Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lo Pagan Mud Baths

Monster from the deep!
Yesterday was a mud bath! We headed to the Lo Pagan mud baths in the Mar Menor for some mud therapy and some fun too. At the northern end of the Mar Menor there are some salt basins where salt is made by evaporating sea water (I´m sure much of the salt will end up on our roads in the winter). They also double as mud baths and hot baths. The water is very hot, and there is lots of mud to smear over yourself. We all tried it and the results can be seen in the photos below. The local authority has provided wooden piers for easy access - just wade out and help yourself to some mud. It´s quite good fun, and is also meant to be good for you. While there were a lot ot people sitting in the hot water of the shallow salt basins - less were covered in mud. Clearly, this is a popular exercise with the locals as many elderly people also did the same in the evening sun.

Vicki and her friends Maria and Joanna also got into the swing of things - though they were paranoid about getting mud in their hair. Despite the heavy sulphur dioxide smell, we all enjoyed the unusual experience, none of us had ever done this before.

Maria, Vicki, and Joanna enjoying the mud.

Mud baths are supposed to be good for you, but I can honestly say that I feel no different afterwards than I did beforehand. I did smell bad - even after washing first in the sea and then in the shower, I still feel I can smell it today. Overall - thoroughly good fun and definitely recommended!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Yesterday we had a day out in Alicante. Roma and I had to create new wills with our Spanish Solicitors as Spanish property is not covered by our Irish wills - by law we needed new ones. So we had to get the wills accepted by a Notary Public - a bit of waiting, but a relatively simply procedure nonetheless.

Alicante is a beautiful city with lots of old buildings and plenty of bars and cafes on the streets. The girls did some shopping and went to McDonalds for lunch (they had been suffering from withdrawal symptoms). Roma and I headed for a Tapas bar that we had been to back in March - Lizarran. Fantastic tapas in a busy bar - simply help yourself and keep track of the wooden sticks to indicate price - delicious stuff.

I also had a look at the port area - there are a lot of boats in the huge marina, some people still have money in Spain. One of the cool things about Alicante is that there is free (registration required) public WiFi along La Explanada de España. I uploaded the photo of me to the left to Flickr straight after this pic was taken. Cool or what? (The free WiFi I mean - not me and my shades!).

Alicante is very easy to get to by the excellent road system. Everything is well signposted and parking in the port area  is plentiful.

This morning I cleaned up the inside of the ignition on the bike and took it for a short spin. No problems encountered, but I´m still worried about the cutting-out problem that happened on Sunday. Fingers crossed that everything is OK.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mar Menor - and bike trouble

Yesterday Roma and I took the bike out to La Manga, which is the narrow peninsula that separates the Mar Menor from the Mediterranean Sea. We had a nice lunch of baby squids and watched a lot of Harleys go by as there was a festival in La Manga. Fantastic machines - mine was not out of place.

The Mar Menor looking north from the air.
Image from Hotel el Marino site
After leaving La Manga I started to get some trouble with the bike. This happened before - it cuts out, but I can get it going again by pressing on the ignition. I think I´ll need to investigate further - it´s possibly dirt under the ignition that is causing the cut out. I brought my Swiss Army knife as a tool, so I should be able to fix everything??? A trip to Harley-Davidson in Murcia looks likely in the next few days.

Beautiful weather here today - 35C plus and not a cloud in the sky. Played golf again - still finding it hard and no pars to show for it. However, Roma got one on the last hole today - good for her, a brilliant up-and-down for a par 3!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Golf in Terrazas de la Torre

Today was our (Roma and me) first day playing golf in the Terrazas de la Torre golf resort. We tried out our new golf clubs - unwrapping each as they were needed as we went along. We played nine holes - €80 for two, including a golf cart. We´ll play again throughout our stay. It´s a nice course, but tough for golfers of my standard. The fairways are narrow - accuracy off the tee is a must. There is a lot of sand dunes with very coarse sand - fortunately the course ranger told me that I could have a free drop from these areas. Otherwise I would have dropped shots on nearly every hole, and destroyed my new set of clubs on the stones.

