Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Revisited

While Marc Prensky’s Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001) article contained some excessive and problematic characterizations, some concepts in it were useful and are still salient today, two decades after its publication. The problematic content revolves mainly around Prensky’s hyperbolic characterization of a Digital Native’s fundamental differences compared to those of a Digital Immigrant. According to Prensky, the Digital Immigrant grew up immersed in the digital world and has different expectations and ways of thinking that the Digital Native has difficulty understanding, and may never fully comprehend. This is problematic because the ubiquity of digital technology itself does not equal acquisition and perfected understanding, nor does it guarantee a complete generational shift in how people think and wish to be taught. Study, attention to detail, attitudes and practice are what cultivate understanding and familiarity, not immersion.

Despite the hyperbole in Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, I think it’s important that readers attempt to see beyond it and parse what’s useful from this (or any other) article, rather than focus on points of contention. To that end, it’s useful to know the author’s background, motivation and the publication to which the article was submitted.

An examination of Prensky’s background indicates that he has extensive teaching experience at the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels, so his statements in the article, one would assume, are based on experiences and observations in those environments. He did not cite any formal research in the article at all, and the only external reference was a comment from Dr. Bruce D. Perry of Baylor College of Medicine, which referred to different experiences leading to different brain structures. The anecdotal nature of his observations and the lack of cited research indicate that this was not intended as an academic article.

I also think it’s important to keep in mind the publication in which this article appeared. Prensky had Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants published in Horizons, whose “…mission is to inform educators about the challenges that they will face in a changing world and steps they can take to meet these challenges. We strive to accomplish this mission by using the Horizon site, workshops and seminars, conferences, and presentations to explore and extend our thinking as an educational community.” Horizons is not a repository for wholly academic articles, nor is it an academic journal; its purpose is to disseminate ideas related to education. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants is essentially an opinion piece, not a journal article.

If you look past the hyperbole and salesmanship (Prensky has a company that creates digital games for learning), and examine some of the elements of his contention, Prensky makes some valid observations about modern students:

Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to “serious” work. Today’s students are different from those of yesteryear, and we should deliver learning to them in a medium in which they’re accustomed, the digital one (Prensky 2001).

I believe that these are generally accurate as they are extensions of basic human perceptions- receiving anything more quickly is generally considered positive, people do multi-task (I believe Prensky’s use of this term was to have and use multiple applications on the computer in the same session), people are drawn to pictures before text, they like the option of out-of-order execution, being connected to others, they like to have feedback, get gratification quickly and enjoy playing games more than “serious” work.

Based on the content of the article, and the publication to which it was presented, it appears that Prensky’s goal was to offer his opinion that students who had grown up in the digital age had changed, and education would be well advised to adapt by using technology they find familiar and interesting. Given the potential of the technological tools that have been developed and continue to be developed, I think our best option as educators is to integrate technology, such as digital games, as intelligently and effectively as we can. As with any educational tools, they should be pedagogically sound and further the students’ academic needs with engagement.

Prensky’s central contention that digital games were a worthwhile pursuit in education is borne out by the massive number of research papers in the past twenty years devoted to the use of digital games in learning environments. A search using the phrase ‘Digital Games in Education’ on the University of Nottingham’s NUsearch site for academic articles from 2000 to 2021 returns 127,117 academic articles, of which 62,752 are peer reviewed ( That equals over 6,000 academic articles each year. I believe that this substantial amount of yearly research would not have been conducted if Prensky had been incorrect about the vast potential of digital games in education.

The Community of Inquiry and the Balance of the Three Presences

In 2000, Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson and Walter Archer’s article Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education appeared in an academic journal, establishing the Community of Inquiry framework for analyzing the use of CMC in an educational setting, and in turn provide information and observations that will facilitate the improvement of future CMC (computer-mediated communication) implementations. (Garrison, 2000)

