin-binning, Dublin just exploded out of the blocks and cut loose to win by 12 points (4-11 to 0-11). A well-deserved win.

Mayo fans will just have to suffer for another year!


Friday, September 22, 2017

Employers Giving Lectures - whatever will they think of next?

Katherine Donnelly writes in yesterday's Irish Independent in an article entitled "DCU invites employers in to lecture its students" about an interesting idea to get employers to "to deliver master classes to undergraduates about the realities of the fast-changing workplace". Donnelly goes on to write that this initiative by DCU is "aimed at ensuring that third- and fourth-year students on technology-focused degree programmes are up to date with current thinking and equipped for what lies ahead". Sounds like a good idea?

Leaving aside scheduling issues and payments, this on the surface looks like a great initiative. However - it implies that existing lecturers are not "up to date with current thinking and equipped for what lies ahead", so it is likely to be less popular with lecturers - though none of us would have a problem with someone else taking over a class from time-to-time! I think the biggest problem is getting busy employers to commit - they will have to ensure that someone is available to give the "master classes" at the scheduled time. Not impossible, but a commitment none-the-less. While there are no details in Donnelly's article about whether the "master classes" would be embedded in modules or given as separate lectures - I feel that separate "Guest Lecture" style events outside of class time would be best. This allows for a more informal setting devoid of learning outcomes and QQI standards - Q&A afterwards would also be very useful. No doubt DCU will have thought this through thoroughly and I applaud their innovation.

Preparing "master classes" (or any class for that matter) takes a considerable amount of time, so employers should not underestimate the resources and time required. Were other colleges to follow DCU's lead there could be a huge demand for such classes that might not sit well with employers unless they commit to having dedicated Academic Program Managers (such as Microsoft do).

I hope this works!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jimmy Magee RIP #DifferentClass #Legend

Sad news this morning that Jimmy Magee has died at the age of 82. Being a huge sports fan I must have listened to Jimmy's voice countless times over the past 50 years or so. One of Ireland's most popular sports commentator has passed on to that great gantry in the sky.

When I started to watch sport back in the 70s I was too sophisticated to watch a game on RTÉ with an Irishman like Jimmy as commentator. Somehow we thought that the commentators on the BBC and ITV were better. We did at times have to watch RTÉ - one match sticks out for me, the English League Cup Final between Manchester City and Newcastle United. City won 2-1 with the winner being an over head kick by Dennis Tueart - Jimmy's commentary was simply "Well, what about that!".

Definitely my fondest commentary was the 1984 Marathon finish at the Los Angeles Olympics with Jimmy rattling off all of Ireland's medal winners in previous Olympics before acclaiming John Treacy's silver medal. Magic stuff - here it is on YouTube:


When somebody like Jimmy who has been part of your life this passes away it almost feels like a death in the family. I never met Jimmy Magee and have no connection to him other than his commentaries. All sports fans will miss him greatly - rest in peace Jimmy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Semester! #33

It's been 21 whole weeks since my last class at the end of the 2016/2017 academic year, and it is just coming up to 09:00 on the first day of the new semester for the 2017/2018 academic year. This will be my 33rd semester as a Lecturer in NCI. When I started back in 2002 I was mostly involved with e-Learning programmes, but in the past couple of years it has been mostly Data Analytics. 

Image Source: Business 2 Community.
This semester I will be working on the Higher Diploma in FinTech for the first time - it is only the second year of this course. The module I will be teaching is Business Data Analysis (a statistics module) on Wednesday evenings. It will be a slightly awkward module in that it is a combination of two separate modules normally delivered in two three hour classes - I have four hours for the combined version.

FinTech is also a new field for me. The good thing is that Statistics is still Statistics, but I am embarking on using financial data instead of my usual scientific and demographic data for this module. This is not a comfort zone for me, so I will be learning a lot throughout the semester - I look forward to it!

This semester I am scheduled for four modules with around 200 students spread across each. I am also scheduled to supervise eight MSc students. This will mean a very busy schedule is ahead with lots of Continuous Assessment to grade, also - each MSc student is supposed to get one hour a week face-to-face supervision.