Car parkThe report is still very quiet - there are new arrivals at our apartment block, just one family. The photo was taken yesterday evening from the back of our apartment - one thing this place is not short of and that´s car parking spaces. There are hundreds of them around,  but only a handful of cars. As you can see I had the pick of the car park for my bike!

Last evening we went to an Indian restaurant - excellent food at good value (€155 for eight of us). They even had an excelllent Spanish dancer to entertain us, though she did look a bit out of place in an Indian restaurant.

Today is the best day so far - temperature in the 30s and clear skys - I think some time at the pool is in order.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Finally arrived in Terrazas de la Torre in Murcia yesterday after a long day in the saddle - 500 miles and a saddle sore ass to prove it! Leaving Andorra Pat came as far as Pas de la Casa - we stopped for some photos on some scenic spots. This was above the clouds - fantastic scenery, and some great riding (even if some of the bends were very tight).

I was sorry to go my own way after Andorra and leave Pat behind. It was great having some company and someone else to watch out for on the road. He is heading back through France.

I had a lot of downhill riding which was quite slow - much to the annoyance of the locals who expressed their view by driving right up behind me on the slow bends, and giving me two fingers after passing me out! Once out of the mountains I reached motorway fairly quickly, I also had some interesting tunnels - one curiously had a toll of exactly €9.37. In fact tolls cost me a lot - about €80 throughout the day, more than the petrol cost. However, you get great roads for this - no problem with that.

The resort is deathly quiet - there is only one other apartment in our block occupied. Most of the other blocks are also either empty or have very few occupants - there are so few people around that one wonders if we will ever be able to rent the apartment out. It's like a ghost town here. We have the block's swimming pool to ourselves! The golf course is very quiet - Roma and I picked up some cheap (ish) golf clubs today, we'll try the course out in the cooler morning time.

We took a drive around San Javier today for a look around, even stopped for a coffee on the beach. Nice place, but still quiet overall. Hopefully the place will liven up a bit in the next few days

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Leaving Niort it was raining - but it soon stopped and we had a pleasant ride down throughout the east of France. This is very fertile country and we saw lots of fields of barley, wheat, and vineyards. The best for me were the fields of sunflowers - welcome to the sunshine. Unfortunately after Toulouse it started to rain again - quite a lot. But once we got to the Pyrenees it stopped. We got higher and higher into the mountains and into the clouds. We were missing the scenery - but what a glorious sight when we cleared the clouds. We stopped for a photo...


Destination today was Soldeu - we are staying in the Hotel Himalais. Soldeu is very pleasant, but is too quiet, and closes everything down too early. The ride up here was a bit scary - lots of hairy hairpin bends. Pat loved these, but I was a bit slow - the locals obviously don't like bikers riding slowly, they are clearly told that they should drive up close behind bikes to make them go faster. Tomorrow is a long day - 500 miles await. But it will be worth it to get to Roma and the girls in Murcia.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Destination Niort

Irish Ferries delivered us to Cherbourg bang on time at 11:00 local time. It took another 50 minutes to get off the boat, and it was raining. However, despite having to put on wet gear, we had pleasant journey. We had to take a short, well sign-posted detour, but we were soon on our way to Rennes. We stopped for petrol in Rennes and had lunch in Cafe Nounous where we both had Croque Monsieur from a very limited menu. Here we also experienced the best weather of the day when it was very warm. We had a slightly drunk waitress to look after us. We headed for Nantes where we got lost. I missed a turn off from the motorway for Bordeaux and tried to get back on track after a few roundabouts. Eventually we had to stop to consult our maps and we couldn't figure out where we were. I had to ask a bus driver for directions. Picture this - two geniuses trying to figure out directions - name of the road here we stopped? Rue de Albert Einstein!

This evening we dined in Niort. Lots of restaurants to choose from - we picked one with a dreadful band - watch them below destroy The Clash's "London Calling":

Monday, June 20, 2011

Starting out - 35,510 Miles on the Clock

WiFi in the middle of the sea - is it possbile not to be connected to the Internet anymore? As I write this I am sitting on deck 7 of the Irish Ferries vessel Oscar Wilde somewhere in the middle of the sea. WiFi access is €8.00/hour, so I'm going to make the most of it.

