Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Blast from the past #AntiNuke

In a tribute to the late Dr Frank Jeal, posted in the News & Events section on the web page of the Zoology Department in Trinity College, there are many tributes and comments from past students and colleagues of Frank. Included are some photos which bring back a lot of memories of Frank, especially the one below also which includes yours truly (and Frank on extreme left). That combat jacket was one of my favourites, I was also very fond of my head of hair! I'm guessing the photo was taken on a Zoology Field Trip probably in 1980 or 1981 - I don't recognise the building or where it was, though Portaferry in Co Down was the destination for most field trips.


I note in the photo that I am wearing an anti-nuke badge on my left lapel - they were quite trendy at the time as the ESB were planning a nuclear power station at Carnsore Point in Co Wexford. I remember once wearing it to a chemistry lab where our lecturer spotted it and asked me why I was wearing it. No doubt at the time I was worried about nuclear fall-out and Carnsore being wiped off the map (or I was trying to be trendy!) - there was a lot of opposition to it at the time. My lecturer pressed me along the lines of "If it was possible to guarantee that the nuclear plant was 100% safe, would I still be opposed to nuclear energy?" A difficult question for me to answer at the time - he was a PhD in chemistry, I a mere 2nd year student. I'm sure I still opposed it - nothing can be 100% safe. Just 5 years later - the Chernobyl disaster happened.

Monday, December 11, 2017

10 Years of Learning and Teaching with YouTube

On Tuesday 11th December 2007, I created my YouTube channel and uploaded my first video. Given that YouTube was only founded in 2005, and taken over by Google in 2006, I was indeed an early adopter of this medium. 13,875,105 views and 28,603 subscribers later, I am still at it!

My first video was "How To... Convert PowerPoint to iPod Movie". At the time I did not have a SmartPhone (the iPhone was first released on June 29, 2007) - so the old-fashioned iPod seemed to me at the time to be a great tool for learning. In the years around 2007 I mostly taught on the then MSc in e-Learning programme. I created the video as part of an exercise to get students to use technology in innovative ways. Nowadays creating a video is very easy, but back then to get it on an iPod I had to do the following:
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation
  • Import each slide as an image into Windows Movie Maker, add narration, and save as a movie
  • Use a (free) Jodix iPod video converter to convert the video into iPod friendly format
  • Add the video to iTunes, and sync with iPod
This video has been viewed just 6,390 times in ten years, and hardly at all in the past few years as technology is now more enhanced. The picture quality is poor, and some of the syncing of audio to each image is not good. So for a little bit of nostalgia (at least for me!), here is my oldest and first ever YouTube video:



Thursday, December 07, 2017

If you don't know data, you're out of the game. via @tableau

Tableau Software have published "2018: The Year Ahead for Business Intelligence" - it is always interesting to check out what respected and leading companies like Tableau think the future might hold. A key theme throughout is how much easier it is going to be to analyse data so that anyone can do it. While the article is very general, it breaks down into the following 10 topics:
  1. Don't Fear AI
  2. Liberal Arts Impact
  3. Promise of NLP
  4. Multi-Cloud Debate
  5. Rise of the CDO
  6. Crowdsourced Governance
  7. Data Insurance
  8. Data Engineer Role
  9. Location IoT
  10. Academics Investment
Go to the article to read and watch videos (which rather annoyingly are not available to embed) for yourself, but for me two topics stand out for attention: #2 "Liberal Arts Impact", and #10 "Academics Investment". 

Liberal Arts Impact
Who'd have thought that data had anything to do with the Arts? Anya A'hearn (what a brilliant name!) of Datablick tells us that the art of storytelling has helped "influence the data analytics industry" and that "organizations are placing a higher value on hiring workers who can use data and insights to affect change and drive transformation through art and persuasion, not only on the analytics itself" - it's all about telling a story with data.

