Sunday, May 31, 2009

Facebook and Twitter

This evening I deactived my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Facebook I never got in to - I stopped using it because I never posted on it and I got fed up with request to be "friends" with people I had never heard of. Most of these were "friends" of my daughters and I have realized that at 49 years of age I am about 25 years too old. I won't miss this.

As for Twitter - you know I actually took out my iPhone in the pub last Thursday evening to record that I was in the pub on Twitter! How sad is that? I enjoyed it for the EdTech conference last week, but this fad is over for me.

Marc Prensky famously wrote about the Digital Immigrants (me) vs the Digital Natives (my kids) - though I pride myself in keeping up-to-date with all the latest technologies. I have been using computers since about 1986 and consider myself to have the "digital wisdom" that Prensky now writes about. However, Facebook and Twitter are too much for me. I love the freedom of expression that Blogger allows me and I hope to keep this web page going until I can no longer type (hopefully 30+ years from now). So whatever the next big thing is, I will probably just stick to Blogger.

Many of us have too much of an on-line presence, and sign up to the NBT - time to consolidate.

"Sawing Sticks"

Yesterday I spent most of the day in the O'Loughlin family home at Ballingate with my Mum and Dad. I was there to "saw sticks" - a peculiar Ballingate expression to denote cutting timber or logs. My Dad Joe, brother Joe, and his sons David and Niall were all on hand to help out in this task. The victim (ie the tree which we cut up) is in the front lawn of "our" house - Dad wanted to clear the undergrowth and to free up the view north towards the Wicklow mountains. Naturally we choose the hottest day of the year so far for this task - but we got through he work, creating two loads of logs, plus a few for myself that I put into the back of the VW Golf.

We had a delicious lunch prepared by Mum - Quiche and red current pie, washed down with a glass of cider and lots of tea. Mum even chided me for putting too much butter on my bread - some things never change!

In the afternoon we stopped for a cool beer - 330ml of Coors Light. Joe and I talked about the tree. We agreed that it was probably over 30 years ago since we last climbed it. I remembered falling out of this tree and being brought to the doctor - I had an almost perverse pleasure in cutting down the offending part of the tree. However, we had so much fun climbing this tree and the many others (now gone) when we were kids.

The first picture above is of Dad and Joe at the tree facing North - Joe is standing at the top of a loader connected to the Zetor tractor, in order to cut away the low hanging branches. Earlier in the day the entire area where Dad is standing was covered by undergrowth. We reminisced about the tractor which Dad bought new in 1978. Joe and I had a collision in Bob Murphy's field in 1979 - I maintain that Joe reversed into me in the tractor with the combine harvester he was driving, while he thinks I crashed into the back him! All this happened at about 2 mph!

Before we finished up I had to show off my iPhone to Joe. We took a few pictures of ourselves and I am struck how similar we look. He is wearing my hat in the photo to the right. There is only 11 months between us (me - October 1959, Joe - Sept 1960) and we have been lifelong friends and buddies. Hopefully we can meet up next week for a game of golf - Joe has me in his sights since I boasted in a previous post that I had beaten him last time out.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Ryan Report on Child Abuse

Lots of news this week on TV, radio, and in the papers about the Ryan Report on Child Abuse in religious institutions. I have not read the report - nor do I intend to. The media have adequately conveyed the horror of what went on - I can hardly believe that all this was taking place in my time. I have chosen my words carefully here - this is a difficult subject to talk about, but it is impossible to be silent. These are my own thoughts - you the reader can make up your own mind.

Thankfully, I was reared in a safe and loving home - I was lucky. I was an altar boy in Tomacork Church where nothing untoward happened. In school I can safely say that I do not know of a single incidence of sexual abuse that occured during my time in the four schools I attended:
  • Carnew National School (1964-1971)
  • Scoil na nÓg, Trabolgan (1971-1972)
  • Cistercian College Roscrea (1972-1977)
  • FCJ Bunclody (1977-1978)
Yes - we were subject to corporal punishment, a form of physical abuse. I learned early on that a good way to avoid punishment was to learn my lessons and behave - I was a quiet lad. In Carnew NS I think I was only slapped a few times in the first couple of years. There was no corporal punishment in Trabolgan or in FCJ (that I can remember). In CCR there was the dreaded leather strap that was only used on rare occasions - I never "received" the leather. In CCR I did get a few "clips-on-the-ear" for trivial issues - failing to pick up litter that was not my own when ordered to, borrowing a pencil sharpener from the desk of the boy behind me, cursing, and being caught giving "nix". But that was the extent of "physical abuse" - I have no hang-ups or mental scars about this. My experience was that CCR was a safe school where the majority of the teachers and staff were inspiring people who had the education and well-being of the boys at heart. When I got to Trinity I did hear from fellow students that I was lucky that I did not go to a Christian Brothers school.

