Saturday, June 29, 2013

North Kerry #100corners

On my first day of summer holidays I revisited North Kerry a year after riding through that part of the Kingdom in very heavy rain. I was touring Kerry as part of my 100 Corners of Ireland trip and had completed some fantastic tours around the Dingle Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, and the Sheep's Head Peninsula - all in good weather. But when I reached Fenit near Tralee, the heavens opened and I got soaked. In particular I remember looking up at the statue of St Brendan at the end of Fenit Harbour pier, and feeling pretty miserable with myself. The following is a description of this experience from my first draft of my book about my trip, which I have since deleted:

It's interesting how the anatomy of getting wet on a motorcycle works. It starts at the neck, where the water runs down from my helmet. I wear an open face helmet, but despite having a pull-down visor I was still getting a lot of rain being splashed on my face, and my visor was fogging up on the inside all the time. I constantly have to wipe both the inside and outside of the visor to see the road ahead. Inside my over-suit my shirt absorbs the water running down my face and neck, and makes my shoulders and upper body very wet. My leather gloves slowly absorb water and when they are saturated the water starts to flow inside my sleeves and up my arms despite the elastic grips at my wrists. Water slowly moves up my sleeves to meet the stream coming down from my shoulders. But the wettest part of my body was my middle and I did not understand how this could happen in a neck to ankle one piece suit. Later I was to discover that there were two small holes in the crotch of my suit, which despite their small size, seemed to be big enough to admit the Lakes of Killarney into a most uncomfortable area. This wetness spread upwards to meet the water moving down from my neck and shoulders, and downwards towards my knees. Water slowly moved down my legs to my knees, but at least my feet were still dry. I was like a sponge riding through North Kerry soaking up all the water from the road. This sucked, and I reached a low for the first time on this trip. Since I could not get any wetter, I rather foolishly and stubbornly decided to keep going. I slowed my speed down to 40 kph and even slower in places. I would pass many wonderful locations and interesting sites without stopping. I even skipped lunch. This wasn’t touring, instead I was saying to myself “I’m a motorcyclist, get me out of here!”
Below are some photos from a better day this year:
At Fenit with St Brendan, no rain today!

The view from Fenit Pier towards Mt Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula.

Inside the ruins of Ardfert Cathedral.

Tea, pie, and a history lesson from Ron Elston at the Glandore Gate bookshop and tea room in Ardfert.

At the Roger Casement memorial near Banna Beach.

I always took the coast road!

I bet Bill Clinton would rather be driving a Harley! (in Ballybunion).

At the wonderful Carrigafoyle Castle near Tarbert.

At the Tarbert-Killimer ferry.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Willkommen in der Deutschen #anglo

I'd like to welcome the almost 20,000 Germans who have viewed this blog over the past few days. Since Wednesday, the normal number of daily views of around 400-500 has shot up. Wednesday is also the day the Anglo Irish Bank tapes scandal broke, so I'm sure it is not a coincidence in that suddenly Germans found my blog interesting? The graph shows the sudden peak, but Google Analytics does not yet show what individual posts the Germans are viewing.
Below are the top ten page views by country, Germany almost never features in this list, and normally the US and Ireland are at the top. I do not blog about the feckin' banks, but I have mentioned former Taoiseach Brian Cowan in a few posts when remembering our school days in Roscrea - the first of these posts was Who's that beside Eugene O'Loughlin?

No matter - whatever you are reading, all Germans are welcome here!

(Blog post title translated from "Welcome to the Germans" using Google Translate)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How tough is it to spell things right?

I noticed in my email that the ad that runs across the top of the email list had a typo - clearly the advertiser does not know how to spell "receive". It's a common spelling mistake to write it as "recieve". I was taught in school the rule "i before e except after c" - while not universally true, it does help in remembering how to spell this word. Surely something as important as an advertisement would be worth checking for spelling? One quick way to turn off potential buyers is to get something simple like spelling wrong. My own attitude is - if you can't get this right, what else is wrong with your product or service?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Presenting at the DIT e-Learning Summer School #elss13 @YouTube #analytics

Today I had the pleasure of speaking to people attending the annual Summer School on e-Learning at DIT Aungier St. The topic for my talk was "Learning analytics and YouTube: What to watch and who to follow", and I shared my own experiences and learning analytics from my YouTube Channel. 

Getting ready.
Photo by @IClaudiad.
I discussed YouTube EDU and what I use my channel for. I also covered the motivation for using YouTube and how Google are making inroads into the managed on-line course space to challenge the likes of Coursera and Edx. I encouraged the audience to investigate some of the fantastic content (I used Prof Michael Sandel's super "Justice" course as an example).

