Teaching Guantanamo Bay in Second Life


At MipTV two lecturers showed us what they’d been doing with Guantanamo Bay in Second Life http://tiny.cc/bM9UW I thought this was a visionary tool for teachers.  Pupils can swiftly come closer to the story in a way that hours of news footage are unlikely to ever achieve

The game, which requires you to sign over your avatar to another’s control, also integrates the facts and feelings researched through the footage, interviews, news reports, poetry and other official and personal sources of information around the issue. It’s an amazing piece of work and points to a whole new way of undersatnding War, Peace and Citizenship both formally and informally.

Wii Fit and ‘someone to do a whole anti-social behaviour game we could use’.


Thanks to Sally for this item showing how one youth worker is employing the Wii for collaborative games playing to reduce neighbourhood vandalism and increase social cohesion. Another imaginative 50-something games user.



On the countdown to Christmas it’s day one in the Big Brother diet house and the inmates are already arguing about how many calories there are in a packet of cashew nuts. Bilbo claims that as nuts, they practically count as a fruit serving. I maintain they are the gastronomic equivalent of eating lard. We have some way to go before mutual harmony prevails. Anyway, what the hell have I been doing since June? Well, it’s all been very exciting. I took a short trip to Tokyo. My second, and it’s changed so much, even since 2001. Last time, the underground had no English signs. Now it’s a model of bilingual ease. Not just signs, but even announcements on some lines.

I arrived in the afternoon with no one to greet me, despite the emailed confirmation that they would be. The only choice was to get on a limousine bus and head for the hotel, which I hoped was booked for me, the Capitol Tokyu. Three nights of insomnia ensued, during which I enjoyed the films loaded on my nice new ipaq. Well, I say enjoyed. That was true of “Bonfire of the Vanities” which I’d owned for years and never watched as I rarely get to control the master TV, but less so of “The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse” which was disappointingly shoddy. But I was so awake, I was grateful for it passing an hour. A bit like a prisoner who suddenly finds the Star crossword an attractive challenge.

The work was enjoyable and I met some good people. On my day off I took the tourist trail to Hakone, which is great fun – a “romance train” a local train through an impressive gorge, a funicular, a rope car, a pirate boat and a bus. I got on the wrong bus back, but it didn’t matter, except to put me on a more ordinary train which was unbelievably slow in comparison to the first train of the day.

The following morning I nipped across to the Tsentso-Ji temple and then into Akihabara. I had previously scouted out Laox and now bought a ceramic white PSP. I should have searched further for the best price apparently but time wasn’t on my side and I knew it was a safe bet. And at £116 it was significantly better than the £180 in the UK. I wanted to see the burial place of Confucius which was close by, but failed to make that, and returned to the hotel for a quick kip before the evening do.

On the last day I shared a journey to the airport with the French delegate, a very pleasant young man who kept feeling the need to explain new media to me. I listened patiently for the most part, only intervening at his most basic explanations. But he was a very polite young man and able to converse fluently in English while I was too cowardly to use my French. But the young can be so patronising. I expect I was much the same at the same age. Doesn’t stop me wanting to slap them round the head with an old ZX Spectrum though.

Continental weekend for the bank holiday


Saturday May 29th. Despite the excitement of going abroad – which I always love – I am sorry to leave the garden which is beginning to look exciting to me. I realise this means I’m turning into one of those unbelievably old people who would rather stay at home and supervise the watering, instead of taking the opportunity to “club” in a Euro hotspot. But to a certain extent I’ve always been one of those. It’s just more focussed now. How will the new lawn cope without me? Will my seedlings survive? How can I stop the cat from laying on top of them if I’m not there? But I am strong. I grit my teeth, force myself to be sociable, pack and go.

And it is worth it. F’s friend is holding a party a short drive away from Calais. When we get there, the vast quantities of flowers and white linen proclaim this to be a wedding and it proves so. We sit and eat nice food at a variety of tables. At the first there is a mixture of french and english people so the question du jour has to be “Demain; Oui, ou Non?” “Oui” is the answer from all around our table. The party must be very unrepresentative as the answer on Monday’s Bruges news proves to be “Non”. Even though I can’t understand the Flemish language at all, it is is very easy to read the relief on Jack Straw’s face, and later on Tony Blair’s. If that is the will of the people, we will listen to it, they intone with suitable humility. But they seem strangely pleased. I know I am. Because, sad to say, I haven’t read the 500 page proposed constitution. Or even one page of it. In fact, I wouldn’t know where to get my hands on it. it is impossible to say yes to something I haven’t read and where I can’t trust the summaries – not that there have been any much in evidence.

Maybe there are some online


Yes, there are, but I still can’t be bothered to read it.
Anyway, I leap ahead of myself. The Constitution is part of the evening debate, also covered are the usual topics of the educated British middle classes – how early can we retire, give up our fabulous jobs and dedicate ourselves to self improvement and gratification? How much do our children’s babysitters cost? How shocked are we when people cross picket lines? Will ID cards be a bad thing or a good thing?

The evening is progressively colder and colder, although the generous flow of wine means I am too drunk to care.

The next day, on a fine, sunny morning, and after a quick trip round Azincourt, we set off for Bruges, where the weather rapidly turns rainy. We stay in the Montana Hotel. Bruges is unremittingly pretty. Not at all multicultural. I think I may be the only ethnic minority there. But everyone is very pleasant. We explore a couple of churches which are incredibly stuffed and overstuffed with paintings, huge golden organ pipes and fabulous pulpits, borne aloft by cherubs. We eat in an OK restaurant.

Monday is wet, wet, wet. We take directions for Ypres, or Ieper, as it’s called here. This is much, much more moving than I expected. The Menin gate is astonishing. More so with its long list of asian names. I find myself standing in surprising tears at the sacrifice of it all, and the oneness of humanity. Until a Belgian guns his car straight at me and I escape death only by an Olympic leap for the kerb. But the feeling stays with me. We drive to Tyne Cot, where the simple white block headstones contrast with the white crosses of the second world war, which we saw in Normandy last year. A startling pink swathe of poppies cuts across a head stone in the grey downpour.

It is bitterly cold and wet. If it’s like this in June, god alone can imagine what it was like in November after a few months of trench warfare. We try out the Passchendale Musueum, with its reconstructed trench system, which is also very impressive.

We have a late lunch in “The Poppy” on the main street of Ypres, and set off to return to Bruges., As we approach Bruges, the sky becomes bluer and it dries out, allowing us to take a boat trip around the canals. Skippered by a tall, skinny middle class native with a heavy hand for joky remarks and a shameless tout for tips, it is nevertheless a beautiful and impressive trip.

We eat in “Cafedraal” . Possibly the worst restaurant I have eaten in for a lot of money. I propose the chateaubriand, but when it comes it is a sorry travesty. pre hacked, cooked medium, despite my request for rare, with some waterlogged and unidentifiable vegetable, and apparently culled from some sort of stewing steak, instead of the excellent meat it should be.


but the wine is good. Dispirited, we hand over the £80 and I resolve that is the last time I will eat in Bruges. But it is such a pretty place, I expect I’ll manage to find it in myself to backtrack…

Back home on Tuesday, today, and the good news is that the garden has survived.