But I often wondered what might have been. Within weeks of first arriving in CCR in 1972 as a 12 year old I was asked to come to the bedroom of one of the priests after lights out - which I did in my pyjamas. He never laid a hand on me, nor did anything that could in any way be regarded as sexual or physical abuse. In fact all he did was talk and there wasn't even the suspicion of abusive activity that night as far as I can tell 37 years later. I thought nothing of it at the time, though never forgot it - it never happened again. Today of course this would be regarded as highly inappropriate - what was he thinking of? I'll not name him here, though I'm sure if any CCR boys from the 1970s ever read this they will figure out who it was very quickly.

I was as innocent a boy that you could get in 1972 and I'm sure I would have been an easy target for any of the monsters that the Ryan Report pulls no punches in exposing - fuck them all.

I feel very sorry for the many wonderful brothers, priests, and nuns who were kind and gentle with children in their care - what must they be feeling? Many of course are guilty of standing idly by while their peers abused children, and must surely feel that they could have done more to prevent what went on. With the exception of yer man above - all that I had any dealings with were wonderful teachers and carers who helped mould me into the person I am today. I am very grateful to them all.

As part of my job I have to be Garda vetted and have had to attend a compulsory course on Child Protection as a few of NCI's students may be under the age of 18. I feel dirty that I have to go through this - guilty until proven innocent. Of course it is right that all involved in education and the care of children should be vetted - though I'm certain that evil monsters (eg Ian Huntley in Soham, UK) will find ways to get into the education system and evade restrictions that are implemented to protect children.

There is only one place for the Ryan Report monsters and that is in jail - fuck them all, no mercy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rev Ian Paisley at NCI

I'm just out of the Legends in your Lunchtime interview of Rev Ian Paisley by George Hook of Newstalk radio held here in NCI. The Kelly Theatre was packed (300+ people) and we were very well entertained by Big Ian and Hookie. I took the picture to the right of the two of them with my iPhone in the Atrium of the College just before the event.

Dr Paisley is now 83 years old and it is the first time I have ever seen him "in the flesh". While he looks like an old man, he carries himself well. He had his King James Bible with him at all times and referred to it a lot during the interview. In fact the interview was more about religion than politics. There is no doubt that Dr Paisley has an unshakeable faith in God and that He is the source of all things to Man. Dr Paisley comes across as a humble and modest man. He is also very funny and Hookie and he exchanged several bits of banter - notably about the "cannyness" of Ballymena people. He even offered to meet Hookie at the Pearly Gates whenever his time is up!

Overall - a very enjoyable event and I am glad I went along to see this true legend. You may not always have agreed with everything he said, but he is an inspiring figure and surely one of the most respected leaders in our time.

Sunday breakfast at "herbstreet"

On Sunday morning, Roma and I decided that we would have breakfast out and to then go for a walk. We drove into Hannover Quay and stopped at the herbstreet restaurant as they had tables outside in the glorious sunshine. I had to put on sun protection cream for the first time this year. I had delicious Eggs Benedict, as well as some of Roma's pancakes - a great treat. herbstreet is definitely recommended, and Recession-permitting we'll be back. We almost got hit by a shopping bag dropped from one of the apartments above the restaurant that landed on the ground right beside our table! And no apology from the culprit!

Afterwards we walked down to Sir John Rogerson's Quay to have a look at the Logos Hope ship which was tied up at the quayside. It is supposedly the world's largest floating bookshop, but it was not open on Sunday morning. After this we drove down to the Great South Wall and walked the length of the wall. We saw fishermen catching mackerel at the end, and the car ferries coming into Dublin Port. As you can see in the photo (from my iPhone) we still had glorious sunshine.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Inside NCI - The Magazine for Friends of National College of Ireland

I am featured in the current edition of Inside NCI - The Magazine for Friends of National College of Ireland. I was interviewed (by email) for the 2 Minute interview slot, and had some fun coming up with the answers. The full magazine is published on-line at ISSUU, and the short article is on page 15. I previously posted about a new photo taken for this article which I have now set as my Blogger Profile photo. The photo is quite small in the printed version of the magazine and you really need a magnifying glass to see how cool I look on my bike.

