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Six reasons why you should use your YouTube channel more – Nuggets from a Google Breakfast Briefing

  1. YouTube is where your organisation or business can get found! YouTube is now the second-biggest search engine, especially in the How To… / DIY area.A list of YouTube search suggestions: "How to..."
  2. YouTube users actively share content – and even more so in this country: Irish people are 25% more likely than their UK and US counterparts to share a video. 58% of them share YouTube videos they saw. Humour is particularly popular here – the most shared video in Ireland in 2013 was this one featuring a certain confused elephant with a Cork accent: Still of Sminky Shorts: Elephant
  3. You have a lot more freedom than if producing ads for television, e.g. as far as length of a video is concerned, so why not tell the story of your business in a few minutes and let viewers decide if they want to see it all.
  4. You can get great insights into your viewers and what makes them tick using YouTube Trends. Or even better, you can establish what people are searching for on YouTube – and then create videos about relevant search terms in your industry! This is what American YouTube-celebrity and video blogger Michelle Phan does for her hugely popular make-up tips. YouTube 02
  5. It’s fun, good value, and very engaging. (Ooops, that’s three reasons in one. Let’s focus on the “good value” bit so.) For instance, there’s the video made by the Dollar Shave Club for some $7,000 – more than 15 million views. There’s bound to be a good few new customers for them in that 15 million!!! If you haven’t seen this video yet – do. Trust me. YouTube 03
  6. And then when you have a good video, you can use it for a few cents per view as a skippable pre-roll ad on YouTube – these ads can be any length, and the advertiser only pays if the viewer decides not to skip it. Irish advertisers typically pay between 8 and 12 cents per view – highly targetted advertising. While we’re on the subject, please please stay away from non-skippable pre-roll ads! The presenter, Ruth McEntee, said it’s a receding trend (let’s hope she’s right), and estimated 20% of advertisers opt for it. If they are anything like me, viewers will simply end up resenting the company the no-skip ad is for…

Google Logo on stage

These nuggets were gleaned from last Friday’s Google Breakfast Meeting, 25 July 2014, in Dublin. It was an excellent event, lead very ably by Ruth McEntee, Industry Manager, YouTube Ireland.

Ruth McEntee on stage

Ruth McEntee on stage.

Have you heard of the Google Breakfast Meetings? On the last Friday of each month, from February to November 2014, Google Ireland organises an informative talk (preceded by croissants and fresh fruit) for Irish businesses, in an attempt to help them increase their online presence. It said that an estimated €3.7bn was spent by Irish consumers online in 2012, however 73pc of that was spent on overseas websites.  Ample scope for growth there!

To be able to attend the breakfast briefings, send an email to asking to be put on their mailing list. You’ll get an invitation to register on the first Friday of the month – and you’d better respond fast, as tickets to the events (in The Foundry, in Google’s Europe, Middle East and Africa Headquarter, Barrow Street, Dublin) are usually snapped up in under two hours.

The author on the right. Not great at taking selfies.

The author on the right. Not great at taking selfies.

Ruth shared a number of excellent resources with us – just two here for you: YouTube Marketing And Analytics: A Primer For Magnificent Success on that very useful website Occam’s Razor by Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik

The YouTube Creator Playbook – – according to itself, “a great resource that compiles important tips, best practices, and strategies to help you build your audience on YouTube.”

The audience chatting after the presentation.

Networking after the event.

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Keep it personal, keep it real.

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone on Social Media, it would have to be this: Keep it personal, keep it real!

I love it when I can sense the person behind a post. And when posting on behalf of a festival, community organisation, or company – why not sign with your first name? I’ve started doing that.

Signing Facebook Posts


When it seems that an update was prompted by someone seeing / doing / discovering something they’d like to share.

When it was sent out for a different reason than “Our Facebook publishing schedule demanded a visual update.” or “According to our Twitter schedule, we had to push out some video.”

Don’t send out “some” video – share the video you love!

And while I’m at it… don’t push your Facebook posts out through Twitter. Twitter only allows 140 characters, most Facebook updates are longer, and all you end up with is a link to your Facebook post.

No-one likes truncated tweets, and I doubt that many click on the link to see what it is you posted on Facebook…

People do like seeing pictures on Twitter, though!

Part of a Twitter feed

@FingalCoCo you’re doing it right!

