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Adding Google Tasks with Siri

I’m a big fan of Apple devices but also don’t like to be tied into using a specific device. That’s why I chose Google Tasks as my preferred GTD method. I’ve recently discovered Todo Cloud which is great for team projects but at £14 per year per person it’s not good value for money.

One handy trick I’ve recently discovered is a way to add tasks to Google Tasks using Siri. It involves syncing with the Reminders app on your iPhone or iPad. I don’t use the Reminders app, I prefer GoTasks but Siri will only add to the Reminders app.

  1. Go to and sign in with Google.
  2. Create a password for Tasket (different to your Google password).
  3. Follow the instructions shown to add an Exchange account to sync with your device.
  4. In your Settings app tap on Reminders and set the default list to the one you just created.

Now tell Siri to remember something and it will be added to your Google Tasks for you to access however you choose.

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Peer Teaching and Collaboration at BETT

Back in February I was invited by Google to speak about my use of Google Apps in school at the BETT show in London, a huge conference about the way that technology is used in education.

Google Apps is software that runs in the cloud (online) and allows pupils to collaborate on the same document at the same time, but from different computers or mobile devices. I discussed my pilot project, which involved pupils creating a presentation about how technology has affected our lives. The technology allowed pupils to cooperate and all play an active role in producing the presentation. It also allowed pupils to continue to develop the presentation as a group outside of the lesson, from their own homes.

Members of the audience, who had mostly not used Google Apps, were interested to see how this software could be used in their own classrooms and the benefits that it could bring. There was also interest from two Argentinian teachers about collaborating with their students. This is a project that is being explored with the Languages faculty, where pupils learning to speak Spanish could work on a document with Spanish speakers who are learning English.

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Bletchley Park

Recently I took 30 pupils to  visit the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes. With all the disruption due to the snow during the week we weren’t sure if we were going to make it, but thankfully the snow cleared and the journey went as planned.

On arrival, pupils were given a briefing by one of our tour guides, Chris, who spoke about how codes and cyphers were used in war times to send secret messages, and still are today to encrypt credit card information when we buy something over the Internet. He then went on to explain how people would try to crack these cyphers to read the messages. The Enigma code was a cypher used by German military using an Enigma machine which could produce a possible 4×1026 different combinations. This code was sent in Morse Code over the radio, so anyone with a radio could listen to it and tell which letters were used, but they were just a random combination of letters. We were told how code breakers at Bletchley Park would spend weeks or even months trying to crack codes, by which time it was too late, so a team lead by Alan Turning developed a machine that would automatically read a paper tape that had holes punched in to represent letters and compare that to a “clues tape” with key words that they would expect such as bomb, bullets and invade, all in German of course. This machine was called Colossus.
After the WWII the machines were dismantled and destroyed and the whole operation  was kept a secret so that no other nation knew that we could crack their codes. In 2007 this representation was complete using exactly the same parts that would have been used for the original. We were all fascinated by the amount of lights and valves and wondered how it would work. Kindly, our tour guide switched the machine on and it started to check the two tapes for patterns. It was very noisy and we could imagine how hot it would get in a small secret room.
We then went on to the first ever electrical calculator. In front of it was an old mechanical calculator which would be awkward to use and easy to make mistakes. As scientists started working with atoms and nuclear power, they needed a much more accurate method of making complex calculations so they devised the Harwell Dekatron Computer , which was later renamed by the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire College of Technology as WITCH (Wolverhampton Instrument for the Teaching of Computation).
After lunch we were shown some of the iconic developments in technology, for example this memory disk which was capable of storing a whopping 4KB (enough for a few emails) and this machine which we used to type our name into tape. The we explored the games room, this contained every iconic games console from history such as the Amiga, Commador 64 and Spectrum. Everyone loved playing Pac-man, Space Invaders and games of that era.
We then had a session using BBC Micro computers. These were developed for use in education and were used to teach many computer programmers who now work for massive companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Google. We were given a list of code, out of a computer magazine that would have been available at the time. We had to type in the code into the computer, but once we pressed return we could go back and change it if there was a mistake, so we’d have to type it out again. It was very satisfying to complete the code and get the game working and we all had great fun.
Pupils recorded a blog of their day, with interesting facts and discoveries. There are also lots of photos of what we saw. You can see these at or find the link from our website.
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Turing Machine

On Saturday 23rd June, Google paid tribute to Alan Turing by displaying an interactive Doodle of a Turing Machine. Since a Turing Machine was only ever a hypothetical device, no one is to say whether this was a true representation or not. Either way it’s incredibly addictive to solve the algorithms. Unfortunately Google only made the Doodle available for a day, so I wasn’t able to show it to anyone else. But after 2 weeks of hunting, it’s been made available and here it is:

This could be a really good way to teach the basics of algorithmically and logical thinking or just a fun way to get people interested in the 0s and 1s that control our lives. Enjoy.

