Thursday, June 28, 2012

Restaurant Review - Baan Thai in Sandyford

Because our kitchen currently looks like this...

...we decided to go out to dinner last evening to Baan Thai in Sandyford. I have been there before on at least two occasions and found the food to be excellent. While we had a very enjoyable meal, the evening was spoilt by some minor irritations. First is parking - at 7.00pm I had to pay for parking in an empty car park or risk clamping and a fine for not paying before 9.00pm. Not having any change I had to go into the restaurant to get some before heading back to the car - two hours cost a cheap €1.50, why do they bother?

I find it difficult to hear conversation in restaurants at the best of times, but being placed under a speaker with loud music was too much for me. I asked for the music to be turned down or for us to be moved to another table (yes - I am a grumpy auld bollix). Our irritable waiter told us another table had asked for the music to be turned up and he moved us to another table. But he got his revenge on us for making him work as our new table was under the air-conditioning which was set at Antarctic temperature. Twice I asked for the fan to be turned down, but no noticeable difference was observed. It's unusual for me to feel cold, but I did so this evening under this breeze. 

I had delicious breaded jumbo prawns for main course - except I had to send them back immediately because they were cold. A few seconds in the microwave sorted that out.

The food is delicious in Baan Thai, and was very good value for us as we also had a Living Social deal. But a message to the Baan Thai folks is to listen to customers who want music and air-conditioning turned down. Clearly they do not know how to handle warm days and need to work on his. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Amazon Recommends My Own Book To Me

Today I received an email from Amazon in which it recommended my own book An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis to me!

I was pleased that it is being recommended - probably because I was looking up other Business Analysis books. And I hope that it is being recommended to other Amazon users too. However, I did think it odd that I would be recommended my own book - after all, I do have an Amazon Author's Page which lists my book. 

Thanks Amazon, but I have a copy already.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Holiday Time - Yippee!!!

It's just gone 5.30 and I am now officially on me holliers ("my holidays/on vacation" for those of you outside Dublin)! On Thursday I'm off to Spain, after which I will spend some time in Wexford. I am also planning a tour of Ireland on my newly fixed up Harley.

Ahhhh - holidays!
Image source: Bernie Travel Ltd.
The past academic year completes 10 years in NCI for me and I have to say I've loved every minute of it (well almost every minute!). Last year was easily the busiest for me as I seemed to have a lot more extra-curricular activities.

As a College Lecturer I get great holidays (31 days) - so I'm off for six weeks. Though not nearly as good as my colleagues in the Institutes of Technology who are off from June 20th to September 1st - so jealous!

I intend to keep up the blogging through-out the summer, though it will not be as easy while travelling. I'm going with the iPad and Blogger+ for blogging - it is not as good as a PC and is much more restrictive for formatting things like embedded photos and video.

Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Harley in Hospital

The bike went on fire last Thursday morning - well at least there was smoke coming out of the ignition which is placed on top of the petrol tank. Following on from our previous Lucky Escape when a light switch also smouldered with smoke, I'm beginning to wonder if there is a trend developing here. 

My Bike.
While on the new Samuel Beckett bridge close to the College on my way to work, the bike suddenly cut out. I got it re-started with a bit of bother, but moments later in the college car park I spotted and smelled the smoke - a bit disconcerting.

Despite some great effort by electricians in the College to get it going again, it would not start. On Saturday morning I brought it to Motorcycle City where Brian and Graham are experts in fixing everything Harley. I have big plans for a tour of Ireland this summer, so I'm so glad that this did not happen on the Connemara cost - miles from everywhere. Hopefully I can pick it up tomorrow after work. I have the bike over nine years now and it has become part of me. I hope to blog a lot about my Tour of Ireland - more on this in upcoming posts.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Sunday Choir for Summer

Today at Mass was my last participation at choir for the summer. There is one Sunday left before the St John the Baptist Choir in Blackrock takes a summer break, but I will be missing as I am going to Spain on Thursday. I have to say that the past nine months in the choir have been very enjoyable. It is a small choir and I feel that I am improving slowly week-by-week. There has been a lot of learning for me as there is new material almost every week. I look forward to the Autumn when I will be a veteran and should be able to know the words and music from now on. Though I can just about read music, I also look forward to the day when I can sing without any mistakes.