Although the Community of Inquiry was developed to study the
elements essential to an educational transaction (cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence) in a text-based CMC environment, it has proven useful in analyzing CMC environments even as technology has progressed beyond textual exchanges. In 2000, when the article was published, lower computing power and restricted broadband availability meant that text-based CMC was really the only option. Now, video conferencing with applications such as Adobe Connect, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, which can incorporate screen sharing, videos and a host of other types of software. While this has enriched the experience for those taking the CMC-based educational programs, I believe it has also altered the results of studies. The nature of social presence, for example, changes when the participants’ exchanges move from simple asynchronous text (possibly with emoticons) to real-time video conferencing with audio and other inputs. While asynchronous text-based communication may be more connected to careful and critical expression of thought (White, 1993), it does not necessarily convey emotion or social presence well. In videoconferencing, however, participants are able to hear tone of voice, intonation, emphasis, emotion and see each other’s facial expressions and body language, all of which contribute to a richer social expression within the framework.

Elements of an Educational Experience (Garrison, 2000)

Since the presentation of the Community of Inquiry model, some other researchers have argued for amendments, most commonly for social presence (Armellini and De Stefani, 2016), (Kreijns, et al 2014), (Annand 2011). Some have argued for other presences to be added, such as a learning presence (Shea et al, 2010). It seems that the most compelling argument for modification has been that of Armellini and De Stefani for the social presence element- the authors note that Garrison himself has commented that “of the three presences, social presence has evolved the most from the original conceptualization.” (Garrison, 2009). Armellini and De Stefani have also contended the following in support of the heightened importance of social presence:

  • …there is a strong correlation between the tutor’s teaching presence
    and participants’ social presence, implying that a “visible” tutor means more socially active participants. This tighter link is central to cognitive achievement.
  • Many studies have highlighted the importance of the social dimension in cognitive activity that leads to higher-order learning. The link between the cognitive and the social is referred to in Akyol and Garrison (2011) and Garrison and Akyol (2013), who view metacognition as a cognitive
    ability that is both socially situated and socially constructed, rather than a private internal activity (Armellini and De Stefani, 2016).

These statements are indicative of the authors’ perception that the teaching presence and the cognitive presence are strongly bound to the social presence, which effectively becomes the core of a revised CoI. They state:

We believe the three core dimensions are fundamental to any successful online educational experience, yet their nature needs to be revisited to accommodate changes in teaching and learning in the 21st century, such as the effect of social networking on the teaching and learning process. For that reason, the proposed revised version of the CoI framework highlights social presence as a core and pervasive construct, which results in meaningful and dynamic overlaps: social presence shapes and embeds itself in the other two. Teaching and cognitive presences have thus become highly social in nature. (Armellini and De Stefani, 2016)

A new version of the Community of Inquiry framework

(Armellini and De Stefani, 2016)

While the authors have constructed a solid argument for a reassessment of the importance of social presence element of the CoI, I believe that the original model and its indicators, with all three presences having potentially equal impact, offers a more balanced potential outcome. The circumstances and the context of each individual study, rather than a modification of the model, should determine the amount of weight or influence that each presence provides. The balanced nature of the original CoI does this, while this model employs an emphasis on social presence, which, through analysis of the research, may not be supported.

One aspect of Armellini and De Stefani’s model that works against their argument is demonstrated by the subjects’ lack of participation in their online social space. In the new version of the Community of Inquiry framework figure above, number 3. (Community development), it lies outside of any overlap, in part because it did not support the authors’ supposition that social presence should have primacy in their revised model. My belief is that as each group is different, the results of each piece of research will be different as well, so starting with a balanced model (such as the original CoI) can yield more neutral results.

What was the main factor in Armellini and De Stefani’s research that led them to conclude that social presence should be recognized as the core presence in the Community of Inquiry? I believe the composition of their study group had an impact on their perceptions.

The group in the article was composed of 40 language teachers in Uruguay, none of whom were formally trained as teachers but were in-service and had previously attended professional development programs. The study was conducted in a monocultural and monolingual environment, and within a single country and time zone. It seems probable, then, that this level of homogeneity (and consequent familiarity) would be conducive to their interactions having a greater degree of social presence, even if they were classified in the research as primarily cognitive or teaching presence indicators. As stated in the article, “…the social element permeated most layers of cognitive presence.” In a case where a subject’s statement contains aspects of social and cognitive presence, I’m not sure how these are coded- is only one chosen, or is there a provision for multiple classifications in the research? Although it’s not explicitly stated, it seems as though there is not, as Armellini and De Stefani offer: “…one of the main limitations of the CoI framework is its limited effectiveness in describing students’ online discourse.”