Academic Investment
A little bit closer to home for me is data analysis, not just teaching, has a role in third level institutions. As Dr Michael Galbreth (University of South Carolina) puts it; graduates "need to be comfortable with data". There is a huge demand from students to learn more about data, with most colleges now having some kind of data analytics/science programme. Colleges are responding to this demand, and we have to be on our game to develop, update, and deliver the right programmes. As Anya A'hearn puts it; "If you don't know data, you're out of the game". True.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

40 Years Ago #ccr

Outside CCR Front Door.
I spent yesterday evening in the wonderful company of about 30 lads in their late 50s who all did their Leaving Certificate in 1977 in Cistercian College Roscrea. We were marking the 40th anniversary of finishing secondary school there. While I see some of the lads reasonably regularly, it was brilliant to meet up with two who I have not seen since June 1977 (PB and TO'T).

We were met in the College for a reception where the biggest treat for me was to meet my French teacher John Shanahan. I told him that I had written about him in my blog when I posted about My Introduction to Learning Technology - September, 1972, and again about My Favourite Teachers - thank you Mrs Keating, Mr Hallahan, Mr Ó Riordáin, Mr Shanahan, Mr O'Loughlin, and Dr Jeal #thankateacherWe had a great chat about Voix et Image and how he was a pioneer of technology in education. Si jamais vous arrivez à voir ce message, merci M. Shanahan pour votre inspiration avec la technologie!

So - walking around the College we were given a tour by the House Captains. A lot has changed in 40 years, though the cold rooms and corridors remain the same. We even attended Mass celebrated by Fr Kevin in the school chapel. In the evening we adjourned to the County Arms in Birr for a super meal, a few beers, and of course more chat. Memories flooded back of our time in CCR 40 years ago - lots of shared stories of bunking mass, robbing orchards, fights, hair cuts, the leather, Roscrea girls, listening to the radio on Saturday afternoons with Tosh, tuck shop, rugby, and of course the bread which kept us all alive. 

I spent just 5 out of my 58 years in Roscrea - yet it is a valued connection when 30 lads can celebrate together and spend an evening in each others company as if we were best friends. We all have had different life experiences with (please God) lots more to come. We vowed we would meet up for a 50th anniversary, though I felt a little sad leaving everybody this morning.

I'd like to give a big shout out to current Roscrea student Manus Heenan who as part of his Transition Year studies has created a mini-business making and selling bread using the original recipe from the monastery. He had the clever idea of selling his goods to a captive audience like us during our reception in the College.  I bought a pack of his ready-to-go bread mix. Details of Manus's business can be found at www.abbeybread.ie, and he even has a great YouTube "How To" video showing us how to make Roscrea's famous bread.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

12,000 Views Per Day Barrier Broken #WhosWatching @YouTube

A nice personal YouTube barrier for me was broken this week on Tuesday 28th November when the number of daily views on my channel exceeded 12,000 for the first time (12,167 to be precise). The previous high record of 11,944 views occurred on 25th March, 2014. 12,167 views represents about 21 days and 21 hours of watch time.

The United States continues to dominate with 26% of total views, followed by India (18%) which has been a growing "market" for me in the past couple of years. I have broken the views into ten and in the pie chart below you can see the breakdown by country. The Rest of the Word figure is made up of 146 countries which individually account for less than 1% of views. At the very end of the data are countries like Venezuela, Swaziland, and South Sudan with just one view each last Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Everything you wanted to know about Data Analytics but were afraid to ask - via @NCIRL

Making the decision to go back to education and study any course is a tough one to make. The commitment and hard work, though definitely worth it, can make for a tough road ahead. However, you won't be alone. At the National College of Ireland most of our students are part-time - attending classes in the evenings and weekends. Data Analytics has become a very popular area of study and most of my teaching now is in this area. As part of the College's efforts to provide as much information as possible to students, we have updated our FAQ section on the College website (see http://blog.ncirl.ie/studying-data-analytics-at-nci-frequently-asked-questions). This page now includes a short video of me promoting our next Open Day (Thursday 30th November) - I'll be doing an Information Session at 6 o'clock and will hopefully be able to answer any questions that prospective students may have.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Learning Slow Down During Thanksgiving

It is interesting (to me anyway) to look at the effect of the Thanksgiving Holiday (23rd November) in the United States on the number of views of videos on my YouTube Channel. Since the US accounts for about 27% of all views this year, I would have expected some decline due to the holiday period - this is the case.

