Days 7 & 8: Temples 21 to 23

Lots more walking up to temples and down into valleys and then back up again. Thank goodness for leg support socks, a knee sock and a big stick – protecting my legs on the inside trying not to tear a ligament and on the outside – fear of  those pesky snakes – unlike Crocodile Dundee with me who just wears shorts.

Some wildlife:

And some images around the temples:

And some lovely views now we are at the coast:

Days 5 and 6: I think

The signposting is not great and we’ve got seriously lost in the past couple of days. Yesterday we decided to take a more obscure route over a mountain instead of through a city/town and ended up hiking up and up and thinking we had definitely got higher than 140m and eventually came out on a road and ended up walking for miles down the hill only to find we had gone completely wrong. Damage: about US$25 for about 10km ride! Today was the same, we were supposed to start at temple 18 but somehow missed it and had to come back on ourselves then we did it again at temple 19 and somehow manage to bypass it without noticing in the pouring rain. This time we were given a ride back to the temple from the service station. Then off again to temple 20 and looking forward to getting some snacks at Lawson (like a 7-11) and it was closed! However, one again a young man on his moped helped us out – asked us to wait 5 minutes and went and got his car and drove us 5km to the next 7-11 type store. For our final challenge up to temple 20 – a mere 550m climb – I decided to take my chances on the 5.5km wiggly road and let Stephen race up the 3.5km walking track (more like ladder). I won! I cheated as a kind old man stopped and offered me a lift straight up to the temple door! Had a lovely hour lying on a bench, drying out my shoes and socks and listening to BBC podcasts! Here are a few photos:

Days 3 & 4: From Temple 11 – 13

I have to say that had I known what was in front of me, I would never have done these two days! To get from 11 to 12 was about 12.8km BUT required a three massive consecutive climbs with no break in between. From temple 11 was a climb up to 600+m then down to 500m then back up to 800m then down again this time to 400m then back up to 700+m to temple 12 then another descent to our ryokan at what seemed like below sea level! It was supposed to be about 16km all up – but my iPhone recorded 22.3km. 

Not feeling amused! This was a killer!

The next day was not as bad but slow – we had to do one small climb then the rest of the day on the flat but my legs were sore! 

A lovey Japanese man gave us these bags of lollies and crackers – it was like Christmas!

Day 2: Temples 6 through 11

The health app on my iPhone tells me we walked 21.7km today and 18.6km yesterday. Today we only took day packs as we are staying at the same place. It’s low season and not as many accomodation options so we organised to get picked up and dropped off so we can walk from temple to temple. No rain today either! Shikoku is famous for odon noodles and we had an excellent bowl  at temple 7. It’s super quiet unlike the Camino which was buzzing with pilgrims; however, we are enjoying the peace and quiet. Most of today’s walk was through small villages on the side of the very quiet and narrow lanes. Here are some photos:

Day 1: Our Shikoku Walk

After a minor hiccup (we got on the wrong bus at the airport) we made it in the rain to Tokashima and stayed in a small business hotel – nothing special. This morning we jumped on another bus to start at temple number 1 and then walked about 18km all the way to temple 6.  There are very few people walking and most travel by bus or car around the temples. It’s also the rainy season so we didn’t encounter many people at all. Here are a few pictures from today.

Off On Another Long Walk

We are getting ready for our walk this summer. This time we are off to explore the  Shikoku Henro Trail which is Japan’s famous 88 temple pilgrimage, a 1200km loop around the island of Shikoku. Just getting this blog ready so I can post as we go.

The Power of Twitter: Chats and Crowdsourcing

Thanks Tweet Tribe!

This week I’ve really experienced the power of Twitter.

On Tuesday we had an excellent #l2chat hosted by the fabulous trio: team @sherrattsam, @lori_uemura and our own @FriedEnglish101 posing as @learning2 where we had an intense rapid Q&A session with over 300 contributions – that’s not counting the ones where folks left off the #l2chat tag and the numerous private exchanges in Twitter messenger.

At the invitation of @PanaAsavavatana on our #l2chat, on Wednesday I dropped into #kchatAP which is far removed from my day job as a High School educator although I always learn so much and love escaping from the silos and into pastures new.

Both of these chats have been storified: #l2Chat and #kchatAP

And then it gets to Friday and I’ve been asked to go and do a session with Grade 3 students on Mac tricks and tips. So this morning, I threw out a request or two to my Elementary contacts on Twitter and crowdsourced an amazing array of ideas.

I’ve collated into a Bingo card (see below) where the idea is that the students have to demonstrate their knowledge before being able to cross off one of the cells. A massive thanks to the many contributors – too many to mention!

