UK Light Switches and Home Automation

Lighting Diagram

Please note: there is no earth (yellow and green striped cable) show to simplify the diagram

There is a problem with (current) smart switches for lighting:

  • They are rectangular (not square) for the US market – so would need some retro-fitting
  • They seem to often require a neutral to function (is this a US thing?)

But there is a potential work-around it the UK ever gets decent Smart Switches that are square but still require a neutral. It seems that October is going to be a popular month for UK Home Automation devices so this post might be very timely.

  1. Rerun new cables to include a neutral – expensive, time-consuming and messy
  2. Use a gadget to create a neutral – these are best avoided because they are not effective
  3. rewire to create a neutral – the focus of this post!

This post should only be carried out by a competent person – if in doubt seek a professional electrician

The diagram at the top of the post show that a live (brown) and switched live (dashed red) are run to the switch
The lower diagram shows where recabling in the ceiling rose is required, then you can fit smart switch to the Live, Neutral and Earth
There are disadvantages to this – you will lose the physical switch at the location but you’re going to get that and more through the Smart functions!


Lighting Diagram Mod

  1. Turn off the power at the fuseboard
  2. You are going to move the two wires used for the switched live that powers your lamp (points A & B)
    • The blue cable that [should] be marked with a red sleeve to indicate a switched live move to the neutral block that has other blue cables. You could remove the red sleeve as will not be  switched live anymore.
    • The brown cable that is now not able to receive power, move to the permanent live block that should have other brown cables.
  3. If you have a tester you might wish to ensure you have 240v between your cables in the switch backing box
  4. fit smart switch
  5. Turn on power at the fuseboard
  6. Enjoy!

Interested in using Homekit in the UK? visit & join 

Bag o’ Tech

portable gadgets

A number of weeks ago I was challenged to write a post about the tech I carry around with me, so here it is in order of least used to most…

Ultra book: This is only a work horse from work and the only thing going for it is that it is light. It’s more a necessity due to travelling around a lot and needing to access work related systems. It’s often dead the next day so it’s charger is always in tow.

Microsoft Bluetooth Keyboard: my go to kit when I need to write up a report quickly on my iPad or iPhone. It does not get used enough, it’s a great piece of kit, often I use the keyboard of the iPad.

USB to Lightening Adapter: an indulgence for connecting a USB microphone to the iPad or iPhone.

Lightening Charge Cable: for the iOS devices

Presentation Pointer: for when you have to give presentations but don’t want to be tethered to the front of the room


Now onto my must haves!

Samson Go Mic: A fantastic mic that is used regularly to add audio commentary to presentations to support learners with their online sessions.

Headphones: A pair of wired headphones for when I am recording audio on the go with the aforementioned mic.

iPad: my mainstay bit of kit, quick, light, versatile. Reports and emails in the main.

iPhone 6 Plus: need I say anything? My backup when the iPad dies. Messaging and audio in the most part.

Apple Watch: yes a new addition, the pebble has been relegated for DIY so as not to damage my Apple Watch.

You Must Use Technology in The Classroom!

There is no disputing from me or anyone else I chat to about exploiting tech in regards to students being digital natives. My four year old has his own android tablet that he now uses having migrated from an iPad. He has been able to change the volume, listen to music and view photos, enter his password, delete apps (much to my wife’s annoyance) before the age of three. Now he downloads apps, renames folders (all to his name!), delights in screen casting to our two main TV’s and can hyandle his way around a Roku 3 with ease (his two year old brother is fast following in his footsteps!) and this was all before starting school in September last year. But….

How many times have we heard “you must use technology in the classroom”, a colleague asked recently “I am not a tech junkie, I am not up to speed with these things and I am afraid of them going wrong!” (certainly words to that effect). So we chatted about the obvious opening statement and that it was all too often bandied about without real on the ground discussions. I have certainly known organisations that chuck money at new systems to give the WOW factor, not all organisations have that sort of available funds. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying that no discussions have taken place, the dark days of not allowing learners own devices (often superior to anything we could give them) to be used in the classroom environment to take pictures of diagrams, record activities and advice, set reminders for upcoming deadlines but the conversations regarding deploying and engaging with technology are few and far between if we are still having everyday well practised tutors scratching their heads to go beyond photos, video and reminders. As long as these following four points can fit a technology you will be fine.

  1. Curriculum first and foremost, tech just enhances it
  2. Seek support when you have identified a need, such as training, and practice/use it soon – you snooze you loose!
  3. Professional development should encourage existing skills to build upon, not highlight deficiencies as wlel as cover suggested plan B’s but should be easy and not attempt to turn the tutor into a fledgling helpdesk support. 
  4. Teachers need to plan for using technology in their classroom, including strategies to address things they think might go wrong (like we would for any other activity). These could be getting students to support with the tech or good old fashioned traditional methods to revert to.

Well I say “This is how you can use technology in the classroom, and not make it a headache!”. Get those digital natives to do what comes naturally to them and do the work (we only have to facilitate) or dare I say train the trainer? Some suggestions to ease you along…

No work at all (or minimal):

  • If your students have to keep a logbook – get them to blog!
  • Want to get them to write a succinct piece of work – within 140 characters, just like a text or tweet
  • Want to encourage discussion about today’s or an upcoming topic, create discussion using an obscure hashtag of your own, no need for twitter yourself. I just use my initials and some reference the learners will grasp #asctechinclass
  • Glossary or wiki on your VLE course page
  • QR codes or short URL generator such as linking to online resources
  • Online Galleries of student work such as Instagram
  • Learners using aggregators such as feedly or as information aggregators themselves by using pInterest
  • Online Galleries of student work such as Instagram


Some work required:

  • Poll everywhere, simply text wall or multiple choice questions you can set up – answers via text, tweet or on the web!
  • Quiz systems such as Socrative, you can even share quizzes with other users
  • Attendance and performance monitoring apps such as classroom dojo
  • Move from PowerPoint to Prezi
  • Podcasts (you knew that was going to come somewhere). My first attempt was simply audio recording a presentation I made of a session whereby a sick learner could catch up by following along with the powerpoint!


I hope this moves you forward 🙂