Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ireland the most educated country in Europe, says Eurostat

Ireland has the most higher education graduates per head of population of all 27 countries of the European Union, a report from EU statistical agency Eurostat has revealed.

See full article at:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dublin Comes to the U.S.

At the SITE conference, we attended a presentation entitled Teacher Identified Uses of Technology in the Classroom-an Irish Cohort. Both the topic and the Irish connection caught our attention.

Alison Egan from the Marino Institute of Education, Dublin, presented research she conducted with Ann FitzGibbon and Elizabeth Oldham from Trinity College, Dublin.  It was interesting to learn how similar the use and non-use of technology are among the respondants in the Irish study and what we have observed in our own pre-service teachers. 

Little did we know, when we left for Dublin, what a warm spot in our hearts we would have for all things Irish and that we could continue to experience Irish connections.  Surely, this is a sign that there is a return trip in our future!

Monday, March 25, 2013

SITE 2013: Trials and Triumphs of Blogging Internationally

Thursday, March 28th 10:15-11:15 AM

Paige Vitulli, University of South Alabama, United States
Peggy Delmas, University of South Alabama, United States
Susan Santoli, University of South Alabama, United States

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Of course, we couldn't let this special day pass without wishing a very Happy St. Patrick's Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig) to the wonderful people we met in Ireland! 

I'm providing a link to  the beautiful St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer that I read while in Ireland.

I baked some Irish soda bread, but it didn't taste nearly as good as it did in Dublin! 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Still loving The Meeting on the Turret Stairs

As I was recently preparing an art exercise with this wonderful watercolor to use with my students, I found two excellent YouTube videos that greatly enhanced my knowledge of and understanding of this work.  I hope that others will enjoy these as well!

William Frederic Burton:  Is This Ireland's Favorite Painting?  This video was actually done during the contest.

Sharon Corr:  Helellil and Hildebrand. The Meeting on the Turret Stairs.

This painting continues to capitvate all to whom we have "introduced" it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Education In the Irish News...

Interesting education views in the Irish news...

How Northern Ireland became the new Finland

Acquisition of an enviable slot in international literacy and numeracy rankings, "according to the study, Northern Irish primary pupils performed better in reading and numeracy than in any other English speaking country in the world."

Education suffering death by initiative..

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dublin: UNESCO City of Literature

One of the many things I love about sharing my travels through blogging is how readers will continue to inform me of related characteristics or events.
Dr Peggy Delmas, (my co-author of Paige and Peggy's Excellent Chinese Adventure discovered that Dublin is a UNESCO "City of Literature."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Final Day in Dublin

Thursday, November 1, was our final day in Dublin.  As part of the conference, we were offered a free bus tour of Dublin, and we were excited about seeing still more new things.  We both agreed that bus tours are great because they give such a good, overall view of a city.  Usually, I do one as I arrive in a city, but this one was great, because we revisited a few places we had gone before, but saw many new ones that we had been unable to get to.  So, we want to share a few of our final sights with you.

We had a super bus driver who knew lots of history, and good stories as well.  He must do this drive many times a week, but he was enthusiastic and proud to share parts of Dublin with us. He stopped as we went along, which was very nice because we could get out and take pictures.

Northside and Southside Dublin:  Dublin is divided by the Liffey River and a series of bridges join the two parts of the city together. Some are bridges which can be used by buses, automobiles, etc. and others, such as the Ha' Penny Bridge are only pedestrian bridges. The name refers to the half pence toll that people used to pay to cross it.

Find out why there are locks on the Ha'penny Bridge
Phoenix Park :  Phoenix Park is Europe's largest public park.  It is over 1700 acres. Within the park are sports fields, flower gardens, the Dublin Zoo and many other things. There are over 1000 Irish deer in the park that just wander around. We saw a field with dozens of them grazing-pretty amazing site! They have very large antlers.  This is also the location of the homes of the President of Ireland and of the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. We were able to see the President's home, but only saw the gates for the U.S. Ambassador's home. Both were very impressive.  Also within the park, is a 116  foot cross that was built for the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II, the first pope to visit Ireland. Over 1 million people turned out to see and hear him. There are several monuments and other areas within the gardens. It was very cold the day we visited, but it was also a week of school holidays, so there were lots of people enjoying the park.

The Guinness Brewery and Storehouse The Guinness Brewery was founded in 1759 and is still producing Ireland's national drink (or at least one of them)! Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease for an annual rent of 45 pounds (Obviously a great business man! I have never heard of such a long lease and 45 pounds is nothing today-probably less than $100!) Guinness is a stout-a dark brew made with roasted malt. Ten million pints a day are brewed world-wide. Their largest brewery is in Nigeria! The brewery and storehouse take up many blocks in Dublin and around the site, you can still see the housing that was built for workers in earlier times.

It seemed that every time I looked up
there was a truck of Guinness in front of us! ~PV

 If you are not familiar with the drink, you are probably familiar with the Guinness Book of Records, which was founded in 1955. Rick Steve's guidebook tells the story of thie Records book.  In 1951, while hunting, the managing director at Guinness got into a debate with his companions over what was the fastest bird in Europe. They were disappointed when they couldn't find an answer.  He hired a company who ran a fact finding agency in London to compile a book of answers to various questions.  In the beginning, the entries mostly focused on facts about nature and animals, but few to include a wide variety of human achievements.  Over 3.5 million copies are sold annually. The Guinness family has greatly benefitted the city of Dublin-not only through its employment, but also through the donation of park land, funds for restoration of important sites, such as St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Dublin Doors:  Throughout Dublin, you see beautiful Georgian doors and doorways dating from the late 1700s. The doors are painted different colors, have beautiful fanlights, and are a Dublin trademark.  You see them on posters, calendars, etc.  Our guide told us that there were several stories about the different colors. One was that when Queen Victoria died, the Irish were told to paint their doorways black as a symbol of mourning, but they were glad that she had died, so used other colors instead. He also said that it helped a person find the right door after a night at the pubs. I don't believe we'll know the whole story!

