Friday, February 28, 2014

I asked my students if they would like to work for Google, almost all said "Yes!" - my response? "Make it happen!"

Google offices in Milan.
Image source: Zeospot.
Yesterday in class we were discussing interaction type jobs in which "talking, e-mailing, presenting, or persuading other people is the primary value-adding activity" (Laudon and Laudon, 2013). We discussed how Ireland has become a centre in Europe for this type of work, with many high tech companies like Google, eBay, PayPal, Linkedin, and Facebook setting up offices in Dublin. Most students said they would like to work for Google and I rather pompously said in response to "Make it happen". Coincidentally, I read an interview in the New York Times: "How to Get a Job at Google" in which Laszlo Bock (Senior VP of People Operations for Google) said first "Good grades certainly don't hurt", and then listed five hiring attributes they have across the company.

The first attribute is the most important one for me:
  1. For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they're predictive".

    The others are:
  2. Leadership
  3. Humility and ownership
  4. Argue like hell
  5. Learn from mistakes
Read the full article which makes for very interesting reading. The article ends with a shot at Colleges: "Too many colleges, he added, “don't deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don't learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Launch of the Wild Atlantic Way

Today the Minister for tourism Michael Ring formally launched the Wild Atlantic Way. This project is funded to the tune of €10 million by Fáilte Ireland, and it is claimed to be the longest defined driving route in the world. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have travelled and blogged about my great experiences on the WAW. 

My new book "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" is well on the way to publication. It should be available in May - we are planning a lunch for this too! Stay tuned for more news on this!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jack Kavanagh Gala Ball

Last evening Roma and I went to the Jack Kavanagh Gala Ball in the DT Hilton Hotel (formerly the Burlington Hotel) - it was a fund raiser to give Jack a helping hand in his bid to qualify as a Pharmacist in Trinity College. Many people from the pharmacy community in Ireland were present in the crowd of over 650 people. Jack, who is just 21, spoke at the event before dinner and a more focussed, refined, and inspiring young man you will go a long way to find.

Image source: Jack Kavanagh Trust.

Good luck to him - his motto is "YOLO"!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Storm Damage and Repair in Ballingate

The recent storms have caused a lot of damage to the O'Loughlin family farm in Ballingate. My Dad described the storm as "terrifying". Below I've put a photos together to show the scale of the damage. Particularly sad for us is the disruption at the white gate to the front avenue, and the main tree in the front garden being felled. This tree was a favourite place for us to play as kids, but no more play for future generations of O'Loughlins in this tree. It will be sawed up for firewood.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

50,000 miles of riding on my @HarleyDavidson #FLSTC #Magic

Yesterday my motorcycle passed the 50,000 miles (that's 80,467 kilometres) and I had to stop to record the moment. I bought the bike in January 2003, so this represents a modest 4,600 (approx) miles per year. I mostly use the bike to ride in and out from work (14 miles per day), but I have also had some memorable longer trips:

- The Wild Atlantic Way
- Dublin to Almancil (Portugal)
- Dublin to Murcia (Spain)
- Dublin to Sigean (France)

I'm hoping to holiday in northern Germany and ride on to Denmark and Sweden this coming summer. Here's to the next 50,000 miles, which at the same rate as the first 50,000 will occur in 2024 when I'm 64!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Year of Code - What a Great Idea! via @ukcoding #WhyCantWeDoThis

In the UK there is a great innovation in getting kids in school to learn how to code. Year of Code is an independent, non-profit campaign to encourage people across the UK to get coding for the first time in 2014. 

Why can't we do this in Ireland? There's nothing stopping us! I know there are some excellent initiatives here such as Coderdojo, but not a national effort to get everybody coding. Learning a computer programming language is an important skill, and is arguably (for some) more important than learning a second or third spoken language. Some day it will be part of our secondary school curriculum, but in these difficult economic times it will be difficult to implement. Perhaps we could start in Transition Year (some schools probably do this already)? 

Where there's a will, there's a way. Imagine the entrepreneurs of the future learning coding skills now!

Monday, February 17, 2014

10 Major Technology Trends in Education -- via THE Journal

Chris Riedel writing for The Journal lists 10 Major Technology Trends in Education based on a "400,000 surveys from 9,000 schools and 2,700 districts" across the United States. The 10 trends are:
  1. Personal Access to Mobile Devices
  2. Internet Connectivity
  3. Use of Video for Classwork and Homework
  4. Mobile Devices for Schoolwork
  5. Using Different Tools for Different Tasks
  6. Paying Attention to the Digital Footprint
  7. An increased Interest in Online Learning
  8. Gaming is Growing, and the Gender Gap is Closed
  9. Social Media in Schools
  10. What Devices Belong in 'The Ultimate School?'
No surprise in some of these - two of the above interest me greatly. #3 is about video and the article notes that "46 percent of teachers are using video in in the classroom", and that "One-third of students are accessing video online — through their own initiative — to help with their homework". This is called the “Khan Academy effect”. Interestingly "23 percent of students are accessing video created by their teachers". I'd love to know what the figures are in Ireland, but I'm guessing that we cannot be that much different from the US.

