Pandemic TEACHING PT 2

Into the second week of teaching and the configuration and setup has changed –

The laptop has gone from an 8yo to new one and the monitor has been upgraded to a 28inch 4K monitor. Being able to see 50 students on the screen at a single point in time is hugely valuable during discussions.

The webcam on the new laptop is clearly better. I want to use the monitor as primary screen while teaching so I’ve been looking at options and configurations. There is a lovely piece on by Guy Kawasaki on how to get your setup just right. As I’m not looking to spend another €2K right now I haven’t gone down this route. I’ve gone for the reasonably standard Logitech C920s.

I considered a number of other options. I played with a paid version of EpocCam both on Wifi and with a wired connection and really wasn’t happy with the quality of the results. The results that come through on the laptop and Zoom are nothing like what you see on the primary camera on the phone. I looked at using my Fujifilm camera but it isn’t in the list of supported models. And it could take quite a while to test workarounds and see if I could get it to work. Time better spent elsewhere. Between installing and optimising a mesh network in the house and cleaning up multiple devices I’ve had enough hardware fun for 2021

GoPro was another option which a friend is using with some success and I’d like to compare the Logitech with GoPro at some point in the future. For now the Logitech will do (once it arrives). I’ll look at some mic options next but the broad setup is nearly there.

Right now looking at improving the teaching and learning process. Once I carve out some time I’m going to do some short pre-record videos. I’ve written up one class example on the strategy cycle.

The one thing I’m trying to get slicker on is switching and screen recording. I’m looking for a very simple way to slice up my classes into smaller bites and the transcription of lectures in Zoom is fairly impressive. Right now Zoom does some odd things as I turn Screen sharing off and on. It flips the screens for display/presenter view which is a minor annoyance but I’d like a way to press a single key to switch between screens I’m displaying.

Logging in as a second user on the iPad has turned out to have two advantages – the availability of using the whiteboard and also seeing the student view of my class though I have to turn the sound down to prevent echo.

Ongoing challenges I’m not quite sure how to solve or if they are solvable – talking, keeping an eye on 50+ students and an eye on chat. In a physical classroom you get a sense of a class, bored, restless, not understanding. Theres a lot more work to do to get that sense when teaching online. There are some broader pedagogical questions to explore here as well that I’m thinking about and I’m mapping out that goes from education to entertainment crosses universities, teaching and training and into events and conferences as well. But that’s for a longer post.

Whats also valuable is a number of conversations with students studying other courses and lecturers teaching across other institutions and its something I really interested to do more of. Talk to more people to figure out good practices that will improve everyones experience.


The Pandemic Lecturing Process

I’m back teaching in UCD this semester, lecturing to 54 MBA students in Digital Transformation and a similar number of MSc students on Strategy and Innovation.  Both the MBA and MSc programmes are designed originally as in class experiences and my own approach is highly interactive with the students in class and has been refined from teaching lots of classes over more than a decade. 

Theres  more than a slight difference this year due to a pandemic where the teaching will be online. What I’m going to try and do over the next few months is to document my own learnings around the process of teaching and engaging with over 100 students through this medium and to refine my learnings.  The image below is the first version of the technical setup for doing it.  My trusty Macbook is clocking it at 8 years old at this point and about to be retired in a week or so as my primary device 

Core setup for class is 

*Macbook as primary device (due an upgrade shortly)

*External second monitor (my 4K monitor was due to arrive before class but is wandering around a DPD depot in Athlone at this point)

* Yeti blue nano mic which when tested is better than the internal mic on the laptop.

* iPad and Apple Pencil.  I’m logged in twice to my Zoom accounts with the iPad account as co-host. This does two things (one it lets me see the same view as the students see on their primary screen – more on that later) and it also lets me use the Whiteboard in Zoom as we well as other tools to draw using the Pencil. I’ve an external keyboard and mouse as well 

Ringlight so my face not in constant shadow given lighting in the room I’m in

A picture containing text, indoor, computer, computer

Description automatically generated
Current Desktop Setup for Live Classes

The Current Software I’m using is

Zoom for live classes

Powerpoint for presentations

iPad and Pencil using both Zoom whiteboard and  Goodnotes

Typepad for running quizing

Content (readings, videos, discussion boards etc) on Brightspace

Lessons from class 1:

Be careful about muffling or turning off the mic by accident. The easiest thing here will be to swtich to a lapel mic. 

Use of chat function in Zoom works but needs to be positioned carefully to catch the eye. I’ve used this for dropping in additional questions. I also used this to share a Quiz which I’d build in Typeform for the first class. I need to get a little more accustomed to the polling function in Zoom and to figure out if I can do freeform text answers.  Multichoice quizzes are fine but with 50 people in class one or two sentence answers to freeformat text questions can generate a rich set of examples for the whole class in a short space of time.

