Monday, September 29, 2014

The Technology in the Classroom Dilemma

A couple of years ago I decided to no longer ask students to turn off laptops or to put down screens in computer labs. I also don't insist on mobile phones and tablets being switched off - only that they be put on silent. My attitude nowadays is that the computer is a learning tool that can add value to a class for a student. I have no objection to a student looking up a term or word that they don't understand, or downloading the course notes and adding extra notes to them. I do appreciate that this policy can and is abused - who can resist checking Facebook for a few minutes in the middle of a boring lecture?

Image Source:
There is evidence that students can easily be distracted by the screens of others - I see this all the time in my own classes. Today I read a short article "What is a more effective way of taking notes - laptop or notepad?" which cites a study where students taking notes by hand performed better than those who used laptops to take notes. Professor Clay Shirky of New York University recently decided to ban technology in the class (read about this here) mostly due to the "rising level of distraction" and that "multi-tasking is bad for the quality of cognitive work, and is especially punishing of the kind of cognitive work we ask of college students". Interestingly Shirky writes that anyone "distracted in class doesn't just lose out on the content of the discussion but creates a sense of permission that opting out is OK, and, worse, a haze of second-hand distraction for their peers" - I agree. Students can make up their own minds what they do with their own time, but they should be conscious that they might be distracting others.

For now I will continue to allow students to use technology in the classroom, with the proviso that they do so without distracting others. I do not want students spending time on Facebook or Twitter, or checking email, or watching cuddly cat videos - I am trusting them not to do so.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Great Grand Aunt Julia O'Loughlin

Just eight months before I was born my great-grandfather Joseph O'Loughlin's sister Julia died. She was 97 years old and was born in 1862. Strange to think that my life almost overlapped with someone born 152 years ago. Aunt Julia married a man called Cornelius Walsh, but they had no family. She lived in a place called Renasup on the Cork-Kerry border until about 4/5 years prior to her death when she moved to Tureenclassagh to the home of her nephew Timothy B. Murphy. The photo below was taken in the 1950s at Tureenclassagh, Knockragree, Co Cork.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Can YouTube work better for Higher Education? @YouTube #HigherEd #WallOfLearning

Recently I read an interesting article by David Raths for Campus Technology on-line magazine "When YouTube Isn't Enough To Manage Your Campus Video Content". In the article Raths writes about two groups of New York State higher education institutions that have "outgrown YouTube" and that they "desperately need a video platform that can scale to large numbers of people across many locations; stream to many types of devices; allow faculty to create and manage their own video libraries; and share content across multiple schools". The use a combination of cloud computing and platforms like Ensemble. This got me thinking - could YouTube do a better job?

Image source: Tube Geeks.
YouTube is, as we know, great for short videos that anybody can produce with even the most basic software and hardware. It's value as an educational tool in unquestioned in my view - learners of all ages quite often go straight to YouTube to find out how to do stuff. My personal experience with YouTube tells me that students want it, educators need it, YouTube itself wants to be in this space. Many educators like me add content to YouTube to help their own students, and of course refer to the vast library of content that is available on YouTube. My sense is, however, that YouTube is not quite at the races (yet).

If you go to YouTube EDU Channels now there are only three (high level) channels listed: Primary & Secondary Education, University, and Life-long Learning. Even in the Life-Long Learning section there are only a few channels featured - this used to be over 100, and included my channel as well as other channels with varied content from learning languages to learning how to play the drums. I'm sure these are all located somewhere else, but I can't find them (except by searching). A few years ago it was clear that YouTube wanted to push into more education activities - this is still happening, but for me there is something missing. While the University section in YouTube EDU is quite good, my sense is that it is difficult to organise educational videos that have value into a structure that works for everyone. I could be wrong, but instead of expanding, YouTube have contracted. The videos are still there - they seem harder to find.

There is an opportunity for YouTube to create what I call a "Wall of Learning". Picture a wall made out of bricks, with each brick being a category or subject. This would be a very big wall. The "Wall" is big enough to cover all learning activities - no matter what they are. Content developers could post learning materials to each "brick" where it can be shared and rated. Where there are blank "bricks", ie no content yet - content developers can take a look and decide "I'll create a video for that". Even if there are multiple content developers for popular subjects, learners can choose which one to watch by number of views and ratings. It might take years, but eventually there could be a full Wall of Learning with YouTube the choice of location for all learners to find the content they need. Are you listening YouTube/Google?

