Away with the fairies

Our ancestors realised that we cannot explain everything. We see only part of the world and there is more beyond our reach. Long ago young people had much to learn, dangers to be avoided, knowledge and skills to be acquired and lessons on how to survive and succeed. Wisdom resided in the old people but there were no schools of colleges. Stories were the backbone of learning and an important means of preserving culture and tradition.

The Cycle of Life

Next Friday 28th of March I will take part in the Galway Cycle. This involves a cycle from Maynooth to Galway in one day. This will be by far and a way the longest and most challenging cycle I have done. I have trained and prepared well but admit to being nervous and apprehensive. I am in my mid-fifties and not blessed with an athletic physique. The journey is about 180 kilometers and I will need to keep up with the 25kph pace. The Maynooth Galway Cycle has been running for many years and each year thousands of Euro is raised for a designated charity. This year’s charity is the Prader-Willie Syndrome Association Ireland. This is a well deserved cause and you have only to watch the associated video to appreciate how much they need support. I am collecting so please give a little whatever you can to  http://www.idonate.ie/leosgalwaycycle My affair with the bicycle has spanned the cycle of my life. One of my early memories is accompanying my father on the crossbar of his bike as we cycled to the Garda station to collect another bike.  My bike! It was a find he handed in more than a year Read More …

Richard Hannaford An Extraordinary Teacher

Some people are natural teachers. I don’t mean ‘teachers’ in the everyday sense as in those who work in schools or colleges. I mean people who show us things and who we learn from in all manner of ways. Richard Hannaford was such a person. I noticed this many years ago when I first met him as my sister Norah’s partner and later husband.  Over the years I became more convinced this was the case, never more so than in the weeks leading up to his untimely death one month ago. Richard probably did not realise that we were all learning from him and I know that he would be somewhat embarrassed at the idea of being described in this way. However, I think anyone who knew him would agree that with every encounter, on each occasion involving Richard, we came away with some new insight, something extra to make us better. One thing we learned from Richard was the art of conversation. He cherished discourse and grasped the importance of listening to other voices and respecting different views. For Richard, discussion was an opportunity to see the world in a different way, as others see it. A frequent phrase he Read More …

The Common Good

The Concept of the Common Good I have argued elsewhere that the current debate on Ireland’s crisis needs to move away from economist dominated reasoning and be replaced by something more fundamental–a deeper and altogether more important consideration of the basic principles that we should use to organise our society. This week saw the publication of a document called From Crisis to Hope: Working to Achieve the Common Good by The Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Episcopal Conference.  This is a welcome and much needed addition to the current discourse.  It is a thoughtful exposition of what it means to think ethically about the current situation particularly from the perspective of the common good. As you would expect much of the analysis is underpinned by Catholic Church doctrine and as such, it could easily be dismissed by secular thinkers.  For many, the notion of religious doctrine is synonymous with being told what to think and is therefore contrary to the justifiably high value placed today on self-determination and individual autonomy.  However, often on closer reading we find something different as is the case with this text.  Here we are challenged, encouraged to think critically and above all Read More …

The Election Count- A Learning Opportunity

Why School Students Should Manage the Election and the Counting of Votes In Ireland voting in the general election takes place this Friday and this means a weekend of ballot boxes, exit polls, tally men and counting. We use a system of proportional representation (PR) that is very fair but very complex.  When you vote you mark candidates in order of preference on the ballot paper.  You can go through all the candidates assigning a  number to indicate 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th preferences and so on.  You can influence the outcome of who gets elected by means of your later preferences.  It is not unusual for the whole process to go through seven or more counts as the lower scoring candidates are eliminated and second and subsequent preferences from these votes are redistributed. Although the whole process appears complicated it’s based on some straight forward rules.  It is important however that voters understand the process so that they can avail of the full extent of their democratic choice. Normally we use civil servants and casual employees to work in the count centres – in many cases the local school is appropriated as the ballot station and even count centre.  Legally, Read More …

