Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - The Rise and Fall of my @YouTube Channel

Since setting up my YouTube channel on April 7th 2006, I have watched the channel build up views over the years. I have not been slow to blog (boast) about hitting milestones such as another million views. In 2014 the almost doubling of views year-on-year stopped, but 2015 has seen a rather dramatic decline in the number of views compared to previous years. The chart below (from YouTube Analytics) illustrates the rise and fall in the number of views since 

The "Watch Time" (shown top left) of 45 years and 102 days dates only from September 1st 2012. Interestingly, the number of views on Christmas Day this year was 1,004, the lowest since 2011. I have no clear explanation as to why this decline happened - it started in May of this year. This coincided with some changes I made on the recommendation of my YouTube Partner Manager such as adding more tags, cleaning up the descriptions of each video, and adding thumbnails. I can't see how this alone would have caused a decline - these changes were intended to improve the chances of YouTube Search finding my videos. Changing metadata might have been responsible for some initial decline. I have also added videos regularly this year, though none of them have been a "hit". None of my last 18 videos (posted between June 17th and December 23rd this year) has passed the 1,000 views mark yet. 27 of my videos have over 100,000 views, but none of these were published in the past two years. So - I'm thinking that I have been living off my older videos for a long time, and maybe their shelf life is declining. One thing I do know is that there is a lot more competition out there on YouTube, and perhaps this decline was going to happen anyway.

One thing I can look forward to in about March next year is my first million views video - How To...Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel 2010 is at 980,890 views and should pass the magic million mark in about March or April. This video is responsible for about 10% of my overall views and has earned just over €6,000 since it was published on January 4th 2011. Its views pattern is almost identical to the channel views above - including a similar dramatic fall in views last May.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Family at Christmas

Thousands of miles can separate families from each other, but not their hearts. Us O'Loughlins have had some practice for the Christmas Days in 2012, 2013, and 2014 with Claire being away. This year for the first time two of my daughters were away - Vicki also spent Christmas in America. I miss both of them all the time, but Christmas Day is extra difficult to get through without their bubbly presence in our house. We are joining up as a family again in January and we will then have a few Christmas moments to share.

Claire and Vicki - Christmas Morning 2006.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wedding Photo - 29 Years Later

In one of those "small world" stories I recently made contact with a photographer from Castlebar who was taking photos of the Bourke (my in-laws) Gathering Event last month. Her name is Joy Heverin, and the reason I contacted her was that the photographer on the day of my wedding to the lovely Roma Bourke (13th September, 1986) was named Paul Heverin. The only copies of photos from our wedding are in our album - none hang on the walls of our house. I contacted Joy to see if she was related to Paul - sure enough, they are husband and wife. The good news was - she still had the negatives from our wedding.

So - I was able to order a new copies of my favorite photo from the day, and scan it for an electronic copy. In the photo I am 26 years old, while Roma is 25 - I have aged a lot faster than Roma!

Photo from original by Joy Heverin Photography.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Book Review: "Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee" by Michael Korda

I have just finished reading a biography of American Confederate General Robert E. Lee. "Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee" was published last summer, and is written by Michael Korda. At 848 pages in paperback, it is a sizable book - I read it on my Kindle over a period of several weeks.

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Before reading this book I thought I knew a lot about Robert E Lee having read many books about the American Civil War. While the war takes up a substantial part of the book, it does also cover his early and middle life. After all - he was 56 when the war started and died just five years after it ended.

His family had close links with George Washington and he took part in many historical events before the Civil War such as the capture and hanging of John Brown, and fighting in the one-sided Mexican War. He was a (reluctant) slave-owner, but seems to have dedicated his life to the Army. Michael Korda writes a riveting account of Lee's life and it is hard not to admire Lee for his dedication, honesty, and devotion to God. At times the book borders on hero-worship by Korda, however Lee stands out as a true icon of American history. His life before the war is not dramatic - in fact he could be regarded as quite a boring person who spent too long in the army. It took him a long time to gain promotions and seems to have been happy enough to accept that everything that happened to him was "God's Will" to be done. 

As an educator myself I was very interested in his time as superintendent at West Point Military Academy (1852-1855), and as President of Washington College (1865-1870). He was a workaholic who had a passion for improving the lives of his students - especially in the difficult years for the South after the Civil War ended. His time at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) is the shortest part in the book - it would have been interesting to hear more about his achievements at the college. He was lauded as a hero everywhere he went after the war, and died with (as Korda puts it) "stoic dignity that had always defined his character in life".