I then moved on to the analytics provided by Google for my channel. I spent a good bit of time showing the cycles that views go through over the lifetime of the channel and talked a bit about audience retention. I then concentrated on the last 365 days showing weekly cycles and where the best and worst times of the year are for the number of views. I also showed a map of the world and the number of views from different countries. We had some discussion on the gender breakdown by country, the traffic sources, and the types of device that viewers are watching my videos from. The next set of analytics was about the demographics, and my audience were interested to find out that the highest proportion of viewers were middle aged American men! I also covered engagement reports (likes, dislikes, shares, etc) and briefly mentioned comments and the email traffic that I get from the channel. The last part of my talk was about Earnings - people were fascinated that such a simple channel can earn some money. I'm sure that many will be motivated to go down the same path.

@topgold getting ready for #elss13
After coffee I attended a talk on Reflective Audio Journaling by Bernie Goldbach (@topgold) of Limerick IT. As always, Bernie was very informative and entertaining. He showed the power of using audio with a simple tool called Audioboo and how it can capture the voices of students for reflective learning. He also demonstrated how easy Audioboo is to use and also how it can help people who are visually impaired. This was shown to us by Nadine who is visually impaired and made her first Boo on her iPhone only minutes after downloading it from the App Store. Bernie also played some examples of how other people use podcasting for capturing all sorts of sounds - these ranged from birds singing to a bus driver capturing kids' voices.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Now it works, now it doesn't #version=3

I've started to get more emails from comments on my YouTube channel about my How To... Embed a YouTube video into a PowerPoint 2013 Presentation. Suddenly the embed code I describe using is no longer working. Here's an example of embed code (from my own video):

Previously, you had to delete the twos instances of "version=3" highlighted about.  Then this stopped working.  Then thanks to on-line forums, I discovered that changing the "3" to a "2" worked. Today this no longer works. I don't see any change in the embed code that might cause this not to work. Microsoft can only display what works, so that leaves Adobe and Shockwave as likely culprits. Why do they do this?

If anyone has a fix for this, please let me know.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thank You to 5,000 @Youtube subscribers!!!

Over the weekend, my YouTube Channel, Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin, passed the 5,000 subscriber mark. Every day, YouTube sends me emails letting me know that a new user has subscribed to the channel - today so far there have been 10 new subscriptions. Thanks SOOOOOO much to all subscribers!!!

Image Source: YouTube downloads.
The first subscription was on 28th September, 2009 - people from all over the world are tuning in. Once again I am humbled and delighted that so many people find my videos useful and want to learn more. I had hoped to be able to create some new videos over the supposedly quiet period after the exams at NCI, but a persistent cough and itchy throat that I've only now started to get over after three weeks put paid to that. 

YouTube currently seem to be making a lot of changes to their education services. Today I note new categories to YouTube EDU for Social Sciences, History, Humanities, Law, Education, Arts, and Medicine. Clearly YouTube are making a big play for the education space, especially the MOOCs domain. More and more people are now using YouTube as a platform of choice for running courses. Coursera and Edx watch out!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A new T-shirt, and a tribute to Pink Floyd

Last October I re-named this blog from the rather boring title of "Eugene's Blog" to the much cooler "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" after the song of the same title by Pink Floyd. Eight months later I love using this title - so far, Pink Floyd's lawyers have not been in contact with me! 

When I came across the really cool Redbubble website, I spotted that they had a CWTAE t-shirt by the artist  ssan, so I couldn't resist ordering it. While I feel a little egotistic doing this, I still like the t-shirt. I forced my daughter Vicki to take a photo of me with my trusty axe.

I haven't got the dreaded letter from customs yet to tell me I owe someone money for buying from America - it will be interesting to see what they charge for a t-shirt that cost $21. Redbubble don't like this either, and even  ask for a picture of the paid receipt to send to them. Not sure what they will do with it, but I might join in when I get the payment demand from Customs.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Master These 15 Simple Skills - via @DaveKerpen

Dave Kerpen offers advice to recent graduates to master 15 simple skills - I can't resist quoting French President Georges Clemenceau who is reputed to have said "Le bon Dieu n'avait que dix!" (The good Lord only had ten!) in response to US President Woodrow Wilson's 14-point plan in 1918. Kerpen's full article is on Linkedin here, and I've embedded his Slideshare presentation below.

Kerpen's "15 simple skills" are as follows:
  1. Pursue your passions
  2. Learn how to use the phone to talk
  3. Value every minute
  4. Be afraid, then take risks anyway
  5. Take care of yourself
  6. Work on your listening skills
  7. Reinvent yourself
  8. Read
  9. Write
  10. Avoid sensational TV news
  11. Vote
  12. Love. Hard
  13. Form a personal board of advisors
  14. Show your friendship first
  15. Be honest and transparent.