Cong13 – a congregation of bloggers: Offline is the new online

How an unconference on blogging became the place where social-media practitioners stopped talking about themselves for a day and started talking to each other.

Following the call to Cong

Blogging is a solitary pursuit. It is you and the keyboard – the audience may be vast, or maybe only your family and a couple of friends read what you have to say, but it all starts normally with just you, on your own. Last weekend, it was different.

Some 50 bloggers followed Eoin Kennedy’s call to Cong, Co. Mayo and participated in this unconference: Instead of taking in keynotes and seminars, we gathered in groups of 10 and spoke and listened and engaged. Everyone presented at some stage, big names and newcomers got the same space and attention. This seemed daunting at first,  but the atmosphere was so positive and non-judgmental that everyone I talked to was delighted to have participated.

Congregation site

The event was free to attendees, thanks to sponsorship by sponsor, but you had to blog your way in – resulting in an anthology of present-day blogging in Ireland. For anyone trying to get a feel for what is happening there at the moment, the collected blog posts (which are all on the website) are a great starting point. Full credit must be given to Eoin Kennedy who cajoled bloggers ever-so-gently into delivering the promised goods! The posts will be published in eBook-form, too, so look out for that.

Engaged, active, sharing – albeit offline

The views on social media expressed during Congregation13 were as refreshingly diverse as the people who attended. Community activists and academics, food bloggers and internet-radio DJs, recent college graduates and teachers, PR professionals from banking, transport and agencies, consultants and practitioners… all shared and debated.

The event was very, very engaging. We were split into five groups of ten, so-called huddles, which convened in coffee shops, pubs and a bookshop all within easy walking distance of each other. Two people presented in each huddle, maybe three, and everyone contributed to the discussions that followed these inputs. How much more satisfying than giving a presentation in front of a large audience that is followed by another one, and another one, with little or no hope of having conversation around it! And from the point of view of those listening, how wonderful to be able to respond directly to others’ thoughts and thus be part of the discussion immediately! Each of the four huddle slots saw the groups reshuffling, so that in the end, I had been in huddles with more than 30 others. A great way of getting to know the other attendees.


Nearly all the Congregation13 attendees.

Top topics

The seven presentations in my four huddles were on internet radio, community websites and Facebook pages, education and social media, customer service in transport, banks and social media (fascinating, a completely different world), and trends in advertising (and why it is often still so 20th century). Discussions centred around authenticity and credibility, technology / tools (a lot of genuine sharing), and the danger inherent in too much marketing coming into platforms.

Congregation13 had at least one thing in common with the recent Web Summit in Dublin – the access to the internet was patchy.  Most managed to get some tweets out, but the planned Google+ hangouts didn’t happen quite as planned, and anything more than just a text tweet was unlikely to get through.

This didn’t matter too much, though. Real-life interaction replaced online connectivity, and a lot of content was prepared for future publication – Tweets that went out with the #cong13 hashtag over the next days, blogs which start appearing now, and interviews for podcasts and videos – many of them carried out by the affable  Conn Ó Muíneacháin (@conn), editor of The first interview has already been published – looking forward to the rest!

 Conn Ó Muíneacháin interviewing Pauline Sargent from Drimnagh is Good

Conn Ó Muíneacháin interviewing Pauline Sargent from Drimnagh is Good

#cong14, here we come!

When I first heard about Congregation, I was only half convinced. When I saw the blog papers coming in, and the breadth of topics they covered, I started looking forward to it more. In the end, I left Cong delighted that I had gone there, and with the firm intention of blogging my way into #Cong2014, too.

Looking for more?

Here are, for your convenience, a few relevant links.

The Congregation website.

The list of Congregation 2013 blog posts.

The interview with Eoin Kennedy on

A list of “Audioboos, Tweets, Pictures, Blog Posts, even a YouTube & Listly List” put together by Rich Roberts

The Drimnagh is Good website Pauline Sargent talked about to Conn Ó Muíneacháin.

My CongTribution (pardon the pun): A blog post about blogging during our local Music and Arts Festival, Skerries Soundwaves, and a short presentation with thoughts about bloggers and their audience.

Leave your comments below.