At the start of my journey the clock on the bike reads 35,510 miles (51,148km) - I'm guessing that I will add about 3,000 miles (about 4,800km) to this total by the end of the trip. The first part was easy - we left Dublin at 11:30 in plenty of time for the boat. We just about got here before the rain - the heavens opened just after we boarded. Lucky! We've had a beer and explored the boat. It does not seem to be full, but there are a lot of families (and a few bikers). The predominant language on board seems to be Polish (or some of its Eastern European cousins). I haven't met an Irish crew-member yet, and have heard French been spoken just once in the four hours we have been on board. 

This ship is like a floating town - there are plenty or restaurants to choose from, we're thinking Steakhouse for later. There are also many bars - loud music is expectedr. I have to say that is it comfortable so far, the sea is not rough and I'm looking forward to a good sleep. The bike ran well for the 95 mile trip today. With the extra weight on the back it handled a bit light. I did my first ever "wheely"! Coming out of Enniscorthy Pat opened up his Road King and I accelerated to follow. The front wheel lifted, but not by much - an inch I'd say. Perhaps thos was due to the weight being mostly at the back. Nevertheless this is the first "wheely" I've ever done - not sure I'll want to repeat this feat. Cherbourg to Niort tomorrow - next blog post will be from hotel in our destination.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Almost Ready To Go!

Passport - check. Tickets - check. Petrol - check. Rain gear - check. iPhone - check. iPad - check. Clean underwear - check.

When packing light, it is easy to forget something - no doubt I will anyway. We (Pat C. and I) leave tomorrow morning for Rosslare and the over-night ferry to Cherbourg in France. The weather is forecast to be very wet tomorrow - I bought a new rain-proof over-suit that fits over my leather jacket. Looks like I'll need it in the rain tomorrow. Tuesday in Northern France is expected to be cloudy with showers, but once we get to central France the sun is expected to come out - hopefully it will stay this way until I reach my destination (Murcia in Spain) on Thursday.

My biggest fear on this trip is mechanical failure. Last trip to France in the summer of 2008 was a mechanical disaster - with Macadam Moto in Montpelier taking their time (nearly two weeks) to fix my bike. I have had it serviced by Mick and his excellent crew in Motorcycle City - I'm satisfied that the bike is in as good a shape as possible for this trip.

I hope to blog along the way - ferries now have WiFi on board, and I'll be on the watch out for free WiFi in hotels and restaurants too. I'm borrowing Roma's iPad to make blogging and keeping in touch with email easier.

Excitement is building - to quote Lt George (before going over-the-top) in the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth:

"I'm as excited as a terribly excited person who has a really good reason for being terribly excited".

Friday, June 17, 2011

End of Academic Year

It's 5.30pm on Friday 17th June, and in a few minutes I will formally be on annual leave. For me this is the end of the academic year - exam results were posted for the College's students today. Congratulations to all students who passed their exams - especially those graduating this year. For some students, the year is not quite finished as they are facing repeat exams in August. The summer will be tough - I speak from experience on this, my summers of 1979 and 1980 were mostly spent studying for repeats. Not much fun, but the good news is that with hard work and effort you will get through.

2010/2011 was my 8th academic year in NCI - a year in which I had more students than in any other year. I had more exams and assessments to mark, but that goes with the territory. I look forward to new challenges and new programmes in 2011/2012.

Here's to another academic year!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Janet Edwards Dunphy 1963-2011

My dear cousin Janet has passed away today after a long illness - she was just 47. My deepest sympathies go out to her sisters Barbara and Susan, and to her husband Paul. Janet lived in Toronto Canada, and I'm guessing I actually only met her less than 10 times. However, she and I kept up a correspondence via email and she was my main source of information about the Byrnes in Canada - all from my Mum's side of the family. Janet is my first cousin - daughter of my Mum's sister Catherine (Cathy to Canadians, Patsy to the Irish).