The final item above (#10 - What Devices Belong in 'The Ultimate School?') tells us in the survey that "Fifty-six percent of students said laptops were most important; 51 percent chose digital readers; and 48 percent selected tablets", but more importantly that "62 percent of students want to bring their own devices". The era of BYOD is upon us and at the very least I would love to see all students at third and second level being equipped with a tablet computer for reading textbooks, taking and reading notes, and for research purposes. And of course that these devices are supported by the schools/colleges.

The full article is well worth a read to keep up with the latest thoughts and issues with technology in education.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Review: Sarah Millican at The Olympia

Last evening Roma and I went along to see comedienne Sarah Millican at the Olympia Theatre. I have seen her stand-up comedy routines many times on TV and she is a great guest to have on the talk shows. The tickets were a Christmas 2012 present from my daughters - this must be one of the best Christmas presents I've ever got because I laughed so much along with a packed audience.

She takes the piss out of herself in a very relaxed, but hilarious way. She joked a lot about her weight, her "fella", her "down there", vibrators, "poo", in a show with a lot of toilet humour and sexual innuendo. Oh - and there's a lot of bad language too, her recorded TV stand up shows are probably performed in front of audiences where she has to tone down the language a bit. This was one of the best night's out for a long time - I'll be sure to catch her show the next time her tour brings her to Dublin.

Image source:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sir Tom Finney - Preston North End Legend #RIPSirTom

News last evening that Preston North End football legend Sir Tom Finney has died at the age of 91 will sadden all people associated with football all over the world, especially football fans in England. Being a fan of Preston North End since the early 1970s (I was a big fan of fellow goalkeeper Alan Kelly), everyone I talked to about PNE always asked about Sir Tom.

Image source: The Mail On-line.
Tom Finney played for only one club - Preston North End, and for his country, England. He was the first man to win the Footballer of the Year title twice, and of course contributed to the breaking of Irish hearts when his late cross was headed into the Irish net by John Atyeo during qualification for the 1958 World Cup (see report on this in the Irish Examiner).

I have been to Deepdale in Preston several times to see PNE play and I have sat in the main stand named in his honour, two other stands are named in honour of Bill Shankly and Alan Kelly. The club shop features many items remembering him, not since the early 1960s has the club had any player approaching his class. Tomorrow I will wear my PNE jersey to salute Sir Tom Finney - a football great.

At the Sir Tom Finney Splash Memorial
for the PNE vs Wolves game 11-FEB-2007

Friday, February 14, 2014

Colleges embrace new world of social media via @pittsburghpg

Social media has rapidly come to be part of our lives - words like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin now have a media currency in the way newspapers and television had in the past. Bill Schackner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an article Colleges embrace new world of social media, writes that campus life is changing due to social-media becoming more and more part of everyday student activity.

Image source:
European Institute of Communications.
I welcome developments like this, though many people have concerns about privacy, data protection, and misuse of social media for things like bullying. Schackner writes that one College has 31 big screen TVs, more than a dozen of which carry social media - Wow! The social media screens carry messages about simple things like Be careful if you're on the roads and get enough sleep before exams. One College official states that It's empowering when students see their own posts, tweets, or photos show up on the campus screens.

There can be too much of social media in our lives - it can be hard to keep up with the myriad of different platforms. But one thing we can be assured of is that the current younger generation are well able to handle all the different social media tools and it is they who will drive future development in this area.

I would like to see Irish Colleges engage more with their students via social media. There are Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to follow, but so far not too much evidence of joined up thinking. There is a real opportunity to use these tools for a better and more involved experience at College. But I feel it is up to the students to demand and drive social media usage for education while our Colleges are trying to figure out the best way to use and develop the right tools.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Electronic devices are safe to use during take-off and landing after all! #LessToBeGrumpyAbout

Ryanair have recently announced that passengers will now be able to access electronic devices during take-off and landing on its flights, after years of insisting that devices be switched off for safety reasons. While devices such as smartphones and tablets will still have to be in flight mode, passengers can now have a few precious extra minutes to play Solitaire, read a book, or listen to music. No doubt that Ryanair have stolen a march on their rivals with this relaxation of their rules, hoping of course that this will get them extra passengers.