While the examination and modification of the presence indicators in the CoI may improve the quality of the modelling results, I believe the outcome of this study doesn’t necessarily prove that social presence should be the central presence in the CoI. Rather, it shows that under this particular study’s circumstances and context, the social presence aspect was relatively prominent.

To provide a contrasting example, an examination of our master’s group reveals a somewhat less pronounced social presence. There are some significant differences when compared to Armellini and De Stefani’s subject group that may account for this: Our group members are from various countries, not a single one. Some of us have a different first language, and we have different cultural backgrounds. We are living in different countries and different time zones, which makes it more difficult to have synchronous exchanges. We are all formally trained teachers who are teaching at different levels and in different contexts. One other significant difference is that the program we’re in is an academic / theoretical post-graduate one, as opposed to a less formal, practical professional development environment, which may be conducive to more informal social exchanges. Consequently, our one-and-a-half hour weekly meetings tend to be focused on the cognitive and teaching presence elements of the CoI, to ensure that we can cover the reading material. I think that all of these differences, taken together, conspire to make the social presence element less prominent for us than Armellini and De Stefani’s study subjects.

In sum, it’s my opinion that while the CoI (or any research model) and its indicators could and should be analyzed and improved over time, the social presence element can be left as an equal aspect of the CoI, and the results of the research can indicate whether the teaching, cognitive, or social presence was the most pronounced. Every instance of research has the potential to yield a different emphasis.

A Review of Duolingo and its Implementation as CALL Software in the Classroom

Duolingo Review

The past decade has seen the proliferation of a number of computer assisted language learning, or CALL applications, fuelled in part by the ever-escalating number of smartphones and tablets. These devices have made it easier than ever to practice whenever a user has the opportunity, be it waiting for an office appointment, commuting on mass transit, taking a break from work, or relaxing at the end of a day.

Duolingo is the most popular free-to-use application worldwide for language learning presently available; the company claims 300 million active users, a significant number for any app, regardless of its category. The mobile application industry website places Duolingo at 2 (Google Play) and 6 (iOS) in the Education category in the United States out of 1000 listed apps. It is the number one language learning app on both of these lists.

I’d considered posting about Duolingo before, but I wanted to use it for an extended period and see if it maintained my interest prior to offering a review. A long-term test drive, if you will. I’m now on my 348th consecutive day of learning Spanish, so it seems that the application’s suite of features have worked.

One of the features that makes Duolingo compelling is that it keeps track of the number of consecutive days you’ve used it. The application uses push notifications to remind you to continue your ‘streak’, to inform you of your general usage, and tell you where you are ranked in the learners’ list, all to essentially encourage you to continue learning. The objectives of these notifications seem to be habit-formation and community building, the premise being that you’re less likely to quit when you’ve joined a consistent group learning activity.

Extensive gamification has been incorporated into the Duolingo UI, with matching exercises, drag and drop word sentences for grammar instruction, typing activities and listening and speaking  components, all of which provide feedback and encouragement. Learners earn a series of rewards for their ‘play’, with Crowns being given for completing categories- each level has between 26 to 28 of these, with 25 short and relatively simple lessons in each category. Hearts can be used to keep track of errors that have been made in the course of a session, and prevent continuation in a session if too many have been made. This feature can be turned off, however, if you want to continue learning regardless of whether you’ve made a certain number of errors. Duolingo also has in-game currency in the form of Gems. These Gems can be used in the Duolingo virtual shop to buy bonus language items such as Idioms and Proverbs or Flirting categories, or whimsical items such as different attire for the game’s mascot, Duo the owl. As of now, Duo’s in a sharp tuxedo, but I have my eye on that champagne tracksuit 🙂

Two of the most engaging, and in turn effective, aspects of the Duolingo system revolve around the variety of exercises and the frequent switching between activity types. For example, a quick matching exercise is followed by a drag-and-drop word order sentence, which is in turn followed by a pronunciation activity (recorded and mediated by the app itself). Then you might choose between a series of object icons, or complete a typing exercise. These elements are delivered in a visually appealing, cartoon-like environment which also helps keeps things fun and interesting.