I won't repeat here what Kerpen has written, all his points are worth reading and I feel are excellent advice for new graduates. Many are life skills, but all can be applied to developing a career. In 1983 when I graduated from Trinity with a BA degree I had no real idea of what I wanted to do, I wish I had got advice like this. My favourite ones from the list above are "Pursue your passions" and " Write". Like Kerpen, I have found that when you pursue your passions, "things tend to work out". In advocating that people should write, he doesn't mean you have to become a published author, but doing something like blogging "sharpens your thinking skills, and you'll be taken more seriously at any job".

Monday, June 17, 2013

QuinnSpeak - "the ‘seduction’ of technology in education"

The Minister for Education, in a speech at a conference in Dublin Castle, warns us all against the dangers of providing the latest hardware to schools. He tells us that putting your "educational taxpayers’ money on short-term hardware is not the road to go" and that we are “in the midst of a new electronic Gutenberg moment". In his school-master voice he preaches that we have to "separate very clearly the difference between the seduction of modern technology which is a phenomenon of short duration and the necessity of European education which goes right back to the Acropolis and Socrates". Quite a strong message from someone who claims to be a modern reforming minister!

Minister for Education, Ruari Quinn,
needs to come out of the dark ages?
Image source:
All of this is QuinnSpeak for "we are not buying iPads for schools"! I am puzzled as to why he has an objection to "short-term hardware". Isn't all hardware "short-term"? How many years can you get out of a computer? 3-4 max in a school environment I'd say. In mentioning the Acropolis and Socrates he is showing his true colours - does he think that we can teach and learn without any technology more advanced than chalk and blackboard?

There are hundreds and thousands of people working in the education sector at all levels in Ireland, many of whom are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in education on their own initiative using whatever technology is available. We are not stupid - we know that money is tight and that budgets for technology are going to be squeezed. Minister Quinn uses the word "seduction" - I agree, technology is seductive, but so is anything that enhances the learning and teaching experience. "Seduction" implies tempting, luring, or leading people astray - I do not think this is what technology in education does, sorry to disagree Minister!

(Quotes above taken from on-line edition of The Irish Times article "Quinn warns against ‘seduction’ of technology in education" by Judith Crosbie).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

Thanks to Kate and Vicki.
baking goddesses!
Today is Father's Day and my daughter's treated me to a brilliant breakfast of French toast, bacon, and delicious real Canadian maple syrup. Best of all though is the fantastic cake that they baked last evening (when I was barred from the kitchen) which features The Beatles, who always were and always will be my favourite band. It will be a pity to cut this cake up, or to decide which Beatle to eat first, but afternoon tea today will have a distinct Fab Four flavour (I'm listening to Abbey Road as I write this post). 

My Dad Joe in the mid 1950s,
before he became a dad.
I called my own Dad (Joe) this morning to wish him a Happy Father's Day. At 82 years of age he is in great form and looking forward to visiting his niece for Sunday lunch. I noticed people on Twitter fondly remembering their own Dads who have passed away. When I see this I always thank the good Lord that I still have my own Dad to talk to. Long life and health to you Dad!

I also remember today the other "Fathers" in my life: my Grandfathers PJ O'Loughlin and Paddy Byrne. Both died when I was young and though I have a few fond memories of each, I hardly knew them. I also remember my Father-in-Law Billy Bourke, a kind man who I did know well for all too short a time.

To Father's everywhere - enjoy the day!

Friday, June 14, 2013

How To... Create and Edit a Basic Table of Contents in Word 2010

Recently a student came to me close to the deadline for submission for an assignment. He was very worried that he would not be able to make his submission before the 5 o'clock deadline and was worried about incurring a late submission penalty. The reason his assignment was not ready was that he could not create a Table of Contents (TOC), and he wanted me to show him how. I felt strongly that this was something that he could figure out for himself and that it was not my role to do this, even though I knew how easy it was to create a TOC. However, in the face of desperation I relented, and took less than five minutes to show him how to create a TOC for his assignment - which he did successfully.