18 Social Media Blogs Worth Reading

I follow blogs. I particularly read blogs that give me insights into the world of digital marketing, social media and trends relevant to the internet in general. I like subscribing to blogs by email. I scan what’s on, then click into it if there’s anything I’m interested in further. So, for your convenience and perusal, here is my list of Social Media & Related Blogs Worth Reading:

Social Media in general (6)

Social Media Examiner logo: An explorer looking out at you

  1. If you only subscribe to one blog / podcast, then subscribe to this. Mike Stelzner is the guy who started SocialMediaExaminer, now the largest Social Media blog in the world, with more than 225,000 subscribers. I love their podcasts in particular. Every week, Mike gives his listeners first an overview of what’s happening, you know, new developments in Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest etc., then he talks briefly about some things he’s involved in, before transitioning (a word he loves) to the main beef of the podcast, an in-depth interview with someone who is invariable the biggest name in his or her field. You could nearly safe yourself the time and effort of following all the other blogs on Social Media – reading the blogs and listening to the podcast, you’ll be pretty well informed about what’s going on. Marvellous.
  2. Boom Social – Kim Garst writes blogs on social media and online marketing. She offers “result-driven social media training” to SMEs in particular. Snappy titles and blogs that give concrete advice, aimed at people who may not have a marketing training but still need to get their message out there. And she looks at a wide range of channels. “5 Ways to Get Traffic from Instagram.” – “25 Easy Ways to Promote Your Blog.” – “How to Make Money with Your Website.”  – “8 ways to Create Content Google Will Devour.” Have a look for yourself. I think it’s nicely straightforward; a lot of it seems common sense, but no harm to be reminded.
  3. “Social Media Today is an independent, online community for professionals in PR, marketing, advertising, or any other discipline where a thorough understanding of social media is mission-critical. Every day, we provide insight and host lively debate about the tools, platforms, companies and personalities that are revolutionizing the way we consume information. All of our content is contributed by our members and curated by our editorial staff.” And they send you a weekly email, simply click on the Email icon (top right-hand corner, with the other sharing icons). Neat overview and summary of the week’s best articles on Social Media Today. Why not start blogging for them yourself?!
  4. Rick Mulready writes in an easy-going, personal style. His content is focused on Social Media; you can sign up to his email newsletter and download a free EBook (I did, but haven’t opened it yet – is that what happens with most of these free downloads, I wonder?). He also does “The Inside Social Media Podcast,” where he interviews practitioners from a large selection of industries, large (Red Bull, Taco Bell), small and B2B.
  5. Jeff Bullas covers everything social. He often comes to things from a blogger’s point of view and says himself: “The blog’s focus is to assist business in “getting found online” in a digital world and making your company visible and successful on a crowded web.” Useful, if not the most entertaining. Oh, and he too offers a free ebook in return for your subscription.
  6. Ian Cleary’s RazorSocial specialises in social-media tools. No-frills, text-only weekly email with a short list of summaries of articles on RazorSocial, and of course links to the full articles. Plus a hot tip with a link to a specific tool that looks useful. Guess what you get if you subscribe? Yep, an ebook. This time, one on Social Media Tools. Makes sense to me…

Social Media by channel (3)

Mari Smith Facebook Marketing Expert

  1. Mari Smith. Can’t beat her on Facebook! Actually, having said that, I do follow her on Facebook, too. Her emails are more detailed, her Facebook posts are up-to-the-second insights and seem to give you information on new features in real time. She often puts on free webinars, which are interesting not just for their content but also for the technology she uses. She also picks three resources, blog posts, articles, tools… every week and sends them out in her “Social Scoop” update. Mari seems to delight in trying out new tools, and in sharing her experiences with her audience. And she firmly believes that if used right, Facebook is a great place to be for businesses.
  2.–i-1.asp Viveka von Rosen shares her insights into LinkedIn Marketing. She sends out short emails to her mailing list, containing tips and checklists intended to ensure that you present yourself and / or your company on LinkedIn in a way that gets results. Her weekly blog helps to stay on top of changes in LinkedIn, but also offers specific tips e.g. for the legal profession, on prospecting on LinkedIn, and on the connection between likeability and LinkedIn. Intrigued? See for yourself!–i-281.asp
  3. Cynthia Sanchez covers everything to do with Pinterest  in her weekly blog – from inspirations for pins to analyzing the bounce rate of traffic to your website that comes from Pinterest. Informative, in-depth, useful.