Below is a scan of the article. Also featured in the full magazine are the winners from NCI of the Newstalk Student Enterprise Competition, an interview with Norma Smurfit (after whow our library is named), and a look at the Legends in your Lunchtime series which is hosted at NCI and run by Newstalk radio. Rev Ian Paisley is due to be interviewed on Wednesday for the next part of the series - I'll be sure to post about this afterwards.

Friday, May 22, 2009

EdTech 2009

EdTech 2009 - the 10th Annual Conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) was held this year at the National College of Ireland, and I was the local organizer for the Conference. We had over 150 delegates and 50 presentations, plus 14 exhibitors - quiet a lot of planning and work had to go in to get this show going. While I co-ordinated much of the local activities there has been an ILTA committee working on this for the past year which I was part of. The College did a good job of hosting the Conference.

I attended many of the presentations. The first keynote address was from Niall Sclater from the Open University in the UK - I was particularly interested in his thoughts on "Does location matter?" where he shared some ideas about the traditional approach to learning and whether students actually need to be in a classroom. The other keynote address was from Richard Katz of EDUCAUSE who had some interesting comments about the future of education and made excellent use of a tower and clouds as metaphors for reaching for new goals. We also had some break-out sessions. I gave a presentation called "Lipstick on a Pig? Lecture notes as video podcasts on the iPhone" and I was delighted to have about 20 people attending. I was also impressed by some other sessions:
  • Markus Hofmann of Blanchardstown IT who spoke about compatability challenges for file types in use on the iPhone - really interesting for me
  • Michael Barrett of Sligo IT who spoke about managing module descriptors - something we all could do better in Colleges
  • Oliver Joyce, also of Sligo IT, spoke about using clickers in class and we all had a chance to use them as part of his presentation
  • Dr Aidan O'Dwyer of DIT talked about using on-line resources with mixed success for engineering students
  • Sean Connell of Athlone IT spoke about using Google Docs for teaching spreadsheets
  • Terry Smith of Pepperdine University in California gave a most interesting talk on project based learning and he entertained us with great video examples of his work
  • Imogen Bertin of NAIRTL showed us some interesting uses of video, though unfortunately sound was a problem
I missed loads of other sessions that I would have liked to have gone to - I seemed to be spending most of my time running round the place trying to appear calm.

One of the interesting features of the Conference was the use of Twitter - especially during the closing panel discussion. the tweets were even posted on the screen for all to see. I tried to get it going on my iPhone - I have a Twitter account, but have not used it before. Interesting use of technology at a technology conference.

I was relieved when it was all over - back to normal, and a lazy weekend coming up!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Embedding Innovative Technology Enhanced Learning: Podcasting to E-moderating

Today I attended the 8th Annual Conference of the Centre for Learning Technology, CAPSL, in Trinity College Dublin. The title of the Conference was Embedding Innovative Technology Enhanced Learning: Podcasting to E-moderating. The main attraction was Professor Gilly Salmon of the University of Leicester who spoke about technology and learning. I have read some of her work and have cited it quite a bit in some recent writings. She gave an excellent presentation and I had plenty of ideas to take away. There were several other presentations though well presented, were not as inspiring. I felt as if the intended audience was for people who knew very little about podcasting and the use of technology in education.

The good thing about this conference was that there were at least two presentations on how things didn't quite go according to plan. You rarely get talks on projects that failed or didn't work - we got this, which was refreshing as well as interesting.

Highlights for me - Dr Kevin O'Rourke of DIT gave an interesting summary of some work he and the major Dublin Colleges (excludes NCI) are doing in the area of e-Learning. Support is the big issue here. Catherine Bruen of the National Digital Learning Repository (NDLR) gave a good summary of the potential of Communities of Practice, and the availability of content on-line. She even mentioned my YouTube Channel! I also found the last speaker, Dr Tom Hayes, who spoke on "The Potential of Podcasting in Higher Education" to be interesting, though I was familiar with much of the work he talked about.

Overall, a good day. The usual Learning Technology suspects were there, and it was good to catch up with people I hadn't seen for a while.

Dragon's Den - The Jennifer Burke Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning

Yesterday I was a Dragon!