Despite the heavy workload ahead, I am just as hungry and enthusiastic for the new semester as I was for my first way back in 2002. There is nothing I like better than being in the classroom with students hungry for learning. If at the end of the semester my students are more knowledgeable - great! If they are more fulfilled - great! If they think a bit differently about a subject than before - great! If their lives are changed in even a tiny way - great! And if I had even a tiny part in this - fantastic!

National College of Ireland - Changing Lives Through Education.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Visiting all 32 Counties #Fermanagh

Fermanagh County Crest.
Last evening I was in County Fermanagh and it was my first time ever to set foot in this county. It only took me almost 58 years to complete the tour of all 32 counties in Ireland, but now I can say I have been to them all. Any time I have ever been to Donegal or Derry, I skirted around this beautiful county. We were staying the night in Blacklion (only my second time ever in Co Cavan), and during our trip we crossed the border six times. Not many people there looking forward to the re-introduction of border checks if they happen after Brexit. 

We also took the chance to visit Enniskillen, the largest town in Co Fermanagh. it was early evening and the town was quiet. We had a nice walk around the town and I wanted to see the cenotaph where a bomb killed 11 people at a Remembrance Day ceremony almost 30 years ago. After the bomb the locals added a plaque with the names of the 11 dead to the cenotaph, and also added some peace doves around the top of the monument. It's horrible to think of what happened that day, especially the death of young Marie Wilson whose father, Gordon, went on to be a peace campaigner and a senator. On other trips around Northern Ireland nearly ever town and village has a war memorial. Sadly, this is missing in the Republic of Ireland - our towns and villages suffered loss just as much as the North, but we chose not to set up memorials to the dead of the two World Wars - a pity.

At the Cenotaph, Enniskillen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Orientation @NCIRL


Today I had the pleasure of welcoming new students studying the BSc in Technology Management to the National College of Ireland. It is 39 years ago that I attended College for the first time. It is a very nervous day for everybody, and the new students get so much information on their first day that it must be difficult to remember everything - I told the new students that I forgot or ignored all advice given to me on my first day! 

Many of today's new students will be in my classes and will be with us in the College for the next four years. I really hope that College is everything they expected it to be - it is the next step on life's journey with a lot of unknowns ahead.

Welcome to NCI!


Thursday, September 07, 2017

13,000,000+ @YouTube Views #LuckyThirteen

Each time the number of views on my YouTube Channel passes a million milestone mark I boast write about it here. Since I started this channel on 7th April 2006, it has accumulated 13,005,837 views as of today. In overall YouTube terms this is a very modest number of views, but I continue to be fascinated and grateful that so many people find the videos useful. Older videos are still the top attraction, though my more recent Statistics by hand videos are gaining in popularity. The views continue to be very seasonal - currently the number of daily views is climbing again after a fall off during the summer. Lots of other content creators are doing this now, so there is much more competition for views. With a bit of luck the number of views will pass 14,000,000 early in 2018.

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Has anyone from North Korea ever viewed my YouTube videos? #BigInNorthKorea

North Korea is in the news again for all the wrong reasons - I feel a creeping sense of dread and disaster as Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump face off in a pissing contest. In the midst of all this I decided to revisit YouTube Analytics for North Korea on my channel. Between 21st September 2014 and 4th May 2015, there have been four views lasting just over 14 minutes. No more views before or since these dates. The videos were about creating Gantt, Polar, and a Progress Gantt charts. I suspected that YouTube must be blocked in North Korea, but according to Wikipedia it has been only fully blocked since April 2016, and "anyone who tries to access it, even with authorization, will be subject to punishment". I'd hate to think that anyone in North Korea would end up in jail for watching one of my videos!

Click to enlarge.


Monday, September 04, 2017

How To.. Create and Manage a Drop Down Menu in Excel @YouTube

Recently, a colleague asked me if I know how to create drop down lists in Excel. I didn't, so I looked it up and found that it was relatively easy to do. Then I thought a video for others might be helpful - it's just my 7th video uploaded this year. 