Thank you Ryanair!
Image Source: Wikipedia.
So for every flight I've been on over the past 15 years or so, I am one (it seems to me) of the few people who did not immediately switch on their phone once the plane had landed. I'm OK with waiting a few more minutes until I get inside the terminal building - just like we are always asked to do. The sound of text messages and phones being switched on inside the aircraft annoys me while loads of passengers flout the regulations. Also seeing fellow passengers continuing to use computers and tablets well after the Captain has announced that they should be switched off is a constant irritant - were the regulations just for me?

This type of thing is probably more irritating (for this grumpy old man) as those who have always ignored the rules win, and I feel like an idiot for obeying all the rules. What next, feel free to use the bathroom during take-off and landing?

Anyway - I think this move is to be welcomed, it does seem a little silly that someone has to stop reading a Kindle or using an iPad if they do not interfere with the operation of the flight. Soon everybody will be doing it!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Reaction to my article

I'm pleased with the reaction to my article last Friday in on The Ryanair and Google Partnership – what’s in it for us? In just under a week it got well over 13,000 views which compares well other recent Opinion articles. Not too many shares or tweets, but a good few comments which (thankfully) were not negative to the article. This was my first article for an in-line journal - hope I get asked again!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Comment: As Data Proliferate, So Do Data-Related Graduate Programs (via @chronicle) #Analytics

Megan O’Neil, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, tells us that As Data Proliferate, So Do Data-Related Graduate Programs. She reports that the University of Texas at Austin has recently experienced "52 students selected from more than 400 applicants" and "One-year revenue from the self-funded program is projected to total about $1.7-million". This surely must set the pulses racing of every Financial Controller in every third-level College - soon, most Colleges will have courses on "Big Data".

Image source: Marketing Darwinism.
At the National College of Ireland we are currently running a Higher Diploma in Data Analytics with over 100 students. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is funding many courses in ICT skills, including data analytics, through the ICTSkills and Springboard initiatives. Clearly, the powers-that-be agree with the likes of Forfás that there is a major ICT skills shortage and are prepared to front up the money to pay for the courses. Industry people are telling us that data analytics skills are in short supply, and that in particular data-savvy managers is where growth in jobs is foreseen.

If you are interested in applying to the National College of Ireland to study data analytics, there are two options open for our next course starting in March:

Springboard (you need to be on Job Seekers Allowance to apply) - go to Springboard Courses

ICT Skills (open to both employed and unemployed) - go to

Monday, February 03, 2014

Getting Rid of my Tag Cloud

Today I have removed the Tag Cloud from this blog. I never really found it that useful, preferring instead to use the Search tool to find content or to refer to older posts. It was also sometimes awkward to know what tag to put on a post, and I also found that "YouTube" and "Education" were dominating the tags. 

So the tag cloud is no more - and I have to confess that I rarely used it. I see them featured on other blogs and they may be useful where there is less variety of topics than I have. You can see from the image to the left of my last tag cloud that my tags ranged from "Shoes", to the "Pope", and to "Choir". 

Another reason for getting rid of the tag cloud is to free up some space on my home page. Hopefully this will soon be occupied with an ad display for my new book "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way".

Sunday, February 02, 2014

My @YouTube #Analytics almost back to normal

Since becoming addicted to data analytics, especially data from YouTube, I have been fascinated how predictable data patterns can be and what patterns are revealed over time. Below is a screen shot of views data from my YouTube Channel from 1st January 2010 to 31st December 2013:

The arrows point out the dramatic fall in numbers of views over the Christmas and New Year holiday period every year. While the overall trend is upwards, you can also see a slight fall off in views each summer followed by sharp increases in the autumn. Another noticeable trend is that the height of the wave-like trend is getting bigger as weekend views are not increasing at the same rate as mid-week views. 

Taking a closer look at the Christmas and New Year holiday period is also interesting - below are the views data from 1st December 2013 to 31st January 2014:

Early in this period on 3rd December there were 11,761 views (a daily record for the channel), but you can see a steady fall in views towards Christmas. I was fascinated to see that 2,189 people viewed my videos on Christmas Day. It is not until the beginning of January 2014 that the views figure start to climb again. If previous years' data are to be repeated, the daily views will not recover to the early December 2013 numbers until March this year, but then continue to grow until the annual summer decline.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Musicals in the 1970s #nostalgia #CCR

Courtesy of one of my Cistercian College Roscrea class of 1977 colleagues (thanks Pat C.), here are a few photos of musicals that I participated in at school. I had not seen these photos before, and it was nice to be reminded of a time long ago when I actually got on stage in my short-lived musical career.

Lilac Time (1973): Isn't "she" lovely? Second from right in front row
Lilac Time (1973): I'm the middle one of the three "girls" on the left.

My Fair Lady (1975): I'm at the front left of group of "servants" on right.

My Fair Lady (1976): Dancing centre stage!

My Fair Lady (1976): The Ascot Races scene, I'm just to the right of the "window" on the left side of stage.