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!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday's Keynote Speaker

Dr. Patricia Mannix-McNamara
Co-director of the Research Centre for
Education and Professional Practice
The keynote speaker for the final day of the conference was Dr. Patricia Mannix-McNamara, Co-director of the Research Centre for Education and Professional Practice at the University of Limerick The title of her presentation was: So What is all this Education For?  She spoke about the disconnect between what teachers do in classrooms and what is going on in society. Her concern is that the push for grades and high test scores, and the deep involvement of business and industry in developing educational policies and curriculum have changed the focus of schools from being concerned about the the development of the whole child to a narrow focus on achieving high grades and test scores. Her research has been conducted in numerous places in Ireland and also in other European countries.

She feels that the incidences of corruption and dishonesty we see in industry and politics and the bullying prevalent in schools affirm that something is deeply wrong in society and that teachers are not trained, nor are they given the class time to focus on mental health needs, self esteem and values. Ireland has one of the highest teenage suicide rates of any country and Dr. Mannix-McNamara feels that schools are failing young people in the area of human development. She discussed the fact that Finnish schools, often touted as among the world’s very best, have moved away from the exam system and to a more holistic system of education. 

Among the authors and researchers referenced was Sir Ken Robinson, with whom Dr. V and I are familiar. If you have not viewed his video on schools killing creativity, you may be interested in hearing his ideas

If you would like to read more about Finland's schools, here is an article from Smithsonian:

How can classroom teachers ensure that they are not neglecting human development issues as they ensure that they are teaching as well?

What resources might help teachers in this effort?

Is this an area where elementary teachers have opportunities that secondary teachers may not?

Do teachers have a responsibility to do more than teach content?

U.S. Embassy

The area around our hotel is the location of many consulates and embassies, including the U.S. Embassy It is a lovely area, described in tourist books as "residential and leafy."  We hope that we will NOT need the services of the Embassy, but it is certainly nice to know where it is!

Halloween in Ireland

Carved by the staff in Bewley's Restaurant
HaPpY HaLlOwEen!
The day has just begun, and we have been "warned" that Halloween is quite lively here in Dublin. We are taking a break between sessions and have not begun to prepare for pending celebrations, but the day is still when in Rome (or Dublin)...
This post is to be continued...

Paul Colella is a published author from North Haven and former history school teacher who writes about the history of Halloween at

Halloween in Dublin, Ireland

On the Telly

Before coming to Ireland, we wondered what news from the US might be covered in the Irish news and especially wondered what might be said about the upcoming election. CNN International was not available, but finally found the channel for Sky News which is affiliated with FOX News. We did hear assorted stories about the election and many people here have asked us about it.  Sky News is going to have live coverage of the election. As the hurricane grow closer to the US,, there was more and more coverage of the hurricane and since it hit, there has been nearly continual coverage of the aftermath by Irish journalists in the US. I feel like the coverage has been very comparable to what we would see at home and coverage has not been confined to NYC,  These two subjects have really dominated the US news focus. I have actually been surprised at the extent of the coverage of both subjects.

On the Irish side of the news, a teenage girl committed suicide in the past few days as a result of bullying. Ireland is experiencing financial problems stemming from the economic downturn. Irish banks lost a great deal of money in the credit crisis and there was a government bailout. The government borrowed money for this bailout and there is huge debt. Ireland had actually been experiencing strong economic growth and is now in a recession. Because Ireland is a Euro country, it cannot adopt its own independent economic and exchange policies. The Irish financial situation is generally mentioned.

There are many US television shows on Irish tv. Of course, these do not ALWAYS reflect the best side of America. (I can remember visiting England many years ago and someone told me that he knew what the South was like because he warched Dukes of Hazzard!) There are also Irish/British versions of reality shows and we saw an HGTV type show of a couple being shown several houses. Some commercials are actually the same voices as we have in the US. There is an absence of American football. Of course, soccer is called football here and it dominates tv sports. Colleges do not have sports teams, they are club type sports and the rivalries are regional and fierce. We had to rely on the Internet to check the football scores.

If you were to select a tv show to show another country the best side of America, what would it be?

We Finally Viewed the Original!

We have been waiting for this day...Wednesday at 11:00
to see the powerful painting which is also Ireland's favorite.
Waiting for the black doors to open...

Once unveiled, we were very surprised photos were allowed (without flash of course).
Have you ever had an experience where you have seen, heard or read something that literally changed you as a person?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

IICE Conference Workshop. Developing the "Other" Literacy: How Visual Arts Have the Potential to Deepen Student Understanding

Now for the Conference

Dr. V. and I were very intrigued by the title of this conference and we wondered if it would truly be an international conference. We need not have worried. Actually, I am not sure that we have met anyone from Ireland! Yesterday at lunch, we sat with participants from Chile, Italy and Germany and we have met participants from Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and other US states. The education aspect of this conference addresses much more than traditional K-12 or higher education. There are sessions dealing with different types of adult education such as entrepreneurship and technical and vocational training. Some are twenty minute presentations and others, such as ours, are 90 minute workshops.

Each day begins with a keynote speaker. Monday's keynote was by Dr. Cynthia Northington-Purdie who is a psychologist and life coach at William Paterson University of New Jersey. The title of her presentation was The Evolution of Academic Integrity. Her premise was that in the 20th century, the concepts of cheating and plagiarism were concrete and unambiguous. She asked us to consider if the evolution of technology and information should cause us to rethink our concept of academic integrity.

How has technology and access to information challenged notions of academic integrity? What can we do in our K-12 classrooms to make students aware of academic integrity issues and of our expectations in this area?

Tuesday's keynote was by Dr. Richard Cooper who is the Director of Disability Services at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, PA. He described how very differently some people perceive, process, and communicate and the implications for learning and instruction. He provided resources that we found very relevant and valuable and we think that you may also. Most of his handouts and some of the information he shared are available on his website: The information he provided was applicable to students and to adults and he works with both groups. I certainly found some useful information that I will be sharing with my classes. He spoke a great deal about visual perceptions, processing, and communicating, which we found very relevant to our research and to our  workshop. He will be speaking to the Birmingham Literacy Council next week.

Dr. Cooper prefers to speak of students who learn differently rather than those who have learning disabilities. What do you think is his reason for this?

We have been especially impressed by the concerns that everyone has expressed for the victims of hurricane Sandy in the States. They have made special efforts to share thoughts and prayers at the start of each session and throughout the day with those of us from North America.

Conference Dinner