The Two Hour Club

It works like a book club but with a twist…. I have been working with some friends here in Maynooth to establish The Two Hour Club.  I think this is something that could catch on.  It’s a simple idea the goal is to provide a format for groups to get together frequently to discuss meaningful issues.  I think this is a useful format for learning and it evolves from my interpretation of some of the ideas of Jurgan Habermas. I have described this to other friends and colleagues and a number have indicated that they would like to establish their own version.  To help this I have created some video presentations that explain what its all about.  Have a look at these and click on the link above to connect with a Moodle support site. If you are thinking of establishing a group let me know. For more information on the Two Hour Club follow this link. posted by Leo Casey

The English (Poets) Graveyard in Rome

If you’ve been to Rome as I have many times you begin to look beyond the usual tourist haunts for places of interest.  Of course there is no shortage of these–the city has layer upon layer of stories to tell.   One such place of interest is the English Graveyard, or more precisely the graveyard for non-Catholics.  There are two famous poets buried here Keats and Shelly.   I loved poetry as a teenager.  Reams of beautiful words, gifts from my school days, are still available to me.  There is certainly something to be said for learning poetry ‘off by heart’.                         Ode to a Nightingale My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness painsMy sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,Or emptied some dull opiate to the drainsOne minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,But being too happy in thine happiness,–That thou, light-winged Dryad of the treesIn some melodious plotOf beechen green, and shadows numberless,Singest of summer in full-throated ease.…                   Ode to a Grecian Urn O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with bredeOf marble men and maidens overwrought,With forest branches and the trodden weed;Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thoughtAs doth eternity: Cold Read More …

Betty Casey One Life Happy Birthday

My sister Betty died this year. At the time I could not bring myself to write about it but today, the 23rd of December, is Betty Casey’s birthday and I feel the need to comment. Betty was the eldest of six children, I came in the middle, number three in line. There was something magic about our childhood.  We were reared in the Phoenix Park a vast enclosed piece of country located in the heart of the city of Dublin.  Our father Harry was a gate keeper and we lived in a gate lodge. While I was young the universe was packed into that small lodge and its environs.  What a universe that was!  It extended only in one direction and that was up the park–past the married quarters of the Garda, past the depo, over to the People’s Gardens through the Hollow and of course, on into Dublin Zoo.  This was our turf and the six of us and the other kids, friends and neighbours, were free to play, roam, explore and experience the world. Here was the jungle where battles were fought and monsters lurked.  Over there you could catch a whale in a pond.  That’s the triangle Read More …

November 2010 Ireland in Turmoil – The Relevance of Habermas and the Theory of Communicative Action

It may seem odd to make a connection between the current upheavals – the political, economic and national identity crisis in Ireland – and the work of Jurgen Habermas, a German social philosopher and critical theorist born in 1929.  However, I believe that insights from the work of Habermas have something to offer by way of explanation for the current predicament in which we now find ourselves and more enticingly, may also provide useful pointers for our emancipation through discourse and communicative action. Habermas is still a very active writer and he comments regularly on political and social issues of our time. You can keep up to date with his outputs via the Habarmas forum website.  Of note also is that Habermas was a recent recipient of the Ulysses Medal conferred by UCD – an interesting interview conducted by the Irish Times is also available. The most notable work by Habermas is The Theory of Communicative Action published in German in 1981 and translated to English in 1984.  This publication is in two volumes: Volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society and Volume 2: Lifeword and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason.  These works integrate and draw upon the Read More …

SITE Conference

I recently attended the SITE Conference in San Diego, California.  SITE stands for the Society for the Information Technology and Teacher Education and it is one of the biggest conferences in this field.  Chip Bruce and I had submitted a paper based on the Digital Literacy in Primary Schools (DLIPS) project.I attended many other sessions and it was very useful to catch up with developments across the field.  One thing that struck me is the use (perhaps overuse) of short abbreviations to describe areas of interest.  Thus a session might be described as dealing with TPAC for SET in K-12 – decoded this means Mhisra and Koehler’s (2006) Technological, Pedagogical And Content Knowledge (TPACK – worth a future blog!) for Science Engineering and Technology (SET) subjects in primary and secondary schools (K-12).The presentation associated with our paper is posted below.  The basic idea is an exploration of the connection between learning as inquiry and new digital media.  Essentially we argue for a new approach to pedagogy based on the Inquiry Cycle and making the most of digital media capabilities to initiate,  sustain and enhance that cycle. It’s not so much that the vision of learning as inquiry is new – it Read More …