Sunday, May 24, 2015

Preston North End Promoted to the Championship!

Finally - a play-off success for PNE (tenth time lucky!) today with a 4-0 win over Swindon Town in the League One play-off final at Wembley. It has been a great season, but with a hiccup on the last day meaning the play-offs were the route to the Championship rather than automatic promotion. In truth it was a easy win for PNE despite Swindon dominating possession. The hero today was Jermaine Beckford with a hat-trick, and I'm sure that everyone in the City of Preston will celebrate today's win.

Image source: RIP.IE
While scoring a hat-trick at Wembley must be the stuff of dreams, the reality for Beckford and the rest of the PNE squad is that the Championship is a lot tougher and many of them will probably be discarded as new signings are brought in. Beckford has just been released by Bolton Wanderers! Money will talk, but Preston are not a big club and may well depend on loans again to stay up next year.

Finally, I hope there is Sky Sports in heaven as today would have been a great day for PNE's biggest fan in Ireland Joey McKeever who sadly died suddenly a month ago. He lived right across the green from me at Marian Park and he was passionate about PNE. Rest in Peace.

Here are the highlights...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

26th August, 1988 #EmptyNest

Once when I was young I had no children - it seems so long ago. Life was very different from what it has been over the past near 27 years. The last time Roma and I had no kids was 26th August, 1988 - the day before Claire was born. Little did we know that we would start a family with three wonderful girls that would be so central to our lives. With Claire in New York, and Vicki in Belfast (soon to go to USA for a year), we have been getting used to less people about the house. Today, Kate moved into her own apartment in Dublin City, and I helped her with the move. 

Very mixed emotions on a day like today. My heart is bursting with pride that our three girls are so independent and making their own way, but I miss them so much. Life goes on and I'm certainly not the first Dad to experience the "empty nest" syndrome. I have not lived with my own Mum and Dad since 1978, yet I still call their house "home". I know that I can walk into their house in Ballingate as if I was never away, and I hope our girls will always feel that they can do the same in Blackrock.

Love you girls!

OK Roma - let's party!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With Claire, Kate, and Vicki - Rosmindle. Co Mayo.

Monday, May 18, 2015

8,000,000 @YouTube Views Milestone #learning

Today my YouTube learning channel reported 8,003,215 views, it has taken almost four months for the last 1,000,000 views to to take place - with a bit of luck it will hit the magic 10,000,000 before the end of the year or early next year.

About this time last year the number of views on the channel was climbing rapidly - approximately doubling year-on-year. On March 3rd 2014 a new daily high view count of 11,944 occurred, but that record has not been broken since. While the seasonal pattern remains the same, growth over the past year has stagnated and for the last few weeks has been running lower than this time last year. Here is chart showing views since November 5th, 2007:

Monday, May 11, 2015

How To... Calculate Pooled Variance in Excel 2013

My YouTube Account Manager recommended that I do several things to improve my channel and get more views. One was to upload videos on a regular basis, and the other was to add custom thumbnails. 

My latest video is taken from one of my Statistics classes where Student's t-Test is used to compare the means of two samples. In unpaired (independent) t-Tests, if equal variance is assumed - the pooled variance of the two samples must be used in calculating the t statistic. My video below shows you how to do this manually in Excel.

For the second major recommendation, add custom thumbnails, I have created what you see below using PowerPoint and Snagit. I mock the graphic up on PowerPoint using my stock portrait image found in my videos, plus a title. I tried many variations on this, but keeping it simple works best for me. Apparently, thumbnails like this attract more viewers and adds a type of brand awareness to my channel.

Here is my latest video...

Friday, May 08, 2015

The Future of Higher Education - What Students Have to Say

Students at the University of New South Wales in Australia are interviewed to get their thoughts on what they think are the "future directions" for higher education. Technology is seen as playing a keen part in this with students seeking an increased role for video, recorded lectures, and more computers to help them in their learning. It's interesting to hear students in the video, who I'm guessing are in their late teens/early twenties and who grew up in the digital age, talk about what they would like to see in higher education. There seems to be some resistance to the traditional lecture, with many students seeing opportunities for more interactivity in class and more use of downloadable material supported with short YouTube videos. We should listen!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

NCI Guest Blog Post "A Day in the Life of a Lecturer"

Last week I wrote a guest blog post for the National College of Ireland Blog about a day in the life of a Lecturer, which was published yesterday. I chose the last Wednesday of Semester II to log my activities for the day - this was my longest and busiest day of the week. It was fairly typical of my work day - especially ones where I have classes. Sometimes I feel than when I have a class I don't get any work done! But then I remember that I am a Lecturer and should be spending time in class. I played down the amount of administration that I do - this is the boring part of the job that I don't like.

Here's the text of the blog post (Photo credit: Bonnie Cullen):

A Day In The Life of A College Lecturer

Regular readers of the NCI blog may recognise Dr Eugene O’Loughlin, NCI lecturer, author, Harley-Davidson enthusiast, blogger and YouTube content creator. Several years ago Eugene wrote this blog post about NCI’s first foray into blogging and we've finally taken him up on his suggestion!

It’s Wednesday during the final week of the Semester and a busy day lies ahead. As I teach an evening class on Wednesdays I normally do not come into the office until about 11:00am. This gives me some time at home to check personal email and I also write a blog post about the Open Plaques project in the UK that is trying to create a “Museum of the Street”, by recording on-line the commemorative plaques that we see on houses where famous people lived.