Marketing (online, mainly; 3)

Photo of Jay Baer

  1. Jay Baer wrote one of the big hits in the 2013 social media / online marketing world, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype. He is also president of Convince & Convert and writes most of their blogs. Subscribe and collect a free ebook… a useful (youseful?) one, one would hope! Their daily One Thing email is great, highlighting one social media or content marketing story daily. Nicely presented, clean design and useful information. Try it for yourself. When you sign up for Convince and Convert, you’ll receive the daily newsletter, too. And Jay’s “Baer Facts” is worth looking at, too. Plus there’s the Social Pros Podcast, where Jay and Jeffrey Rohrs (from ExactTarget) focus on “real people doing real work in social media”
  2. Jonah Berger is one of my marketing heroes. He wrote a book about the way ideas spread, aptly named Contagious, which I listened to very recently (audiobooks, gotta love ’em, especially when you don’t find much time for paper-based reading…) He is an academic, of the most approachable, sense-making type, and his theories are actually backed up by facts. Statistics. You can subscribe to his blog, where he shares clear and concise tips on how to make your marketing more – yep: contagious. And subscription also lets you access some resources, for instance an ebook. What can I say… This one I did look at: The “Craft Contagious Content” workbook.
  3. Jamie Turner sends out short, snappy, opinionated pieces about what’s happening in the online marketing world. QR Code is dead! Facebook advertising is a waste of time! Agree? Disagree? The discussions in the comments are often as entertaining and interesting as the blog post itself.
  4. Weekly round-up of their articles. This is HubSpot – so the insights are deep, detailed, and very, very useful. I liked their recent article on writing a video script – from a marketing perspective. It’s a long list every week, so you’ll have to pick and choose what’s most important to you.

For Entrepreneurs (2)

Photo of Derek Halpern, Social Triggers

  1. Do we all need to become savvy about marketing, whether our job title has “marketing” in it or not? Derek Halpern believes that ” smart entrepreneurs and executives who want to win in today’s overcrowded marketplace MUST become master marketers, persuaders, and salesmen.” He produces short quirky videos where he talks about social triggers, about things that make people want to spend money on your products. Quite entertaining, really. Subscribe to his newsletter, and you’ll get an email every time he’s published a new video – with a few more remakrs and insights and so on. No ebook. Is that good or bad, I wonder?
  2.  Are you a mediapreneur? Do you have a blog, web show, podcast etc. that you want to use to generate income? Then David Siteman Garland might have some interesting insights for you. He produces a video every Thursday, usually an interview with a “mediapreneur” or a training video with his take on topics like information product marketing plans, tips for using Facebook for your next product launch, or guest blogging “like a boss.” David is a likable guy, entertaining to watch and always upbeat.  If sentences like the following two make you cringe, this is not for you – if you find the content exciting, it is! “So, my biggest, most awesome kick-ass digital program Create Awesome Online Courses: The proven step-by-step system for creating, promoting & profiting from online courses launches Tuesday morning (after over a year of research, planning and other fun stuff). Yes, I just said awesome twice in one sentence.”

Other Topics (4)

Fast Company

  1. report on what’s happening in the world of design and “leadership.” Slightly different from your Digital Marketing newsletters, and I enjoy the sleek presentation and different angle on product development, office architecture, workflow management and, above all, creativity in many, many guises. You can choose from a total of seven newsletters, and opt for daily or weekly updates.  I particularly like the daily commentary signed @HisWalrus, a humorous, perceptive, fast-moving commentary from a Walrus’s point of view (seriously, you’ve got to read it!) – from the pen, err, keyboard of “Professor Walrus AKA Clay Andres, Editor@Large.” Tick the box next to Co.Labs Daily to receive this nugget!
  2. SearchCap – Daily Search News: They keep an eye on changes in search results, and on related industry news. A bit dry, but very informative: Headlines and summaries. I like their linked list of “Recent Headlines from Marketing Land” (their sister site), which they include at the bottom. Saves me subscribing to that as well…
  3. The PCMagazine has a very useful email roundup of what’s happening in the world of technology. Scroll half-way down on their home page, and you can subscribe by email to different areas, such as Small Business, Security, Build It… I feel it adds a touch of tech to my inbox!

