New Ways to Reach Students

I’m always trying to find new ways to engage and inform my students about whatever subject I’m teaching, whether it’s through a game or quiz or a presentation.

Some things, unfortunately, might hinder learning.  Smartphones, for example, can be a distraction for both teachers and students; students are drawn to them when they are bored or simply can’t understand what’s happening in class, and teachers are in the position of either ignoring their use or directing students to put them away.  I tend to fall into the latter category, as I think it’s rude to ignore a person who’s trying to help you learn, and the student is wasting both his or her time and money.  I try to make it clear that I’m looking out for their best interests.

To help my students avoid the temptation of smartphone use, I try to make my language lessons interactive, fast paced, and fun.  One way to simultaneously have fun, learn and allow the students to use smartphones is to use a great website called Kahoot!  Kahoot! allows educators to create quizzes that can be played online, during or after class.  I generally have my university students download the app (there are iOS and Android versions) and play against each other in the class.  They log into the game using a number generated by Kahoot!  Then, I display the questions on the classroom’s projector, using my internet connected laptop.  The multiple choice questions are timed and have a descending value, so the faster you answer, the higher your points.  After each round, a leaderboard shows the points gained.  The reaction to the game has been universally positive- I think it’s due to a combination of being allowed to use smartphones and playing an entertaining game.

Watch this space for a follow-up review.  I’ll post a video if the students agree to it 🙂

Meanwhile, game on!

Box and Brew Cafe on Phahonyothin

A Trip to Box and Brew Cafe

It’s time to cross another gaming cafe off my ‘to visit’ list, this time Box and Brew Cafe on Phahonyothin Road.  The cafe is on Phahonythin Soi 40, across the street from Kasetsart University, and just inside the soi.

Although Box and Brew is smaller than the More than a Game location at Urban Square, it has a decent amount of space, and is interestingly decorated – it is done in an old school blackboard theme, with white chalk decorations and writing on the walls.  The walls are mainly black, but the large windows let in a lot of light so it never feels like you’re in a dark cave.

The lattes I had were great, but I didn’t try any desserts or food- they really did look good, though.  Box and Brew serves a wide variety of iced and hot drinks, and has waffles (savoury or sweet).  Waffles seem to be the go-to cafe food these days.

The staff were fine, but not particularly friendly or helpful.  I am somewhat surprised that more cafes haven’t realized that genuinely friendly greetings and questions help build a business.  This is part of the reason why Starbucks has had so much success; show some thoughtful care to your customers and they’ll be more inclined to return.

The gaming tables, unfortunately, were not stable- mine tipped towards me with a fairly small amount of pressure.  The chairs and bench seats were comfortable, however, and the atmosphere overall was good.  It wasn’t noisy even with quite a few lunch hour customers, and seemed like a solid, calm place to spend a long gaming session.

There were a lot of games available, well over 100 from floor to ceiling on two of the walls.  You can bring your own games as well use those available in-store.

The price for game playing in the cafe is 30 baht per person per hour, which is as good a rate as you’ll find anywhere in Bangkok.  Despite a few minor issues, I’ll be returning, for sure.


More than a Game Cafe at Urban Square

Game on! at More than a Game

It’s been awhile since I’ve visited a new gaming cafe, as I’ve only had time to visit the one closest to me, Bitbox. It’s still a sweet spot, but it can take a long time for me to get there if the traffic is bad, or I have to take a bus.  Fortunately, a new location of the More than a Game Cafe chain has opened on Prachachuen Road, close to Durakij Bundit University (and closer to my home).

This More than a Game location has a lot of space, and is nicely decorated – it’s bright, open, and has sturdy yet attractive gaming tables and chairs.  The amount of light and space are important because some customers might be intimidated by going into a cramped, dark place with a lot of strangers to sit and have a coffee and play a game.

The staff are friendly and offer help choosing games, and will show you how to play or even play with you, if they have the time.  One of the staff members I met spoke English.

The number of games on tap is impressive, around 100 according to one of the managers.  As with most gaming cafes, you can bring your own games as well use those available in-store.

The cafe serves a wide variety of iced and hot drinks, and has quite a selection of food – waffles (savoury or sweet) as well as salads and other lunch meals.

The only downside that I have noticed about this location is the amount of noise.  I have been here twice now, and there are typically quite a few younger kids who are talking loudly and not being redirected to use an indoor voice.  They’re just kids being kids, but their volume combined with all of the hard surfaces in the cafe (which reflect the noise) can make it somewhat difficult to focus on your own game.