Chat is also a good way of checking when people are finished. I used 5 minute countdown timers for a activity and for a midclass break. People typing done into indicated they were finished in the last 30 seconds of the activity

Breakout rooms in Zoom – I’d one planned for this class just as a test but skipped it because of timings on my lesson plan. This was really a test activity and we’ll do a number of these over the next few weeks anyway.  I’ve been running a social group using breakout rooms since April so this is one tool I’m well used to. 

Changes I want to make at this point.

UCD has some very good teaching and learning materials to support staff. I spent a few days last week doing going through all the materials in reviewing how I’d run the classes 

In a physical classroom I work on the basis of switching things around every 15-20 minutes and chunk a 2 hour class in about six chunks. With breaks. Online I’m looking to 6-10 minute information chunks switching activities and interactions and punctuating the material approx. every 10 minutes. Talking to a number of people who are doing fully online course video material frequently comes in 2-10 minute chunks. There still a little bit of work to do on that 

Physical arrangement of screens etc I am optimising. While talking I’m also trying to keep half an eye on chat and on 50 faces on screen to see if any hands go up for questions.  The 4K monitor will allow me have 50 faces on Zoom at the one time which will help.  I suspect upgrading to an external Webcam and new mic will help the physical positioning of the screen  

Later today I’ll download the recording of the class and slice in into chucks and reupload for students.

UCD uses Brightspace for online learning platform. Brightspace has what I’d feels right now like superficial elegance. It looks well but I’m not sure it optimises for speed. I’m using the discussion board feature in Brightspace across the course and jumping between threads is clunkier than it should be even if it looks pretty. 

Speed workflows and processes are some of the overall things I’m trying to figure out at the moment. I use in class diary submissions by students. This usually involves the students handing up physical sheets of paper which I correct and hand back. The advantage with this is all the pages are together and all the work is in correcting and they’re hadn’t back at the start of the next class. In the online environment theres a layer of additional work in opening and responding to each student individually. Its something I’ve seen with teachers in school as well.  It the bit where in class pedagogy doesn’t translate from analogue to digital efficiently.  

I’m looking at prerecording some of my material as well.  Theres a bit more work to be done on that during the week. 

Lots of interesting things to figure out over the next few weeks and I’m really interested in talking other lecturers in terms of what they’ve learned and how they’re working in our new hybrid environment. 


Thankful for 2016 as 2017 dawns

In 2016…
I started a new role and helped fund some great companies.
Worked with some great founders and some really amazing colleagues.
Spent time with people. Some of whom I met through Twitter and met physically for the first time in 2016.
Spent time in Hay on Wye in the glorious sunshine with some good friends.
Helped a smart man run a Coder Dojo program.
Spoke at some conferences Úll and Predict and went back to Congregation.
Read some books but not enough.
Learned much.
Ran too little.
Talked to a robot.
Buried a Guinea Pig.
Pushed boundaries.
Waded a bog.
Drank tea with many good people. And realised I need to drink tea with many more.
Warned people about a vampire.
Fought battles. Won most.
Ate breakfast overlooking the sea in Baltimore.
Walked where the Tuatha De Danann fought.
Played board games with some wonderful people.
Broke bread with others.
Watched the sun come up and go down in Dublin and Wicklow and Kerry and Cork and Mayo and Galway and Tipperary.
I said goodbye to some people. None of whom was famous but some of whom had a very big impact on me personally.
Walked with my children as they grew and flourished, saw them learn and sail, and shout and smile and cry and grow.
Loved my wife and realised how lucky I am.

Here’s to 2017
To more running, more friends and more family memories,
To hopefully fewer guinea pig funerals, and fewer other funerals,
And to breaking bread, and a chat and a cup of tea with you.


Note to self

I’ve just taken up a role as Venture Leader in NDRC. My 11yo describes it as “being a talent scout for technology” and a friend called it “being a matchmaker”.  I think the combined description is a good start.

As a note to self I’ll remind myself of something I borrowed from Rowan Manahan and quoted first 6 year ago. Still true. Still part of the plan

Follow your passion

Find playmates smarter than you are

Solve important problems

Share your toys

Build tools

Make magic

Communication Digital Transformation News and Events Painless Change People strategy Uncategorized

Thriving in turbulent (Digital) times

These are a few of the slogans flowing around Digital and Business Transformation and my reply in brackets.

Digital is eating the world (Yes)

The World is being disrupted (So what?)

The future is too hard to predict (Not really)

The overspill of digital technology is impacting every business. Scare stories abound and they don’t offer much of a solution.

The reality is the internet has changed how you do your job. And it is going to continue to change how you do your job.

If you don’t change someone who will change will put you out of business, or make your organisation seem too inefficient by comparison. Copying the work of the kid at the next desk doesn’t work.

Learning together, open conversation and preparing and adapting to change does work.

