Mrs A's Blog

My Rambling Thoughts on Teaching and Learning

Speaking and Listening From a Distance!

Skype in the Classroom is a service offered by Microsoft that enables teachers to connect their classrooms with experts, other teachers and classes all around the world (Microsoft, 2020b).  Skype in the Classroom requires a teacher to visit the Skype in the Classroom website (, sign up using an Office 365 or Microsoft Account, and choose how you would like your class to participate and set up your classroom profile and availability (Microsoft, 2020a).  From here, you can participate in virtual field trips, guest speaker sessions, classroom conversations, collaborative project, special events or a game of Mystery Skype (Microsoft, 2020b).  With language learners, Skype can “play a pivotal role in the development of English learning proficiency” (Saqib Khan, Ayaz, Khan, & Khan, 2016, p. 41).  Skype can assist with the development of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills for EAL/D students (Saqib Khan et al., 2016)


  • It is easy to connect with teachers or guest speakers from all over the world – the search feature is excellent.
  • It is free.
  • The use of video assists students in being able to improve their comprehension as they can look for and use non-verbal cues.
  • The resources available on the Skype in the Classroom Site especially for playing a game of Mystery Skype are comprehensive and provide you with OneNote templates, printouts and lesson plans for the lessons surrounding the game, not just for the game itself.
  • Uses equipment we all have – can operate off a phone or computer.
  • Allows students to connect with guest speakers with whom they may never have had the chance in the past.  For example, what better way to learn about the weather than from a meteorologist or learn about a new culture from those who live the lifestyle.
  • Once connected Skype has the option to turn on subtitles to assist with understanding.


  • Being able to access a guest speaker/class at a time which would suit your class.
  • Classes/guest speakers sometimes do not turn up at the time organised.
  • Students are unable to organise a Skype in the Classroom session as it has to be hosted by the educators.
  • Relies on the quality of the equipment (webcam, internet connection) of both parties, which means sometimes there are issues with hearing or seeing the other side well.

Teaching and Learning

Skype in the Classroom is accessible for all classrooms, from students who are in Preschool to Year 12 including those students who have limited language skills.  The amount of teacher input may change depending on the skill level of the students.  Skype in the Classroom can fit in with any curriculum it just comes down to selecting the right guest speaker or class to connect with inline with the curriculum that you are currently working on with the students (Anderson, 2020).  The idea behind using Skype in the Classroom is to improve the language skills (especially speaking and listening) of students within the context of what they are learning.


Anderson, S. (2020, 21st January) Skype in the Classroom at JPC/Interviewer: J.-A. Angell.

Microsoft. (2020a). Getting Started with Skype in the Classroom Educator Guide. Retrieved from!Ah6-kSoVK_2KnD7iWVsk0kfE9osp?e=HztzFS

Microsoft. (2020b). Skype in the Classroom. Retrieved from

Saqib Khan, M., Ayaz, M., Khan, S., & Khan, D. (2016). Using Skype To Develop English Learners’ Speaking Motivation. 28, 41-48.

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Welcome to 2020!

2019 disappeared in a blur and in a couple of weeks I will be starting the 2020 school year. This year is going to be an interesting one. My second baby is finishing high school and the journey of being the first cohort through Queensland’s new ATAR system.

My workload in 2019 saw me having six senior subjects and while I have followed three of the classes into 2020 my workload has reduced (at least for the first six months). Not to mention that I am only teaching Economics. I am looking forward to being able to stay in the same discipline all day instead of switching from discipline to discipline each lesson – less chance of confusion! So while still all senior subject it is all ECONOMICS! This means that I can focus on my pedagogy instead.

I know at points last year I lost my way in this area. I at times my lessons have been put together at the last minute due to the number I was teaching and the reduced time I had to prepare. I know this sounds like a lot of excuses however when your a teacher sometimes time is what makes or breaks your planning.

As well as this I will be continuing on my Masters of Education in Online and Distributive Learning and hoping to complete three subjects along with my Micro-Masters in Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement.

Yet again a busy year with lots of potentials. I hope you will join me along the way as I share some of my findings and understandings with you.

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay
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Authentic Learning Authentic Language

Learning a second language is not an easy task.  I know I tried it for many years both in foreign language classes (French, Japanese and Spanish) and in a foreign country (France).  I have much awe for the students in my classes who leave their native country (and home) to come and complete their senior schooling at our school in Australia.  Not only are they trying to understand the content areas I am trying to teach them, but they are doing it in a language which is not their own.  As a result, anything that I can do to support them in their learning environment, my classroom, the better.  Like every teacher, I want my students to achieve the best they can.  For an EAL/D student to be successful in my classroom, I must incorporate Pedagogy, Curriculum and Technology in such a way that it creates authentic learning experiences both in my subjects and in language learning. 

ACARA offers an EAL/D framework (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2014, pp. 23-28) which has influenced my approach to teaching all my students as it is not just the EAL/D students who require language learning.  To best understand my approach to language learning watch the short video below.