The key to creating a TOC in Microsoft Word is knowing about Headings in the Styles Gallery. Once you've worked out how many and where you want the headings, Word does the rest and creates the TOC for you. Once created it is easy to modify, eg if you add a new heading, or change/delete an old one. Naturally I decided to make a video for my YouTube Channel to show how it is done, and here it is:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Feeling just a little safer on the road thanks to Pope Francis I @Pontifex, @harleydavidson

Here's a story, courtesy of the Irish Independent, that I like: 'Hell's Angel' motorbikes get papal blessing! Never mind the stereotyped headline reference to Hell's Angels - Pope Francis I "performed a "Blessing of the Motorbikes" for hundreds of Harley-Davidson owners who gathered at St Peter's Square to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the brand". I sure would have liked to have been one of the lucky bikers to get such a blessing from the main man himself. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company also presented the Pope with a leather jacket and two new bikes - no doubt he'll give these to charities. A superb job done by whoever in Harley-Davidson's Marketing Department arranged this event!

Pope Francis I is shown a leather jacket from Harley-Davidson Motor Company
Senior VP Mark Hans-Richer, at the Vatican.
Image source: Huffington Post.
The Harley-Davidson Motor Company likes anniversaries - my own bike, a Heritage Softail Classic (FLSTC) is a 100th anniversary model. This year they have special 110th anniversary models and five years ago they had 105th anniversary models. Does anyone else do this? They are milking anniversaries for every sale. I would not swap my 100th anniversary model for anything - 100 years is special, 105 and 110 are not. Maybe 125 years is OK?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

'Why Believing "Nothing to Hide" Leaves You Vulnerable' by danah boyd (@zephoria)

Recent news of what the National Security Agency (NSA) in America is up to is brought under the microscope by Danah Boyd who is a senior researcher at Microsoft. Her post on Linkedin Why Believing "Nothing to Hide" Leaves You Vulnerable really questions the balance between the right to privacy and national security.

We've long accepted the principle of Innocent-Until-Proven-Guilty, but this is changing with the advent of Big Data and Government's use of such data. Most people would favour a Government mining through suspected terrorists' email and on-line communications to foil a bomb plot or an assassination. In fact, when these things do occur, many in the media ask why was more not done to prevent such things happening?

But where do law-abiding citizens fit in, or as Boyd says if you "feel immune from state surveillance because they've done nothing wrong"? Like her, I count myself as a law-abiding citizen. But she writes "proving oneself to be innocent takes time, money, effort, and emotional grit". Earlier this year I posted about my experience with the Educational Building Society where I asked the question I am not a money launderer or a terrorist - why do I have to prove this to the EBS? Recently when my youngest daughter turned 18, her passport was not sufficient proof of her identity to get an Age Card - she needed TWO forms of identity!

Big Brother is watching you!
Image source: Mr. Geib.
Big Data can give us all many things that were not possible in the past, including increased security and protection from harm - after all, a Government's first duty is to protect its citizens. Boyd writes about how "data is used by our current government. It's used to create suspicion, not to confirm innocence". If we lived by the Utilitarian Principle that "the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of individuals" should be applied, then we have to accept Big Brother watching over us. Others will value individual privacy over all else - kind of like Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative: "If an action is not right for everyone to take, it is not right for anyone".

In her post, Boyd further explores our perceptions of other people, especially when we "generate suspicion of others who aren't like us". Doubt can be created because people are different. None of us will want our own privacy to be invaded, but many are OK if the privacy of others such as gangsters, terrorists, drug dealers, and perverts is invaded. However, we can't accept a society where "Spy on someone else" becomes the norm. Boyd carefully asks: "Is your perception of your safety worth the marginalization of other people who don't have your privilege?". This is a difficult question to answer.

We may get used to it - we are being monitored almost every minute of every day and generating vast amounts of data. Nobody is collecting this to stick it on a hard drive somewhere and then ignore it forever.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chris Hoadley's 3 laws of Education Technology @tophe

Professor Chris Hoadley of New York University sets out three simple laws of education technology (as reported today by Jeff Dunn in edudemic)...

  • Law #1: It’s not the technology. It’s what you do with it
  • Law #2: It’s not what the technology makes possible. It’s what technology makes easy
  • Law #3: Pay attention to the trends in learning, not in technology.
...which is basically saying that it is not about the technology. Dunn writes about technology that if "you’re not learning, growing, or enhancing your life, then put that tech down and move on!". In the presentation below (code embedded from edudemic), Hoadley compares the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of hardware and software in business as being accepted at about 25% with education. The rest is all intangible assets such as human capital, and training. The same applies in schools according to Hoadley, implying that technology is still just a small part of the TCO of education. He also takes a look at "Societal Changes" and their meaning for education. The slideshow is 17 minutes long, but it is worth listening to what Professor Hoadley has to say:

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Summer in Dublin

Irish people are experts at weather - we know the four seasons: Autumn, Winter, Spring, and a Sunday! Today (an actual Sunday) was one of the few glorious weather days in Dublin over the past few years, and Roma and I decided we needed a walk by the sea. The radio news warned us about heavy traffic in Dún Laoghaire, so we decided to walk along the South Wall in Dublin Port.