I note that there are several versions showing how this task is done on YouTube - lots of people are doing this now. Each of my 26,547 subscribers will have received an email notifying them that a new video has been uploaded - so at least that's a start in getting it publicised. It takes a long time for a video to get a significant number of views - only one of my videos published in the last 12 months has exceeded 10,000 views, it's the oldies that are still attracting views. Total views for all videos on my channel are currently between 18,000 - 20,000 daily.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dr Frank Jeal RIP

Dr Frank Jeal.
Image source: www.tcd.ie.
There are few University Lecturers that inspired me as much as the late Dr Frank Jeal from the Zoology Department in Trinity College who sadly died today. He was a very accessible lecturer and I first met him in 2nd year in Trinity when he lectured in Zoology - he made dinosaurs hugely interesting long before the likes of Jurassic Park. He was a significant part of my decision to specialise in Zoology in 3rd and 4th year, he helped and encouraged me all the way to a PhD. I am certain I would not be who I am without his advice, support, friendship, and vast knowledge. He also encouraged me to become the Chairman of the Zoological Society in 1981 - he was always a great supporter of Zoo Soc!

Frank was of course also well-known in the pubs and bars in central Dublin - he was a legend amongst trad musicians in the pub scene. I last met him in O'Neills of Pearse Street just a couple of years ago, and had the pleasure of having a pint with him. While I was both an undergraduate and postgraduate at Trinity in the 1980s I spent many a great evening (far too many for a student!) in his company singing and hearing him play the accordion. Field trips to Portaferry and to Clare were legendary - many students went for the craic as much as for learning.

Frank knew many songs, many of them such as "Glorious Ale" and "The Old Dun Cow", were very funny and appropriate in a pub environment. I found one video on-line of him in full flow with his accordion in O'Donoghues pub in 2013 posted by Niall MacDonagh. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Surrounded by Mayo and Kerry people in Croke Park #GAA

So this year's All-Ireland football final will be a repeat of last year: Dublin vs Mayo. Dublin looked awesome today as they swept aside a disappointing Tyrone. I attended the Mayo vs Kerry match yesterday, Mayo were brilliant. Have they enough to beat the Dubs? I think not.

Gaelic football honours belong to just a few counties now - Dublin, Kerry, and Mayo are so dominant that most of the other 29 counties can forget about getting their hands on the Sam Maguire cup. The GAA is for everyone - when I'm stopped in Croke Park wearing my Wicklow jersey I tell people to look at their tickets - it says "All-Ireland"!

The Connaught Telegraph has a series of fan photos on their Facebook page, and today there I am in my Wicklow jersey (bottom left) - everywhere you see happy Mayo and Kerry people standing up and cheering their team - I'm sitting down! I'm surrounded by GAA fans who know that every year they will have something to cheer in the middle and late summer - most counties don't have this.

One thing is for sure - no team/county keeps on going forever. This weekend we say two greats walking off Croke Park for possibly the last time: Kieran Donaghy of Kerry, and Seán Cavanagh of Tyrone - thank you both for many fabulous days in Croker. Time for the young lads to come through!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

PowerPoint Tips, Tricks, and Hacks from 29 Experts via @elearningart

I was pleased to be invited to contribute to a new eLearning resource created by Bryan Jones in California. eLearning Art is a web site that provides resources for the eLearning industry claiming to have the "largest library of eLearning assets on the web". It is a great resource for anyone interested in creating eLearning content.

One section shows 29 PowerPoint tips from "experts" - my tip is #17.

17. Use the notes panel for detailed printed notes

I’m a College Lecturer and use PowerPoint for Lecture notes. 
Many students want detailed lecture notes, but get bored quickly reading mountains of text on a slide.
So I use the “Notes Pages” panel for detail while keeping the slides simple – I urge students to read the notes which may contain more information than given in a lecture. 
If printing out the slides, it is essential to use “Notes Pages” print layout option.
PowerPoint Presentation Tip from Eugene O'Loughlin: Use the notes panel for detailed printed notes

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Kerry 2-14, Mayo 2-14 #GAA #Wow #ILoveFootball

Ready for the match.
Sometimes football can take your breath away - today in front of 66,195 GAA fans, Mayo and Kerry served up a brilliant exciting match in the rain which ended in a draw. It was 9/1 for a draw on Paddy Power before the match, but I didn't fancy it (instead I went for a Mayo/Tyrone semi-final double #fail). A cold wet day did not reduce the excitement, though it did produce lots of turnovers and slipping. Four goals superbly taken were the highlights, with Andy Moran of Mayo putting in a man of the match performance. What a pity Aidan O'Shea of Mayo was delegated to man mark Kieran Donaghy - for me, this did not work and resulted in O'Shea being far less influential than usual.