In the chart below you can see the effect of Thanksgiving with a marked reduction in total number of views (9,580) beginning the day before Thanksgiving, the day itself (8,224 views), and continuing on Black Friday the day after (7,492 views). This drop is almost exclusively due to the United States. My next biggest markets for number of views: India, UK, and Canada, showed no noticeable drop over the same period. 

It comes as no surprise that less Americans view educational videos during this holiday period. I'm certain that this is reflected in many other areas on YouTube and I'd love to be able to see the data for what goes up, down, or stays the same, over this period. Clearly, Americans (not all - there was still 661 views in the USA on Thanksgiving Day!) are taking time out from learning while feasting on turkey and beer. Learners in the rest of the world (based on just my data) are ignoring this holiday.


November is traditionally a good month for number of views in my channel - the figure for 7th Nov (11,875) is the second highest daily number of views ever for me. Also - the run of four consecutive days of over 11,000 views from 13th to 16th Nov is the first time that this has ever happened. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Graduation at National College of Ireland #NCIGrad2017

I am gutted to once again miss the graduation ceremony today of so many of my students from last year - unfortunately classes are clashing with the ceremony. After attending almost every year since I started in NCI, this is the second year in a row that I have missed what had become one of my favourite days in the academic year. 

Image source: University of Economics, Prague.

Many congratulations to all NCI students graduating in the Convention Centre - celebrate the day as you deserve to. In particular I'd like to congratulate students on the following programmes:
  • Higher Diploma in Data Analytics
  • B.A. in Management of Technology in Business
  • B.Sc. in Technology Management
  • Certificate in Business Analysis
  • B.Sc. in Computing
  • B.Sc. in Business Information Systems
  • Higher Certificate in Computing
  • M.Sc. in Data Analytics
It was a pleasure working with you all and I wish you all the best in your future wherever it leads to.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What is the point of learning statistics? via @CharlesWheelan

Image source: Amazon.
I am currently really enjoying reading Charles Wheelan's excellent book "Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data", and one of his first questions is "What is the point of learning statistics?". It's actually a question I find hard to answer myself - I usually mutter stuff about being better able to understand data and to prove a hypothesis is true/untrue. But Wheelan comes up with excellent reasons why we should study statistics:
  • To summarize huge quantities of data
  • To make better decisions
  • To answer important social questions
  • To recognise patterns that can refine how we do everything from selling diapers to catching criminals
  • To catch cheaters and professional criminals
  • To evaluate effectiveness of policies, programs, drugs, medical procedures, and other innovations
  • And to spot the scoundrels who use these very same powerful tools for nefarious ends
While the first two points above seem obvious, the remainder do not immediately jump to the mind of someone considering studying statistics. 

Studying statistics involves learning a lot of tests - a lot. Figuring out how to set a hypothesis doesn't come easy, and can take a long time to get used to it (I even still struggle sometimes when confronted with a new situation, and I have been teaching this stuff for five years!). But just like everything else, the more you practice, the better you get. Probably for me the biggest thing about statistics is that it gives you value - once you have done the tests, you can analyse the results to make sense of them. Tools such as Excel, R, and SPSS are making statistics easy to do, but you still need to understand and interpret the results.

To finish this post with a quote attributed to H.G. Wells (1866-1946):


Statistical thinking will one day be 
as necessary for efficient citizenship 
as the ability to read and write

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!