Mac Tricks SHOW ME Bingo!
Find a person and show them how you can do ONE of these tricks. Have that person sign their name in the cell on YOUR sheet. Call “BINGO!” when you have 5 items in a row or column.
I can make a screencast to show one of these tricks using QUICKTIME (with voice over and mouse clicks) I can use colour tags to organise my files and folders I can use Air Drop to send and receive files I  can use all the function keys!  My favourite function key…. I can take screen shots (CMD SHIFT 3 whole screen, CMD SHIFT 4 select area & CMD CTRL SHIFT OPT 3 or 4 to save to clipboard)
I can set up THREE different desktops: one for my browser, one for Pages and one for Preview? I can use CMD ~ to switch between windows in the same app I can put shortcuts to files on my desktop I can zoom in and out on the screen using CONTROL and the two finger scrolling on keypad I can use different views in Finder (icons, list, columns or cover flow) and organise my files (for example by DATE MODIFIED or SIZE or TYPE)
In my BROWSER, I can use CMD and NUMBER keys to switch between tabs I can copy text from a website and in PAGES and then use CMD SHIFT OPTION V to paste and match the style In Preview, I can scan in my signature and use it to sign documents I can split the screen to have two screens side-by-side (Preview on the left and Chrome on the right) I can make the screen brighter or dim the screen (to save battery)
I can add languages (eg Chinese) to the menu bar AND can switch between English and the other languages In FINDER, I can use SPACE to preview a file I can use CMD TAB to toggle through all my open applications I can change the clock view from analogue to digital and back again on the menu In a pages document, I can use OPT-CLICK and DRAG to duplicate anything
I can convert a file to PDF format (clue – it’s like printing) I can do math problems using Spotlight (what is 34 times 7 plus 8 minus 100?) I can rearrange my apps on the dock I can drag a photo from Photo Booth onto my desktop I can find out how much battery life I have left and I can change settings to save battery life
Western Academy of Beijing (2 June 2017) – crowdsourced through Twitter @mbrookes

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

I explored connectivism in the context of blogging for my culminating assignment in #inf530 Concepts and Practices in a Digital Age in my Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).  Over the past few years, schools have introduced blogs for their students although it would appear that these are not used extensively. Certainly, the students in my school in the higher grades are not fans of blogging.


I started to explore connectivism,  a new emerging learning theory widely attributed to Siemens (2005) and Downes (2005), and the connected tools that are essential to promote a connectivist learning environment. Certainly, the extensive features of a blog hits all the buttons.  My goal was to examine the relationship between connectivism and the use of blogs in a K-12 environment and try to understand the conditions required to promote a connectivist learning environment.

The comments from my inspirational lecturer (@junewall) led me to sharing this work through this post and at the recent Learning2 Asia conference at SSIS. Clearly I was not going to read out my paper over the three-hour extended session at Learning2 and therefore, with the help of @jenasimon, a colleague at WAB, found a way to present my findings through an interactive, hands-on, learning-by-doing workshop. I also reached out on twitter to those posting under #connectivism and  was fortunate to be given feedback on my workshop outline from Katie O  (Thank you Katie and Jen).  What I discovered was the power of being brave and putting your stuff out there!

The slides are here and resources here.


So what next? @jenasimon has written a wonderful blog post entitled The Blogging Dead: Infuse New Life into ‘Zombie’ Blogs and we are now presenting a shortened version of the workshop for colleagues.

C++ Programming Lock-In for Seriously Wannabe Geeky Students

We don’t have a formal coding class however we do have many, many wannabe coders in our school and we do have an extra-curricular Geek Force club who decided that our goal for the year was to learn how to code – and not just in any language but C++, a derivative of the mother of all programming languages (which to me is C).

IMG_0395So why C++? Firstly, our Geek Force are gamers and interested in learning C as it is widely used in gaming. Both C and C++ are low level languages that get you close to the silicon allowing for extreme optimization to maximize the resources available and make games slicker and faster.Of course, we are not aiming to get to that level of complexity nor are we looking at a deep understanding at object oriented coding however by learning C or C++, it will be easy to pick up another language with the added bonus that some students may develop an understanding of how software works on a lower level. Secondly, I used to be a C and unix programmer back in the day (yes, before C++ was even invented), so why not challenge myself to pick up C++?

Learning to program takes time and we tried to follow an online tutorial (C++ in 21 days) but as we only had a weekly lunchtime slot, we found that, collectively, we were not making much progress. What was needed was a big chunk of time to really lay down the basics and learn together. Hence the lock-in concept.
However, it takes some effort to organize such an event and so I enlisted the help of @rgentleman, our Grade 6 MYP Design teacher, who also was a programmer in a former life. Our objectives were:
  • to have time to develop C++ programming skills
  • to have a friendly competition where everyone can compete no matter what level of expertise
  • and to have fun!C++Schedule

We organized 3 x 30 minute challenges (sprints) with 3 x 15 minute team challenges in between each sprint plus some time for the obligatory pizza and diet coke! Surprisingly on a Friday night, we were joined by a number of budding geeks and two teachers who wanted to join the competitive fun. Here is the link to the fantastic write up from Michael, one of our Geek Force Leaders.

And here are some examples of the programming challenges:

Basic: First Program HelloWorld.cpp

Watch this short youtube video [C++ Hello World using Xcode (Mac)] to create your first program Hello World. Modify the code to output your name and age:

Hello World. My name is x and I am y years old.