As you progress through lessons and categories, Duolingo tracks the number of points you’ve accumulated and ranks you in your League, akin to leagues in English football. If you accumulate enough points to put yourself into the top 10 competitors in a League, you advance to the next tier, and if you are lower than 25th, you are ‘relegated’ to the next League down. A sense of friendly competition is fostered, with opportunities for mutual encouragement in a community environment- you can follow other learners in Duolingo, and they can follow you, and the app will occasionally ask if you want to congratulate someone you follow who has achieved some in-game milestone. Encouragement is one of the application’s most prominent aspects, from notifications, to question answers, to the interaction with the Duolingo community.

AI also figures into the app’s equation; it modifies the questions you receive based on the accuracy of your answers, and will test you later on items that you have answered incorrectly. With “…experts in AI and machine learning, data science, learning sciences, UX research, linguistics, and psychometrics,” and access to “…the world’s largest collection of language-learning data…”, Duolingo has used a scientific approach to develop a compelling system that seems to work well- it has kept 300 million users engaged, which is no small achievement in a veritable sea of learning applications. (

While at this point I don’t believe that Duolingo is a replacement for instructor-led classes, it does confer a significant number of benefits and uses for language learners. The free version of Duolingo gives users an excellent opportunity to practice an extensive amount of fixed content whenever they have time. If a learner is initially motivated enough to learn a language, the application is a very engaging option. As with any skill, the key to acquisition is practice, and if you can practice during just about any free time you have, then this is significant. The paid version of Duolingo eliminates ads, allows lesson downloading, and offers Progress/Mastery Quizzes, among some other features.

I’ve really enjoyed using Duolingo. I had always wanted to have a go at learning Spanish, and after about a year of daily practice, the app has exposed me to almost 1000 words, taught me grammar, pronunciation and helped me decide to pursue learning more Spanish. The amount of Spanish I know and can use at this point is relatively small, but language acquisition takes time, and seems best done with frequent, consistent and engaging practice.

I’ve completed the course Introduction and most of Level One, and will opt for the paid version (Duolingo Plus) when I begin Level Three. At some point in the future, I will combine classroom lessons and informal conversation to round out my language development, while continuing to use Duolingo’s practice and quizzing capabilities. I’d recommend it to anyone who’d like to learn or practice a new language.

In the following section I’ll explore the use of Duolingo as CALL software in the classroom environment.

Duolingo in the Language Class

As outlined above, my personal language learning experience with Duolingo was positive, and consequently I began to wonder whether it could be of use to my students. I was working at a university in Thailand in 2017, and most of my students were in the A1-A2 range on the CEFR scale, with the odd student at the B1-B2 level. As Duolingo employs a graduated system wherein an A1 level beginner can start to learn a language, with L1 support (there is an option for learning English for native Thai speakers, with Thai language instructional support), Duolingo was a natural choice for my students.

There were a number of other factors involved in my decision to use Duolingo as the CALL software at that time, but to further complicate matters there was other software that could have been used instead. Rosetta Stone, Babbel, Bussu, iTalki, HelloTalk, Beelinguapp, Memrise, Clozemaster, and others were all potential choices from a long (and ever- expanding) list. As Greg Kessler indicated, “…language teachers today are faced with so many fascinating options for using technology to enhance language learning that it can be overwhelming.” (Kessler 2018).

I decided to go with Duolingo for the following additional reasons:

  • Duolingo had content that was appropriate for this group’s level, with room for growth.
  • The gamified, AI-enhanced language learning in the app promotes more engagement than other similar applications.
  • Duolingo is what’s known as a freemium app- and all of the learning features are free. Many of the other apps in this category are either paid or require payment for some of the learning features. In the early phases of application use, I’ve found that students are often eager to try an app, but required initial payment is a major obstacle to uptake.
  • The university at which I taught, and many of the universities in Thailand, insist on three-hour class length. For most classes, taught in L1, this seems to work reasonably well. It has been my experience that with language classes, that ninety minutes is about as long as an adult learner can productively learn in a typical L2 classroom session. Past that point, the amount of actual language uptake seems to drop considerably. In order to comply with the school’s demand for three-hour classes, and to provide a productive learning opportunity in that time frame, Duolingo was an appropriate choice. It offered a novel, self-directed and engaging option for the group.