Soon it is off on my bike to the National College of Ireland and I arrive just in time for an 11:00 – 13:00 class. In this class the students, who work in groups, make their final project presentations. The presentations are excellent and I am very pleased with the work done. After this I have lunch at my desk and check my office email. There are 54 new emails today, many of which are newsletters and notifications that I subscribe to. I scan through the list for something interesting and note that the Journal of Education for Teaching has an interesting looking paper on “Reflection and Teacher Education”. In some of my classes I get students to complete reflective journals, so I read the abstract and make a note to read the full paper later. I have many emails to respond to from students, many of whom are now feeling the pressure as the semester ends and exams loom ahead.
After dealing with email I have an overdue task to complete which is to update reading lists for modules I will be teaching in the next academic year. I’m surprised at how long this takes. Most of the texts that I have been using over the past 2 – 3 years have new editions out, so the title, year, author, publisher, and ISBN for each text has to be updated. I use Amazon for all the details needed and return the revised reading list to the School Office.
Next I have a short meeting with a colleague to work on an abstract that we are submitting to a conference being held later in the year – the deadline for submission is this coming Friday, so we have no time to lose. Our paper is about Learning Analytics - we are researching ways of collecting data on educational videos and how these data can be interpreted. Following this I take a short mid-afternoon break where I take a walk up and down the quays by the Liffey. While I still have lots to do today, taking a break is important. Many of my students will remember me referring to ABBA (taking “a break between activities”, not the Swedish group!), and to Stephen Covey’s “Sharpen the Saw” story, to state the importance of taking breaks.
It is now 15:30 and I now concentrate on my evening classes for the rest of the day. My first class (17:00 – 18:00) is a tutorial for students who requested extra help in using SPSS and Excel for data analysis. As this is the last tutorial I plan to use so-called “big data”, so I download large files from the Central Statistics Office, Met √Čireann, and the World Bank. In our tutorial we look for links, trends, and patterns in the data. I run through all the statistical tests that I will cover and prepare some tasks for the students to complete in the tutorial. Following this I prepare for my 18:00 – 21:00 Statistics class. We have already covered almost all of the curriculum, so this evening’s class will begin with the final lab on making predictions with data using Simple Linear Regression. I already have this prepared, so I quickly go over my plan for the rest of the class where I will provide feedback on a previous Continuous Assessment test, and finish up with reviewing a past exam paper in preparation for the class’s upcoming final exam.
There is a good turnout for the tutorial and almost a full house for the evening class. All goes according to plan, though I get many questions from nervous students about the exam paper. When asked for some tips in the exam I hold up my folder of the course notes and say ”This is what you need” – not many students see the humour in this! I had hoped that as this was the last class of the semester that we could finish a little early, but going over the exam paper took longer than expected and we didn’t finish until 21:00.
It’s always with some sense of sadness that I leave the last class – being with this group of students for 12 weeks has been very enjoyable and gratifying. After class there are a few students with further questions and I don’t get to leave the College until about 21:30. I ride home to a late dinner and a catch-up on the evening's events in the Champions League. A long, but satisfying day.

Enjoy this post? Check out Eugene’s article with advice from a lecturer to his younger self, or read more about our computing courses at National College of Ireland. You can also follow Eugene on Twitter here! 

Monday, May 04, 2015

Belfast Weekend

After years of not visiting the second largest city in Ireland, I now feel like a regular visitor to Belfast. As it was my daughters' birthday weekend we made a break of it for the May weekend. We had a great meal in Howard Street Restaurant, delicious food and great atmosphere. On Sunday I visited the Ulster Museum and particularly enjoyed the exhibition of First World War posters. Today I bought a new jacket selected by my daughters! I also took the time out to visit Scrabo Tower near Newtownards and its wonderful views over Strangford Lough. Last summer I passed through Newtownards on my tour around Northern Ireland's coast, but only saw this tower from a distance - today I got right up to it, but unfortunately the tower itself was closed. I took a lot of photos in an effort to get a good one for my next book - I think this one is the best:

Friday, May 01, 2015

Should Google be Allowed in Examinations?

This is an interesting question posed yesterday on the "Today" show on BBC Radio 4 - the clip below hears both side of the argument where one panel member questions the credibility of an exam where Google was used, while the other states that it should be allowed depending on the type of exam in question. Clearly this is a question for debate amongst all educators and learners?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
First - consider this quote attributed to Albert Einstein:

Why should I memorize something I can so easily get from a book?

If he were alive today he might instead say:

Why should I memorize something I can so easily get from Google?

Secondly, consider this fact: In 1975 (the year I sat my Intermediate Certificate), calculators were allowed in Intermediate/Leaving Certificate exams in Ireland for the first time. Lots of people objected to this saying it "dumbed down" maths tests and that they could help a student get a good grade without understanding the concepts behind the maths. Look how common they are now!

Google is part of learning whether we like it or not (I like it - I regularly ask/allow students to look up stuff online in class). This makes it part of teaching. I wish I had it in the 1960s/1970s when I was at school. Of course we have to be careful about a "cut-and-paste" culture and take steps to ensure that this is not learning, but if you use a specific tools to learn, then its presence in an exam should be considered. I am in agreement with Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the British OCR exam board, who says in the clip that "It is inevitable" that search tools such as Google will be used in exams. I also agree with him in that it should only be used in certain types of exams and that the exam itself will be different is search is allowed. Assessing students' ability to make connections, show understanding, and interpret content is different than assessing recall. If I am preparing an exam where I know access to the Internet and Google will be available, I will naturally set questions accordingly and have different expectations about the answers students should provide. For example, in a Statistics exam I might ask students to find their own data to analyse and interpret, rather than give them a defined data set that all students must use. Which is of greater value?

Listen to the clip and form your own opinion...