The first ever Jennifer Burke Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning will be made at next week's Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) annual conference which is being held at the National College of Ireland this year. The award recognizes and rewards innovative practice in teaching and learning in Ireland. It is made in honour of the late Jennifer Burke who was one on the leading lights in ILTA when I first became involved with this association. I only met her a couple of times before she became ill, and I found her to be extraordinarly kind, helpful, and supportive of any learning technology initiative. The picture to the right is of Jennifer as many people remember her, and is a link to a photo on the award website.

I was delighted to be invited to be part of a Dragon's Den type panel that reviewed the final seven nominations - this was held in The Helix in DCU. Also on the panel was a real RTÉ Dragon's Den icon - Bobby Kerr. Bobby was a super panelist and it was a pleasure to meet him. Jennifer's partner Adam of DCU was also on the panel as was Kate from the Regional Support Centre of Northern Ireland. We were more pussy cats than dragons, but the nominees all did their best to impress us. I can't go in to details here, but deciding a winner was not easy - eventually we agreed on an entry from Trinity called B2C - Bring to College. It was a long afternoon, but fascinating to see all the innovations in learning. Well done to all.

As for my new career as a Dragon? Not sure if this is something I would be good at. There was no money at stake, so it was difficult to be critical. Bobby told us that in the real program every entrant gets an hour - even though we might only see 30 seconds of this on TV.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dún Laoghaire Lions Club Charter Night

Last night I put on my tuxedo and Roma and I went to the Dún Laoghaire Lions Club Charter Night dinner in the Kingston Hotel. Roma attended with her Killiney Lions Club colleagues and we had a table almost to ourselves. Local Councillor Larry Lohan was at our table and the was plenty of banter about politics and elections. Minister Mary Hanafin was also at the dinner (looking great) though we didn't get to speak to her.

There was the usual amount of speeches after dinner - very boring as I had no clue who all the people were that they were talking about and giving awards to. There was also a raffle, with a rugby jersey signed by the Ireland Grand Slam winning team, as the top prize. Between us Roma and I bought €40 worth of tickets (all part of fund raising), but had no luck with any prizes. We didn't stay too late and were home before 1.30am.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

What was my go-to "broke meal?"

Since I signed up for Plinky prompts, I have never actually answered or written about any of their questions, even though I do read them every time they come into my Inbox. This one caught my attention...

What was your go-to "broke meal?" Do you still eat it, regardless of financial status?

It reminded me of my time in Trinity College in the early 1980s when I lived at 9 Upper Sherrard Street near Mountjoy Square. This was during my time as a post-graduate student as I was by now supporting myself, so money was tight. My "broke meal" was sausages, beans, and potatoes. I used to buy a half-pound of Denny's sausages (8 in a pack), a tin of beans (always the cheapest brand), and used potatoes from the communal four-stone bag that I and my house-mates shared. A meal was four sausages, half a tin of beans, and about four boiled spuds - always washed down with tea. As I had used only half of what I bought, I had the same meal again the next day - very cheap, but tasty to eat. No - I don't have this as a meal today, it's more likely to be gourmet sausages and mash with green vegetables instead of beans. Have I become a food snob? I might try my old "broke meal" again, but I don't fancy the idea of having the same meal again the next day to use up the other half!

New Photo

I recently had my photo taken on my Harley-Davidson for an upcoming issue of "Inside NCI". I brought the bike around to the front of the College, but had to keep it as quiet as possible as the Summer Exams were taking place in the College - not easy on a Harley! The photographer (BC) had me very much at ease, and the bike attracted a little bit of attention. Many colleagues have never seen it as I keep it in the underground car park during the day.

I was offered the photo for this blog and I am changing my old profile photo to this. The old photo was taken with my old Canon EOS 35mm film camera for the article "My Bike and I" which appeared in The Irish Times on 11th June, 2003. Same bike, same jacket, but the hair is a bit more grey. BC also used a wide angle lens, which I think makes me look like a rock star! Excellent photo BC!

Monday, May 04, 2009

May Bank Holiday Weekend Sport

The May Bank Holiday is a big weekend in sport and I enjoyed some great sporting moments:

Preston North End in the Championship Play-offs
Top of my list is PNE's surprise achievement of making the Championship play-offs. I went to England to see them twice this year: in August vs Charlton Athletic (2-1), and in February vs Reading, and saw them quite a bit on TV. Yesterday was the last day in the regular season and PNE had to beat QPR and hope that either Burnley (they won 4-0) or Cardiff City would lose (they did 0-1). PNE won 2-1. PNE had the same final number of points as Cardiff but had scored one more goal. That 6-0 win two weeks ago against Cardiff meant the difference between the two sides. PNE face a very tough play-off semi-final against Sheffield United - first leg next Friday at Deepdale. I'd love to go over for this, but will watch on TV instead. I also laid a 10 euro bet at 4/1 last August that PNE would make the play-offs - so my Paddy Power account is now topped up by 50 euro - Go PNE!!!