One thing readers should know about this book is that it relies quite a bit on existing knowledge of the Civil War, its battles, and locations. The maps of battle sites are poor (they are replicated from earlier biographies), - they do not work well on a Kindle. There are many difficult to follow long descriptions of battle actions that I had little or no idea what was going on (Gettysburg excepted). 

Overall - I found this book to be a terrific read (I gave it five stars on Amazon). Recommended!

Iconic Photo of Lee taken by Matthew Brady just days after the Civil War ended.
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Friday, December 18, 2015

"How Now Mrs Brown Cow" at the 3Arena

One of the funniest Irish people on the planet is Brendan O'Carroll, especially when he and his family treat us to the comedy of Agnes Brown and "her" boys. Yesterday evening I joined a big crowd at the 3Arena and we were was treated to an endless flows of gags, puns, slagging, innuendo, with some slapstick thrown in. There's no doubt that O'Carroll can entertain his audience, and I think it is safe to say that nobody left the show disappointed.

I did expect a show with new material - much of what was presented last evening had already been broadcast on the BBC. It was only when we got to the adoption story that I realized I had seen this before. I also thought when I bought the tickets that we would be closer to the stage, but the 3Arena is such a big venue. We were quite a bit away from the stage where much of the action was on a couch which meant the actors had their backs to us a lot. Two large TV screens either side of the stage certainly helped - especially for close-ups of Mrs Brown's wonderful facial expressions. A smaller more intimate venue would have been more enjoyable - I couldn't help feeling that I had spent my money to watch a big show on a TV rather than one stage. But these small things aside, I never laughed so much in one evening. Well done to Brendan and his team - looking forward already to the next Mrs Brown show!

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

How To... Calculate Pearson's Correlation Coefficient (r) by Hand

Throughout last semester I have been creating videos to show my students how to calculate the various test statistics that we learn about in the Business Data Analysis module. One of the more interesting statistical tests is to determine if there is a correlation between two sets of data - it's easier to understand than (say) an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). Despite this, many students avoid this question in my exams as it is perceived to be more difficult than it is, and to take a long time.

The test statistic is Pearson's Correlation Coefficient (r). If you know and can read the formula, all it takes is to know the sequence and shortcuts to make a correct calculations. There is a lot of pressing buttons on a calculator, but practice can definitely make perfect here. Students can use this to learn the method, and they can quickly add the same data to an Excel spreadsheet and use the Data Analysis Toolpak to check their answer. Hopefully, this video will go a long way towards taking the fear out of this statistical test.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

YouTube Channels for Educators - More Good Stuff via @suebecks

In her recent article on Using YouTube in Learning and Teaching, Sue Beckingham gives us more useful tips and ideas for video - here is her list of educational channels for learners that she recommends:
Source:Using YouTube in Learning and Teaching (Beckingham, 2015)

Dare I add my own educational channel ( to this? It has been one of the biggest helps to my work in College over the past (almost) 10 years since I set it up on 7th April 2006.

It is an exciting time for technology in education. Though there are still doubters and educators afraid of change, I (and I'm sure most educators) am now inspired by students to use technology as much as I can. It is over 26 years ago since I created my first ever computer-based training lesson (April 1989) when I joined CBT Systems. Since then I have had a computer at my finger tips for all my learning and teaching activities. While there is a massive difference between the basic IBM PC that I used 26 years ago, and the Dell XPS laptop I am using now - it is how we use the technology that matters, not what it is.

If you are looking for inspiration about technology in education, look no further than the video below about Google Classroom available from the Google for Education link above:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

10 Ways to use YouTube in your Teaching via @suebecks

I'm always glad to see educators recommending YouTube for Learning & Teaching. I have also found it to be a fantastic L&T tool and I often wonder how I would manage without it. Sue Beckingham is an Educational Developer and Senior Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education - she is also the author of the Social Media for Learning web site. This week Sue gives some great tips for using YouTube with students:
  1. Ask your students to create ‘About Me’ videos and share with the class
  2. Create a playlist of videos you are going to use in lessons
  3. Encourage your students to subscribe to relevant subject related channels or playlists
  4. Showcase student work by creating a course channel
  5. Use TED talk videos (or other relevant videos) as a focus for discussion
  6. In place of a face to face presentation ask students to screencast their presentation with a voice over
  7. Create how to guides to introduce new concepts
  8. Produce video summaries of assessment briefs and the marking criteria
  9. Use video to give students feedback (this could be a screencast with voice over)
  10. Ask students to reflect on this feedback as a video and embed in their digital portfolio

Source: Using YouTube in Learning and Teaching (Beckingham, 2015)

There are some great ideas here - my favourite is #1. This would be a great way for students to get to know each other in 1st year. Also a good idea for using in porjects, eg an "About My Project" short video. I also like the idea of giving feedback by video, though I would be cautious about what might happen to the video if used inappropriately.

