Latest News

Singapore Sling (but this year without my foot in one!)

| March 2, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

A great visit to Singapore – there are many international schools in Singapore – but it is also the shopping capital of Asia. I am not a great one for shopping but I did find many other things to see and do. It is a truly remarkable city: clean, safe, well organised, and a temperature a man could easily get used to.

The obligatory trip to Raffles of course!

Some great story telling and discussion of anthropomorphism making objects come alive, as the boats on the river have eyes to help them navigate the waters…

As ever, I managed to fit in my favourite passtime when in Asia:



| February 28, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

A great find for me, during my travels in South east Asia, has been

Muhammad Malik, who runs the site, is a man with a bit of style! He takes a mean picture too. I read more blogs these days and have to say his is one where I look forward to updates.

Brunei is one of the smallest countries in the world but one of the richest in terms of cultural diversity. anakbrunei captures many of its facets.

Brunei VI: Raining then training…

| February 16, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

Before I arrived here, it had been raining heavily for a few days. There are no signs of the much talked of floods now though. They were soaked up as fast as they came. It did rain heavily last night, however. I have not seen such huge, warm raindrops since my time in West Africa. Delicious.

A really enjoyable INSET day today with the staff of Hornbill school here in Brunei. Loads of imagination and interesting ideas. It says something about the captivating nature of the Myst games, that they even appeal to folk living and working in such a tropical and fascinating place with its own (analogue!) beauty. (There are long tailed, wiry, monkeys walking past me as I write. They seem intent on getting the house cat, but she is just a little too fast for them!)

Thank you to Jason and Kathy, the staff and the children at Hornbill school, for a fantastic, fun-filled few days.

“Are there other things you can do this with?”

| February 16, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

Here’s a great site, full of resources that you can use as a visual stimulus:

Don’t forget to take the time to stand still in each QTVR (Quick time virtual reality) Panorama and write or discuss – before you even think about moving. It is the first movement that creates a bit of magic when using these with children.

Have fun!

Me: I am in my own virtual tropical island here in Brunei, about to do a training day with the staff at Hornbill school.

Brunei V: Total concentration

| February 15, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

Total concentration!

I am glad to say that it still surprises me just how quiet and totally “on-task” a class can be when writing about their experiences during one of our “walks”

The room is filled with nothing but the sound of fervent scribbling.

That and the subtle and entirely believable soundtrack from the game itself.

The landscapes we have been using are so immersive, so captivating, that even the staff are up for the challenge of “becoming one of the characters.” In this case, it was enchanting and entirely believable to watch as Sujata, one of the Nepalese Specialist Teachers, “sat on the warm stone bench in a greenhouse dripping with silky leaves.”

The children were also up for doing a bit of verbal jazz and more than a few took on the role of “keeper of the greenery”

“Who lives in a house like this? Let’s go …through the keyhole.”

Enough to inspire deep thought…

…an impressive “balance of Quality and Quantity”…

..and quite a lot who surprise themselves with their own mini-masterpieces!

Well done to ALL of the children who tackle these challenges, pick up words and juggle with them… and then let them fly…

Brunei IV: Up for a Challenge!

| February 15, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

It hit me again that it is strange that what I am doing is labelled as “I.C.T.” The IT element is invisible really, especially when it is swamped by a tidal wave of speaking and listening. These visual literacy ideas are perfect for so many settings, including those with a high percentage of E.A.L. children (English as an additional language) as it stimulates so much descriptive, vibrant discussion. So it was again today.

Some deep thought and good understanding of the different effect of simile and metaphor. Writing generated by children in these lessons always leaves a lump in my throat. (“Gets you right there folks! Like a bout of indegestion”)

Careful, open questioning is one of the keys to unlocking the potential of children’s imaginations and I saw some skilful ways of eliciting ideas and thoughts today, from the Learning Support and Language Support staff in all the classes.


Brunei III: A Trip to the beach!

| February 15, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

I have been fortunate to work with many nationalities during my teaching career. I didn’t think that, when visiting South East Asia, I would end up working with, mainly, Nepalese children though. The children at Hornbill school are from the families of the Ghurka regiment based here on Borneo island. It would be hard to find a more smiling, humorous and imaginative group of children.

I have been doing some demo lessons observed by staff at the school. Today started off with a unique little lesson with a class of year 1 children. I took them to a beach in Myst III:Exile. To enhance the atmosphere, we ended up running our hands through sand and sensing the spray from the virtual waves by using droplets of water from a bucket. (It got wetter as we got more enthusiastic too!) The clouds became “as soft as a rabbit’s tail” with a play-corner bunny hopping to get in on the act.





  …A wild, wet…

and woolly time was had by all !