My Learners

During 2019 I have had a Year 10 Economic class.  The sixteen students in this class are between 15 and 18 years old.  They are a close-knit class of which two-thirds are female and one third are male.  Only three students in the class are native English speakers with three more students ascertained at a native speaker level.  Those who are not established native speakers have a minimum proficiency level of five on the NLLIA bandscales (Education Queensland, 2018).  The international students are all from Asian cultural backgrounds with first languages including Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Thai.  The native English speakers are all Australian.  Two students are gifted and often require extension.  Other than a language barrier, there are no learning support needs students.  The students are at a large Independent K-12 school in a metropolitan area of Brisbane, Australia.  The school is in a middle socio-economic area.

So, What Does This Look Like in My Classroom?

My approach to language learning is to use authentic learning experiences which focus on literacy and utilise digital tools to enhance learning.  As part of the Senior Economics Syllabus students are required to be able to create extended “responses that communicate economic meaning using data, information, graphs and diagrams to suit the intended purpose” (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 18).  Students are required to respond to an economic question asking them to evaluate and analyse stimulus material making connections to the theory and content they have learnt during the unit.  Students participate in this learning goal at the end of each unit of study.  When it is first introduced in unit one, it is a seven-lesson learning experience.

The Learning Experience

Students participate in a Skype Guest Speaker Session with an economist who provides data about the current state of the Australian Economy surrounding the current topic of study.  As the guest speaker presents their information and data students partake in shared note-taking using OneNote.  When graphs and diagrams are provided, students use screenshots and annotate them as the speaker explains them.  At the end of the session, the economist asks students a question asking them to write a 400-word response which analyses and evaluates an economic event or policy which the economist discussed using the presentation as the stimulus material.  From here, the students participate in a workshop which explicitly teaches the writing skills required to write a response which communicates economic meaning.  Over the next few lessons, students are working in small groups on a collaborative Word document constructing a joint answer to the economist’s question.  A follow-up Skype session is organised for students to present their responses to the economist and receive authentic feedback surrounding their understanding of economic concepts and language.  After this, students can improve their responses and continue to practice their skills until they feel confident that they can answer a similar question in exam conditions.  By utilising technology and connecting to an expert, the exercise of writing a response to an economic question becomes an authentic experience which also improves language learning.  According to Kessler (2018), these experiences support students “in developing autonomy over their own learning and can increase their motivation and also contribute to their engagement” (p. 207).

My Role As A Digital Age Teacher

During this learning experience, my role as a teacher changes from being a guide on the side to learning with the students to being the sage on the stage.  During the economist’s presentation, I’d be learning with the students, thus focusing on the learning relationships (andragogy).  This lesson also focuses on building shared knowledge and active involvement (refer to the model above).  The focus of the workshop is the explicit teaching of the genre-specific writing skills required in economics. It is not only good pedagogy for EAL/D students; it sets up all students for success when it comes to writing economic responses (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018).  While the joint responses allow students to work on demonstration of persistence, active involvement and time management, for language learners it can assist them, especially when struggling with writer’s block to look at their group member’s contributions and then build on those ideas (Kessler, 2018, p. 208).  These collaborative writing practices and knowing that the economist is going to supply them with feedback encourages them to “participate and support peer and self-editing” (Kessler, 2018, p. 209).  Collaborative writing also allows me to support those students who require further language instruction in a small group setting.  With authentic feedback from the economist students take control of their learning (heutagogy) and continue to practice, prepare and revise the language skills they have gained in the process (see model).

Digital Tools

These digital tools (Skype, OneNote, and a Collaborative Word Document) have been chosen due to their collaborative nature along with the prevalence of them in various professional settings.  Collaborative tools are becoming more and more commonplace, and we as teachers, must incorporate them into our classroom settings (Kessler, 2018, p. 214).


At the end of the day, all students benefit from implementing authentic language learning supported by using digital tools along with having access to professionals in the disciplines they are learning.  My next steps will be to share these collaborations with other schools and look at setting up collaborative projects on a variety of topics within the Senior Economic Course.


Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, A. (2014). English as an Additional Language or Dialect Teacher Resource. Australian Government Retrieved from Http://

Education Queensland. (2018). Bandscales State Schools (Queensland). (12/111572). Brisbane: Queensland Government Retrieved from

Kessler, G. (2018). Technology and the Future of Language Teaching. Foreign Language Annals, 51(1), 205-218. doi:10.1111/flan.12318

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Q. (2018). Economics 2019 v1.1 General Senior Syllabus. Brisbane: Queensland Government

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Language Learning & Teaching With Web2 Tools

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

So the task was to use a digital tool to design, develop and share a visual model showing my personal structure or schema for language learning and teaching through digital and/or Web 2 tools.

I would love to know your thoughts, especially if you are a teacher with EAL/D students.

