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Ian O'Byrne

Cold Brew Coffee

2 min read

I've used a lot of strategies for making cold brew. I started with a giant tea bag and an Aeropress. The process was a bit messy and I always ended up with grinds in the final product.

My current everyday tool is the OXO Good Grips Cold Brew Maker. It's a bit expensive, but IMHO it's totally worth it. The unit holds the water and coffee grounds while steeping. It then drains into a glass carafe for refrigeration.

My brew recipe includes three cups of coffee and 40 ounces of water. I typically fill it at night (around 6 PM) and drain it in the morning (around 6 AM) so it has 12 hours to steep. 

I've found that a medium grind works well as you steep. Many of the sources online suggest a fine grind. I don't think this works well. 

The choice of beans is totally up to you. When I first started, I used espresso (or super dark) beans. I think this makes the final product much too strong. I have been experimenting with some lighter/medium roasts and sometimes including small amounts of flavored (hazelnut, caramel, toasted almond) roasts works well. It's all about experimenting. 

Please be warned that the elixir that comes out is concentrated coffee. It will still taste great...but it'll be super strong.

From this point, you have a couple of options for how you consume it.

  • Add equal parts water to dilute it. Add ice, milk/cream, sweetener for a great iced coffee
  • Dilute with water and heat the coffee for a strong, smooth cup of go juice
  • Add a spash of the concentrate to your coffee for some extra zip, or to top off your cup
  • Add a splash to adult (alcohol) drinks for a buzz to go with your buzz


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Ian O'Byrne

Oppositional Conversational Style

3 min read

As we engage in discussion or debate with others, we often come across the person that wants to argue just for the sake of arguing.

Gretchen Rubin identifies this as oppositional conversational style

Oppositional conversational style is a person, who in a discussion or debate disagrees with and corrects everything that you say. They may do this in a friendly or perhaps a belligerent manner. This may be face-to-face, or in online settings.

What does this look like?

This person will provide facts, alternative facts, beliefs, & suppositions all to suspend or carry on the debate. There is no desire to engage in a real debate. There is also no desire to come to a common ground through dialogue.

The individual may not listen in the debate. They frequently interrupt, monopolize, and/or hijack the conversation to present their own agenda. 

This may include attempts to force a dynamic in the discussion, or not moving on from a topic when both parties are not receptive. Alternatively, this may also include randomly and abruptly changing topics without transition or apparent reason.

There may be several reasons individuals engage in oppositional conversational style. It could be that emotions are causing them to act irrationally. They may be trying to cover up an incomplete understanding of the facts. They may simply not have the knowledge or intellectual fortitude to engage in discussion or debate.

What to do

In these instances, we often want to continue to debate and understand the individual...or make them understand our point of view. This is often a fruitless endeavor.

Keep in mind that it's not always necessary to change someone's mind. Do not get emotionally overwhelmed in the interaction. 

Realize that some issues are objective and some are subjective. Objective issues deal with concrete, or observable facts. If the other individual does not want to discuss facts, you may be arguing in vain.

Move on

When you find yourself in a discussion or debate with someone that utilizes an oppositional conversational style, the best course of action may be to end the discussion before it starts.

If you see any of the patterns identified above, it may be best for you to end the debate before it continues. 

I believe that it is much easier to be direct and honest with the individual. Ask them the following question:

Is there anything that I can say to change, or make you reconsider, your perspective? 

If they indicate that there is nothing you can say or do to make them change their mind, it is time to remove yourself from the conversation. 

Your relationship with the person should dictate your response. If it is a family member you may decide to ask them about their conversational style to better understand their logic. If it is a boss or co-worker, it might be better to accept their position and move on. If this is an acquaintance or someone that you don't really know, you should change the subject, or walk away. 


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Ian O'Byrne

How to debate

1 min read

We've all been in that situation where a informal conversation quickly becomes a discussion and then we find ourselves in a debate.

A debate is a wonderful opportunity to flex your intellectual muscles and can lead to a deeper level of understanding for all individuals involved.

A proper debate requires intellectual nimbleness, rigor, and attention. There is a need to remain open-minded and cognitively flexible to account for variations in the truth, situation, or the debate itself.

Debate also requires an understanding of the facts. It also requires an understanding of what you don't know.


There are several keys to engaging in a debate:

  • Know your facts. Know what you don't know.
  • Put yourself in your opponent's shoes and understand their views.
  • Don't recite & regurgitate their views. Give it your spin.
  • Find a common ground.
  • Consider and concede when you're wrong.
  • Stay calm and civil.


Keep in mind that it is important for these keys to be followed by both parties in a debate.


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Ian O'Byrne

Wisdom is tolerance of cognitive dissonance

2 min read

In our daily interactions, we often try to consider what elements combine to create real "wisdom." The challenge is that wisdom is really a mental construct. That is to say that it is something that exists only in our minds. Other constructs include motivation, creativity, and intelligence.