This experiment in CALL (I refer to it as an experiment, because none of the 50-odd students I had in this particular class had ever used an app to learn English, and I had never formally directed a class to use one) became what Bax would classify as Integrated CALL (Bax, 2003). Most of a three-hour classroom session was taken up by a communicative lesson from school-provided textbooks and workbooks, where I encouraged as much participation as possible. After a break, the remaining class time was spent using Duolingo on their smartphone, where I facilitated its use, and sought feedback on the class and Duolingo itself. As the class was overwhelmingly at the A1 and A2 levels, the first stage of Duolingo provided an excellent compliment to what they were learning in class. It should be noted that Duolingo offered a Thai language interface for English language learning, which proved very useful in this setting, as some competing apps for language learning only have an English language interface.

While the use of Duolingo as CALL software was becoming normalised in our classroom, I noticed that the normalisation of another device had already taken place, one that had profound implications for our situation. The smartphones that the students used had become as ubiquitous as pens and paper in the classroom, with all of them owning one. Indeed, their use had become so integral and normalized that during break time, the students would often leave behind a wallet, purse or other belongings, but take their smartphone for social media communication and occasional information gathering. This generation’s culture had adopted, through communication and other social processes, a technology which was now being used to learn a language (Bax, 2011).

When we first set up Duolingo in class, I was pleased with how the students helped each other to install and then use the application. I had made instructions for both iOS and Android, but there were some variations in the installation process that I couldn’t account for, and this, combined with the fact that I don’t read Thai, made assistance in some cases difficult. Fortunately, the students who had successfully navigated the interface and installed Duolingo helped the others. An unexpected yet welcomed event, which was made even more special when they peer-taught the use of the app. It warmed my heart.

During the remainder of the semester, it was interesting how the students embraced the application and the use of their smartphone as a learning device. Prior to this, their smartphone was used almost exclusively for social media, selfies, basic fact finding and general entertainment, not education. While novelty could have explained the initial uptake of Duolingo, it did not explain why the students continued to use it enthusiastically throughout the remainder of the semester.

Overall, I’d have to consider the initial informal experiment a rudimentary success; in future implementations where a ‘Needs Audit’ indicates suitability (Bax, 2011), I will utilize Duolingo for Schools , where classes can be created, students added, curriculum selected, and individual and classroom assignments given. I look forward to using it in this capacity.

Module 1 Post 2 (Week 3): Brave New Digital Classroom : Technology and Foreign Language Learning

Blake, Robert J.. Brave New Digital Classroom : Technology and Foreign Language Learning, Georgetown University Press, 2008.

In his book Brave New Digital Classroom: Technology and Foreign Language Learning, author Robert Blake contends that “technology only provides a set of tools that are, for most part, methodologically neutral.”

While the technological tools are for the most part methodologically neutral, “how technology is used—its particular culture of practice—is not neutral; it responds to what the practitioners understand or believe to be true about SLA.” (Blake 2008)

An example of technology being adapted to suit a given methodology is if a TPR system were created, using multimedia software to demonstrate actions for the students, with spoken commands, visual representations, and a system that uses the computer’s video camera and microphone to gather information and process feedback.

In addition, a computer-based tool need not be based on any specific methodology to be valid or useful, and therefore could be considered neutral methodologically. For example, the language learning software Duolingo does not directly adhere to any previous methodology such as grammar-translation, the direct method or the audio-lingual method. Based on SLA research, it simply provides an engaging way to learn and practice a language. (

Module 1 Post 1: Introduction to Digital Technologies for Language Teaching

In my first post about my experience in the University of Nottingham’s Digital Technologies for Language Teaching MA program, I’m going to address the following questions:

What do you expect from this module (or the programme)?

In this module, I expect to learn more about the theories and practices of online teaching.

I also expect to be able to recognize the strengths and limitations of digital tools for language teaching, and logically evaluate those digital tools in my own professional practice.