The normal price for game playing in the cafe is 50 baht per person per hour, but the More than a Game Cafe locations at Urban Square and Plenary Mall currently have a promotional rate of 30 baht per person per hour.

I intend to lead a group of role-players at the Urban Square More than a Game Cafe on Sunday afternoons, starting in March, 2017.  Some of the participants will be teachers, while others will be students, and I’ll post my observations of the sessions in the coming months.

As always, game on!

Flash My Brain

Flash My Brain is a $20, browser-based application that allows you to create flashcards for just about anything.  You may be thinking that anyone with internet access can get a huge number of flashcards for just about anything already, without paying any fee, and you’d be right.  The difference between Flash My Brain and the free alternatives is versatility.  With Flash My Brain, you can put your own content, which includes images and text, as well as sound (for browser-based review of the flashcards).  I often appreciated using flashcards available on the internet, but there were times when I wanted to add or modify information on them and couldn’t.  Flash My Brain allows you to make the cards that serve your purpose perfectly, whether you want to review them through the browser (to study for a test), or print them.  I generally print my cards and laminate them for classroom use, as they get destroyed fairly quickly if they’re not laminated.

Flash My Brain offers a wide variety of printing options, which separate Flash My Brain from other flashcard options.  If you make flashcards in Microsoft Word, for example, you are tied to printing the cards in the size you created them- if your cards are 4 cm by 6 cm, then they can only be printed at that size.  With Flash My Brain, however, you create your cards and the application can resize all of the content automatically and allow you to print it out in 6 different formats, including a custom format.  You can also make flashcards for use on an iOS device.

As I indicated before, I paid 20 US dollars for Flash My Brain (a one-time fee, not a subscription).  Considering how often I use it and the benefits of flashcard use for students, it’s a tremendous bargain.  One more thing: you can access a large public library of flashcards other people have created, and choose to make your own flashcards public as well.


English for M. Ed.

ESP for M. Ed Students

I’m teaching an ESP class at a university in Thailand and enjoying the interaction with fellow educators, particularly those who teach English and are looking for new teaching methods.

It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate some of the computer based learning and teaching elements I’ve been using, such as QuestionWriter, Duolingo, and Flash My Brain.

I described QuestionWriter here last year and am using it with several of my classes; over time, I’ve noticed there are a lot of benefits in using it for content delivery, quizzes, tests and exams, including:

  1. Eliminating the need for paper used to make the test, and all of the effort that goes into having copies made and delivered.  This saves both time and money.  I also appreciate not having to walk to another part of the school in the heat of the day to transport a large stack of paper, particularly in Thailand.
  2. Students appreciate a diversion from the traditional teaching approach of written quizzes, tests and exams.  It’s different and it can be coupled with some fun online exercises.
  3. The amount of marking to be done is either eliminated or dramatically reduced because almost all of it is done by the software.  As someone who becomes tired of marking the same quiz, test or exam over and over, I really appreciate this aspect.  It also eliminates the possibility of human errors in marking.
  4. A student can receive instant scores from his or her effort on a test, instead of waiting for it to be marked.  Students can also review their tests immediately and discover where they made mistakes.  In an increasingly impatient world, this is important.
  5. Course content can be incorporated into QuestionWriter, and combined with some other online delivery of content (a blog, a course delivery website such as eliademy, or a dedicated website).  This is important because paper books may be unavailable in sufficient numbers when you need them, or not available at all.  You are subject to the distributor’s supply.  Recently, the students in one course at our school had to wait 5 weeks for their textbooks to arrive.
  6. Students cannot lose or forget the textbook, notebook or other work they complete.
  7. Students can access the content on QuestionWriter 24-7, unlike a traditional learning environment, and are able to do so on their mobile phones, tablets and personal computers.  This makes it convenient and perfect for blended learning programs.
  8. Errors resulting from the illegibility of handwriting are eliminated in computer based input.

Duolingo is a website offering language learning for speakers of many languages; you choose the language you speak, and the language you want to learn, then begin using their interface, which has a friendly, cartoon-like appearance.  Experience points and awards are given for completion of sections, along with cheerful motivation as you progress.  It’s a pleasant way to gradually build your language skill, and I’m waiting for them to complete their English course for Thai speakers.  I’ll post a full review when some of my students can start the course.