By far the most enjoyable piece of music that we do for me is Mozart's Ave Verum (Hail, true body). We also had this in Croke Park last Sunday. It is a beautiful piece of music and I think that our small choir does a really good job on it. Below is a YouTube video by the Bow Valley Chorus from Banff in Canada - I think you'll see why we enjoy it so much: 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The DIT e-Learning Summer School #elss12

Today I had the honour of presenting a workshop at the 10th Annual e-Learning Summer School that is hosted by the good folks in the Dublin Institute of Technology - my first time ever at a Summer School. My topic was about using YouTube for e-Learning, and I think it went down well (I got 10 new Twitter followers!) despite some technical hitches in the lab part of the workshop. There are about 40 people from third level Colleges in Ireland attending the Summer School and hopefully they all got something out of using YouTube for educational purposes, and to create content themselves. Below are my slides I used in the first part of the workshop:
I was one of three presenters on the day. Before me was Tom Hayes from Trinity who gave an excellent talk about how Trinity College uses iTunes U for recorded lectures. I am jealous of all the goodies they have to do this, but nevertheless as always, a lack of resources is slowing down progress. In the afternoon Bernie Goldback of Limerick IT gave a really interesting presentation on ePublishing - mostly about getting lecturers to publishing content, such as their notes, for the Kindle and iPad platforms. But the most amazing thing about Bernie is that he knows so much stuff and uses an awful lot of cool gadgets and applications to do what he needs to do. Follow him on Twitter (@topgold) to keep up with the latest in learning and technology.

Overall - a very inspiring day and it was a pleasure to meet so many people with an interest in YouTube and e-Learning.

Monday, June 18, 2012

PhD in Googling

There are so many things that you can do with Google Search, but most of us are unaware of them. Last week I wrote about Google Search at the Speed of Light, where I used an Infographic from Masable to show how a Google Search works. Below is a slide show from who have "compiled a comprehensive list of Google search tips in this infographic that will help you get  your “PhD” in Googling". For example - did you know that the search bar is also a calculator? Or that you can search for information in documents of a specific type? Or get definitions of words? Or find the weather and time in specific locations? 

So - check out the slide show below to improve your Google Search skills. Who wants 60,000,000 search results when a little bit of knowledge of a few simple commands will narrow down your searches to what you really want.

I also note that typing in some of the commands in the Google Search bar is a bit like the old MS-DOS prompt (or Command Line for you UNIX folks). The prompt/command line hasn't gone away you know!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Eucharistic Congress in Croke Park

Today was a wonderful occasion in Croke Park for the Statio Orbis Mass to close the 50th Eucharistic Congress. I was part of the Pilgrim Choir whose job it was to get the congregation singing. In what was a long day I think everybody enjoyed themselves, I brought along my 1932 Eucharistic Congress flag to wave about. I had fond memories of Mrs D, Uncle Charlie, and my Grandmother Kathleen (Hurley) O'Loughlin as I waved the flag about. It attracted quite a bit of attention.

There was some wonderful singing from the Three Priests, soprano Celine Byrne, plus music from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra who unfortunately drowned out the Palistrina Choir. 

Pope Benedict sent a pre-recorded message which was well received, though it stopped sort of an apology to victims of abuse. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin delivered a good speech at the end to encourage all to renew their faith and to continue to have faith in Jesus Christ. 