The replay is next Saturday and I think Roma and I will go along again - if it is half as exciting as this match it will be worth going to. We are regular visitors to Croke Park and both love the day out. I even wore some Mayo colours for the match, though I still had my Wicklow jersey on. Before the game we supported Our Lady's Children's Hospital and got an opportunity to take a photo of Roma with the Sam Maguire cup - will the Mayo lads get their hands on this for the first time in 66 years before the season ends?

What Mayo people want the most!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wells House and Gardens #Gem #Wexford

Having been born and raised in the Southeast of Ireland, and coming here for holidays almost every year, I thought I had seen all tourist attractions on Co Wexford. This week I went to Wells House and Gardens near Ballyedmond and I highly recommend it for a visit - until recently I never knew it existed. It has been open to the public since 2012 and the owners are gradually opening up more of the house every year. I took the tour of the house and found it a fascinating insight as to how families lived in the 19th century (rich families that is!). The grounds are small, but there is a delightful short walk through a forest which features carvings of animals from a fallen redwood tree. There were plenty of visitors so it is proving a popular attraction - I'll certainly be back.

While looking around the house grounds and grandeur, I couldn't help thinking about the opulence of the place with wood panels carved from Italian oak, and fine furniture from England. The gardens and driveway are beautiful - but this would have all been done on the back of local labour. Were they paid adequately? What were their working conditions like? Was it enough to survive? Our tour guide told us that the owners were popular locally and that the house was not burned down during various rebellions because of this. The owners of the house (Doynes) will always be remembered - their portraits hang in the main hall. The people who built and maintained the house are long gone and are unknown - I'd love to know more about them.

Mogue's Walk.
 yyy
My new bear friend.

Well's House and Garden.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Package Wasting by @Amazon

Image source: Amazon.
Today I had a recent purchase of a Frostfire Universal Soft Car Roof Bars delivered - they look great and I can't wait to use them. They are a simple idea to let occasional users of roof bars carry stuff on the car roof - I intend to use for a canoe. The are excellent value at £19.99, and can be easily taken off and stored in the car. Postage was £7.06 (about €7.75) - again excellent value.

But...

...what wastage by Amazon! The Frostfire measures 60 cm long and 12 cm wide, but was delivered in a giant box. You can see below that most of the box was filled with air-filled plastic bubble wrap - this was almost 7 metres long! While I had great fun bursting all the bubbles, and then putting the lot into the recycle bins, I wondered why on earth a box this size was used? Surely £7.06 could not have covered the cost of this (and delivery by DHL)? The Frostfire is not in the least fragile, so does not need any protection. Perhaps this was the only box available and had to be used? While I am more than happy with the product, I am not happy to be part responsible for such waste. Amazon need to be better at this.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Remembering the 1950s

Yesterday my cousin Susan, who is from Canada and was visiting Ireland for the first time, and I went on a short tour of north central Dublin to visit where her Mum was born, lived, and left in 1958 to emigrate to Canada. Susan's late mother Catherine Byrne is my Mum's sister - she was known as "Patsy" while she lived in Ireland. I don't recall ever meeting her, she died in 1979. We posed for photos out the last house in Ireland where the Byrne's lived. Susan told me that her Mum worked in the GPO at the stamp counter - so we re-traced her (likely) steps to work from Temple Cottages, through Dominick Street, Parnell Street, Moore Street, Henry Street, and O'Connell Street. An interesting experience - especially for Susan. 

