Thursday, January 31, 2019

Two weeks without a home computer!

For the past two weeks my home computer has been disconnected while we renovated our home office with new insulation in what was a very cold room. While the work took just two days we had to endure delays when the workmen doing the job didn't turn up, and then waiting for plaster and paint to dry. This morning I finally put everything back together and am back on-line.

So - what's it like without a home computer? Well, I did have an iPad so was not completely disconnected - but I hated being without my desktop PC and two screens. Putting everything back together provided an opportunity to untangle all my cables and put everything back together more tidily. While under my desk is still a mass of wires - it's a lot better now. Sound is not back working yet - but I'll get to that.

Some think people we should all take a break from things - for example not drinking and/or not using technology for a while. But a dry and disconnected January is not for me. If I'd known it would take two weeks before I could use the computer again I would have set it up somewhere else in the house. I have had to put things on the long finger while I was without a computer, and I have a few personal emails to respond to. Work has been busy and hectic since I returned after the Christmas/New Year holiday - I genuinely had very little time to use my work computer in the College for personal stuff (something I probably should not be doing anyway?). Anyway - it's good to have my computer again. I missed it!

My tidy desk - for how long?

Monday, January 21, 2019

New Semester!

In just under an hour I will have my first class for the new semester when I take a Higher Diploma in Data Analytics class for Data Visualization. It's been just over month since my last class - in between we obviously had the holiday season, I also spent almost every day since the New Year grading projects/assignments/exams. I can't wait to get back to class!

Image source: McNair Secondary School.
A new semester is exciting, but it also can be a bit daunting. This semester I do not have a new subject to teach, though I am revamping one module (Advanced Business Data Analysis) quite a bit. While it's nice to be able to re-use material from previous years and get the same modules again to teach - I've always liked having something new. Semester II last year was one of my busiest ever, but I expect it to be a lot less busy this year. I always look forward to meeting new students - two of my modules are with new classes. Equally, I like to see familiar faces - the other two classes I have are with students I taught in semester I.

The two major changes for me this year are that I will be teaching three nights a week for the first time ever. This will be a challenge, but the upside is that I will have the mornings off on those days. I will also be teaching a module (R Programming) on-line again - this is the same module I taught on-line last semester, but to a new group of students. While I feel I did OK in this on-line module last semester, there is lots of room for improvement. While I don't plan a new series of reflective blog posts, I might write a post every now and again.

Here's to the New Semester!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

January Courses at the National College of Ireland

National College of Ireland,
Changing Lives Through Education.
January is of course a time for new year resolutions - many people might be considering taking one of the many courses available in many third level Colleges. The Springboard initiative funds several courses, including the Higher Diploma in Data Analytics, where most of my teaching is set. It is not too dramatic to say that going back to College can be a life-changing experience - I have seen this several times with my own eyes in the faces of students that sit in my classes. Prospective students can be fearful and uncertain about what steps to take in making a big decision to go to College.

So - what informs a decision to go back to education? There are a lot of questions that you can ask, such as:
  • How hard is it?
  • How easy is it?
  • Will I succeed?
  • It's been a long time since I went to College - will I fit in?
  • It's a long time since I studied - will I be able to pick this up again?
  • It's a long time since I sat an exam - will I be able to get through it?
  • I have a family - can I manage study and a family?
  • I have a job - will I be able to work and study together?
  • Am I too old at 40 (insert your age here) to go back to College?
  • Will I have fun?
  • Will I get a job at the end of the course?

    ....and many more
It is of course a decision for each individual as to whether to go back to College or not. But you should be assured that you are not alone. Courses like our Higher Diplomas are hard work and take up a lot of time - there's no denying that. Study will be disruptive to your life - our job is to help you get you through this. But hopefully the rewards will be worth it and that you can take pride at receiving your diploma at The Graduation Ceremony. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Choosing what to do between 2023 and 2073? #CAO

Image source: Oblong Media.
Leaving Certificate schools students are just back to class and are already being inundated with advice as to how and what course to choose for College, beginning in September 2019. These students will graduate in 2023, and retire in 2073 (assuming they will retire at 68 years of age). Choosing a course today - what a difficult decision! 

Something to think about - in 2001 Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within a few years, their business model was gone and they went bankrupt. In 2005, YouTube did not exist, and the iPhone made its first appearance in 2007. These three years mentioned here were about the same time as today's College applicants started out their lives. 

It is probable that graduates in 2023 will end up working for companies and using technologies that do not exist today. It is almost unfair to ask them to choose a College course today. Clearly, if a students chooses a course like medicine, nursing, law, or pharmacy - there is a very strong likelihood that they will work in those professions for the rest of their lives. But choosing business, arts, or science (like I did) does not put you in a profession straight away. Courses in computer science did not exist in 1978 when I first went to College - I had no idea what I would end up doing. 

Based on my own experience with students I know that many will choose the wrong course for themselves - they will go to the wrong College, struggle at subjects they don't like, wish they had chosen something else, and possibly drop out. What seems the right and appropriate choice today may not be what you will end up doing - but that's OK.

My only advice is to choose (if at all!) something that you are good at and that you like - not because of where your friends are going, or where the College is, or which will generate the highest salary, or which will be easy, or which will be fun. You can always change your mind, or come back to College in later years!