I have to say I enjoyed the day and it felt good to be a Christian today.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cork person holding my book

At work yesterday I was preparing a short presentation for next week's DIT e-Learning Summer School and I needed a graphic representing NCI. I'm sure there is a sample of graphics somewhere on the College's network, but I decided to try a Google image search instead. Looking through the search for something suitable I recognized Phil Chambers of the Business Analysts Association of Ireland in one of the images where he was featured in an article in the Cobh Edition On-Line Newspaper - NATIONAL COLLEGE OF IRELAND SAYS YES TO CORK

Image link to The Cobh Edition.
In 2010 we had planned to deliver the Certificate in Business Analysis (I teach one of the three modules) in Cork. Unfortunately we did not get enough students to run the course.

Anyway - I did not recognise the other two people in the photo which was taken in Cork for the May 26th 2010 edition of the Cobh Edition. However, on closer inspection I recognized the cover of my book An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis which is being held by the lady in the photo. I had not heard about this and missed my 15 seconds of fame in Cork.

The book has not sold well - about 400 to date since it was published in early 2010. However, I am pleased that it has raised just over €2,000 for the NCI Foundation in that time as I have donated all proceeds from book sales to the Foundation. This has mostly been from the College's allocation from the publisher (The Liffey Press), which is now sold out. I noticed recently that at the start of a new module that the Amazon Bestseller's Ranking of the book jumped from about 600,000 to about 74,000. It has fallen back to 478,122 today. Hopefully the course will run again next year and a few more will sell.

Friday, June 15, 2012

First look at Windows 8

Today at a Conference in the College where Microsoft have an Exhibitors stand I had my first view of Windows 8. The new version is not as radical as I thought it would be - many applications work in the same way as before - but the whole concept of what Windows is has changed dramatically.

My demo was on a Dell touch-screen laptop - it reminded me very much of my iPad when it is attached to its keyboard. The new Metro style App screen works well for me now that I am used to the iPad and iPhone. Everything works very smoothly, and as I have discovered with the iPad and keyboard - it is very easy to get used to switching from touch the screen to typing on the keyboard. I wonder will this be the end of the mouse?

Every new version of Windows always reminds me of the first version I worked with - v3.0. This would have been back in 1990 when it was released. I had been familiar with the use of windows on the Apple Mac Classic, but when I joined CBT Systems in 1989 the OS we used was MS-DOS. Windows 3.0 seemed like a world apart, and soooooo like copying the Mac. At the time I recall showing a colleague - "Look, you can have two applications open at the same time!". The reaction was "who would ever want to do that?". So for us old-timers, see what you can remember from the screen-shot of Windows 3.0 below:

Windows 3.0 - a long way from Windows 8.
Image link to Wikipedia.
Confess - how many hours did you spend playing Reversi?

Google Search at the Speed of Light (Infographic)

One of the things that many of my students ask about is how does a Google search work, how does it work so fast, and how they get so many results? For example - if you search for "Speed of Light" you get "About 64,300,000 results" in "0.10 seconds". Wow!

Samantha Murphy, writing for Mashable, describes an Infographic created by Google showing how searches work. There are some fascinating numbers (eg each search travels an average of 1,500 miles) and some breath-taking statistics (eg 450 billion new unique queries since 2003). I think I'll use this infographic in class from now on - check it out:

Image link to Mashable.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Seven Questions on e-Learning by Marc Rosenberg

What questions should managers and e-Learning developers answer when asked about creating a quality e-Learning programme? One of the world's leading authorities on e-Learning, Marc Rosenberg, writing in Learning Solutions Magazine, poses the following seven questions "each time you begin a development project, you will substantially increase the likelihood of a much better product":
Image link to

  1. What are the success criteria and the metrics?
  2. Who is the learning for, and why?
  3. What are the content and context parameters?
  4. How deep should it go?
  5. What type of learning is this?
  6. How much time is available?
  7. How will it be delivered?

    1. Rosenberg recommends that these questions be asked "up-front" by gathering "clients, SMEs, and stakeholders" together for a short time before the project starts. He reckons that building "eLearning can seem daunting because it’s both science and art".