Ireland is a completely different place now compared to 1958 - most of the buildings Patsy would have walked past on the way to work will have been demolished and replaced. While Temple Cottages remains the same, it is unlikely Patsy would recognise much of Dublin if she were here now. 

Outside 22 Temple Cottages in Dublin.
Susan inside the GPO.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Grave of Great-Great Grandparents

James & Catherine McCann's
daughter Anne.
Recently, when writing about the spreading of my cousin Ryan Byrne's ashes on the graves of his great-great-grandparents Richard and Julia Cullen in Gorey, Co Wexford - I noted that this cemetery has an on-line list (see http://www.stmichaelsgorey.ie/listofgraves.html). At the cemetery itself it has a map of these graves so I decided to check if my McCann great-great grandparents' graves could be found. It turns out that the grave is very close to my Cullen Great-great grandparents. There are three people in the grave, in addition to James and Catherine (née Walsh), the grave contains their son William. Incidentally - the late actor Donal McCann is related to this family (and me).

I'd love to know what James and Catherine McCann looked like - I do have a photo of their daughter Anne (my Mum remembers her granny very well). They lived in Kilnahue outside Gorey - the name "Killanean", which is on their headstone, is regarded as a typo by the map details below.

Captured from the cemetery list.



Erected 
in loving memory of 
William eldest son of 
James & Catherine McCann 
of Killanean 
who departed this life 2nd June 
1902 aged 32 years 
The above Catherine McCann 
died 2nd May 1908 aged 64 years 
James McCann husband of
Catherine McCann
died 26th January 1927

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

"Who gives a flying f@@@ about your holidays?"

This blog attracts very few comments - most that are made are spam, but one today one caught my eye. "Anonymous" wrote ""Who gives a flying f@@@ about your holidays?" as a comment on my Day of Rain post. Fair point - any reader of this blog is entitled to their opinion. A few thoughts on this:

What is a Blog?
This is my personal web page. The word "blog" is short for "web log" which was originally set up as a type of on-line diary/log. As I write this post I have noted that the "Day of Rain" post has been accessed 39 times (according to Blogger Stats) - this number is typical of most of my posts. Very few people read this blog, but I do not write for others - it is a personal diary. I don't actually care if anyone reads it, even less about their opinion. Of course I am conscious that some family, friends, and work colleagues do read some of my posts, so I am aware that I have a small audience. I publish personal comments and experiences, and while at work I write a lot about educational matters.

Who cares about anything?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and many other social media sites are full of "look at me" posts. Blogger is just another one of many ways to post about any kind of activity. I am no different than anyone else in doing this - I guess "Anonymous" objects to a lot of people and their personal posts.

Freedom of Speech/Writing
Can anyone write what they like in a personal blog?  Well I do, and will not be put off by anonymous comments. As long as it does not offend or discriminate - I'll keep doing so. Writing about and posting photos of experiences while on holiday is an innocent activity and should not offend anyone.

Self Censorship
Why read something you don't give a "flying f@@@" about? Surely there is a lot of other web pages that you could spend your time more productively? If you don't want to read my posts, do not type "www.eugeneoloughlin.com" into your browser. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wicklow Man Lifts Sam Maguire Cup #GAA


Wicklow man Seán Doherty, 1974.
Image source: Irish Independent.
On the way to Croke Park yesterday with Roma to see the Mayo vs Roscommon All-Ireland Football Quarter-Final we stopped for a photo opportunity with fund raisers for Crumlin Children's Hospital who had the Sam Maguire Cup on display. For a few bob they were happy to allow people have their photo taken with the cup, and Roma and I couldn't resist. Naturally as a Wicklow man I am wearing my Wicklow jersey, coincidentally the same colours as Roscommon on the day so I didn't look too much out of place. Roma of course is dressed in her Mayo county colours. Mayo have won this cup on three occasions (1936, 1950, and 1951), and have been beaten finalists 12 times. Wicklow on the other hand have never played in an All-Ireland final, nor have ever come close to it. So, Mayo are a bit more used to it than Wicklow!

However, I am not the first Wicklow man to get his hands on the Sam Maguire Cup - the great Seán Doherty from Greystones captained Dublin to win in 1974!