Category: Visiting Ireland


The chaplaincy of Dublin Institute of Technology, Fr. Alan Hilliard, Susie Keegan, and Suzanne Greene the administrative assistant, assist DIT’s visiting students, who come from all around the world. The chaplains organize trips and events in addition to providing helpful advice and pastoral assistance. 

So far this year, I’ve helped out with two events they organised–a trad music event at the back room of the Cobblestone pub, and a day trip to Glendalough national park and ancient monastic city.

As a young researcher, Don McClure lived in my Dublin flat while he was collecting data for his PhD. Now that he’s finished his project, and earned his doctoral degree, he’s working as an Assistant Professor at St. John’s University in New York.

Recently, Dr. McClure was selected to present his findings at a conference held at the School of Education at Maynooth University.   Today was the big day, so Aongus and I headed out to the institution bright and early to hear Don speak.

Both presentations in his session were superb, and afterward we had a chance to chat with Don over coffee.

As Don headed back to his sessions, Aongus and I went out into the day, to explore the campus.

Turns out, it was graduation day and the chapel was open to the public. What an amazing site!

I realized immediately that this was a significant design. Turns out, indeed one of a kind. The University’s website states:

Built between 1875 and 1891, this Chapel has 454 carved stalls, making it the largest of its kind in the world. 

The place reminded me of the wooden theater in Parma, with a Hogwarts sort of mystique. What a treasure!

The webpage is well worth a read.

img_5149-1The Dublin sun shone again today, making the Botanical Garden ideal to visit. The Victorian-age green houses, sprawling green lawns, and falling leaves drew crowds of enthusiastic park-goers. We strolled the paths, viewed plants from around the world (including many sorts of Venus fly-trap), enjoyed the sensations and colors,  and played in mountains of leaves.

img_5164Then, Aongus and I took a break in the Garden cafe for lunch, and wrapped up our trip to this part of town with a jaunt into the adjacent Glasnevin Cemetary for a stroll, a history lesson, and coffee (with his beloved “coffee slice”). By sunset, when we left the Cemetary, the gate back into the Garden was locked, so we took the side exit out, beside The Gravediggers pub and stopped in for a pint and a half of Guinness.

I’m the half pint!

I hesitate to admit that I’ve only just partaken of an English afternoon tea. It’s been in my sights for years now, but I suppose some of the best things in life take time.

This afternoon, Blackrock’s House of Tea served up a lovely tray with sandwiches, scone, pastry, a smattering of desserts, and two luxurious blends of tea.

‘Twas a remarkable little meal. Tea time is moving back onto my list of definite “to dos,” and alsa, now, it’s much higher up!

 

Over time, various artists have provided layers of meanings along this street in Kilkenny, Ireland. Small windows in the graveyard painting let viewers select their own vantage points and help them view what's happening on the other side of the wall. The photographer (Frank Daly) selected his own frame of reference, capturing an entertaining yet  chilling portrayal of the phenomenon of Western burial.

Over time, various artists have provided layers of meanings along this street in Kilkenny, Ireland. Small windows in the graveyard painting let viewers select their own vantage points and help them view what’s happening on the other side of the wall. The photographer (Frank Daly) selected his own frame of reference, capturing an entertaining yet chilling portrayal of the phenomenon of Western burial.

Phenomenology and constructionism are two outlooks for understanding and describing human experience in ways that can help humans (especially educators, designers, and makers) shape a better/more purposeful future. They are well aligned with engineering and architecture because both paradigms both have to do with human creation. Without human creation, architecture and engineering are not possible. In this blog, I’m attempting to summarize my understanding of the two in a way that might be of use to other researchers.

Phenomenology is a philosophy as well as a method of doing research. It focuses on experiences people have, and on how individuals understand and describe their experiences. Education researchers have been working hard to refine this method of research, although it is still in its infancy as a research methodology. On the other hand, phenomenology has been central to architectural thought since at least the mid 1900s.

Today, I am striving to understand distinctions and techniques involved with three specific variants of phenomenology: transcendental phenomenology, hermeneutic/interpretive phenomenology, and phenomenography. These differ in how they view objectivity and subjectivity, and this aspect intrigues me.

Construction is a fundamental aspect of architecture, architectural design, and architectural education. Two distinct paradigms deal explicitly with “construction,” although I see quite a bit of overlap between the two, so I’m placing them under a common heading.

These two construction-related outlooks are called constructivism and social constructionism.

The book Qualitative Research: The Essential Guide to Theory and Practice, written by Maggi Savin-Baden and Claire Howell Major (2013), is helping me better understand the distinctions between these two ways of thinking about and conceptualizing being, knowing, and researching.

I’ll attempt to explain what I’ve found using their book and integrating it into what I learned in school: 

Constructivism is the more subjective of the two construction-oriented paradigms. This paradigm asserts that knowledge exists in the human mind and that researchers can understand it by “unpacking individual experiences” (Savin-Baden & Major, p. 56). “Reality,” in this view, is what individuals think it is. To understand the world, we (as educators, architects, and/or researchers) need to assess how individuals know, understand, and indeed construct the world in their minds.