A Word of Warning

These are my favourite blogs. I have subscribed to a good few more.

Can you actually keep up with that many blogs, I hear you ask.

And the answer is: No, or only at a high cost.

Subscribe to a good few at first, then see which ones you are actually getting benefit from – and ditch the rest.

Use your time well!

And now leave a comment here to let us know what your favourite blog is. Maybe I’ll add it to my 18…

Social Media Success Summit 2013

I’m morphing more and more into a social-media practitioner and am truly enjoying this. Great example: The opportunity to manage the online presence of Skerries Soundwaves, our town’s music  and arts festival, last month!

Soundwaves site

At the moment, I’m virtually (as in: online, not in real life) attending a four-week summit hosted by The Social Media Examiner, based in the US. It’s fascinating stuff, and I’ll write some more about it in the near future, but for today just let me say:

  • It eats up three of my nights each week – and I feel I’m lucky because if I was in the States, this would be bang in the middle of my day, and I wouldn’t be able to attend!
  • It fills my head with lots of new ideas.
  • I’ve made a lot of new connections, some on LinkedIn and some on Twitter, and I’m particularly enjoying the Twitter conversations between presentations (#SMSS13)
  • There is a badge!

I'm attending Social Media Success Summit!

Cycling Holidays in Northern Germany: 5 Tips, 1 Question and 3 Recommendations

We’re recently back from a three-week cycling holiday in Friesland on the North Sea, Lower Saxony. We had a tremendous time and would like to pass our insights on to other would-be cycling tourists!

The author and her bike

My bike and I. In Friesland. Photographs (c) Michael McKenna 2013.

1. Find a central place and explore from there! We stayed in my home town, Sande , “Mitten in Friesland (At the heart of Frisia).” From there, we cycled roughly 50 to 80 km a day. We saw the wide open landscape of the marshlands, the hedgerows and birch avenues of the Geest, a number of very diverse forests, the canals which helped to drain the fields which are below sea level, the pastures the Frieslanders claimed from the North Sea within the centuries, the dykes and the North Sea.

The author (small, on bike) going down a dyke.

Free-wheeling down a dyke.

There were medieval churches, lone farmsteads, lots of cows (yes, you guessed it, mainly Frisians), villages, towns, and one city (Wilhelmshaven). Windmills and wind turbines dotted the landscape. Lots of them. And we could cover all that from our one base. No need to re-pack our bags every night! (But if there are good facilities for multi-base holidays, too. Just check out Bett+Bike.)

Wind turbines in a field

Personally, I see beauty in these. And environmentally-friendly energy generation!

2. Find a tourist-information office (helpfully called Tourist Info in German) and get the free, well-produced brochures with suggested cycling routes. Or check routes out online. [link] Alas, few printed brochures are available in English, but the maps and photographs do go a long way to get you on your bike and exploring.

3. Learn to trust signposts. In that part of Germany, there is a top-class system of signage specifically aimed at touring cyclists. These distinctive signs won’t necessarily show you the shortest way from A to B – if you want that, just follow the signposts for cars – most roads there have good cycle paths running alongside. The bike signs will take you the scenic route, through residential areas, over agricultural paths, through meadows and forests, along canals and drainage ditches. And because they always specify to a tenth of a kilometre how far it is to the destinations, you will always know pretty well how far you have to go. We found those signposts to be excellent – even though I grew up in the area, and cycled 12 k to school and back every day, I saw paths and fields I never knew existed. And at nearly all times, we were able to fully rely on them. Only in the city were there serious gaps, which added a few miles to our trip one of the days.

Detailed signs made for cyclists

Signposts like this one are at all major crossroads.

4. Be willing to stop for information panels if you are interested in history and geography. There are many, many well-designed information panels out along the signposted routes, and if you are that way inclined, you can learn a huge amount about the history of local dykes and dukes, the ancient windmills and the modern-day wind turbines, flora and fauna and their habitat, history of transportation and beer making.  Having German, or having a German speaker with you, would come in handy here…

information panel on nature in the coastal zone

Just one example of the manifold information panels. Click on it to see it in large.