      I wonder how many e-Learning projects fail because these important questions are not asked?
    While all seven questions are important, question #5 "What type of learning is this?" is most important for me. Rosenberg writes "Albert Einstein famously said that he didn't want to bother memorizing things he could look up, but Julia Child wanted people to internalize food preparation because she didn't like them relying on recipes". These are two very different learning strategies as every learner will want to know what must be memorized and what not to. What can simply be referenced later when needed, and what needs to be mastered now. This question (and the others too) should be asked of all types of learning and teaching - there is a lesson for us all here. I hope we learn from it.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    Lucky escape?

    This evening a light switch started to smoke in our front hall. The hall light came on by itself, and we noticed a flashing light and smoke coming from the light switch. I killed the downstairs lights fuse.

    It may not be linked, but we had the wallpaper in the hall removed  today with a steam cleaner and I'm wondering if some water got into the switch and caused a "short"? With wallpaper removed from the wall a potential fire hazard was gone.

    Cue - light fuses off.

    Cue - check fire alarms (both). Working.

    Cue - staying up for a while just to be sure.

    Cue - a major sigh of relief. If this happened in an hour or so we would have been fast asleep in bed, and we might have been reading about a house fire in the Celestial Times  tomorrow.


    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Assessment Innovation

    Today I attended a Faculty Development Workshop facilitated by Phil Race and Sally Brown. I had attended a similar event in NCI a year or so ago and felt a sense of deja vu about today. While Race and Brown are very knowledgeable and entertaining - I felt that I had been through the process before and perhaps did not get as much out of it as a first timer might have (attendance today was compulsory for all Faculty).

    Image link to Healthcare Recognition.
    Innovation in assessment is an interesting subject, and we discussed many ideas today. I liked the "Six Honest Men" approach - Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How does assessment take place. We also had many interesting tasks, such as "What went wrong?" and "What one thing would you change?".

    However, my enduring feeling about "Faculty Development" days is that very little changes and we end up doing the same as we always have done. As I walked out the door of the seminar room, I realised that I had no plan to modify any assessment for next year. I have only a few days left before summer holidays with a lot to do. So I will return to College in August with just a few weeks to go to the new semester - I'm expecting to be assigned two new modules. No time for innovation. 

    Plus ça change.

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Eucharistic Congress - Blackrock Procession

    This evening quite a crowd turned out for a Procession to celebrate the Eucharistic Congress with participants from three parishes - Blackrock, Newtownpark Avenue, and Booterstown. The meeting point was the entrance to the Daughters of Charity home (St Theresa's). I had never been in the grounds before, so this was a first - they looked great. Many of the elderly residents (mostly nuns) came out to see us pass - the photo to the left shows a small section of the procession on its way past the main house and out of the grounds to the back of the Guardian Angels School and Church.

    I brought my 1932 EC flag which got a lot of attention (see my previous blog post about this here). One of the priests asked if it could be carried by some of the children who were wearing their First Communion outfits at the front of the procession - to which I gladly agreed. At the Church, where there was a short prayer service, I draped the flag over the altar rails. I showed it to an elderly priest who attended the 1932 Congress as a small boy - he was delighted to see it and told me about watching the trains loaded with pilgrims passing through his home town of Portlaoise on their way to the huge ceremonies being held in Dublin. 

    Roll on Sunday next for the Statio Orbis mass!

    Sunday, June 10, 2012

    Euro '88 Remembered #COYBIG

    Today is the day after 24 years waiting that Ireland participates in the European Championship finals for only the second time. This evening we take on Croatia in the first group match - with Spain and Italy to come, this may be Ireland's only chance to get a result. While I'm hopeful that Ireland will do well, I'm not as confident as the thousands of Irish fans who have descended on Poland for this match. However, I have to remember that in 1988, I wasn't confident either!

    Come on you boys in green!

    I watched the Ireland vs England game on 12th June 1988 in my then neighbour Dave's house in Llewellyn Park in Rathfarnham. I had plenty of time on my hands because I had just finished my PhD and had not yet got a job. Perfect timing for a footie feast! The history of the game is legendary at this stage - Ray Houghton scored in the 6th minute (I still give a cheer every time I see it) and Ireland held on for a long 84 minutes to record a famous victory. I remember the game well - I even fell on my knees when Houghton scored. Ireland had won a game we should have lost.