Brunei II: A Change of Plans

| February 15, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

I originally flew out to Asia to present at a conference in Vietnam. Sadly, it now looks unlikely that I will be getting to Ho Chi Minh City as planned. I have been looking forward to this opportunity for quite a while now and hope that I will get the chance at another date to holler those immortal words “Good Morning…!!!”

However, when they found out I was going to be out this way, I have been invited by the services schools to spend some time at Hornbill school in Brunei. Hornbill is a unique and exciting place. It has a high percentage of E.A.L children (English as an additional language) as it serves the local deployment of the Ghurka regiment. It is also carrying out some major changes to its curriculum and emphasising creativity and exploration. So a Rylands (“creativity is me middle name… well …actually it’s Tarquin-Montgomery-Blythe”) as happy as Larry (and Larry’s ecstatic)

After watching the local bomba (fireservice) letting some of the children hose down a car or two, I had a fun wander through the ages of Tomahnna with a year 5 class. After an initial few looks of “woss-goin-on-ere” they took to it really well and responded with some excellent use of descriptive language and got into simile and metaphor (or matadore as one said to me on the way out)

Wish I had brought the old jallopy over as it would have been sparkling after this lot got their hands on it!


Brunei I(b):O.K. Maybe not that “dry”!! Cheers!

| February 15, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 


(Anybody that is subscribed via RSS feed to this blog: I apologise if the next few entries are rambling diary entries from “an excitable tourist-y-type, teacher-y bloke lucky enough to come out and do work-y type things in South East Asia” That is purely because I am “an excitable tourist-y-type, teacher-y bloke lucky enough to come out and do work-y type things in South East Asia”)

Thankyou Gloria,

for a delicious meal!





Brunei I: Brew Nigh!

| February 13, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 

(Well perhaps that is a slightly ironic play on words as Brunei is, infact, a dry nation.) 😉 

brunei-map.bmpBrunei is on the island of Borneo in South East Asia (not, as some people think, a country in the Gulf region. Although I did travel through that area yesterday: Dubai)

I am looking forward to a few days here and to returning home with all my limbs intact (unlike last time… but that is “another story”. One that you should soon be able to read in a resurrection of the blog that recorded the dramatic events of my trip into the Borneo interior last year – soon – watch this space)


For now I confess that, as it is well over 28 hours since I was in the U.K., I may just see if I can put my feet up for a bit (Oops! Awful reminiscences there!)

 Are those the Riven daggers I see before me?

There’s Snow business like Snow business…too.

| February 10, 2007 | Add Your Thoughts 


It was with a slight feeling of trepidation that I made my way to, what is normally, one of my favourite parts of the country. Severe weather warnings were in place but my trip to Bridgend was without significant mishap. Bryngrw House is a delightful place to stay. A delicious meal whilst looking out across the snow that covered the knot garden and lawns.

Friday morning, and there was no sign of fresh snow fall so I cleared the windscreen and snowdrift from behind the car and set off, through the villages, for Garth Primary school. Snow-men dotted the route and other signs of Thursday’s school closures were evident in the toboggan runs and snowy footprints that covered the Welsh valleys.

Garth school was hosting the staff from a few surrounding schools that feed into Maesteg comprehensive school. They are organising a transition project based on the Myst games idea and the other visual literacy concepts. I started by doing a lesson with the year six class. What a lovely bunch of children! They responded with great enthusiasm and wrote at pace and with superb use of descriptive language. One or two surprised those around them by speaking out confidently about their surroundings and immersed themselves in the digital world we were exploring.

Outside, the analogue world was quietly getting on with a bit of a surprise for us when we opened the classroom blinds. A white sheet had been draped over the landscape and it was still snowing heavily. Message was received that all the schools in the area were closing, one by one, and that Garth had also been advised to get the children home.

The staff and I carried on, well, those not involved in the tricky job of closing the school. (Those people who moan about why schools have to send children home in bad weather and “aren’t those teachers just being slackers?!” should try and organise the closure of, even a small, school. A major excercise.)

Gradually, we realised that people were needed elsewhere and that we would have to abandon the day half way through. A complete buffet lunch arrived but only four were left to eat it. (We had a good go!)

By the time I managed to get out of the school carpark, the sky was whiter than ever. It took me nearly five hours to do a 1 and 3/4 hour trip, but I admit now to sneaking some of that buffet (“Just to help them out!”) and that kept me going whilst sat in a blizzard-bound “carpark” on the M4 back across the Severn.

A real shame, as I was really enjoying my time in Wales. Fingers crosssed we can finish the day off some time when there daffodils on the hills rather than snowballs.

Got home safely and now find it a bit surreal that I am packing T-shirts and shorts ready for a trip to Asia. 🙂