5. Rent a bike locally. Good bikes are widely available from local Fahrradgeschäfte, by the day or by the week. They tend to be comfortable bikes on which you sit proudly upright, which I find great for taking in the scenery. I like a bike with front suspension, though this year I had one without, and managed quite well all the same. It was still a very good bike, a 7-gear machine of the Dutch make Gazelle which is possibly the most popular for everyday cycling in the area. If you find head winds a challenge, you might want to consider an e-bike. You’ll still have to pedal, but the very quiet engine will give you an extra push that makes cycling against the wind a doddle. It’s fascinating to see ladies and gents in their seventies zoom by, proudly cruising on their Pedelec bikes.

a bike on a dyke

A good sturdy bike.

After those five tips, here’s now the promised question for you – or is it really more a suggestion?

Have you ever wondered what it might be like in an area where cycling seems to be more commonplace than driving? Then get yourself to Friesland for study purposes! When on the move in Sande, I saw more bikes than cars. There are bike racks in the train stations in bigger towns and cities, you can bring your bike onto any train, and you can see numbers of bikes at bus stops, waiting for their owners to return. The children sit on their parents’ bikes or in a trailer when they’re brought to Kindergarten; from primary-school age, they are expected to cycle to school, doing so on their own from a very early age. For adults, the bike seems to be the default mode of transport, and it remains so until a very advanced age. So – you know where to go if you want to see this in action!

Shed at bus stop with bikes next to it

Bikes next to this bus-stop shelter waiting for their owners to return.

1st Recommendation: To increase your cycling range, take a train – travel in comfort against the wind, then sail back and enjoy the easy ride! You can use local trains all day (after 9 a.m. on weekdays) for €22 (additional people, up to four, are a mere €4 check extra, your own children travel for free, a day ticket for your bike is €5).

2nd Recommendation: Stop at a Bäckerei for your mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Good-value coffee, very nice little somethings (fruit slices, cream cakes, and a lot of other baked goods you’ll simply have to try yourself), or go for a set breakfast for between €3 and €7.50, depending on how much you’d like included. German Brötchen (rolls) alone would be worth a separate blog entry!

coffees and baked goodies on a table

Yum! Nothing like a second breakfast in the sun.

3rd Recommendation: Subscribe to this blog, because I have three more blog posts about our cycling holidays in Northern Germany in the pipeline!

cycle map on lamp post

So much more to come… including a photo essay and more about cycling in Friesland.

Have you been? Are you tempted? I’d love to read your comments!

Five things I love doing in Skerries

Skerries, just North of Dublin, on the rugged Fingal coast… there are so many things to do here!

Five that I just love are:

(1.)  Going for a walk – just around Red Island, or maybe following the full Slí na Sláinte (“Path of Health” – signposted walking route), which would take about an hour. How lucky are we that we can exercise in such surroundings?

A row of pretty houses overlooking Skerries Harbour.

Skerries Harbour is part of the Slí na Sláinte.

(2.) Feeling even more energetic, I might go for a spin on the bike, perhaps out to Loughshinny (some 5 km / 3 miles South along the coast).

  1. A cyclist, a meadow, an old farm house and the sea.

    Looking out over the sea just before reaching Lougshinny.

(3.) Thinking of all that exercise makes me long for cappuccino and muffins (or, since I’m trying to be more health-minded these days, for a fruit smoothie). Skerries has a great selection of coffee shops and delicatessens. Meet a friend or just sit and watch the world go by!

Café life on Strand Street

Enjoying the sunshine outside Olive’s, Strand Street.

(4.) Or I might just sit on a bench on South Beach. Or go paddle in the sea. I don’t do either of these things enough!
View of Skerries beach

Red Island with the Martello Tower in the background. This was taken around 10 a.m. one July morning (2013).

(5.) Then again, I might treat myself to ice cream with sprinkles, or even  crepes… again, Skerries has a choice of places!

The ice cream shop "Storm in a Teacup"

This is one of the various places where you can ice creams in Skerries.

Actually, that trip to Loughshinny mentioned above, which we last did a short while ago, is an easy cycle with just a few ups and downs – take the first of the two possible left turns towards Loughshinny (in 2000, this was marked as the start of the Millennium Walk), to go down the beautiful narrow road on the picture, then go across to the harbour and beach. Take a break there. When you have cycled back to Skerries, you’re probably ready for another treat!

Bike and  country lane in the sunshine.