Mental constructs are hard to consider, yet we know that they are there. We primarily understand and accept them through outward behaviors and our actions. 

The following quote from Robert Thurman tries to help crystalize exact what constitutes true wisdom.

Wisdom is tolerance of cognitive dissonance.

One of the reasons I love this quote is the inclusion of the term "cognitive dissonance." Cognitive dissonance is the stress or imbalance that occurs mentally when we try to hold two competing thoughts in our mind. True learning occurs when there is this imbalance in our mind and actions.

An example of cognitive dissonance would be a person that considers themselves to be environmentally friendly, yet they drive a vehicle that does not have good gas mileage.

A lower level example of this would be regularly cooking with specific tools and methods, and then trying to cook food from a different region. Imagine regularly cooking pasta, and then trying to cook some Vietnamese food with a wok and unfamiliar ingredients.



In Thurman's quote, he suggest that true wisdom comes from this imbalance or stress that occurs as we learn new things. It is in this discomfort, in these attempts to learn and struggle that we achieve true wisdom. 


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Ian O'Byrne

Policy, advocacy, & activism in education

1 min read

We're quickly moving into an age of of decreased trust in institutions and "alternative facts." This impacts work in education, research, and scholarship.

The more that I investigate this online, it is difficult to identify sources from a variety of perspectives that help shape and problematize our thinking about these concepts.

Who do you read and follow online when you want to think about issues of policy, advocacy, & activism? I would like read more from individuals or groups that are actively writing, tweeting, & sharing about these issues in educational contexts.

I'm looking to build this list openly and collaboratively. I'm also looking for individuals from a variety of perspective that represent a diversity of opinions.  


Please share names and where to find these materials online as a comment below, or on this Google Doc. You can sign out of your Google Account and leave this information anonymously.

Alternatively, you may also DM me on Twitter and I'll add (or remove) your information from the list.


Thank you in advance. Please feel free to share this list widely.



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Ian O'Byrne

Information without emotion is rarely retained

2 min read

This idea is framed differently in various places, but the most concise version comes from Tony Robbins.

Robbins states:

We've all been put to sleep by somebody who's told us all these wonderful facts that didn't matter because information without emotion is not retained.

Emotions in learning

Emotions play a large part not only in garnering attention, but also in memory and learning. The amygdala (the brain's emotional gatekeeper) imprints memory when experiences evoke strong emotions. 

This is why we all remember where we were when the combination of context and emotion helps cement vivid memories. An example would be remembering exactly where you were when the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001.

Exercise caution

Keep in mind that this doesn't mean that you should just start a class, lecture, or speech by scaring participants.

Research suggests that it is the emotions aroused, not the personal significance of the event, that makes such events easier to remember.

The memory of strongly emotional images and events may be at the expense of other information that you may intend to focus on. You may also be less likely to remember information if it is followed by something that is strongly emotional.

Some other factors to remember:

  • Emotionally charged events are usually remembered better
  • Pleasant emotions are usually remembered better than unpleasant ones
  • Positive memories contain more contextual details that helps connect to long term memory
  • Strong emotion can impair memory for less emotional events and information experienced at the same time
  • It's the emotional arousal that helps supercharge memory...not the importance of the information


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Ian O'Byrne


1 min read

Encryption is the process of taking information that makes sense and scrambling it up to turn it into gibberish. 

Decryption is the process of tuning this gibberish into something (text, images, audio, video) that makes sense again.

Decrypting is usually conducted using a method known as a cipher. The cipher usually involves a key to make the process possible. A cipher can be as simple as swapping out one letter for another. It could also include substituting letters for numbers or symbols.

Learn more about encryption

The following videos will help you learn more about encryption, and why it is important.

Meet Encryption, from Mozilla

The Internet: Encryption & Public Keys, from

What is Encryption and How Does it Work?, from Mashable

Privacy Lets You Be You, from Mozilla



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Ian O'Byrne

Two Factor Authentication

3 min read

Many services, including (e.g., Facebook, Google, Twitter, Tumblr) let you enable two-step or two factor authentication (2FA).

This means that in addition to a password, you'll need to prove that you have access to a second trusted device. Two factor authentication prevents a third party from logging in to your accounts even if they've stolen your passwords.

In action this means that you would log in to Google. You would then be asked to enter a six digit code that is on your mobile device.

Turn on 2FA now

First, install Authy on all of your devices.

There are many apps available that will store your verifications codes. You'll need to have access to these each time you log in to a service.

I've been using Authy for several years and it (IMHO) is the easiest of the 2FA to manage. Install it on your Android, or iOS (iPad/iPhone) devices.

Follow this guide to start up a Google Authentication account with Authy.