    Ray Houghton puts the ball in the English net.
    Image link to Sportsfile.
    In the next game against Russia, who could forget Ronnie Whelan's famous shinner, or George Hamilton's famous commentary "...and Bonner has gone 165 minutes of these championships without conceding a goal. Oh danger here..." which of course has now inspired the excellent website. Ireland were brilliant in that game, but ended up drawing a game they should have won. In the final group game, which Ireland needed at least a draw to qualify for the semi-finals, Ireland kept Gullit, van Basten, Rijkaard, Koeman, and Co out for 82 minutes - but not Wim Kieft who scored a freekish goal to break Irish hearts. Ireland had lost a game they should have drawn, and a famous football odyssey was over.

    The 1988 Euro finals inspired a nation, and Christy Moore caught the mood afterwards with his brilliant song "Joxer Goes to Stuttgart" - so in memory of the summer of 1988, here he is singing the song on RTÉ in 1990:

    Saturday, June 09, 2012

    End of Academic Year

    This week marks the end of the academic year in our College as Exam Boards mark the completion of learning and teaching before the summer break. Results will be published next week and it will be time to put another year behind us and to look forward to the next academic year starting in September. This was my 10th academic year at NCI and I have loved every minute of it!

    End of Academic Year!
    Image link to Smiley Emoticons.
    June is supposed to be a time for catch up and some writing after all exams have been marked. It often is a relatively easy month which is very welcome after the hectic months of April and May. I have 12 full working days left this month before I go on holidays. As a Lecturer I get a generous 31 days holidays a year, so I will be off from the end of June to early August. My fellow Lecturers in the Institutes of Technology get from June 20th to September 1st, plus longer breaks at  Christmas and Easter - so envious!

    So what do I plan to do for the remaining 12 working days this month? Well I have to block off two full days for extra teaching that I have been assigned. I am also presenting a workshop at the DIT e-Learning Summer School on June 20th, I'm really looking forward to this as it is the first time taking part in this annual event - my topic will be "e-Learning and YouTube". There is also a Faculty Development day set aside, and I will be attending Exam Boards in another College this month too. Finally - there are company visits to our 3rd year students in their work placements, I have five to do so this will take up most of a day. So before I know it, there are six days already blocked off, and all of a sudden my 12 remaining days is looking busy! In the other six days I will be working on a new Data Analytics programme and also want to write some material on Education and YouTube. So looking forward to holidays!

    Friday, June 08, 2012

    The PLAGIARISM SPECTRUM by the Turnitin Academy

    A fact of life in education today is that people will plagiarise the work of others. I unfortunately have seen varying degrees of plagiarism in student work. The worst case I have come across was some years ago when an entire Higher Diploma dissertation was copied from a Government document - only the author's name was changed. More recently NCI has started using Turnitin which is a fantastic tool to help detect plagiarism. It is now standard practice that student work is submitted through Turnitin - this is good from two points: the first is that it takes the work out for Faculty in trying to find original sources of suspicious looking work, the second is that students know that their work will be scanned and so it acts as a deterrent. It also makes students more informed about plagiarism and how to correctly cite the works of others. 

    The Turnitin Academy has published a report called The Plagiarism Spectrum: Instructor Insights into the 10 Types of Plagiarism, where they have "classified the most common types of plagiarism into 10 categories and asked our community of instructors to share with us how problematic and how often the different types of plagiarism occur". While there are no real surprises for me in the report, it makes for very interesting reading. They have classified plagiarism into 10 different types based on the findings of a recent survey they conducted. Check out the first part of their infographic below - a more detailed version is available here:
    Infographic link to Turnitin.