Intermediate: Currency Conversions (using nested if statements)

  • Input: Choice of currency (eg USD, RMB or one more of your choice), amount
  • Processing: convert from choice of currency to target currency (eg USD converted to RMB)
  • Output: amount in target currency (eg RMB)

Advanced: Currency Conversions (using switch statement)

  • Extend the above program to have a number of currencies (maybe up to 5) so that the user can select the input currency and the target currency.
  • Bonus points for using constants (which are declared in UPPER CASE
  • Bonus points for using an easy user interface (for example, enter 1 for RMB, 2 for USD…)

The Arduino Challenge

In random teams of 3 or 4, students were given an Arduino set and access to a large number of input and output devices (lights, fans, sensors etc). The challenge was to create something – they could use the internet and even download code – however they had to modify the code or the structure and be able to explain what they did.

If you would like to have access to the challenges, please contact me by email (madeleine_brookes at

No Longer Waiting for Formal Learning

Waiting by Jlhopgood (via Flickr)
Waiting by Jlhopgood (via Flickr)

Technology has changed the learning landscape. No longer are students limited by the resources that we offer within our schools. No longer do students have to wait for formal learning. Just think of the last time you used YouTube to show you how to do something – for me it was how to break open a lock on a suitcase (well, sometimes you just lose those keys). And what about the times when you can’t find the answer through searching online? Have you have thought about throwing out your questions into that cyber community of experts? See this wonderful video, shown to me by Dr Alec Couros, University of Regina (@courosa), of a young boy trying to start a fire with a bow drill who is asking for help by posting his problem on YouTube. A longer narrative on this can be found here.

What other ways have you used the internet to find experts to help you in your learning? Here’s another great example, again shown to me by @courosa of the Speaking Exchange project which connects students in Brazil with Americans living in retirement homes.

Have you ever shared something online that you learned so that someone else could benefit from your knowledge? Here are an example from our younger WAB students demonstrating how to ride a taxi in Chinese:

Our elementary school uses blogs as their learning management system. Each student has their own blog, their digital desk. It is their space where they post their ideas and work, where they explore, where they document their learning and where they interact and exchange ideas. They frequently upload examples of their learning to our in-house tigertube which in turn are embedded into posts for sharing and generating conversations about their learning.

We are in the process of relaunching blogs for our middle schoolers and re-igniting the interest for our high schoolers. Here is our landing page (soon to be revamped). Why? Why not? I look at this blog and how often I post and, most importantly, who I post to – who is my audience and why am I writing posts to them? What is the purpose? What do I want from my audience? I know that I am not as active has I have been and I am not sure if anyone out there is listening or cares which means that I need to take time to find my audience(s).

Another challenge that we face is this: Unlike the elementary school, we have a separate learning management system (Moodle), and therefore the blog is not the first point of digital entry each day. Therefore, will our students be prompted to blog and if so, will they find value in blogging? I have many questions which I am pondering below:

Why blog? As we all know, blog posts can have many uses: observations, reflections, stories, a show-and-tell, sharing of personal news, or even a soapbox. There are no hard and fast rules about what a post can or cannot be: length, media, number of links are entirely arbitrary as is the content: It can be a public display of homework, a photographic record of an event, a link to a video of a class project, a meme or even a diatribe (hopefully not). A post is [generally] publicly shared maybe purposefully to a known audience or perhaps just put out there into the ether to be stumbled upon by an unknown, anonymous audience. For me, however, the key is the ability for the author to engage their audience in a conversation. It allows our students to break down their classroom walls and to explore their learning in a more authentic setting through the interactions that may ensue – many of which may be with strangers.

What platform? Should we provide our high school and middle school students with a blogging platform, like we do with our elementary students, or should we encourage them to use the platforms and social media tools that they are already familiar with such as WeChat, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube? However, if we, as their teachers, are not in their spaces, how can we guide them? Do we need to guide them? I suggest that we should provide them with a platform that they see as a learning tool so that we can be their guides. Once they get the ‘hang’ of it and if they are able to gain from the use of blogs and see the value of those gains, there is nothing stopping them from transferring those skills to their other social media platforms, seeking out their audiences as needed.

Who is the audience for our students? This all depends on the nature of the post. For example, a student may want to showcase a piece of work that they have completed. Their audience might be their parents, friends, and future employers. The message might be ‘look at what I have achieved’. Conversely a student might be seeking help or advice. They might outline a brick wall that they have run into in their learning and may want their audience to provide help on how to proceed.

How do our students find their audience? Perhaps we should circle back to the large network that the student may have built through their social media platforms. Why not encourage students to send out the link to their latest post through their established networks in order to drive traffic to their blog? Why not actively seek help by challenging their social network to find their audience for them?

I’m excited about relaunching the blogs and wonder where this will take us and I would like to thank Alec Couros for getting me to think more deeply about the purpose of blogs and how we can re-ignite the blogging culture here at WAB.

Please join in the conversation if you have thoughts, feedback or anything to share that will help me continue to develop my thinking about blogging for our students.