By further developing my analytical and critical thinking, I’ll be able to make more connections between theoretical and applied content.

I expect to improve my ability to present an argument in a cohesive manner, and present this in front of fellow students.

There are several other skills I expect to develop more fully as well: problem solving, time management, organization and self-regulation.

How do you think you will contribute to the module?

I will contribute to this module by analyzing the content and offering insightful observations based on my personal and professional experiences.

I will also compare the theories, practical applications and methods to what I’ve observed in my professional practice.

Finally, I will collaborate with my group to develop a more robust and informed understanding of the topics in the module.

Do you have any worries related to this module (or even this programme)?

I don’t have any worries related to this module, only about my own performance in terms of time management and organization. I hope to improve those things as the program progresses.

Have you thought about making a weekly schedule of your studies?

I have thought about making a weekly schedule of my studies, and I will do that. I will ask the professor and my group for advice in this area.

How will you integrate your study with your professional and/or private life?

I will be participating in some personal activities that help me to inform my professional life. I play a tabletop role-playing game with some friends that I also use to teach students English (and other skills). The pandemic has facilitated our group’s adoption of technology (Zoom, Roll20 and others) in order to play. I will be able to use this experience with my students going forward.

I go for long walks for exercise and an opportunity to contemplate material I’ve read or ideas I’ve had.

I have a number of friends who are teachers, with whom I can discuss what we’re covering in the course.

I will be working occasionally during the first six months of this program, but mainly studying, in order to ensure that I can pay full attention to it. I may work part-time in the latter part of the program if I believe I can devote all the time that I need to successfully learn from it.

I will approach this program as I would a full-time job, and set an eight hour workday, five days a week.

My journey so far

I came to teaching rather late in life, after many years in the career wilderness, not having found something I really wanted to do. I was 40, working in IT support and not enjoying myself, aside from gathering knowledge and working with some nice people. I had thought about trying teaching a number of times over the years, but the anxiety I had over public speaking always precluded that option- you certainly couldn’t be a teacher if you had issues with speaking in front of groups. So, what to do?

In 2006, a friend of mine in South Korea got in touch with me to ask what I was doing. I told him I was in IT support but was tired of it and not really sure what to do next. At the time, he was working as a teacher in a high school English program and was lonely- was I interested in joining him and teaching in South Korea? He said he knew of a school that required an EFL teacher, so getting a job wouldn’t be a problem with his recommendation. The thought of learning how to teach appealed to me, but that also meant I had to confront my fear of public speaking- would I be able to get over it? I recalled how a teacher of mine in high school preached the value of expanding your comfort zone- try to do things that are unfamiliar to you as often as you can, you’ll be a better person for it. I also considered my age, which, at the time was 40. It was about time I dealt with this fear, and the teaching opportunity afforded a good chance to do so.

When I started teaching and found I really enjoyed it, my fear of public speaking began to fade. I soon decided that the best course of action for me was to focus on two things: professional development and getting experience at all levels of education. I wanted to try each level to inform my overall teaching practice, and see where I wanted to stay. My first job was at a hagwon (a tutoring school) in South Korea, where I taught English to teenagers. It was as much an exercise in behavioural management as it was teaching English, but it allowed me to practice and grow.

From there, I taught kindergarten as well as adults in private classes in Thailand, which helped me understand Thai culture and in turn a culture’s effect on learning and language acquisition.

Two years later, I returned to Canada to teach in an adult high school, where I taught students how to use a Windows based computer and a variety of applications. Ultimately, this ended up being my favourite group to teach, but I still needed to try primary, secondary and post-secondary before I could make a fully informed decision. From 2009 to 2020, I spent several years at each level, some in Canada and some in Thailand, but all of them enriching.

I find myself now wanting to further explore the use of technology for a number of reasons- I believe that teaching through technology is the way of the future; that novel ways of computer-assisted teaching and learning can definitely improve students’ outcomes, and aspects of distance education have the potential to reduce our impact on the environment and make our time more productive.

I’m looking forward to this program and getting to know and learn from everyone. The future is now!




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.


Teaching with Games and Technology