My bike and the lane down to the village of Loughshinny. A touring cyclist’s dream!

So what are your favourite things to do in Skerries? Please do share in the Comments! It might give me a few new ideas…

Sounding out workshops for Skerries Soundwaves


The Soundwaves logo

Imagine you’re in Skerries, that beautiful seaside town. It’s September, and Soundwaves, the annual arts & music festival is on. And this year, the organisers have arranged for a number of workshops – no, not for kids this time, but for people like you. Grownups, you see. What do you think, what workshops should be on offer?

I’m wondering this because I’m one of those organisers, and it’s my job this year to look after those workshops. I thought I’d best ask first what people would like to do.

Here are some ideas to start the ball rolling. Basically, anything that has some creative element could be included…

For one afternoon, would you like to a taste of any of the following activities?


        Card-making (not just for Christmas)

        Creating digital photo books (bring your laptop)

        Digital creativity on your laptop or tablet

        Digital photography


        Juggling [that’s one I tried before, and it was brilliant – see my blog entry on it if you like!]

        Making balloon animals (very useful for parents)

        Origami (Japanese-style paper folding)

        Paint a plate or mug



        Singing in a choir

        The creative side of Minecraft (bring your laptop)


I’m hoping for lots of comments below on what you would like to do, and on what you think others might enjoy.

Social Media in Primary Schools? Afterthoughts from ICTEdu (Thurles 2012)

Social Media in Education – great in universities – and yes,  you can use them in primary schools!

Conference badges, pen, stickers etc.!Thoughts prompted by a workshop by Catherine Cronin at the ICT in Education conference in Thurles, Tipperary Institute, 19 May 201

Who will be blogging about this? asked Simon Lewis even before the conference was over. There will be many others who’ll give an overall view (I hope), some already have published theirs, and I’ve put some links to presentations at the bottom of this blog entry. –  I could write about all the workshops and plenary sessions I attended, and there would be many, many things to mention. I could also write about the experience of attending with my 11-year-old son, Ciarán, whose presence added a lot to my day, and who enjoyed his time immensely. I could write about the CESIMeet on the 18th – again, a fantastic occasion where you never know what the next presenter will be talking about, and if you are new to the format, find more out about it on the CESI Website. Or I could mention my (still nerve-wrecking) second presentation at such a meet, about my current passion (ICT-wise), Minecraft, and the website I set up to help primary teachers find out about it, . And I could write a lot about the inspiring and invigorating inputs by Ira Socol and Pam Moran, who made us reflect on the issues of comfort and learning, and how technology can help liberate children from certain constraints. Or about the fact that you can’t beat a conference like this, when it comes to re-motivating yourself. And how much I’m looking forward to continuing the discussions online at the weekly #edchatie Twitter chats.

The tweet asking for blogs....

However, what I’m actually going to write about is:

Social media in education – in primary schools!?!

Social media – that part of online life where you can interact with others. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ – these come to my mind first of all, and we have seen those used in third level.

Social media in schools give everyone the chance to be part of the dialogue, including those not eager to talk out in class. They are motivating, and they allow for a more involved learning experience for the students.

Catherine Cronin’s session,  “Social Media, Learning, Space and Time”, ‘explored how social media can help us to break down the walls of the classroom.’ This quote is taken from her Blog entry about the ICT in Education conference, by the way.  Her slides and the videos she fed into the session can be accessed there as well.

Catherine talked about the way she has been using Twitter her 2nd-year students over the last couple of years. It proved itself to be a great levelling tool between teacher / lecturer and student, giving both a (nearly) equal footing in discussions and conversations.

And in primary schools? While asking each child in a class, or even computer club, to sign up individually and start using Twitter might not work, other platforms allow for online dialogue in a safer, protected setting. Edmodo  could be a good way to get children used to communicating in a (semi-) public setting. “Edmodo provides teachers and students a secure place to connect and collaborate, share content and educational applications, and access homework, grades, class discussions and notifications. Our goal is to help educators harness the power of social media to customize the classroom for each and every learner.” (

Many primary schools have class blogs. The most successful ones have comment facilities, and they can become a platform for an exchange of opinions in a public arena. Children learn that their virtual conversations can be overheard by others; they learn that what they say, may be commented upon, just as comment on what they read. A good place to go if you want to see examples of class blogs from all over Ireland is SeasSuas. One blog that does have comments enabled, and where the students are making more and more use of this facility for their communication, is

