Category: Visiting Ireland


Hoping to learn a bit of Irish history today, Aongus and I hiked over to Dublin’s Collins Barracks after brunch. A former military station, Collins Barracks is now used as a museum with decorative arts, WWI and II memorabilia, and even a gun-running ship that was pulled up from the sea floor. It’s also where Aongus did his service in the Irish military once upon a time.

To our dismay (and that of five other groups of visitors who arrived at 1 PM) the museum at Collins Barracks opens only 2-5 pm on Sundays. We left disappointed and took the back way out of the Barracks, exiting at Arbor Hill Prison.

Finding the Arbor Hill cemetery, next to the prison, open, we decided to venture in. There, we discovered tomb stones of British soldier and their families who served as occupying forces during the 1800s.

We also found a memorial to the Irish who lost their lives in the 1916 uprising. The leaders of the Rising were executed in Kilmainham Gaol, across the Liffey river, and then buried in a mass grave here.

Following 1916 the Irish continued to struggle against colonial rule, and they gained independence from British in 1922. Later this memorial was built to memorialize their effort. The monument includes the text of the 1916 Proclamation, in Irish on the left and English on the right.

Today this memorial park was full of dogs, and dog lovers, from the adjacent Stoneybatter neighborhood. Upon exiting the cemetery on the northern side and into the neighborhood, we discovered a well-preserved WWII tank kept up by a citizen group and had a bit of fun.

But after a busy week filled with cold, wet weather, we’d had our fill of exploring. We turned to head for home.

We’d driven from work on Friday straight down to Bunclody for RoboSlam workshops and not returned to Dublin until late Saturday night. All this activity caught up with us on Sunday, but the comfort of a warm blanket and a hot tea helped us recuperate for the coming week.

Arriving on Inishbofin by ferry from the coast of Ireland near Clifton, we anticipated a unique combination of rest, relaxation, and outdoor adventure. Aongus and I had spent a weekend here one year ago, and we were blessed with beautiful skies and sunshine then (enough, by the way, to turn my Irishman purple). Early this summer we returned, hoping for a sequel of delightful adventures. And that's exactly what we found.

Now don't get me wrong, our cycling and sunbathing were at times delayed by sprinkles. You'll see from the photos that windbreakers were needed, even in June. But our three days in this little paradise couldn't have been lovelier. The weather and pace of life were just right. And a happily exhausted duo we were by the end of our cycling day, toasting life over pints of Guinness.

Inishbofin island is home to a hundred or so folks and it boasts a few hotels, restaurants, and pubs, along with a couple tiny little stores. It's reached by passenger ferry.

When visiting, it's wise to bring most of what you'll need over from the mainland, and to plan activities and wardrobes around clouds and rain.

If the sun shines, it's a bonus.

Discovering your own little patch of beach and some sunshine is a delight beyond compare. Add in a hike, a bicycling adventure, and some yoga on a cliff overlooking the beach and a normal day becomes shear magic.

The peace and tranquillity you may find on this little island can soothe a weary soul. The sunshine, though fleeting, will call you back again and again.



 

 





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.

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