Saturday, February 29, 2020

40 Years Ago

The blurred photo below is from 28th/29th February 1980 - the occasion is the Trinity College Pharmacy Student Ball. In front in the white shirt is a 20 year-old beardless Eugene who has removed the jacket and bow tie from his tuxedo - he was a 2nd year Science student in Trinity. My glazed eyes are possibly from having smoked a joint! On the left is the ever lovely 18 year-old Roma wearing my bow tie - a 2nd year Pharmacy student, it was our first ever date. Nobody could have told us then what would happen in the next 40 years.


Still mad about you.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Last time at the Blood Platelet Clinic - Thanks @GiveBlood

Receiving an award from then
Health Minister Leo Varadkar. in 2015
A sad day for me today in that I will no longer be able to donate blood platelets at the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Clinic in St James's Hospital. My platelet count has been too low for several visits to the clinic in a row. I have been going there for several years and finished up with 155 donations, with a Silver Pelican, Gold Pelican, Gold Drop, and a Pelican Statuette (from Health Minister Leo Varadkar). There is now one donor less in this Clinic - I would encourage anyone who is interested in becoming a donor to try it out.

I will miss the camaraderie in the platelet Clinic - I have known some of the staff for several years. It was a bit of a wrench leaving there today. Thank you to all the staff, I do hope that my platelets were used to help people in need over the past few years. 

I will return to the whole blood register next time, it is only possible to donate 4 times a year (compared to 12 times per year for platelets). I hope to get a few more donations under my belt.

Good Bye Platelet Clinic!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Assessments taken on-line

I had a really interesting experience the other evening when a colleague took over part of my on-line evening class to establish the ground for the students to take their tests online. At NCI we use a proctored system called RPNow, which basically records everything a student does if they take the test remotely. It makes it easy for us to detect if anyone is cheating, and therefore protects the integrity of our assessments. However, it can be a bit daunting for students to take a test like this for the first time. We gave the students a short mock test during the class - some completed it in 5 minutes, while others experienced a lot of technical difficulties and didn't even get to start the test after an hour.

All this begs the question: "Should students take proctored tests on-line?".

Let's first take a step back. The primary purpose of assessment is to “foster learning of worthwhile academic content for all students” (Wolf, Bixby, Glenn, & Gardner, 1991). In the year 605 AD, Imperial China introduced a strict system of assessment officially called the “Imperial Examination”, which was better known as “The Forest of Pencils”. This tough examination was designed to select the best administrative officials for the empire’s civil service. This assessment was found to be the best way to recruit civil servants – the best people were selected according to results, bribery and corruption were moved aside (Buckley Ebrey, 2010). Assessment has been part of education for centuries – there is no escaping it. So today should be no different?

It should be noted that most students are going to pass exams anyway. In the normal distribution below (Kashyap, 2019) you can see that less than 7% of students fail (F grade). Of course not all grading results in a bell-shaped curve like this, but it gives you a breakdown of what to expect. So if we know that 93% of students are going to pass, why bother with tests? For on-line students, why bother with tests with the added pressure of ensuring technology is working?

Image source: Ravi Kashyap.
In courses that I am involved with, most marks come from Continuous Assessment. For on-line courses, I feel that a good case can be made for assessing all Learning Outcomes with continuous assessment, and assignment/project work. I know that a lot of programmes do this already - right up to Masters level. Something for us to consider with new and updates to NCI programmes.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Election Poster Talk with @JoeCostelloIE

I bumped into Joe Costello of the Labour Party while out walking on East Wall Road this lunchtime and I decided to chat with him briefly, and he was gracious enough to do so. In what must be a sad and partly humiliating task for any defeated election candidate, he was taking down his own election posters, including the poster ties. Good stuff Joe! 

I mentioned to him that I had written to the Irish Times many years ago (2008) about this very topic. Joe was very supportive of the idea of colour coded poster ties, and he told me that Dublin City Council are actively considering such a move. He informed me that there is a €150 fine per poster if not taken down within a week of the Election, but no fine for poster ties. Clearly it is easy to identify who is responsible for a poster, but poster ties not so as they all seem to be either black or white. My sense is that the recycling message is getting through to candidates and their helpers, and any I observed this week seem to be doing so.

Joe Costello is still a councillor on Dublin City Council, and I'd love to see him push through local bye-laws on this. It was a pleasure to meet him.

Monday, February 10, 2020

One in Five YouTube Users using it for Learning via @pewresearch and @mitchell360

Image Source: Pew Research Center.
I cam across an article "Many Turn to YouTube for Children’s Content, News, How-To Lessons" by the Pew Research Center, which shows how important YouTube is becoming for learning. Though the article is just over a year old, it is telling how valuable YouTube has become in helping people understand things that are happening in the world. The survey shows that 51% of US adults who use YouTube say it is "very important" in figuring out how to do things that they had not done before. 

Many of the things we do are only done once, or very few times. You might only need to do one thing, but in order to learn how to do it you don't want to have to sign up and pay for a full course. You just want that one piece of learning.

Many years ago I had a conversation with the then CEO of Learning Productions: Scott Mitchell. This conversation took place some time in the year 2000. He pictured a platform where content developers could create content and make it available on-line for learners to use at any time. He imagined a learning wall where each brick was a piece of content that matched a learning objective. Content developers could choose what to develop and fill in blanks where necessary. More than one developer could create content for a learning objective. Users would comment and rate content so that the good stuff would get to the top. Developers would be paid for their work dependent on the number of times their content was used. This conversation/vision took place five years before YouTube was created. Little did I know it at the time, but YouTube would end up being a close match for what Scott had envisaged. What a pity we didn't build the platform - we could have been multi-millionaires selling it later to Google!

Thursday, February 06, 2020

I Didn't Think I Was a Senior...

Image source: Amazon.
Earlier today I was in the Bord G√°is Energy Theatre to purchase tickets for Blood Brothers later this month. I go to the Box Office rather than buying on-line because it saves a lot. I was asked by the attendant if the tickets were for "children", "adults", or "seniors". Having turned 60 last October, I chanced my arm and asked "What is the age for Seniors?" - her reply was "60"! Tickets for seniors are available at a €5 discount. 

This was the first time I availed of a senior's discount. While of course I'm pleased to have saved €5, I have no real idea yet about what it means to be a senior. I saw on Sunday in Woodies DIY that discounts for seniors are available on Thursdays, and I am also already being targeted on-line with ads for older people. 

I am now a (young) Senior - it's official!

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Good News for YouTube Content Developers

Financial results for Google (Alphabet) for 2019 tell us more about YouTube earnings from advertising than before. Revenue from YouTube ads amounted to $15.15 billion in 2019 - up considerably from the previous two years. This is good news for me and other content developers using the YouTube platform to publish our videos (and allow YouTube to serve ads on them). The graphic below shows the growth in revenue over the past three years:

Infographic: YouTube: Surging Ad Revenue Figures Revealed | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista.

I can see this effect on my own channel. In 2018 there were 3,473,515 views on my channel, but this decreased to 3,159,607 in 2019 - a considerable decrease of 313,908 views (9% approx). However, in the same time my revenue grew by about 35% (approx). Long may this continue!

What it does show is that there is money to be made from YouTube. I don't earn anything close enough to an annual salary, but it is a nice top-up on the salary that I already earn. I don't know the exact figures, but I understand the breakdown in revenue that YouTube takes about 45c in every dollar, leaving 55c for creators. So if YouTube makes money, so do the creators.

So I encourage developers to try out the YouTube platform - you may not become a millionaire overnight, but even if it is just pocket money it's a nice way to get a little extra income. Do be aware that getting people to watch your video is not easy!