I do not use the Chrome app and Chrome extension. This is sometimes an annoyance as I'll have to dig my phone out in class when logging in to the classroom. I also use this as a teaching moment to show my students what the process looks like.

Second, turn on 2FA for all of your accounts.

Not all of your accounts will offer 2FA. You should also note that even if a service offers 2FA, there is no standard, so their set up procedure might look a bit different across services. Some of the services will have you use Authy while others will send an SMS message to your phone with your verification code.

Follow this series of guides to turn on 2FA for all of your accounts.

Third, stay vigilant.

You should keep an eye out for other services that you use to see if they include 2FA. 2FA will also be used in concert with other systems that you have in place. This means that you'll need to integrate this into your password management system.

Keep in mind that as you add layers of privacy and security, you may also be adding some extra work for yourself. You decide what level of comfort/discomfort is appropriate for you.

It is your responsibility to pay attention to your privacy and security using these tools. No one is looking out for your best interests in using them. This includes the companies that are providing the services. 

If you bought a house, you wouldn't think twice about checking for doors and windows that lock. You might also think about curtains for the windows to give some privacy. You don't expect the builder to come make sure that it was safe and secure. That is your responsibility.

As you use these new digital spaces and tools...this is your responsibility as well.



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Ian O'Byrne

Privacy and Security in digital spaces

1 min read

As we discuss online rights and freedoms, it is often hard to understand what is meant by relatively simple terms like privacy and security.

Privacy is like closing the curtains or blinds on a window in your house.

Security is like locking the doors and windows on your house.


These expectations are obviously changing as new technologies become more ubiquitous. These are also changing as our actions in public spaces are under review by businesses and other entities.

Advances in electronic surveillance require that we understand and discuss evolving expectations of privacy and security in these new and digital spaces. These are discussions that we need to conduct regularly as we re-examine and re-negotiate over time. 


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Ian O'Byrne

Managing your passwords

4 min read

One the first steps in discussing privacy and security in online spaces usually involves your passwords. The challenge is that far too many of us have awful passwords, or terrible systems to handle these passwords.

There are several things we need to assume as we work with digital tools.

  • You will be hacked
  • You have already been hacked and don't know it
  • You will have to change your passwords quickly when you are hacked
  • You will most likely have to change passwords often

Changing your passwords frequently is one of the simplest things you can do to protect yourself from digital threats. Now that we have that out of the way, let's consider how to effectively manage the situation. In this post I discuss using a password manager, and two possibilities for creating challenging passwords.

Use a password manager

Password managers are a smart way to keep track of your passwords. A password manager is a giant vault that stores all of your passwords and uses one master password to let you log in. Keep in mind that no system is perfect...even password managers. You have to trust the company controlling your passwords to let you know if they have been hacked.

I use LastPass. I know plenty of other people that use 1Password and KeePass. Each service provides different features that you can review. The benefit of a password manager is that they will often warn you about security breaches of services and recommend that you change your passwords. Password managers will also create meaningless, random passwords using a variety of characters, symbols, and lengths.

How I use LastPass

I install the LastPass Chrome extension, which is automatically synced across all computers that I use. When I sign in to my computer and start up Chrome, a pop-up will ask me to log in to LastPass using my master password. The LastPass Chrome extension works well on Chromebooks as well. 

I also use two-factor authentication with LastPass as well. I'll discuss two factor authentication in another post.

I also install LastPass on my Android phone/tablet as well as my iOS devices (iPad/iPhone).

Create challenging passwords

If you do have to create a password that you'll need to remember, I have a couple tricks to check out.

Use song/movie lyrics

Use a song lyric (or movie line) to create a challenging master password. Keep in mind that you should use this password once, or use it as your master password for a password manager. Pull out the spaces, add a random character or two, and add in some capital letters.


If you want to make it even more challenging, eliminate letters, or swap them out for other characters. Start with a line like:

Living off borrowed time, the clock tick faster.

Eliminate some of the letters and substitute the characters to get something a bit more random.


Create an algorithm

If the song or movie lyrics do not work for you, I recommend using a formula or set of rules for your password system. Once again, this might not be the perfect solution...but it should get you started.

To create your algorithm, identify a base layer of your formula. This could be an important name, birthday, or series of characters. As an example, you might use your dog's name, street you grew up on, and the year of your birth.


This initial sequence would be the base layer of your password system. From there, you would add the name or the product or service you're logging in to somewhere in the sequence. You'll just have to remember the rules of your algorithm.

If you are logging in to Google, your password might look like:


If you are logging in to Facebook, your password might look like:


Develop a system

One of the key takeaways from this is the need to be aware of your passwords and develop a system. One password for everything is not an option. You need to be aware of your passwords, or the system used to manage them. You need to be prepared to change any/all passwords at any moment. 



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