Stony Stratford: Things to See and Do

If you're looking for things to do in Milton Keynes I've recently discovered* Sophie etc, a blog covering just that topic. It focuses on food (she's pointed me towards some GREAT takeaways during lockdown) but also posts now and then about other adventures that are up for grabs in the area.

There's a post (this one, in fact) about all of the fantastic things you can do in Stony Stratford, a gorgeous former market town up in the furthest reaches of north-west Milton Keynes.

Actually, she doesn't quite cover all of the things that are worth seeing, though the one I'm going to tell you about is a bit niche.

Digital Skills for Teaching & Learning: How to Present with Google Slides in its Own Window

A little background

I've taken part in a good number of online discussions, seminars, conferences and the like since our Lockdown period started and on the whole it's all been very good, with incredible use of broadly (and often freely) available use of resources to turn an experience that could be flat and impersonal into a very positive one. There are a few things that niggle me, however, and I've been looking into overcoming them, especially as I've been moving into this online teaching lark as well. I thought I'd post about some of the things I've found out and include a few "how to..." walkthroughs. This is largely so that I can find these things again but I realise there may be others out there who might benefit.

Thoughtful transitions can be used to make slides clearer and less cluttered. Losing them can make a big difference.

If that's you, fill your boots! Also ask questions if I'm at all unclear, miss out an important step, or say something you don't understand. If I get something wrong correct me; if there's an easier way let me know!

How to Use a Spreadsheet to Batch-Upload Events to Your Calendar

The other day I posted...
... and a couple of people asked me how to do it.

To some of you this may be the most obvious thing on the planet, but I only discovered it earlier this year and - my oh my - has it saved me some time. My day* job sees me visiting various places around the country and I keep track of it all in my calendar. As any self-respecting nerd is driven by unknown forces to do, I often put a bit of effort into finding out how I can get the tech around me to do some of the more boring jobs so that I have more time available for doing the interesting things. I'd list some potential use-cases for this spreadsheet-to-calendar trick but I figure that if you've read this far you already know what you want it for.

Before we get started, a disclaimer: Yes, there are plenty of other articles detailing how to do this and I visited many of them. I haven't referenced any of them because it was about six months ago so I've forgotten which ones I used, none of them gave me every piece of information I needed, and there were a few important stumbling blocks that weren't mentioned at all.

Another Puzzle for the Today Programme!

I set another puzzle for Radio 4's Today programme and it was featured this morning (Monday, 6th April 2020).

It goes like this...

"Doc note, I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod."

Bletchley Park Codebreaker Peter Hilton constructed this impressive 51-character palindromic sentence, allegedly in response to a challenge set by a fellow Codebreaker. Palindromic numbers work in the same way: the same digits in the same order whether you read them backwards or forwards.

What is the 51st Palindromic number?

You can find the puzzle (with a link to a solution) on the Today Programme's website, here.

As with many puzzles the solution is debatable depending on some starting assumptions. Feel free to discuss your assumptions (and how these might change the answer) in the comments. Teachers, I'd love to hear how you might use any of the ideas or topics featured (even tangentially) in your own teaching!

Also, please post your favourite palindromes!

Research Poster: Digital Mathematics Resources and Museums

Back in September I asked for some maths teachers to take part in the trial of a mathematics resource that I had created and was trialling as part of the work towards my PGCert in Digital Leadership.

With massive thanks to the teachers and students who took part, I completed the project which formed the second assignment towards the first of two modules in the course. Our brief was to present our report in the form of a research poster (with a creatively loose definition of what that means).

Here's my final submitted piece (click to view it embiggened).

Page 1: Academic Poster. Click to enlarge.

Page 2: Appendices

M2, M4, M6, M8, Motorway!

I've always* wondered how far it was possible to go staying only on consecutively numbered motorways in the UK. I've also been looking for a reason to fiddle around with Graphviz since the eternally helpful Colin Wright pointed me towards it a while ago.

So I found a database of the UK's motorways and created a graph:

Graph generated using

Labelled nodes represent the motorways themselves and edges represent a shared junction between two motorways. It strikes me that this is almost exactly opposite to the way that motorways actually work.

From this diagram, it appears that the answer to my original question, "how far is it possible to go staying only on consecutively numbered motorways in the UK?", with the further refinement that "far" means the number of motorways experienced rather than an actual distance, is rather more boring than I was hoping for.

Unless I've missed something (please correct me if so) it appears to be...

... wait for it...

Photo by Jack Hunter on Unsplash

That is:
 M4 Motorway , M5 Motorway , M6 shield.

Sorry, folks.

Another interesting** thing that pops out of the graph above is that there are no disconnected subgraphs: it's possible to visit all of the UK's named motorways without spending time on a road that isn't a motorway.

What else have I missed? Can anything interesting be gleaned from the graph above? Does anyone have an ideas about how it could be used educationally? Are there any questions (deep, shallow, important or who-cares) that might be clarified by such a graph?

* Well, not always, but, y'know.
** To me, that is. If you find it interesting too, I'm chuffed to bits. If you don't, I don't need to hear about it thanks. What are you even still doing here?

Optimistic October: Day 31 - What Gives You Hope for the Future?

It's the end of the month, the end of Optimistic October, and it's Hallowe'en...

And what is scarier, I ask you, than...

But anyway. Rules are rules:

  1. Friends. I have a small (ideal) number of excellent friends.
  2. Science. It's awesome and if we do it properly we can solve all sorts of problems.
  3. The belief that most people, deep down, want to be better.

Optimistic October: Day 30 - Purpose

I'm... supposed to have a sense of purpose?

I'm never quite sure what things like this mean, but that just gives me an opportunity to define it however like, doesn't it?

I guess a "sense of purpose" is when you feel like you're doing something that has a point to it, and I'm feeling that this is more of an external thing than an internal one: giving something back to the world, rather than making personal achievements.

I feel most like I have purpose when I'm teaching, so a goal set in response to today's challenge should probably have something to do with that. Generally, my goal is...
To be the best educator that I can be.
 ... but that's not exactly measurable. Part of my desire to undertake postgraduate study was so that it could provide some structure in working towards this goal, so I'm going to work damned hard on completing that as well as I can. As well as this, and at least equally important, is my network of educators that I keep tabs on via Twitter. I don't engage as much as I probably should with the broader teaching community, but I learn a lot, keep up to date, and am forced to think (and re-think) about various aspects of teaching and education. It is genuinely an excellent tool through which to build a learning network on various themes.

Optimistic October: Day 29 - Problem?

Perspective is everything.

I have far too much to do. I'm working on a new perspective for that and will get back to you just as soon as I am able. Please leave a message after the beep*.

* With some ideas about how to find a new perspective on that.

Optimistic October: Day 28 - This Week's Plans

It's important to have goals! This week is going to be a busy week so my top priorities are as follows:

  1. Prepare for my (working) weekend away.
  2. Do some reading for my assignment, making notes and noting references.
  3. Lay the groundwork for next week's work.
  4. Keep tabs on my mental state, and make sure I take the time to switch off for a little while each day.

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