Constructionism is a more collective. This paradigm is often referred to as “social constructionism” and it posits, “Reality and knowledge are socially constructed” (p. 56). In this view, groups of people decide collectively – and quite often unconsciously – what things (phenomena, people, places, ideas, etc.) they will recognize and how they will understand and name them. In inverse fashion, groups also decide what things they will not see/understand/name. Researchers who adopt this way of seeing the world study how groups of people collectively see/interpret/create/construct the world around them. Today, constructionism appears in only in a few publications on engineering education (specifically, on teaching robotics or materials engineering).

I’ve been planning to use phenomenology in my upcoming work, yet I believe constructionism also hold great value for engineering education research. Perhaps I’ll help introduce this way of seeing to the EER community.

Ted, Damon, and crew conducted a RoboSlam for 18 undergraduate engineering student form the University of Wisconsin last week.  I'll post more photos of the event soon, on our RoboSlam blog.

Ted, Damon, and crew conducted an abbreviated RoboSlam this part week for 18 undergraduate engineering student from the University of Wisconsin last week. They are students of former Fulbright, Bob O’Connell (far right). I’ll post more photos of the event soon, on our RoboSlam website.

Solstice in Dublin!

Solstice in Dublin!  It was my first solstice here and I enjoyed every minute of it! Interestingly, there’s indirect sunlight for even longer than 17 hours. The first rays appear before 4 AM and the last disappear after 10 PM.

Dublin is full of sunshine!  Temperatures are topping top out each day at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun has been staying up for 17 hours each day.  That makes for perfect weather for outdoor yoga.  On the day of the solstice, our yoga instructor, Peter, shared this provocation:  If there was no fear, what positive change would you make in your life?

I mulled the proposition.  I know better than anyone:  There’s good reason to fear what you may lose by chasing outrageous dreams.  But there’s also good reason to seek new knowledge and experience.  I hope someday my work will be a testament to trying hard to live life to the fullest.

This, the second week of my Marie Curie research fellowship, was full of adventures, errands, and learning.  My colleagues and I conducted a RoboSlam and a workshop on Problem-Based Learning at the start of the week.

I was honored to be included in a dinner and workshop with a guest from Portugal, José Manuel Nunes de Oliveira, who you may recall from an earlier blog.  Jose shared his work with the faculty of the DT07 electrical engineering program. This group of teachers is considering making the DT07 program more problem-based.

Jose's three essential elements of PBL.

Jose’s three essential elements of PBL.

Jose identified three elements he sees as essential to PBL (Problem- or Project-Based Learning):

  • Project drives learning
  • Group work
  • Reflection (including Self -and Peer-Assessment)

Jose described various aspects of assessment since this is a topic of concern to many of the teachers in the program.

I wish I had time to post details of the workshop, but I really need to get onto “real” work today.  Below, I’ve uploaded a photo journal of many highlights of the week. I hope they inspire you to find a least one new adventure today–however big or small.

I feared that somehow things wouldn’t seem as new and fresh on my return to Dublin as they were before.  During my Fulbright fellowship, I spent 365 days in this vibrant city — but even a vibrant city can become overtly familiar, I would have thought.

And yet, as I happily rediscovered many familiar comforts this past week (like Beef and Guinness Pie at Pieman in Temple Bar), I also uncovered a plethora of new adventures here.

On Saturday, during Fergus Whelan’s history tour, I met a researcher from Fordham University.  She said how much she’d enjoyed finding this blog while she was preparing for her trip here.  Her words encouraged me to get back to posting.  I hope you find something interesting and informative in my little picture gallery of highlights of the past week.

Well, it’s 10:20 PM and the sun has just set.  It will be up again by 5 AM or so, and I’d best get ready to hit the sack. I’ve another big week ahead!

Kilkenny, Ireland is the home of Smithwick’s brewery.  Nevertheless, Guinness is also a popular brew (despite the fact that it is brewed in Dublin).  Here are a few reflections I found while pursuing the streets of Kilkenny last fall, with my mom.

On my last night in Dublin, my friends came together at the Cobblestone for my “American wake”.

Sheila Whelan (Fergus’ wife) originally suggested the idea.  She told me that when someone leaves Ireland for the US, the Irish traditionally hold a wake for them. In older days when people, like my great-grand mother, set sail for the States, a wake was held since the person wasn’t expected to return. Thankfully, flying has made the return trip much easier!

When I explained I wanted to return, Sheila said, “no worries!”  Evidently, my return  will give us a reason for a welcome back party!  I’m hoping for one of those on my November visit.

The Cobblestone pub in broad daylight.

The Cobblestone pub in broad daylight.

Irish wakes are typically held when someone dies, and they celebrate the deceased person’s life. There’s lots of drinking, craic/merry-making, and music. They are similar to America wakes, which are held for the living. As explained on Wikipedia, the term American wake:

refers to a gathering in an Irish home the night before a family member emigrated to America, in which friends and family would say goodbye to the emigrant for what was probably the last time.

In addition:

American Wake is the first full-length solo album by Patrick Clifford, released in 2010.

Thanks to my many friends who came to the wake, and to others who sent well-wishes from their summer vacation destinations.

 

Powerscourt country house  (downloaded from www.powerscourt.ie).

Powerscourt country house (downloaded from http://www.powerscourt.ie).

Visiting the Powerscourt house, garden, and waterfall–located south of Dublin–makes a nice outing from the city.  Some coach companies offer a day trip here, but you can save a lot of money if you just take Dublin bus!  The interior of the house is a bit disappointing, as it was gutted by fire. But the exterior, garden, and nearby waterfall are glorious.

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