It is not the strongest businesses, nor the smartest, nor the one with the most money (though that helps) that succeeds. It is the ones that adapt to change fast enough.

We’re running a workshop on this topic in a few weeks. If you’re interested in this you can find out more here.

Digital Transformation News and Events Painless Change People Technology Uncategorized

Digital Age Orientation Day

If you have two and a half minutes take a look at the video below on Bronze Age Orientation day. It’s short, it’s funny and it’s true.

It underlines that the concept of change is not unique to the our digital age. No Company ever likes to transform itself (if the caterpillar had a choice, would it become a butterfly?) but in most cases they have learned to accept the fact that they have to.

Companies have been dealing with mergers, acquisitions, buyouts, restructuring, de-localisations, re-localisations for a long time. If you’ve been through it you’ll know this sort of radical transformation is slow and painful: the all-or-nothing approach forcefully pushed by many consultants is not popular and also falls flat a lot of the time. The Digital Age is here. It’s been coming for twenty years and to succeed in this environment every business needs to be a Digital Business.

We’ll be running a daylong course at the end of the month on Digital Change and how to manage it in your organisation. Our approach is gradual, offers numerous intermediate steps, defines clear deliverables and measurements and ties companies to their specific context. It’s Digital Transformation tempered by Change Management methods and experience

You can find out more here

Candid Communication News and Events People Uncategorized

Candid: Mary Carty From Curiosity to Creativity

This was the fourth in our series of #Candid talks with the wonderful Mary Carty on the 22nd of October. Rowan Manahan who was in the audience kindly did this guest post for us.

The Craft of Creation – Mary Carty

A #Candid talk on by the ever-candid, crafty and bogglingly creative Mary Carty quickly evolved into a high-energy dialogue about curiosity. Mary pivoted the talk early onto that subject and immediately challenged the room to think about genuine curiosity and to ask ourselves why aren’t certain questions being asked in our world.

She shared with us the question that she and Anne-Marie Imafidon asked themselves last year – “Why are there so few women in tech?” More importantly, they asked themselves, “What are we going to do about it?”

And thus Outbox Incubator was born. That story of 115 young double-X chromosome geniuses coming through one big house in London is familiar enough to those who followed the rise of the Outbox Executives last summer. Mary took us behind the scenes into the world of “Fun. Free. Food” – which were the pillars on which Outbox was built.

Suffice to say to ensure the smooth running of any future enterprise involving young women from the ages of 11 to 22, always ensure that there is a quiet, get-away-from-it-all staircase and a bounteous stash of hot chocolate and Mars Bars.

Some of Mary’s other notable questions:

“Have you ever seen a panel of VCs all smiling, all at once, all day?”

“Why don’t we push against or find answers to the known unknowns?”

“Why don’t you give yourself permission to be curious, really curious?”

Take it from a woman who has created some pretty cool stuff – we can create what we want to create, we just have to make the choice to be curious enough to start …

Thanks to Rowan for his take on Mary’s event, it was really powerful.

Rowan is our next guest in this Candid series and he is with us on 10th December to lead a discussion on the Heart and Art of Public Speaking – info and tickets here.


Candid strategy Technology Uncategorized

Algorithms : prose written by people

As the ACLU highlights the problem of Algorithms that discriminate we need to remember that Algorithms are only as good as the assumptions that they’re based on.

In reality we’d be better off if we replaced the idea of Algorithms as “clean unbiased maths” with “prose instructions written by fallible people.”

But alongside the potential for bringing about social progress, the Internet also holds the possibility of contributing to unlawful discrimination. An example of this potential negative impact is a patent recently acquired by Facebook that could conceivably permit loan servicers to gain access to the credit ratings of a loan applicant’s social network and then use that information to determine whether the applicant qualifies for a loan. The patent combines the possibility of serious invasions of privacy with the realistic prospect of illegal lending discrimination.

More here.  The Guardian also had a piece on some of these problems two years ago.

Image of Justice via Wikimedia

News and Events People Uncategorized

Yes to equality.

On Friday the Near Future principals Keith and Dermot will be voting yes to equality and we’re encouraging everyone do do the same.

We believe this is a matter of human rights, and that it should be the case that”“Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

It is a simple as that.

The Irish Times summed it up well when saying

We devalue many lives by confining them to second class status. We tell children of “irregular unions” they are worth less, and young people struggling with sexual identity that some choices are less valid, trapping many in secret, painful worlds of denial. We tell couples their commitment to each other can never be as deep or valid as the relationships their brothers, sisters, or parents have been committed to. And that the State will not offer them the same protection, the same honour.

That is not who we are as a people. We are generous and open, inclusive and non-judgmental. And we are committed to strengthening the institution of marriage. That is why we will vote Yes.


Communication Digital Transformation Painless Change Technology Uncategorized

Technology and Change in under three minutes

I use this video regularly to highlight some key points on Technology and Change

It has the virtues of being very true and very funny.