I have some fond memories of Janet. In addition to the many emails (which I've been reading over again this evening) I recall a wonderful evening with her, her sister Barbara, and cousin Lauralea in Ottawa in May 1998. We met in her apartment where Janet and Barbara performed "Time to say goodbye" - Janet loved music and was excellent on the piano. Later we went to the Laurier Hotel for dinner - lucky me with three pretty girls! It's wonderful that cousins who have spent a life apart can suddenly meet and strike up conversation about family. The next day I had lunch with Janet (and her friend Beth) in front of the Canadian Parliament building. She was so proud of Canada's democracy, and was a mine of information about the history of the parliament building.

Janet Edwards Dunphy (in white t-shirt) - 1995.
I scoured my photo collection this evening looking for photos of Janet and me - I found just one. This was taken in 1995 at my Mum and Dad's house in Ballingate, when Janet and Barbara were visiting Ireland. She looks so happy in the midst of her family - and this is how I will remember her. The baby in my arms is my daughter Vicki - who is now 16. Also in photo is Claire (at back), Kate (with football), and Barbara. 

Janet loved travel, and she entertained me with emails and photos about her and Paul's travels in places like China, Austria, St Johns, and the Czech Republic. I in turn bored her with details of my own travels. Our last few correspondences centred on our family tree - she provided me with many dates of birth and details for the tree (click here to see the tree). My last correspondence with her was to wish her well on her 7th wedding anniversary last August.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam  ("May her soul be on God's right side").

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Killeen Golf Club

Killeen GC.
I should be more careful when boasting about golf - last Monday I had one of my best games ever scoring 32 points and beating my brother Joe by 4 and 3 at Bunclody Golf Club. I was definitely on a high. This evening I played golf in Killeen Golf Club in Kildare, with my good friend and colleague Leo.  I started work early today so's I could finish early - we had a nice day for golf. 

We were paired with two other guys - one of whom was really good. He was marking my card and I felt intimidated from the start - though no fault of his. 

I had a great drive from the first tee - but I played the most horrendous golf after this shot. I did not score a single Stableford point over the first nine holes - I can't remember ever doing this. Indeed I didn't even putt out on any of these holes. I lost so many balls to water. I did manage 10 points on the back nine and even got one (lucky) par. Awful stuff that really spoiled my evening as I couldn't do anything about it. On Monday last I wanted to turn professional, this evening I wanted to give up golf.

But today's round will be forgotten soon. Next week I hope to play in Spain - viva golf!

Monday, June 13, 2011

eBooks: Could You Be the Next Self-Published Star?

Ki Mae Heussner, writing in ABC, asks if eBooks will allow you to be "Next Self-Published Star?". Self-publishing is a relatively new phenomenon where authors are by-passing traditional publishers in favour of going it alone. If you want your book to make a lot of money and reach a wide audience, then a publisher will be a necessity.

There are many options to go the self-publishing route. Blog2Print allows bloggers to create an eBook from their blog posts. You can try it out on-line, but it is not quite a WYSIWYG editor. Should I ever feel the urge, I might do it - but as long as my blog is on-line there is no real reason to do this. 

Amazon Kindle.
For writers who want to get their books published without going through a publisher, self-publishing is a great way to go. How many books are there written that have never made it to print? Or have been rejected by editors? eBooks allow us to write, publish, and sell, our own books. For many authors, simply writing is enough - they may not target huge sales. It's not necessary to have the prospect of large volume to get published. Amazon is already promoting self-publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing which is a self-publishing tool that lets you upload and format your books for sale in the Kindle Store.

In Academia, self-publishing raises some issues. In an environment where publishing your work is sometimes necessary to keep your job - the snobbery of peer review will drop a barrier between a writer and publication. No matter how good your book is, it will not be acceptable to many as a real publication. However, I feel that many academics could do things like publish their own lecture notes, or lab experiments, or tutorial exercises. I know some lecturers who in the past printed out their notes and sold them to their students! An eBook is really the same thing? Might even make some money.