Friday, September 19, 2014

The 6,000,000 Views Learning Channel @YouTube

Sometime this week, probably on Wednesday, my YouTube Channel - Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin, passed the six million views mark (YouTube can take up to 2 days to report figures). As before - I am both humbled and gratified that so many people are taking the time to view my videos. Since I reported on the 18th April last that the channel had hit the five million views mark, I had expected that the six million mark would be hit before the end of September. In the chart below you can see the pattern of views since I set up the channel on 5th November 2007:

It's interesting to note that the estimated watch minutes total 28 years and 170 days since 1st September 2012 (estimates not available before this) - that over half my lifetime! The channel is undergoing its usual increase in September following a drop in views over the summer. Curiously this year for the first time the rate of growth is lagging behind the previous year. Nevertheless, if trends continue I expect the 7,000,000 mark to be hit sometime in mid January 1015.

My heartfelt thanks go out to all my viewers for both viewing my videos, as well as sharing and commenting on them. Keep on learning!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Student's t-Test #statistics

Comparing means/averages between two samples is one on the commonest statistical tests - it is made a little difficult to understand in that there are several ways in which a comparison can be made depending on the type of data. This makes explaining and teaching this topic a little difficult. 

Over the past few days I have being creating and adding some new videos to my YouTube Channel, in preparation for the new semester, as study aids for my students. The two methods for comparing means with Student's t-Test are:
  1. t-Test for Independent (Unpaired) samples
  2. t-Test for Dependent (Paired) samples

For each of these methods there are different formulas, so I have created a video for each method to show how to manually calculate t, and extra videos to show to use Excel's Data Analysis Toolpak to do the same. These videos are:

Dependent (Paired) Samples:

Independent (Unpaired) Samples:

Next up - new videos doing the same using SPSS!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Alba gu bràth #indyref #Scotland

Whatever our dear Scottish friends decide tomorrow, I hope they know that the Irish people are behind our neighbours whatever decision the people of Scotland make tomorrow. This is the most momentous vote in these islands since the 1922 election in Ireland which saw approval for the Anglo-Irish Treaty that saw the creation of the Irish Free State. I do hope that Ireland will be the first country to recognise Scotland as a new country!

Image source: Wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How To... Calculate Student's t Statistic for Dependent (Paired) Samples using Data Analysis Toolpak in Excel 2010

Last week I published a new statistics video on YouTube on How To... Calculate Student's t Statistic for Dependent (Paired) Samples - the method showed how to do the calculation manually step-by-step. There is of course an easier way to do this - use the Data Analysis Toolpak add-in that comes with Excel. The video below shows how to do this. I used the same data as for the manual method and the result is the same regardless of which method you use.

Monday, September 15, 2014

10 Things Every College Lecturer Hates! (via @lisawade)

The new academic year starts today in the National College of Ireland - new and continuing students are getting lots of advice about everything. Here's some more advice from Dr Lisa Wade, via Business Insider, who writes about the 10 Things Every College Professor Hates. She checked with colleagues about their pet peeves and here is the list of "Don'ts" that she and her colleagues came up with:

Image source: Above The Law.
  1. Don’t use unprofessional correspondence
  2. Don’t ask the professor if you “missed anything important” during an absence
  3. Don’t pack up your things as the class is ending
  4. Don’t ask a question about the readings or assignments until checking the syllabus first
  5. Don’t get mad if you receive critical feedback
  6. Don’t grade grub.
  7. Don’t futz with paper formatting
  8. Don’t pad your introductions and conclusions with fluff
  9. Don’t misrepresent facts as opinions and opinions as facts
  10. Don’t be too cool for school

Check the article for more detail on each, but I particularly liked #2 and #10 from the list. I too get the "did I miss anything important" question, and wonder which parts of my classes are not important. I also get annoyed when students think that downloading the notes from Moodle is a good substitute for class. Most of my notes for each class can be read in a few minutes - yet I might spend over an hour talking about a short section. As for #10 - I get it, students are bored in my classes. I teach Business Analysis, Statistics, and Project Management  - not the most exciting subjects in the world, but we still have to get through them. I also get it that I am an old man compared to young students - at 54 years of age I am about 35 years older than most undergrads. Don't make the mistake that because I am "old" that I'm also stupid!

Friday, September 12, 2014

How To... Calculate Student's t Statistic for Dependent (Paired) Samples in Excel 2010

In preparing a new set of notes and resources for the Business Data Analysis module (Statistics) on two upcoming undergraduate and one postgraduate course I am creating a new set of videos to support student learning. One of the statistical methods covered is Student's t-test. Learners can sometimes find it awkward as there are two types of t-Test with differing names. We have the t Statistic for Dependent (Paired) Samples, and the t Statistic for Independent (Unpaired) Samples.

In the video below I use scores from a pre and post test to test the difference between the means (Salkind, 2014). My Null and Alternate Hypotheses are:

        H0: µpost-test =  µpre-test
                 H1post-test >  pre-test
The difference between the student's scores on the pre-test and on the post-test is the focus. Participants are being tested mor than once. There are two groups of scores. Therefore the appropriate test statistic is t-Test for dependent (paired) means (Salkind, 2014).