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Using Smartphones in the Classroom

As part of my masters research I was required to put my research (see last week’s post) into the use of mobile phones into practice in my classroom. Here is how I applied it…

My Classroom

Teachers often decide to use technology because it is available or looks “cool” not necessarily because it is in the best interests of students.  With the need to embrace the smartphone and integrate mobile technology into the classroom, this essay will discuss the idea of using smartphones in the classroom using the Technological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework as a method of critically thinking about the issues and implications of the initiative for the new Queensland Economic General Senior Syllabus.  The TPACK framework integrates the three primary forms of knowledge, Content, Pedagogy and Technology in order to ensure that there is ‘effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter’ (Koehler, 2012).  The relationship between these components of knowledge differs from context to context (Koehler, 2012).  The context presented for this essay is a large K to 12 private school on the outskirts of Brisbane, where all students in the Senior Economics course have access to a smartphone.  The focus for the Economics General Senior Syllabus will be the Modified Markets Unit (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018).

Within the Modified Markets Unit:

Students explore the imperfections within markets and the economic concept that markets do not always deliver socially desirable or efficient outcomes. They investigate the causes and effects of market failure and the measures and strategies that may be used to modify markets in attempts to maximise economic and social well-being.  Various market interventions are evaluated in terms of their effectiveness in minimising the short- and long-term consequences of markets not delivering socially optimal outcomes. (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 20)

The content descriptor which will be the focus is that students will ‘analyse and evaluate government strategies and/or interventions to address inequality and measures aimed at alleviating inequality and improving living standards’ (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 24).  Essentially students need to understand (or know) the strategies and interventions required to address the market failure of income inequality while being able to use the skills of analysing and evaluating.  The Economics General Senior Syllabus identifies Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) skills as part of the 21st-century skills and attributes ‘students need to prepare them for higher education, work and engagement in a complex and rapidly changing world’ (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 5).  Ultimately students need to be ‘productive users of technology’ (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 7).

The initial focus is on the three primary forms of knowledge, content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technology knowledge (Koehler, 2012).  Content Knowledge is the subject matter required from curriculum documents (Digital Learning Futures, 2010). In the case of Senior Economics, the content descriptor is that of government strategies and interventions to address inequality.  Students need to know the eight government strategies which address inequality and be able to analyse and evaluate their ability to improve living standards.  Pedagogical knowledge looks at how the students learn best and what strategies and techniques will meet their needs best (Rodgers, 2018).  The pedagogical strategy utilised with this year eleven cohort is collaboration or working with others (Luckin, et al., 2012).  Being able to collaborate and discuss their ideas, the students find the concepts more accessible.  The digital and non-digital tools available to use in the classroom or Technological Knowledge will focus on video presentation tools and the use of the smartphone (Digital Learning Futures, 2010).  With the primary forms of knowledge set in place, the focus now moves to where they intersect.

The next tier of the TPACK Framework identifies how each of the forms of knowledge interacts together to ensure technology is used with purpose.  Pedagogical Content Knowledge is about ‘understanding the best practices for teaching specific content to your specific students’ (Rodgers, 2018).  In teaching, how the government addresses the problem of income inequality students need to discuss what each of the strategies and interventions are and how they solve inequality and improve living standards.  As there are no incorrect answers in economics, it ultimately comes down to how the answer is justified, having discussions and asking questions ensures students expand their understanding and viewpoints.  Once they have an understanding of the concepts, they are then able to analyse and evaluate.  From here, Technological Content Knowledge is considered, as there is a need to understand the technology available to transform the content and how students interact with it (Rodgers, 2018).  To facilitate the discussions, students will use their smartphones and record their responses and questions in small groups, using the Flipgrid app (Microsoft, 2019).  With eight workstations for the students to work through, the use of smartphones makes the process more comfortable as they do not need to lug their notebooks around the room.  The Technological Content Knowledge that is required is how to record and edit a video to include titles and stickers, along with how to upload the video.  The last interaction is Technological Pedagogical Knowledge, which asks an educator to understand how to use technology as a means to the desired learning outcomes and experiences (Rodgers, 2018).  By responding using a video discussion platform students share and discuss the content and also have a way to revisit the discussions long after the lesson has finished (Microsoft, 2019).  Students also have the opportunity to learn skills that they can apply to other online video platforms.

The last step is to put it all together; Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge enables powerful learning (Digital Learning Futures, 2010).  In order to ensure students can ‘analyse and evaluate government strategies and/or interventions to address inequality and measures aimed at alleviating inequality and improving living standards’ (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 24) students will work through eight workstations each focused on a different government strategy.  At each station, students will review the strategy in small groups by discussing how the strategy aims to alleviate inequality and improve living standards.  They will then record using their smartphones and the Flipgrid App their analysis and evaluation of the government strategy along with any questions they have on the topic.  Once completed students then have the opportunity to review the collection of videos on each of the strategies and respond to their peer’s questions further enhancing their understanding.  All students had access to this low-floor, high-ceiling task allowing everyone to engage and succeed, realising their potential while contributing to the learning of others (Boaler, 2019).

Utilising the new Senior Economics course and the Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework, a pedagogical approach for implementing the use of smartphones and mobile technology into the classroom has been developed.  The result was a low-floor, high-ceiling transformational task that ensured that technology was utilised with purpose and not for the sake of integrating technology.


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