With the inevitable rise in digital sales in books - book stores will go the way of record shops. Perhaps even become extinct. Publishing is about to undergo a huge revolution.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Web Page Background - Who's Who

My new look blog site is now a whole month old and I have to say that I like my own collage of 51 black and white photos - I intend to leave it on the site for the rest of the summer. While most of the people shown in the collage are well known, there are a some that a few people have asked about. So here is the list in full (how many could you recognize?):

Row 1: Patrick Pearse, John F. Kennedy, Alan Turing, George Best, John Lennon, and Nelson Mandela. 

Row 2: Marilyn Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Muhammad Ali, Michael Collins, and John Paul II. 

Row 3: Sir Tom Finney, Diego Maradona, Bill Gates, Martin Luther King, Alan Kelly, and Charles Stewart Parnell. 

Row 4: Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Emmet, Willie G. Davidson, Wolfe Tone, and Bobby Charlton. 

Row 5: Me, Helen Mirren, Jack Charlton, David Norris, and Roy Keane. 

Row 6: Bobby Sands, Paul McGrath, Clint Eastwood, Barack Obama, Lionel Messi, and Jesus Christ. 

Row 7: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Éamon de Valera, Paul McCartney, Agnetha Faltskog, and Stephen Fry. 

Row 8: Mohandas K. Gandhi, George Harrison, John Giles, Napoleon Bonaparte, John Wayne, and Margaret Thatcher. 

Row 9: Kevin Moran, Ringo Starr, Pele, Albert Einstein, Brian Cowen, and Éamon Dunphy.

If you were to create a background image with 50 people that you admire on it - who would they be?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

12 Great Free Video Tutorial Sites To Brush Up Your Tech Skills

Saikat Basu provides 12 Great Free Video Tutorial Sites To Brush Up Your Tech Skills on He writes that "Video tutorials take us back into the classroom — a virtual one" and lists free video tutorial sites that he thinks "could be an education". As a lecturer, I do take issue with his statement that "Few would disagree that online video "lectures" are more interesting than what they are in the real world". I don't see how a recording of a lecture could be more interesting than the real thing, or that a video of a lab experiment is bore interesting than actually going into a lab and doing the experiment. If a subject is difficult or boring - viewing it on-line won't make much of a difference IMHO. But I am a Lecturer and I would say that! However, it does make for an interesting debate.

Here's the list of the 12 tutorial sites (with links):

There's something for everyone on these sites - and a lot of it is free. So go and learn - in particular the CBT Cafe are very good!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Video: The Next Hot Learning App?

The 2011 Spring edition of the Training Industry Quarterly, in an article by Tim Hughan, asks if video is The Next Hot Learning App? Hughan writes that a "growing number of forward-looking organizations are turning to de-centralized approaches of collecting and disseminating corporate knowledge", and that "systematic knowledge capture and sharing with video is the easiest way to collect the vast amount of knowledge that is verbally conveyed during meetings, video or web conferences". 

I don't need convincing of this. 

With YouTube, video has been for the past several years had widespread acceptance outside the corporate sector. I need look no further than my own YouTube Channel (367,000 views as of today) to see that many individuals are using video for learning. With leading learning professionals like Elliott Masie advocating more use of video for learning, it is now accepted that video as an information source is quickly "gaining traction" in the corporate world.

Hugham finishes his article by outlining five "easy steps to a more productive and informed organization" (the 4th point is the key one for me):
  1. Make the commitment
  2. Capture the knowledge
  3. Share the knowledge with the organization
  4. Make video as accessible as documents
  5. Go mobile
I'm hoping to return to lecturing on postgraduate programmes for the 2011/2012 academic year with Learning Technology modules on NCI's MA and PGDip Learning and Teaching courses (more details about these courses here and here). Video, and its use in learning, will be a central theme through the modules.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

These guys give Harley-Davidson owners a bad name

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last Tuesday that some Harley-Davidson Bikers Piss-Off Gavin Newsom's Dad At Balboa Cafe. I never heard of Gavin Newsom (or his Dad), but he is Lieutenant Governor of California. In this video two gobshites on Harleys make a lot of unnecessary noise. This gives us Harley-Davidson owners a bad name. Sure - we all like to rev up our bikes like kids, and make some noise. But there is a line that should not be crossed. My own bike, featuring Screaming Eagle II exhaust pipes, is quite loud, but I like to think that I don't "piss-off" anyone with excess noise and unnecessary revving. The guys in the video below are spoiling it for everyone else - police crack down on this sort of thing.