I have used Flash My Brain since 2013 to create flashcards for courses I’ve taken and taught, and it has been very useful.  There are a lot of places to get flashcards on the internet, but there are times when you want cards with specific content, and that’s where Flash My Brain shines.  You have access to not only flashcards that you create, but a large library of cards created by other Flash My Brain users that they have made publicly accessible.  You can put text and graphics into the cards, make them double sided, and have a wide variety of printing options.  The printing options are what separate Flash My Brain from other browser based flashcard creators.  I’ll write a longer review of Flash My Brain in the near future.

Gaming Cafes in the Bangkok Area, Part 3

Game on at Game Over

A friend of mine discovered Game Over Lounge in Bangkok recently, and decided to have his 30th birthday bash there.  It turned out to be a good choice for such an occasion, as Game Over not only serves up a large selection of games, they have some very nice coffee (slow drip, no less), a lot of good craft beer and some truly tasty food.  Unlike most gaming cafes, which cater solely to the rapidly expanding tabletop game market, Game Over also has a wide selection of electronic games: consoles and gaming PC’s with single and multiple displays.  There are foosball tables and a pool table as well.


A pool table is available if you prefer more movement in your games

In order to play any of the games at Game Over, at least one person in your group must be a member.  The membership requires a fee, which varies according to the length of the term- the conditions for different levels of membership are spelled out in a PDF on their website.  A single day membership is available, but the price is not listed on the PDF.

Here’s a list of the tabletop games available at Game Over.  Unfortunately, there is no list of PC games available on the website, nor is there a list of the console games.  The console platforms include Playstation 4, X-Box One and Wii-U.  If you’d like more details about which games are available, give them a call between 11 am and 2 am at 021707684.

Food and Beverage

I had some Beer Lao and an Epic IPA and enjoyed both types. The Epic had an interesting lemony taste and not a lot of carbonation, which made it easy to drink.  Game Over has a very good, eclectic selection of craft beer.

Game Over Beer

Craft beer front and center as you place your order 🙂

I love burgers, so I had to try one here- I chose a Mr. Steve, which was very tasty; sort of smoky and savoury.  The fries, however, were a different story.  They were similar to McDonald’s fries, but when we went to get them they were dry, stiff and only warm, not hot.  The taste was mediocre, not what you’d expect for 90 baht when you can get better ones at a fast food restaurant for one-third the price.  I’m not sure why they wouldn’t go with freshly cut fries- they’re simple to make, taste great and would befit the quality of their burgers.  Our fries also came about 15 minutes after the burger, through a service system that requires the customer to order at the counter and also pick up their own food.  In a fast food restaurant, you expect to order and receive your food at the counter, but if you’re paying 200-300 baht for a gourmet burger and extra for side dishes, then it’s reasonable to expect that it will be brought to your table.

Game Over 1

The large central area of Game Over Lounge

Minor issues aside, Game Over Lounge is definitely worth checking out, especially if you love games of any type.

Game on!

Note: the map on their Facebook page is actually incorrect, the real location is here.  You enter by going around the back of the building.

I Like HDTV- International TV Options, Part 3

I Like HDTV Update

In an earlier post I offered some information about I Like HDTV.  I’ve been using their ‘VOD Movies’ service for about 4 months, so I can now relate a longer-term perspective.

I use I Like HDTV with the application provided by the service on an Android box.  The Android box is connected via HDMI to my television and the service has worked well overall, aside from a couple of relatively minor issues.  The first issue occurs when pausing a movie- if a movie is paused for more than a minute or so, it may cause the I Like HDTV application to crash, and the viewer will have to either restart the application or restart the movie, or both.  It happens about 20% of the time a movie is paused, regardless of the platform used- you can watch movies on a personal computer through the browser, or on an IOS or Android device.  The frequency of the crashes, however, seems to have significantly diminished over the time I’ve used the service.  When I began to use the service, the frequency of crashes was closer to 70% when paused.  The second issue is the number of movies available; there are probably 2000 or so, but there aren’t enough good new releases, and once you’ve watched the good older films in the I Like HDTV catalogue, you’re stuck with a lot of mediocrity.  To the company’s credit, they do seem to be gradually expanding their roster of films (they claim over 2000).  They have added an adult film category and expanded the number of live television channels since I began using the service.

Overall, I’m pleased with I Like HDTV, I just hope that they accelerate the expansion of their catalogue in the coming year.  It’s an inexpensive option for watching films, at 200 baht per month, which is less than the price of 2 seats for a film at a theatre in Bangkok.  Customers can use TrueMoney, PayPal, a credit card or online banking to buy points on the website.  You then use those points to buy a television or movie package.

ILikeHDTV Service List


Teaching with Games and Technology