More St. Patrick's Cathedral:  When we first visited St. Patrick's, it was a cold, dreary day. Today, it was beautiful and our bus stopped so that we could take outside pictures.  The cemetery is located behind St. Patrick's and included some beautiful Celtic crosses.  Interestingly enough, St. Patrick is actually buried hundreds of miles away, in Northern Ireland.

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness
Monuments and Buildings related to Irish Independence: I have greatly neglected the part of Ireland's history dealing with Irish independence.  This is partly because it is such a long and complicated history that I can't do it justice in a blog post since volumes have been written on the subject. In looking for something which wouldn't be too unweildly, I found a children's history of Ireland, which offers a simplistic, but clear overview of Irish history: (You do not have to take the quiz at the end!) The monuments and areas we drove through are mainly associated with the 1916 Uprising and beyond. Just imagine having a war for independence and a civil war right after that.  The Uprising of 1916 was centered in Dublin. On Easter Monday, 1916, about 2000 Irish republicaion forces stormed the building. Patrick Pearse read the Proclamation for Irish Independence The British shelled the building for a week and most of the leaders of the revolt were executed. The facade still exists, with battle scars on the pillars. There is also a  Garden of Remembrance which commemorates those who died fighting for independence and the Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in which the leaders were kept, has been preserved and houses exhibits relating to Irish independence.

After the bus tour, we visited the National Museum of Archaeology and History which has a fabulous collection of artifacts dating from 7000 B.C. The building itself is beautiful and everything is displayed and labelled so well. There are actually four national museums, but this is the only one that we had time to visit and it was a real priority for me because of what it contains.

 The exhibit called the Treasury contains items from 15 centuries of Ireland. Several hordes of golden items have been found throughout Ireland which date from the Iron Age and many of the items are exhibited here.  It is amazing that these have survived, since gold is such a soft metal, but many are in wonderful condition and the intricacy of the work on the jewelry and other items is really amazing. There are several large brooches, from the 800s, which would have been used to hold cloaks closed. Several are made of gold and silver, and again, the work on them is tiny and intricate.  Ireland did not go through the Dark Ages with the rest of Europe (c. 500-1000). Because of this, literacy was preserved in Ireland and items such as the jewelry and church relics were being created during this time.There are several items which would have been displayed and used in medieval churches. Much of this was destroyed during the Reformation and when you see what remains, it makes you grieve for what is lost. An exceptional item on display is the Faddan Psalter which was found in a peat bog. Rather than trying to describe the significance of this discovery myself, I'm going to take an excerpt from the website.  I would also like to recommend a video which shows the discovery and initial preservation of the psalter.

"The Faddan More Psalter was discovered during peat cutting in a Tipperary bog in 2006. The book fell open upon discovery, and the visible Latin words in ualle lacrimarum (in the valley of tears) identified it as a psalter. The Psalter or Book of Psalms is a section of the Old Testament Bible. Biblical texts were first brought to Ireland during the 5th century by Christian missionaries. As Christianity spread, these texts were copied by Irish scribes. The Psalter came to hold a central place in the Irish monastic system, and children learned to read and write from the Psalter before being handed over to the monks for further instruction. Monks were expected to know the psalms from memory. The Faddan More Psalter was probably written around AD 800, in a nearby monastery, copied from an existing psalter. ..Excavation of the find place showed that the Psalter had been deposited along with a pigskin bag and an animal pelt. Radiocarbon dates from the other material found on the excavation indicate that the artefacts were deposited within a few hundred years of the Psalter being written, before AD 1000. The reasons for the deposition are not known. Earlier peat cutting in the bog uncovered an ancient wooden vessel and a fine leather satchel that dates to between the 7th and 9th centuries AD."  The following video and others can be viewed from the website: Thank goodness for those peat bogs! They have preserved many items so that we can study and enjoy them!

Additionally. the museum's collection of Bronze Age goldwork is one of the largest and most important in western Europe. "The earliest objects were produced between 2200 - 1800 BC from gold that was probably acquired from river gravels and worked into thin sheets by hammering." The metal working is very beautiful and the number of items is just overwhelming--a whole room just filled with one case after the other of gold necklaces, bracelets, earrings and other items.

The exhibit, Kingship and Sacrifice centers around two bodies dating from 400-200 B.C. that were found in peat bogs and were remarkably preserved. DNA testing and all kinds of other testing could be done on the bodies and the information they found about the people was amazing.  Along with the bog bodies, other items associated with the rulers of Ireland are also displayed-eating tools, headdresses, weapons, clothing, etc.

There are many other exhibits in the museum and we spent a great afternoon wandering around in awe.

Reluctantly, we ended our time in Dublin and began to get ready to fly back to the States.  Definitely, Dublin and Ireland have a very special place in our hearts. There's LOTS more we'd like to see!

My reading material for the trip home ~PV

Conference Finale!

Our conference ended on Wednesday afternoon with a general session. Part of that session's agenda was to give awards for the Outstanding Paper and Outstanding Workshop.  We were very thrilled to receive the Best Workshop Award and thank all of the College of Education support that allowed us to attend the conference!