Video in Learning & Teaching is here to stay!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Historic Cars - Another Blast From the Past from @Shell

Earlier this week I posted about receiving the "Man in Flight" coin series published by Shell from 1969. I have now got the 1970 "Historic Cars" series of 20 coins. These feature the 1886 Benz 3-Wheeler, the 1909 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, the 1930 Midget, the 1938 Volkswagen Beetle, the 1959 Morris Mini-Minor, and the 1970 Lamborghini Miura.

I remember collecting these very light aluminium coins very well. Of course, my Dad would pick them up for me every time he went to a petrol station. I still have 8 of these coins (yes - for nearly 45 years!) in one of my coin albums. When I saw the full set on eBay I couldn't resist - the full set, plus spares, cost £15.00. One thing I remember about this collection, as is common in many other similar collections, is that some coins were very common while others were scarse and harder to collect. The Citroen DS 19 (third from right on bottom row below) was one of the common ones if I remember correctly - we seemed to get this one a lot. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Last Day of Semester #phew

It is officially the end of Semester 1 today - I have just finished my last class (I have a re-scheduled class next week due to a postponement earlier in the semester). For students and faculty alike, it is a day that took 13 long weeks to arrive since we started last September. This year I had two classes of 2nd years (for Project Management, and for Business Analysis), one group of 4th years (for Statistics), and one group of postgraduate students (also for Statistics). I have to say I really enjoyed the semester and working with great groups of students. 

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Continuous assessment contributes hugely to workload. My approach is to, where possible, run weekly tutorials and grade them. I have over 120 student doing this - so it can be difficult keeping up with marking this many tutorials every week. This semester I also created a new series of videos for my Statistics classes showing how to carry out stats tests by hand (the way students will have to do it in the exam).

At the end of the semester there is always a certain amount of panic by both faculty and students. For us we have to make sure all content has been covered - especially if exam questions are based on said content. Students are busy trying to get projects submitted on time and are beginning to worry about their exams in January. 

This day fortnight is Christmas Day and there are only eight more working days in this year. As I plan a short holiday in January I have to make sure that I have everything up to date before I go. I will also have a new module next semester for which I need to prepare, so some busy times ahead.

Best wishes to all NCI students, especially those in my own classes, in their preparation for exams.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Blast From the Past #Shell #ManInFlight #Nostalgia

Recently I purchased (for €4 via eBay - P&P cost more!) the full set of "Man in Flight" coins which were first issued by Shell in 1969. If I remember correctly, my Dad got these every time he filled up the car and I collected these as a 10 year old boy. Sadly, my copies of the coins are long since lost. This collection was a dream for every aspiring astronaut in the year (1969) that Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. The collection commemorates the likes of Icarus & Daedalus, Leonardo da Vinci, the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Yuri Gargarin, and of course the Apollo 11 crew of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. The coins are very light - they are made of aluminium. The set I bought is not in great condition and has little value other than jogging the memory of a middle aged coin collector. 

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The National Craft Fair must have been the busiest place in Dublin this weekend. Lots of brilliant arts, crafts, and food on display. Lots of people there too - I guess going at 2.00pm on a Sunday afternoon was asking for it to be crowded. We bought some stuff for Christmas pressies, and judging by the number of bags being carried around - so did a lot of other people.

After a while it felt a bit like Groundhog Day - there were so many jewelry and ceramics stands in each aisle. There were artists from all over the country who hopefully had a good day and made some money now that the Recession is over and everyone in Ireland is rich again. There were so many beautiful ceramics that I would love to have, but there were far too many in the RDS to make a purchase simple. In the end we bought one pressie and I bought a ceramic fish!

In the Food Hall there was lots of oils, sweets, cheeses, and crisps (I loved the "Happy Crispmas" jumpers!). I had a taste of cider at the Armagh Cider Company stand, but was surprised to learn that I could not buy a bottle or two because the RDS forbids this since they want the punters to buy from their own many food and drinks stands. I also found the €10 entry fee a bit much - where else are you charged to go into a market. This time last year I went to the fantastic St George's Market in Belfast - no entry fee there even though many of the artists show their wares at both markets. With thousands of people attending the Fair, the RDS creams it from entry fees, from concession stands, and probably for charging each of the artists for their stands. Overall - an interesting day spent in the midst of a lot of talented artists!