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Hello Pi!

I’ve now finished my final placement, and with my final assignment also out of the way I’ve had some much anticipated time for my self and time to play with my new toy. Like many others, I was really excited by the Raspberry Pi and like not so many others I managed to order one on the first day of release!


Some people have asked why I bought it or what’s the point… The fact that it’s £25 is good enough reason for me, but the answer I have come to is that I bought it as a research device to explore ways it could be used by pupils in class or at home. A potential project I envisage is a task of setting up a web server for pupils’ own websites. The idea of setting up the server and editing the files for a website is more challenging but also gives a deeper understanding of how a website works. By using a Raspberry Pi, pupils have full access of the computer, unlike a usual networked school computer, so can work without restriction and could also potentially take the computer to continue working at home.

I spent about a day following tutorials, installing different OSs, breaking something and starting over again. Setting up my web server was relatively painless, most of my time was spent trying to write Arch Linux to an SD that was a MB too small. From that perspective I think in a school setting, the technician would need a pile of spare SD cards with a basic Debian OS installed. Debian because it gives pupils the option to use both a text based or graphical environment. Pre-installed because there may be issues with card readers and the process can take around half an hour of hanging around.

Right now I’m thinking of other projects that could be ran, maybe using python or java. Most of the tutorials I’ve read have been fairly easy to follow from my perspective, but perhaps a suitable project could be to translate tutorials into something that other pupils could understand and follow.

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Google Teacher Academy Reflections

The Google Teacher Academy took place in London on 4th & 5th April 2012 and I was one of the very lucky educators chosen to attend (here’s why?). The participants included 25 from the UK and another 25 from around the world, some of us are shown on this map!

(Interactive Map)

I’ve written this post as a summary of my thoughts over the two days and separated it into the categories of Moments, Ideas, Tools and People.

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Final Placement – Week 5

My focus this week has been to continue developing my behaviour management strategies and my ability to set challenging differentiated learning objectives. I also had a target to use assessment strategies to inform pupils and give constructive feedback, which ties in with the next assignment I have to write.

I feel like I’ve made good progress with my behaviour management strategies and have continued to use the support of the behaviour management team. I’ve been given good feedback based on how I have dealt with particular pupils and where pupils have not complied with sanctions, I have followed the school policy and referred this to the appropriate behaviour management support officer. This has had a good impact on the classes where there has been an issue since the whole class see that I will respond to them as any other teacher in the school would.

Learning objectives is a topic that I have been a little unclear about since beginning this placement since each teacher seems to be giving different advices. After raising the issue during a CT visit it was suggested that the differences in advice is most likely due to people’s differing understanding of how to set learning objectives. I arranged with the cooperation of my mentor, to speak to the member of staff in school who is responsible for teaching and learning to gain an understanding of the school’s expectations. This meeting confirmed my understanding and cleared up some confusion in that learning objectives should not be differentiated, but rather the learning outcomes are – so all pupils in the class are learning the same thing but making a different amount of progress depending on their ability.

I’ve been using assessment strategies from very early on in my training, however I’ve not made many formal assessments and as such have little evidence of progress. I know myself that pupils have learnt and made progress but that is not enough in the education system that we work in. Also pupils should be able to track their progress along their learning journey to motivate them to learn more in the future. I devised a test to give to my year 7 classes to assess their knowledge of spreadsheets and how much they have retained from my lessons. I was unsure as to how to set the questions because I’ve not had much experience in this area, so I set a range of questions from very easy to quite hard for a Year 7 class. The feedback I received from the class teacher was that the test was too hard and that I took too long to review the answers. The marks awarded ranged from just 1 correct to 100%, which highlights the vast mix of abilities and also suggests that for some pupils, the test was not too hard.

Much of my time this week has been taken up preparing for my first interview which was on Thursday. As I was not in school I also planned lessons for the classes I missed. For the lesson I was asked to cover a range of spreadsheet modelling topics, I spent Tuesday evening thinking about how to incorporate all the aspects that they were looking for and finally decided to set a task around designing a theme park. I seem to remember hearing this idea somewhere so it’s not completely original but I couldn’t find any reference to it. I was working to quite a tight deadline since any resources needed to be e-mailed by 3:00PM on the Wednesday so that they could be made available on the network.

The lesson I taught for the interview went well and initial feedback was good. I was selected to go onto the interview stage but unfortunately didn’t get chosen for the job. I’ve uploaded the resource I made to TES so that other people can make use of it.

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