So guys - especially the one with the California license plate number 19G3230. Please stop - you are so uncool and not impressing anybody. You are riding Harleys, but you are not Harley riders.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Building a dinosaur from a chicken

One of my favourite subjects while studying science in Trinity was Palaeontology. In fact I studied this far too much to the detriment of other subjects which I sometimes failed in exams. I really liked the efforts of scientists to piece together a whole species of dinosaur from just a few fragments of fossilized bone. We also had a fantastic lecturer, Dr Frank Jeal, who kept us enthralled about Palaeontology. While a life as a paleontologist appealed to me greatly - it was never to be.

One of the world's leading paleontologists is Jack Horner who has made many discoveries in Montana and has written many books about dinosaurs (he even worked as technical advisor on the Jurassic Park movies). In a recent TED Talk, Horner talks about "building a dinosaur from a chicken" (a chicken is a bird, and birds are descended from dinosaurs). In a very entertaining discussion, he outlines how this might be possible if a few genes that cause some changes in chicken embryos are stopped from working - we might get a more dinosaur like chicken. Interesting, if unbelievable stuff - but it does show that science outside the movies is actually concerning itself in turning fiction into fact. Many people dislike the notion of scientists "messing" with genetic code and trying to clone new species - but I think it's cool. Push the bounds of possibility I say - if you think you can breed a dinosaur-like chicken, then go for it. Who knows what possible benefits may arise. Check out the video - it's worth watching.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Bunclody Golf Club

Golf on a Bank Holiday Monday - bliss! I traveled down to Bunclody today to play golf with my Bro' Joe - it was only my second outing this year, and also only the second time I have played this course. Joe lives just a few minutes away, though it was a bit of a drive for me to be there in time for a 13.00 hrs tee-time. A par on the first hole set me up for the day (but not before I got a reminder of how crap I am at golf on the second hole when I lost two balls!). I had five pars overall and a final score of 32 Stableford points (handicap 18). This is way better than I normally do - I must play Bunclody more often. BTW - I also beat Joe 4 and 3! A very rare win over him.

The 18th green (and 19th) - image from
Bunclody GC is set beside the river Slaney and is a lovely parkland championship course on the former Hall-Dare Estate. It's a bit hilly in places, but enjoyable nonetheless. I'd certainly recommend it for a nice day's golf. A nice Guinness in the 19th was followed by dinner in Joe's house prepared by the lovely Miriam, and a call to by Dad in Ballingate.

Finally - congratulations to Roma for completing the Women's Mini-Marathon in Dublin today. She is raising funds for the Niall Mellon Township Trust, and she is off to South Africa again this year to participate in the Building Blitz in Capetown.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Shiny Bike!

Have just finished washing and polishing my bike and thought I'd have to take a photo and show off its gleaming chrome and leather. I took off the saddle bags to get to the rear wheel - they too are getting a polish and shine. I also had the bike serviced by the excellent mechanics in Motor Cycle City - I now have peace of mind in that the bike is in the best condition it can be before I set off on my 3,266 mile (5,256km) trip to Spain in two weeks time. I may need to change the front tire - it has a good few hundred miles of thread left, but not enough for a return trip. So I'll almost be certain to call into Harley-Davidson Murcia - any excuse to call to a Harley Dealer and buy a T-shirt!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Knee Replacement Surgery

My Mum is in the Blackrock Clinic recovering from knee replacement surgery - she had the operation on her left knee yesterday. The Clinic is a wonderful modern hospital - very professional. The staff are looking after her very well. I met her surgeon today - a young fella who described the operation to me. He was very happy with Mum's progress. 