Salkind, N. (2014), Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics (5th Edition). SAGE Publications,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bicycle Punctures #fedup

This morning I got my third puncture in a week (one last Friday, one yesterday, and one today), and I am getting fed up. In the past two weeks I have purchased four new tubes and I'll be using the last one to repair today's puncture. I need a cheaper source of tubes and will be checking out Halfords this weekend.

I had this problem before! Back 1990, I had been working in CBT Systems in Mount Street and used to cycle from Rathfarnham to work on most days. I spent a lot of time repairing punctures in the cold - there were all caused by glass. I have always been facinated by the "Is this a record?" letters to the Editor of The Irish Times and decided to have a go myself. Much to my surprise the letter was accepted and published!

I kept a cut-out of the letter which was published by the Irish Times on 10th March 1990.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Wait Eight Seconds for Questions via @emasie

Several years ago I read in Elliott Masie's Learning TRENDS about a tip he was given to wait at least 8 seconds when you ask "Are there any questions?" when giving a presentation - especially in a learning environment.

Image source: 8 seconds.
Today, Elliott reminds us of this advice in his latest Learning TRENDS post "841 - Brain Science, 8 Seconds for Questions, Love Letters". I often mention this to my students - partly as advice to them, but also to explain why I sometimes actually wait that long when I ask "Are there any questions?", or sometime the better option "What are your questions?".

To quote directly from Elliott's post: 

Recently, I was interviewed by a magazine and asked about the best tip I ever received about learning. I recounted a tip from Dr. Roger Johnson from U of Minnesota back in 1977 when he said, “Wait at least 8 seconds after asking for questions from a group of learners - before you say anything else as an instructor!” Turns out, the average instructor asks, “Are there any questions?” and only waits about 3 seconds. It takes the audience a few more seconds to process your request, formulate questions in their minds, scan the room for other people’s responses and decide to actually ask. Count to 8 and you will see an amazing difference.

This advice still holds today. I've often noticed an initial reluctance to ask questions in a class - especially with younger students. If someone does - often what happens is that more questions come along once the ice is broken. Denying learners the opportunity to ask questions diminishes the learning experience. 

One of the best questions I was ever asked by a student was "What was that all about?" when I gave a short presentation on Six Sigma to Business Analysis students. I initially was taken aback by this, but quickly realised I had not done a good job of explaining this concept - so I took the opportunity to go back over it again and with the student's input hopefully did a better job the second time. Imagine if I had not offered (and given the time) the opportunity to ask questions? At least one student would have left the class not understanding a word I said.

So - give students time to think about what they want to ask.

Monday, September 08, 2014

New Book Project: "Exploring Northern Ireland’s Causeway and Coastal Routes: A Motorcycle Odyssey"

This evening I finally (and modestly!) decided that my trip in the summer around the Northern Ireland coastline should be written up in a new book. Unlike the Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way book, which was published by the Liffey Press, I am going to self-publish this book through Amazon's CreateSpace as an eBook. It will be possible to buy print copies, but an eBook will be the primary source of delivery. I feel that putting this message on my website will encourage me to get writing - it is now nearly eight weeks since I finished the trip. I think it will be a lot shorter than the WAW book (215 pages) - I'm aiming for about 175 pages with lots of photos, and to have it complete by early next year.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Slide Show for my Mum's 80th Birthday

During my Mum's birthday party last week I had a slide show running on our kitchen TV showing photos of her since she was a small girl. Like a lot of people born and raised before the digital age, there are not that many photographs of her - I probably have copies of most of them. I had good fun putting it together and it got a great reaction from relatives and friends who were at the party. Here it is as a slideshow on YouTube - there are 15 second delays on each slide.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Shocking Motorcycle Death Video #ThinkBike #SlowDown #DavidHolmes

The Irish Independent reports in an article "Video footage from helmet camera released by mother after son's fatal 97mph crash" about the death of biker David Holmes and his family's very brave decision to release the video of the crash that killed him. Judge for yourself what you think, he was riding at 97 mph (156 kph) and a car cut across his path.

Even though I have three headlamps on all the time, my bike is very big, I wear a high-viz jacket, and I do not speed like David Holmes - I am never confident at a junction that a driver can see me. I've had too many close ones to be anywhere near 100% confident. 


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

New Video: "How To... Calculate a z-Score in Excel 2010 "

The One-Sample Z-Test is one of the commonest and easiest of statistical test - it is mostly use to determine the accuracy of a sample when compared to a population (by comparing the means of each). The formula that is used is as follows:

Z = ( - µ)/(σ√N)


    x̄ is the mean of the sample
    µ is the mean of the population
    σ is the standard deviation of the population
    N is the number of measures in sample

If the population standard deviation (σ) is unknown, the sample standard deviation (s) can be used instead. Below in my latest video I outline how to do this test in Excel.