    By far the three most common types of plagiarism are:
    1. Clone - submitting another's work, word-for-word, as one's own
    2. Mashup - mixes copied material from multiple sources
    3. Ctrl-C - contains significant portions of text from a single source without alterations
    The infographic shows examples of all 10 types of plagiarism in detail, and how it was detected. This should also be a great resource for students who want to learn how to avoid plagiarism, and how to cite the works of others correctly. This should be placed in a prominent place in all College libraries.

    Thankfully I have had no cases of plagiarism in my own classes this year. I always warn students about it and tell them that no mercy will be shown to students where they have been found to plagiarise the work of others. Sometimes it is accidental or careless - where bad scholarship is discovered we have a scale of methods of dealing with this. More serious cases have lead to suspension and even expulsion (as in the case of the H. Dip dissertation above).

    Tuesday, June 05, 2012

    Education Research by "through the looking glass"

    I have just completed a survey as part of a research project into "education bloggers" being conducted by the Open University - click here to access the research page at the "through the looking glass" site. It got me thinking about the reasons why I blog, so I've reproduced the surbvey questions and my responses here:

    What do you blog about?
    Almost anything (family, politics, sport, reviews, technology, travel, and motorcycles) I can think of, but my main focus is on Education Technology – especially the use of YouTube for education.

    Are you paid to blog?
    No – who would pay for my rantings?

    What do you do professionally (other than blog)?
    I am a Lecturer in Computing.

    How long have you been blogging at this site?
    Since November 2006.

    Do you write in other platforms? (e.g. in a print magazine?)
    Not very often – just the odd newspaper item.

    Can you remember why you started blogging?
    It was part of a Learning Technology class I was teaching – we were discussing the role of blogs in education and I decided to practice what I preach.

    What keeps you blogging?
    The freedom to say what I want. I post almost every day, and while I often have to really think hard about writing something new – I usually find something in the education blogosphere that I can comment on.

    Do you have any idea of the size or character if your audience? How?
    About 250 page views per day (via Blogger Analytics).

    What’s your attitude to/ relationship with people who comment on your blog?
    I do know that a lot of my page views are from family. But I also note that many of my students read my blog. Outside of these two groups I have almost no relationship with viewers.

    Do you feel as if you fit into any particular community, network or genre of blogging? (e.g. schools, science, education, museums, technology)
    While my blog is a personal one, I do feel part of the education community.

    If so, what does that community give you?
    I get a lot of ideas for class and on-line teaching from the many education bloggers that share their ideas. I don’t always agree with what they say – but it is a great way to share ideas. Sometimes the Community even comment on my blog!

    What do you think are the advantages of blogging? What are its disadvantages/ limitations?
    I think a blog like my own where I post about anything does not have any specific advantage. I can see great advantages for the use of blogging for a class (greater communication, collaboration, sharing). A limitation is that it is not for everybody – while students can participate by reading other’s posts, they may be unwilling to post themselves.

    Do you tell people you know offline that you’re a blogger? (e.g. your grandmother, your boss)
    All the time!

    Is there anything else you want to tell me about I haven’t asked?
    Nope – good luck with the research.

    I will also post my answers on my own blog.

    Saturday, June 02, 2012

    New iPad Keyboard

    iPad keyboard
    There are a lot of gadgets for the iPad and the first one I've bought is the IPAD-2 ALUMINUN BLUETOOTH KEYBOARD/ STAND/CARRY COVER. Now this is cool! It is a fully functional keyboard which effectively turns your iPad into a laptop - I am typing this post with it. It is also a cover which looks like the iPad reverse side - very strong and good looking too. It does make the iPad heavier when carrying both, but it is a reassuring strength. The keyboard is small - especially for big awkward fingers like mine, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. The biggest thing to get over is not having a mouse or touchpad - but the touch screen still works of course. Already I am getting used to typing and touching at the same time. 

    So whenever I need a laptop, I can turn my iPad into one. I think I will still use it mostly as a tablet, but when writing long items like this post, a keyboard is very useful - not to mention more space on the screen to see what I have written.

    I'd certainly recommend this gadget. I bought it on Amazon for 23 euro (just discovered that there is no euro symbol) and it was delivered within two days.