I'm fascinated by the mechanics of how the operation works. The following video (by Nucleus Medical Art) shows in an animation how the procedure is carried out. Very simple and mechanical looking, but I'm sure it is a very delicate procedure. 

Many thanks to all in the Blackrock Clinic for looking after my Mum so well.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

EdTech 2011

The annual get-together for the Irish Learning Technology Association was held this year in Waterford IT. Unfortunately I could not attend the first day yesterday, but I rode down an almost empty M9 this morning to take part in the second day. Today's proceedings opened with the inspirational Lizbeth Goodman taking about disabilities, animation, video, dancing, and education. Really wonderful stuff showing how technology can enhance learning for disabled people.

I then attended a talk by Pearson Publishing about Technology in Action. This was very interesting (though a bit of a "Sales Pitch" as well) - I'd love to have some their assessment tools in NCI. Pearson continue to lead from the front in supporting academics and students. I asked a question about how students react to the use of Pearson tools and found that the responses was very positive. More of this I say!

Then it was my turn - I participated in the "Practice Exchange" session discussing "How come my brilliant idea didn't work?". This was about my failed effort to introduce text messaging into one of my classes. After lunch I delivered a workshop entitled "The Gadget Show" where I discussed and demonstrated using YouTube, Flickr, and Moodle in the classroom. I was happy with how this turned out - O2 provided us with an iPad 2, a Motorola Xoom (fantastic), and a Samsung Galaxy (too small). The main gadget was my iPhone.

Overall - I really enjoyed the day, though it went too fast. I really would have liked to attend on both days, and to have attended more talks. Well done to all in ILTA and WIT for putting on a great Conference. Next year in DCU?

Election poster tie shame - ESB to the rescue!

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I have had a go at politicians and political parties for their "F**k You" attitude when it comes to election posters. In particular I targeted Seán Barrett, Ivana Bacik, and Barry Andrews for leaving their election poster ties behind for someone else to clean up. This scourge gets up my goat, and I know that it does for a lot of others too. 

Yesterday evening - the ESB were doing some work on the road at the end of my house and they were replacing some electric cables on the same pole that I have photographed and shown on this blog before. 

Lo and behold - the poster ties are gone!

The ESB workers remove them whenever they come across them on their poles - I asked one of the guys about this. They don't mind doing it - they get in the way of their work. 

So Seán Barrett, Ivana Bacik, and Barry Andrews can now rest easy in that I won't be trying to embarrass them any more. And congratulations to the ESB for doing something civil and environmental - well done to the lads.

Later after I took the picture of the poster tie "naked" ESB pole, I noticed that the ESB guys were still working in the evening sun. I took the picture below with my iPhone - these guys are dedicated and doing a great job. I hope my photo does them justice.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


The Action-Reaction blog discusses the concept of "pseudoteaching". The post defines pseudoteaching as "something you realize you’re doing after you’ve attempted a lesson which from the outset looks like it should result in student learning, but upon further reflection, you realize that the very lesson itself was flawed and involved minimal learning". In other words, it looks good, so it must be good. The discussion takes aim at MIT Professor Walter Lewin who is known for his dynamic lectures and the amount of time he spends preparing for a lecture. Watch the following video to see what I mean:

On first view I thought that this was fantastic stuff - I still do, I wish my physics lecturers in College were as interesting and entertaining as this. The Action-Reaction blog reports that "attendance at his physics lectures fell 40% by the end of the term and an average of 10% of students failed Mechanics and 14% failed E&M", and asks if we are "Surprised?". The post goes on to say that "It looks like good teaching, but he was the one doing all the talking. It looks like the students are learning, but they were just sitting there watching. It’s like trying to learn to play piano or play a sport by watching your teacher or coach. It doesn’t work well".

Tough comment, but worth thinking about all the same. Lectures like Professor Lewin's fail in the end because there is no interactive teaching and learning going on. Richard Feynman (1963) wrote that "The best teaching can be done only when there is a direct individual relationship between a student and a good teacher".

There's a lesson for us all in this - "pseudoteaching" doesn't benefit anyone, so we have to examine if we need to stamp it out and to develop learning and teaching strategies that work.