Leinster 25 - Munster 6
This was a bigger surprise than PNE making the play-offs. I like watching Munster play and have watched them particularly in the Heineken Cup over the past few years and have marveled at their success and the way they do their business. Despite being born and reared in the province of Leinster I don't feel that I have any attachment to them and have never seen them play - not even on TV, before yesterday. Like everyone else I was surprised at how much better in every aspect Leinster were - fully deserving their win. Frankly, Munster were shite and never got their passionate play going. Leinster now play Leicester in the final - cue confusion for the commentators!

Cardiff Blues 26 - Leicester Tigers 26
I watched the extra time for this game which was very boring - just to see what would happen if the game ended in a draw. A rugby-style penalty shoot-out was promised and when the game ended in a draw, this is what we got. I really thought that kicking penalties from 22 metres straight in front of the goal (with no 'keeper) would mean that we would be in for a long shoot-out. However, while the regular kickers scored no problem, the pressure was on the guys who rarely kick for goal. It was one of the game's top players, the fantastic Martyn Williams, who missed the crucial penalty for Cardiff kicking it wide. I remember when in school in Roscrea we used to practice kicking penalty goals in front of the posts. I was rubbish at this. Add the pressure of a Heineken Cup Final place on offer, the crowd, and of course the money - it must not have been easy to do. A very boring way to end a rugby game - a replay, or some sort of count-back for tries scored or penalties conceded would be better.

Reading 1 - Birmingham City 2
Normally not a game I'd watch, but I had an interest in this as the loser might end up playing PNE in the Play-offs. There were also quite a lot of Irish players on view. Reading were woeful - worse that when I saw them vs PNE last February, and will be handy opponents in the play-offs. Brian kept me up-to-date with text messages on PNE's progress, but towards the end of the game I switched over to Sky Sports News for live updates on all the games. Prediction - Birmingham City will be relegated next year, I wasn't that impressed with them. I also had a 10 euro place bet on Birmingham for the championship - despite the fact that they came second, I only won 21 euro.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Happy 18th Birthday Kate!!!

Yesterday, 1st May, was Kate's 18th birthday.

We had a house party for her to which she invited 2,000 of her closest friends. It was hard work all evening keeping the crowd fed and watered. I had to go out for ice as our freezer failed to produce enough. Being a warm evening the crowd went outside a lot - I had warned the neighbours to expect noise, but apart from some boisterous behaviour from some of the lads everyone was well behaved. We sang "Happy Birthday" - the photo to the right was taken just after this. Johnny (S/O) was also there - it was the first time I saw Kate kissing a boy. I need to remember that she is now officially an adult and that she's not a kid anymore. However, there is always a place in my heart for her as Daddy's Little Girl. The party was slow to wind down, but I stayed up to keep an eye on things. I spent the last part of the evening sipping red wine and reading a paper about an Importance-Performance Matrix - party animal!!!

Big clean up this morning, the place wasn't looking too bad - but you could tell there had been a party. Lots of half empty and nearly full cans and bottles, not too much food lying around. The only damage was to a plastic bucket. Feet up this evening to watch Munster vs Leinster I think for me.

Happy birthday Kate, Love Dad.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Golf in Coollattin - 32 pts!

I finished work early yesterday and headed off to play a round of golf at Coollattin Golf Club with my brother Joe. The club was very quiet and we had the course almost to ourselves and were not held up until near the end when a four-ball cut in front of us. The course was very wet in places after much rain, but it was playable.

I played very well throughout scoring 17 points on front nine and 15 on the back nine for a total of 32 points (handicap 18) - this is one of my best scores in Coollattin. The highlight was a rare birdie on the par-four 9th, I also had pars on 3rd, 8th, and 18th for a total round of a very respectable 93 gross (75 net). I also had the pleasure of a very rare win over Joe, whuppin' his ass by 3 points, and of holding the honour at most of the tee boxes.

We just about managed to finish before dark and had a quick pint in the Club House before heading back to Blackrock. A very pleasant day, with a nice golf score to boot!