Social media can help open up the dialogue beyond classroom walls. As one fellow attendee tweeted during the session: “Writing that is only shared between student and teacher is artificial.”  While that need not always be the case, being read by someone ‘real’ – someone besides the teacher – encourages children. Catherine introduced us to the “100 Word Challenge,” an initiative ideal for primary-school children. Every week, a writing prompt is issued – could be a picture, a short text, it varies. Teachers organise their classes to write up to 100 words based on it. The entries are uploaded, and others can then comment on them. Apparently, children have great fun doing both the writing and the commenting, and reading other people’s comments on their work, too! See the initiator’s invitation to join the 100 Word Challenge here!

A lot more was covered in the workshop, and I do encourage you to go to Catherine’s blog or her slide-share site to explore it further. However, the most important message for me was that social media can very definitely be used at primary level – and that we should try to do so, as publishing, commenting, and reacting to comments online is a life-skill of ever-increasing importance. And: Practicing it in school can be great fun!


Links put up by presenters at the ICT in Education conference in Thurles, Tipperary Institute, 19 May 2012

And related but different – added because some people mentioned at the conference they’d like to use Twitter, but aren’t sure how or where to start:

Pedagogical implications of digital media???

Children sitting at a long table, setting up their laptops.

How has the widespread availability of digital media changed our teaching? What, indeed, are the “pedagogic implications of digital media”? The field is endless, especially if we throw in emerging technologies, and yet this is what we have been asked to deal with in a mere 2,000 words for an assignment as part of a post-graduate Diploma entitled “Digital Media for Education.” What better way to get my mental juices flowing than to think about this aloud, on this blog!

On the face of it, digital media have changed every educator’s teaching profoundly, at home and in class. The same is true for the children’s learning.

I do not know of a single teacher who does not use the internet widely for lesson preparations (and for support re all sorts of issues in school, be it through community forums like or specific sites like

Practically every classroom now has at least a data projector if not an interactive whiteboard. In the primary schools I am aware of, having five PCs at the back of the class is the norm, and these schools also have a Laptop Trolley which allows whole classes to use computers, on a 2 students : 1 laptop basis. Broadband, and a comparatively open attitude to sites like YouTube have made using digital media in the classroom easy. One school even has a class set of digital cameras.

Students come into school already able to use keyboards, mice, touchscreens (in most cases). They use digital media in a myriad of formats, and by the end of primary school, there are few who do not have access to at least one of these: Internet, Smartphone, gaming platforms. The norm is that they have all three. They thus have access to a collection of knowledge, tools, and entertainment that was completely unimaginable just one generation ago.

But do teachers, schools and students use digital media ‘right’?

This, in turn, leads to a pivotal question. How do you know you use digital media ‘right’? And This question should be answered in the context of the response to an even wider question: Why do anything in school at all? And this is where I need to remind myself of the basics.

For that, I tend to go back to “The General Aims of Primary Education,” as stated in the Introduction volume of the Irish Primary curriculum. That sounds dire, dry, boring, but to me, it isn’t.

You see, the Irish Primary Curriculum is what drew me into primary teaching – its aims are brilliant, its child-centred approach is fantastic, we just need to be able to actually teach that way (and class size is an issue here, but I digress), but look at the general aims of primary education, as stated there on p.7:

 Quote from the introduction to the Irish Primary Curriculum

This, then, is the benchmark for everything we do in school. We should not use digital media just because they are there, not just because they are fun (although motivation is an important factor), not just because we are told that we need to keep up with technological development. We should use them because they help achieve a goal in the interest of the child – see above.

For the pedagogical implication of digital media, that means, in my opinion:

  • give each child the skills to function fully in a world where digital media are prevalent
  • enable children to understand the structures around digital media, especially issues around social networking, the permanency of one’s internet presence, the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, but also how to develop as a “social being” – that includes reflection on their role as a global citizen
  • and everything that is taking place in school now should strengthen the child to continue learning in future.

Great, thanks for listening – I think I’m all set for that assignment now!

PS: Another (by-)product of this course is my huge liking for Minecraft, and the website I have created in order to help teachers bring Minecraft into primary schools. Do have a look!

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