Dublin in summer is lovely, just like every other city in the world. The difference for us is that we rarely get good weather combined with a weekend. The South Wall was full of people out for a walk, and there were plenty of fishermen trying their luck - but we saw no fish.

On our way back we witnessed a Stena Line Dublin-Holyhead ferry entering Dublin Port. There is a curious effect when this ship, and I'm many others of similar size, enter the port. The ship slowly travels between the North and South Walls, but a Tsunami-like effect can be witnessed as the ship passes by. I shot the video below with my iPhone today to show what I mean. The effect of the waves washing up at the pier gives an idea on how a tsunami like wave can be generated in a very small space of time - very powerful.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Ireland down the Mighty Faroes with #Keano magic

Last evening I went to see the Ireland vs Faroe Islands World Cup qualifier match. Normally this would not be an attractive fixture to attend, 'cos the Faroe's are shite at football. But I thought it would be nice to see Ireland win a match for a change. A fine evening got off to a good start with a goal in 5 minutes by Robbie Keane (in his 126th game for Ireland) - Wes Hoolahan, who was pulling the strings all evening at midfield, set up the goal. Hoolahan and Keane were the stand out players for Ireland in a game where they never really had to get out of 2nd gear to win against a poor Faroe side. Best performance for the Faroes was by a fan behind me who kept shooting "Fi Yar" every time they got the ball - I'm a sure it is Danish for Faroe Islands. This won't be enough to get Ireland to Brazil for the World Cup finals next year, but nevertheless it was enjoyable to see a win.

I have been attending Ireland matches for over 30 years, and this is the first time I had seen an Irish player score a hat-trick. Robbie Keane is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Irish football fans - it may be many generations before we see his record of 59 goals for Ireland bettered by another Irish player. Only the legendary Ferenc Puskás and Sándor Kocsis of Hungary, and Gerd Müller and Miroslav Klose of Germany have scored more international goals for a European country than Keano. And he is still playing! Magic!

Robbie Keane (#10) celebrates a hat-trick!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Why a simple experiment like "The Pitch Drop Experiment" is important today

The School of Mathematics and Physics in the University of Queensland has been running an experiment since 1927 that shows that some materials behave differently from what we expect. The Pitch drop Experiment was set up by Professor Thomas Parnell to show that what appears to be a solid, pitch, is actually a liquid at room temperature. In 1927 Professor Parnell heated a sample of pitch and poured it into a glass funnel with a sealed stem. Three years were allowed for the pitch to settle, and in 1930 the sealed stem was cut. From that date on the pitch has slowly dripped out of the funnel - so slowly that now, 83 years later, the ninth drop is only just fully formed (University of Queensland, 2013). 

No one has seen any of the previous eight drops fall, so there is a webcam on the experiment to capture the next imminent fall of a drop of pitch. Pitch shatters into small pieces if you hit a  block of it with a hammer. Nevertheless, it is a liquid but is about 100,000,000,000,000 times more viscous than water! Check out the video below with the current custodian of the Pitch Drop Experiment, Professor John Mainstone:

So - why do I think this is important today?

Science disciplines of every branch, including computer science, need to attract more young people to study. To want to study science, you need to have a curious mind, and experiments like the Pitch Drop are just what is needed to instill curiosity into young minds. Hopefully they can look at this and ask: Why is this experiment running so long? Why does pitch work like this? What is going on here? Who set this up? Will I see the drop fall?

So many questions, the foundation of curiosity, can be asked, which will make the curious mind want more. Thanks to technology, anyone in the world can view and find out about experiments like this - we need more iconic experiments to keep up the interest, and curiosity.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Course Builder for @YouTube - Google Steps Up Educational Offerings

At the recent EdTech 2013 Conference in UCC, one of the keynote speakers Ross Mahon (@roscomahon) of Google, told us about Course Builder which is still at the experimental stage, but the tool is available (here) for early adopters.

According to the Course Builder website, it "contains software and instructions for presenting your course material, which can include lessons, student activities, and assessments. It also contains instructions for using other Google products to create a course community and to evaluate the effectiveness of your course. Some basic technical skills with HTML, Python, and JavaScript are recommended to get started.

Course Builder is Google's attempt to provide a platform for building on-line courses "whether they're for 10 students or 100,000 students" ranging from full University courses to short "How To..." videos. They are a little late into this space following the success of Udemy, Udacity, Coursera, and EdX. But I've no doubt that Google will make a success of this mainly because of all the content that they already have on YouTube EDU. Check out the video below from Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google, who introduces Course Builder: