Mrs A's Blog

My Rambling Thoughts on Teaching and Learning

Community of Practice

Over the last few years, communities of practice have become the latest thing to be implemented in education. A concept that started as “a social learning system” (Wenger, 2010, p. 179), it has since grown to a “field of knowledge management” (Wenger et al., 2002, p. 5), thus becoming an easy way to share knowledge in the ever-evolving field of education. Simply defined, communities of practice are “groups of people who share a passion for something that they know how to do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better” (Wenger, 2002). This essay will discuss the benefits and challenges of using a community of practice for economics teachers within a high school context. After a brief discussion of what a community of practice is, the strengths and weaknesses within an educational context will be examined. Finally, the essay will investigate the sustainability of a community of practice. This essay will argue that with the constant changes to the education system, teachers need to embrace communities of practice in order to improve their knowledge, skills and understanding.

Knowledge and best practice within any field is not just about concepts, policies and procedures. In fact, in most industries, it is impossible to capture all knowledge on a topic as knowledge is not just the information but also the application of that information (McDermott, 2000). This knowledge is invisible and often only comes to mind when attempting to answer a question or solve a problem (McDermott, 2000). Within this space, there is a need to honour the history of practice and the exploration of perspectives along with the history of research, teaching, management, and regulation (Wenger, 2010). Communities of practice are required to make sense of “what researchers find, what regulators dictate, what management mandates, what clients expect and what practitioners end up deciding” (Wenger, 2010, p. 182). When they are combined, they often conflict with each other. These complex issues require multiple perspectives for practitioners to be able to solve; as such, communities of practice will develop naturally on their own within an organisation (Wenger et al., 2002). The strength of the community of practice will depend on the engagement of members and the support of management (Wenger et al., 2002).

What makes a community of practice different to a team, department, or workgroup is that communities of practice are a group of practitioners who select themselves based on passion, commitment, and expertise (Wenger & Snyder, 2000). From here, they set their own agenda and establish their own goals and leadership based on the needs of the group (Wenger & Snyder, 2000). In contrast, a team initiated by management usually to complete a project, and members are selected based on the job requirements and shared goals (Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Management needs to step in to identify potential communities of practice and cultivate these communities by providing infrastructure and budget so that they can reach their full potential (Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Communities of practice can take many forms whether they begin spontaneously or intentionally; they can be small groups of under ten to large groups of hundreds that belong to the same industry or are an interindustry group (Wenger et al., 2002; Wenger & Snyder, 2000). They can exist for a few years or centuries where knowledge is passed from generation to generation, whether locally or globally, within the organisation or across organisational boundaries (Wenger et al., 2002; Wenger & Snyder, 2000). It is the shared context, concern, or issue that will determine how each community of practice will look, provided it suits the members’ needs (Monash University, 2020; Wenger et al., 2002; Wenger & Snyder, 2000).

Regardless of the type of community of practice, they all share a combination of three fundamental elements – domain, community and practise (Wenger, 2002). The domain is the common ground, the shared inquiry, the key issues (Wenger, 2002; Wenger et al., 2002). It is what motivates people to join the community of practice and ensures relevance and focus over time (Mercieca, 2016). While the domain is not always “recognisable to outsiders, it is known and valued by the members of the community of practice” (Gardner, 2020, p. 25). Community is the glue that holds the domain and practice together; it is what sustains the community of practice and ensures participation (Mercieca, 2016). A community of practice is “a group of people who interact, learn together, build relationships and in the process develop a sense of belonging and mutual commitment” (Wenger et al., 2002, pp. 34-35). Community is about relationships and the need for recurring connection to share an understanding of their domain and an approach to practice (Mercieca, 2016; Wenger, 2002; Wenger et al., 2002). It is the interactions which “are necessary for the advancement of knowledge” (Gardner, 2020, p. 25) and practice. Practice allows members of a community of practice to explore the existing body of knowledge, along with the latest advances in the field (Wenger, 2002; Wenger et al., 2002). It is the ongoing sharing of experiences, ways of addressing recurring problems and a repertoire of resources, working together to refine, develop and add value to the existing body of knowledge (Gardner, 2020; Mercieca, 2016). It is the honing of practice with the support and combined wealth of knowledge that crystalises the experiences and shared knowledge to develop best practice (Gardner, 2020; Mercieca, 2016). Communities of practice aim to promote positive change (Gardner, 2020), and it is through the domain, community and practise working together “to create a dynamic learning community” (Mercieca, 2016, p. 12).

Within education, communities of practice become necessary to connect educators, most notably when curriculum, assessment and the education system are changed. In 2019, the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) introduced a new certificate of education system for senior students, which included an internal and external assessment system never seen before in Queensland (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2020). This new system saw a significant change in how the curriculum and assessment are now delivered to students (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2020). In economics, teachers are often the sole practitioner in their school. As a result, economics teachers have reached out, and there is a need to develop a community of practice to enable dialogue, capturing existing knowledge and best practice while creating a collaborative environment to help them organise and generate new knowledge around the new system (Cambridge et al., 2005).

The benefits of a community of practice for economics teachers are dependent on the individual situation of each educator. In most cases, the benefits are to the individual educator; however, there are several advantages for the school they work for and the students they teach as well. For an isolated teacher, as the only discipline practitioner or as a result of location within the state, the benefit of being able to unpack the new syllabus, emerging knowledge and practice will provide confidence that the chosen approach will be the right one (Duncan-Howell, 2007; May & Keay, 2016; Reaburn & McDonald, 2016; Wenger et al., 2002; Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Ultimately, this enhances the learning experience for students, provides a larger pool of resources, especially for topics not taught in previous syllabi, while saving time with quick answers and access to expertise, along with new strategies for handling and teaching the subject from graduates (Akinyemi et al., 2019; Fuller et al., 2005; May & Keay, 2016; Wenger et al., 2002; Wenger & Snyder, 2000). With the introduction of a new assessment system, the need for standardisation across schools has become paramount, especially when students across the state experience the same external exam (Wenger et al., 2002). Communities of practice provide economics teachers with the ability to seek advice and clarification, specifically where the initial training provided by QCAA was not attended (Fuller et al., 2005). Overall, the biggest strength a community of practice offers any educator is the “pool of goodwill” (Wright, 2007) which would be beneficial for economics teachers to improve their practice overall.

Many of the issues with communities of practice tend to be extreme versions of the qualities that make a community successful; as such, the weaknesses need to be recognised (Wenger et al., 2002). The main weakness is the issue of power and identity, which will require clear guidelines, and protocols to foster a culture of risk-taking and recognition of all (Cattaneo, 2019; Roberts, 2006; Vangrieken et al., 2017; Wenger, 2010). Powerplays can shape meaning and direction without intending to, while reducing creativity and the want to share knowledge (Cattaneo, 2019; Wenger, 2010). The installation of a coordinator role will be critical to the long term survival of an economics teachers’ community of practice (McDermott, 2000). Other issues for teachers will be time and infrastructure (Duncan-Howell, 2007; McDermott, 2000). Both can be solved through the selection of technology that easily “integrates with people’s daily work” (McDermott, 2000, p. 9) and support from school leadership (Wenger et al., 2002).

The sustainability of a community of practice is about positioning the group, dealing with the challenges and ensuring all members have buy-in (Cambridge et al., 2005). This will be achieved through effective facilitation and by building relationships of trust, and mutual respect (Akinyemi et al., 2019; Cambridge et al., 2005; McDonald et al., 2012; Wenger et al., 2002). A focus will be on cultivating a willingness to share, exposing ignorance, asking questions and listening to what others have to say (Akinyemi et al., 2019; Cambridge et al., 2005; McDonald et al., 2012; Wenger et al., 2002). Furthermore, a relationship will be developed with the Queensland Economics Teachers’ Association (QETA), as according to Cambridge et al. (2005), “successful and sustainable communities have focused, well-defined purposes that are directly tied to the sponsoring organisation’s mission.” (p. 3). QETA aims to support economics teachers in Queensland; as such, they are in the best position to assist the community of practice.

With the changes to curriculum, assessment and the education system in 2019, economics teachers have needed to embrace communities of practice in order to improve their knowledge, skills and understanding. It is through the use of the elements of domain, community and practise economics teachers can make sense of the relationship between research, regulation and pedagogy. Provided that the weaknesses are recognised and addressed, a community of practice for economics teachers will be successful and sustainable over time. Along with the relationship with QETA, this will safeguard the benefits for the school, the economics teacher and, of course, the students.

Reference List

Akinyemi, A. F., Rembe, S., Shumba, J., & Adewumi, T. M. (2019). Collaboration and mutual support as processes established by communities of practice to improve continuing professional teachers’ development in high schools. Cogent Education, 6(1).
Cambridge, D., Kaplan, S., & Suter, V. (2005). Community of practice design guide: A step-by-step guide for designing & cultivating communities of practice in higher education. National Learning Infrastructure Initiative at EDUCAUSE (, 2-8.
Cattaneo, C. (2019). Community of Practices. In S. Idowu, R. Schmidpeter, N. Capaldi, L. Zu, M. Del Baldo, & R. Abreu (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Sustainable Management (pp. 1-10). Springer International Publishing.
Duncan-Howell, J. (2007). Online communities of practice and their role in the professional development of teachers [PhD,
Ehrlich, S., Ergulec, F., Zydney, J. M., & Angelone, L. (2013). In pursuit of meaningful dialogue: Using protocols to improve discussion in online and face-to-face courses. International Journal of Interpreter Education, 5(2), 73-84.
Fuller, A., Hodkinson, H., Hodkinson, P., & Unwin, L. (2005). Learning as peripheral participation in communities of practice: a reassessment of key concepts in workplace learning. British Educational Research Journal, 31(1), 49-68.
Gardner, S. J. (2020). A multiple case study exploring communities of practice led by rural secondary school science teachers to overcome community isolation in a research-science, dually-enrolled, program of studies (Publication Number 27837918) [Ed.D., Concordia University (Oregon)]. ProQuest One Academic. Ann Arbor.
John Paul College. (2020). Guidelines for mutual respect. Retrieved 23rd September from
May, H., & Keay, J. (2016). Using communities of practice to internationalise higher education: Practical and strategic considerations. In J. McDonald & A. Cater-Steel (Eds.), Communities of practice: Facilitating social learning in higher education. Springer Singapore Pte. Limited.
McDermott, R. (2000). Knowing in community. The Journal of the Institute of Health Record Information and Management, 19, 19-26.
McDonald, J., Star, C., Burch, T., Cox, M., Nagy, J., Margetts, F., & Collins, E. (2012). Identifying, building and sustaining leadership capacity for communities of practice in higher education.
Mercieca, B. (2016). What is a community of practice? In J. McDonald & A. Cater-Steel (Eds.), Communities of practice: Facilitating social learning in higher education. Springer Singapore Pte. Limited.
Monash University. (2020). What is a community of practice and how do I use this resource?
Novicki, A. (2018, 24th January). Guidelines for interaction for better class discussions. Learning Innovation.
Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2020). Queensland curriculum and assessment authority. Queensland Government. Retrieved 26th June from
Queensland Economics Teachers’ Association Inc. (2020a). QETA. Retrieved 23rd September from
Queensland Economics Teachers’ Association Inc. (2020b). QETA Group. Facebook. Retrieved 23rd September from
Reaburn, P., & McDonald, J. (2016). Creating and facilitating communities of practice in higher education: Theory to practice in a regional Australian University. In J. McDonald & A. Cater-Steel (Eds.), Communities of practice: Facilitating social learning in higher education. Springer Singapore Pte. Limited.
Roberts, J. (2006). Limits to Communities of Practice. Journal of Management Studies, 43(3), 623-639.
Vangrieken, K., Meredith, C., Packer, T., & Kyndt, E. (2017). Teacher communities as a context for professional development: A systematic review. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 47-59.
Wenger, E. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A quick start up guide. Retrieved February, 22, 2008.
Wenger, E. (2010). Communities of practice and social learning systems: The career of a concept. In Social learning systems and communities of practice (pp. 179-198). Springer.
Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Harvard Business Press.
Wenger, E. C., & Snyder, W. M. (2000). Communities of practice: The organisational frontier. Harvard business review, 78(1), 139-146.
Wright, N. (2007). Building literacy communities of practice across subject disciplines in secondary schools [Article]. Language & Education: An International Journal, 21(5), 420-433.

Feel free to share this post on one of your networks...

PKM Routines

I have for years wondered how people find their info, process it and then if worthy share it. Today I read a piece for my current subject at Uni about PKM Routines ( The penny has suddenly dropped.

Personal Knowledge Mastery is about how you seek, sense and share what you know. So over the years, I have narrowed down my way of finding information to the following routine…

Seek – I read through my newsfeeds in Outlook, Twitter and good old Google searches

Sense – I read, notetake, draw and talk through my thoughts in OneNote

Share – when I find a good idea I share through my networks on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and if I have the time I’ll write a blog post.

So below is my first version of my PKM routine! Would love to know what you think!

Feel free to share this post on one of your networks...

Online Personalised Learning

Is it Possible in a High School Course?


The Universal Declarations of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to education” (UN General Assembly, 1948, p. Article 26). Schools in their current form are a one size fits all system which does not cater or even allow access to education for every student (Consortium for School Networking, 2019). As such “this uniform model has been giving way to more flexible, student-focused instruction” (Consortium for School Networking, 2019, p. 6). As educators attempt to find ways to make education accessible to all students, research has led to many different pedagogical approaches, tools and resources. Personalisation is one approach to engage a student in the learning process (Ferlazzo, 2017); however, as a high school teacher when you teach 150 different students in a single school year how do you achieve this? This literature review aims to assess what is known about how online learning can help to enable personalised learning in a high school course. In particular, it will investigate the implementation within a single subject course and existing school structures. It is important to note that the focus is not solely on online learning as the only pedagogical approach utilised within the classroom.

For students to engage in the learning process, they need to “find their spark and make their own fire” (Ferlazzo, 2017).  In order to accomplish this sense of agency, educators need to incorporate the four essential elements of autonomy, self-efficacy, relatedness and relevance into the personalisation of the high school course (Ferlazzo, 2017). 

Personalised learning has been around in a variety of different forms since Jean-Jacques Rousseau advocated for student-centred education in 1762 (UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017).  From the Montessori Method (1897) to the Dalton Plan (1914) and the Keller Plan (1968) through to differentiation (1999) have all built on and contributed to the understanding of what personalised learning is in 2020 (UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017).  This literature review will consider the understandings developed over the last ten years, attempt to define personalised learning in the context of online learning in a high school course, barriers and enablers for online personalised learning and how this can be implemented in a high school course.

Historical Background

Over the last ten years, personalised learning has undergone a shift in understanding not only of the concept but of how and when it would be implemented in mainstream education.  The 2011 Horizon Report (K-12 Edition) expected personalised learning to be implemented in the mainstream classroom by 2016.  The belief was that it would happen naturally through the use of Social Media and the development of personal learning networks, it just required a shift in attitude by educators (Johnson, Adams, & Haywood, 2011).  While this view was still held in 2012, technology had changed with the implementation of cloud computing and the mainstream acceptance of mobile devices and the use of apps to personalise learning in the classroom (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2012).  High-speed internet supported better access to online resources and high school courses started to be personalised through electronic feedback, tutorials, and playlists with the thought that it would be mainstream by 2014 (Johnson et al., 2012; West, 2012).  In 2014, personalised learning became a solvable challenge, as the thinking changed to focus on the pedagogical approach (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2014).  Each student had the opportunity to utilise online learning to “follow an optimal learning path and pace through a mix of instructional methods” (Childress & Benson, 2014, p. 34).  Implementation of personalised learning proved to be more difficult than initially anticipated as the belief was it could only be accomplished if there was a complete overhaul of the curriculum and education in general (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015; Starasts, 2015).  As educators attempted to implement personalised learning, the realisation that the process was labour intensive and that technology and online learning platforms needed to become more adaptive to ensure more mainstream implementation (Jacobs, 2016).  At this point, the development of online learning was “largely being steered by suppliers, while many schools are still in the midst of identifying their needs” (Adams Becker, Freeman, Giesinger Hall, Cummins, & Yuhnke, 2016, p. 32).  The next few years have seen the rise of Learning Management Systems (LMS) as a way to personalise learning in an online environment (Leonard, 2017).  In 2017, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) outlined their position on personalised learning stating “It is a vital goal for educational systems: access to quality education means access to personalized learning” (UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017, p. 9).  Understanding that engaging and motivating students leads to deeper learning, personalised learning as an approach to enabling agency in students, became an accelerator and mega trend driving education forward (Consortium for School Networking, 2019).  Unfortunately, there is still some confusion as to what personalised learning actually is and what it looks like in a classroom.  Until a definition and agreement of what personalised learning is, it will be difficult to implement it as an approach to learning in the classroom.

What is (Online) Personalised Learning?

Everyone can agree that online personalised learning “starts and ends with the student” (Keefe, 2007, p. 220).  From here it gets murky, is it a process (Johnson et al., 2011; Keefe, 2007), an approach (Johnson et al., 2012; Miller, 2019) or a philosophy (Keefe, 2007; UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017)?  Can it be a combination of all three?  A philosophy of student-centred education that is developed with a variety of pedagogical approaches that are individualised for each student and a process in which a student assesses their own goals, aspirations and understandings and plan a pathway towards success with the support of the teacher or mentor.

There are many ways in which learning can be personalised—the easiest way is to adjust the pace of learning.  Allowing students to move through the course work at their own pace and only moving on when they are ready (Kamenetz, Feinberg, & Calvert Mason, 2018).  However, this is just one aspect of personalising learning (Miller, 2019).  Personalised learning is about each student tailoring their learning journey to their needs, interests, strengths, skills and goals.  When we look at online learning, most software packages and Learning Management Systems (LMS) promoting personalised learning focus primarily on the pace of the learning (Leonard, 2017).

The pace of learning is an aspect of competency-based education.  The objective of this model is for students to demonstrate mastery of skill and content and students receive support based on where they have knowledge gaps (Johnson et al., 2015).  Online learning supports competency-based education by creating opportunities to evaluate and measure student performance in real-time (West, 2011). 

Online learning can also support personalisation through teacher curated student playlists and how students consume content (Childress & Benson, 2014; Johnson et al., 2014; Leonard, 2017).  Choice of activity for interacting with content helps to promote agency and allow students to engage with the content on a deeper level (Stanley, 2019).  This extends further in allowing students options for completing an assessment and demonstrating understanding.

According to Starasts (2015), a method of personalized learning requires the student to create their own learning goals based on learner preferences.  From here, the learning environment and activities should be organized so that the student can control their learning using a variety of learning resources (Starasts, 2015).  It is these individualised learning plans that ensure that students have ownership over their learning (Torrens University Australia, 2018). An extension of goal-based personal learning is learning through interests as a method for students to choose their own curriculum, usually disguised as project-based learning where students can undertake learning through inquiry (Kamenetz et al., 2018).  This can also include taking courses which would not be considered to be a typical high school course like forensic science or emergency medicine (Jacobs, 2016).

With many methods available to personalise learning, what needs to be considered first is a teacher’s personal view of what personalised learning is to them.  Once a teacher has decided if they believe it is a process, approach, philosophy or some combination of all three, then they can decide how they are going to implement this in their classroom.  It might even be a case of they start small, implement pace or choice, master that for themselves and then move to add a new approach as they and their students are ready.

Barriers and Enablers

For online personalised learning to be implemented successfully in a high school course “it needs to be developed consciously and carefully” (UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017, p. 5).  This means that an educator needs to take into consideration the barriers to implementation so that they can be addressed and ensure success. 

Some of these barriers include existing structures, technology and infrastructure, curriculum requirements, resources, students, teachers and time.  When attempting to implement online personalised learning into a single high school course, existing school structures such as timetables (Schwartz, 2019) and school policy (Johnson et al., 2015) are beyond the teachers’ control. As such, there is a requirement to try and work within the constraints of the system.  Schools often struggle with a lack of technology resources and infrastructure to support learning (Johnson et al., 2015) or with the technology driving how learning should occur (Schwartz, 2019).  While personalized learning can occur without technology, it does make the process more challenging to implement.  What is more specific to personalised learning is the difficulty of data integration between the different digital tools that are being used to support the learning (Downing, n.d.) or that an adaptive system might not always get the provision of content right for the student (Thalmann, 2014). These are issues not so easily solved without the direct involvement of suppliers and administrators.

Teachers, at times, can be their own worst enemies when it comes to barriers to implementation of any new teaching approach, without adequate training and familiarity often they can lose faith in the system or doubt their abilities (Downing, n.d.).  Personalised learning requires teachers to give up the control of the classroom and as such put a lot of faith and trust in their students to manage their time and ability to meet the required standards (Downing, n.d.; Schwartz, 2019; Stanley, 2019).  The last barrier is time (Downing, n.d.; Schwartz, 2019).  It takes time to develop and implement personalised learning plans which meet the needs of every student in the class (Downing, n.d.).  Time will always be an issue for teachers, like with every new initiative it takes time to implement.  Teachers need to remember to take one step at a time, start small and do not try to implement everything as once.

While all of these barriers can deter the implementation of online personalised learning, there is no doubt that teachers should take the time to invest.  Research shows us that if a student is interested in learning, then they will succeed at it (Downing, n.d.; Ferlazzo, 2017; Keefe, 2007; Schwartz, 2019; Stanley, 2019).  Some of the other by-products of online personalise learning include empowering student voice, increased teacher productivity, purpose-driven in-class movement, student and teacher organisation, more effective personalised feedback and a boost in student confidence (Downing, n.d.; Ferlazzo, 2017; Stanley, 2019).  As long as a teacher follows the advice of UNESCO and takes the time to plan the personalised learning deliberately and sensibly, then both the teacher and the students will experience success.

Online Personalised Learning in a High School Course

Depending on the approach to personalised learning an educator chooses to implement, there are many ways online learning can support and enable personalised learning in a high school course.  Some of these include facilitating

  • self-paced learning effortlessly allowing students to access the content when and where they want (Gonzalez, 2015; Leonard, 2017; Tucker, 2007)
  • flexibility in the provision of resources through ‘playlists’ for students to explore concepts especially utilizing multimedia (Miller, 2019; Starasts, 2015; West, 2012)
  • immediate feedback for students to act upon and utilise in goal setting (Downing, n.d.; UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017; West, 2011)
  • opportunities for communication with mentors, teachers, experts and even teams of students (Leonard, 2017; Starasts, 2015; UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017)
  • project-based and inquiry learning (Leonard, 2017; UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017)
  • agency over how students demonstrate their learning (Johnson et al., 2015; Leonard, 2017; Torrens University Australia, 2018)
  • with ease, record-keeping for students and educators (Consortium for School Networking, 2019; Starasts, 2015)
  • the use of digital portfolios as a way for students to reflect on learning (UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017)
  • flipped classroom experiences as a way to remove content delivery from the classroom and instead use it to ensure understanding and application (UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017)
  • exploration and experiential learning (Schwartz, 2019; UNESCO International Bureau of Education, 2017)

Technology, especially online learning “can simplify and amplify personalized learning” (Consortium for School Networking, 2019).


This literature review has identified how online learning can enable personalised learning in a high school course regardless of the understanding an educator takes, whether that is as a philosophy, pedagogical approach or process.  From the point when Rousseau promoted student-centred education to today, personalised learning is about ensuring that students get a choice and a voice in how they want to learn.  Online personalised learning needs to assist students to tailor their learning journeys based on pace, competency, interests, strengths, skills and goals.  Careful consideration needs to be taken to implement this philosophy, approach and process so that the barriers do not become a sticking point and prevent implementation.  It has been determined from the literature that online learning enables personalised learning in many different ways in a high school course provided that it is planned meticulously.  The research does have limitations in providing empirical evidence as to the success of online personalised learning in a high school course for all students.  However, if schools are going to fore fill the human right to education, educators must be implementing online personalised learning within a single subject high school course.

Reference List

Adams Becker, S., Freeman, A., Giesinger Hall, C., Cummins, M., & Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSn horizon report: 2016 (K-12 ed.). Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Childress, S., & Benson, S. (2014). Personalized learning for every student every day. The Phi Delta Kappan, 95(8), 33-38. Retrieved from

Consortium for School Networking. (2019). Driving K-12 innovation/2019 accelerators. Washington: Consortium for School Networking.

Downing, R. (n.d.). Why is personalised learning important?  Retrieved from

Ferlazzo, L. (2017). Student engagement: key to personalized learning. Educational Leadership, 74(6), 28-33. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, J. (2015, 12th November). Self-paced learning: how one teacher does it. Retrieved from

Jacobs, J. (2016). High school of the future. Education Next, 16(3), 45-50. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2014). NMC horizon report: 2014 (K-12 ed.). Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC horizon report: 2015 (K-12 ed.). Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). NMC horizon report: 2012 (K-12 ed.). Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Haywood, K. (2011). The NMC horizon report: 2011 (K-12 ed.). Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Kamenetz, A., Feinberg, R., & Calvert Mason, K. (Writers). (2018). The future of learning? Well, it’s personal. In All Things Considered: NPR.

Keefe, J. W. (2007). What Is personalization? The Phi Delta Kappan, 89(3), 217-223. Retrieved from

Leonard, J. (2017). How to personalize learning in a digital classroom.  Retrieved from

Miller, A. (2019). 3 myths of personalized learning.  Retrieved from

Schwartz, S. (2019). One big barrier to personalized learning: time.  Retrieved from

Stanley, C. (2019). 5 surprising results of a self-paced classroom.  Retrieved from

Starasts, A. (2015, 21st April). Personalising learning through IT.  Retrieved from

Thalmann, S. (2014). Adaptation criteria for the personalised delivery of learning materials: a multi-stage empirical investigation. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(1). doi:10.14742/ajet.235

Torrens University Australia. (2018). 4 ways to introduce persoanlised learning into your classroom without new technology.  Retrieved from

Tucker, B. (2007). Laboratories of reform: virtual high schools and innovation in public education. Retrieved from

UN General Assembly. (1948). Universal declaration of human rights. (217 (III) A). Paris: United Nations Retrieved from

UNESCO International Bureau of Education. (2017). Personalized learning. (IBE/2017/OP/CD/04). Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Retrieved from

West, D. M. (2011). Using technology to personalize learning and assess students in real-time. Educational Technology, 51(6), 59-60. Retrieved from

West, D. M. (2012). Digital schools : how technology can transform education. Washington DC, United States: Brookings Institution Press.

Feel free to share this post on one of your networks...

ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool


Language teachers and students have a plethora of digital tools available to them to assist their learning of language.  Selecting the appropriate technology for use in the classroom and beyond has its challenges for teachers.  There are many different options, and often, it can become overwhelming to select the right tool for the learning environment.  In the past, the focus of technology in the classroom has been to engage or excite students (Kolb, 2017).  As a result, the frameworks available to evaluate digital tools do not always focus on good pedagogy but rather, the excitement it creates for students and often forget the importance of the learning objectives (Kolb, 2017). The purpose of this report is to develop a digital resource evaluation tool which can be used by language teachers to evaluate digital resources so they can effectively incorporate them into a teaching plan.  The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool has been developed to assist language teachers in improving their pedagogy and integration of technology in the classroom.  This report will outline the tool along with how to use, interpret and apply the findings and successfully implement the use of technology with purpose in the classroom.

ACUTES Digital Resources Evaluation Tool

Instructions on How to Use the Tool

The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool asks teachers to answer a series of questions about the digital resource they are looking to implement in their language curriculum.  Each question is allocated a score from zero to three based on the answer.  If the answer is “Yes” it earns two points, if the answer is “No” it earns no points and if the answer is “Maybe” then it earns one point.  For the questions which ask the teacher to “List advantages/benefits” and “List disadvantages/costs” teachers allocate three points if the positives outweigh the negatives and no points if negatives outweigh positives.  From there, each aspect is given a total score, and an overall score is then calculated at the bottom.  The final total can be anywhere from zero to seventy.

The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool

The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool is as follows:

Instructions on How to Interpret and Apply the Results

There are a number of ways the results from the ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool can be applied.  Ultimately, the results are a guide for language teachers to determine which particular digital resource may be most effective and are dependent on which aspects (Access, Curriculum, Usability, Teachers, Engagement or Students) an educator places more importance.  Overall, each aspect should be considered independently before looking at the evaluation as a whole.  When making the final evaluation, teachers need to make their final decision based on how many red, yellow or green sections are in their heat map along with the total score.  The following table provides a summary of the interpretation and application of the results.

Each language teacher will value different aspects of the ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool, which may change the final decision made about the digital resource. 

The Research Behind the ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool

The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool is based on several evaluation techniques and frameworks.  The main frameworks include the SAMR model (Pride, 2016), the TPACK Model (Koehler, 2012), the Tripe E Framework (Kolb, 2017), and the Online Technology Tool Selection Criteria (Guth, 2016). 


When choosing a digital resource, it is only beneficial to students if they can all access the resource.  There are many facets to access from price and affordability, to disability considerations, to ensure that student data is not compromised (Condon, 2017; Miller, 2019).  Language teachers need to consider if the resources are cost-effective while delivering a benefit to learning (Miller, 2019).  Another consideration is that students need to be able to access the digital resource on the device they choose to use, regardless of the operating system (Petty, 2017).  This is even more important if the school has a BYOD program.  Finally, it is imperative that language teachers investigate the terms of service; in particular, the minimum age requirements, to consider it is an access opportunity  (Hertz, 2010).


In teaching and learning the curriculum is a significant focus, where the primary concern is that the digital resource fits the curriculum (Koehler, 2012).  The curriculum needs to focus on the learning objectives, knowledge and skills (Koehler, 2012; Kolb, 2019b).  Planned and purposeful use of technology enhances learning objectives and helps students in the learning process for learning a language, including the skills for reading, writing, speaking and listening (Ferlazzo, 2013).  The technology itself should focus on “avoiding drill and practice” which can have adverse effects on learning outcomes (Kolb, 2019b).  When trying to find digital resources which fit the curriculum and improve learning outcomes, there must be evidence or research which supports the implementation (Condon, 2017; Miller, 2019).  This also ensures that the use of digital resources especially in a language classroom is not just substituting good pedagogy with technology for the sake of adding technology to the curriculum (Petty, 2017).  Technology should assist in redefining a task (Petty, 2017).


Integrating technology into a language classroom can quickly become complicated when students have limited English (Hertz, 2010).  Usability is a high priority, and a digital resource needs to be appropriate for the age and learning level of the students (Koehler, 2012).  If the technology is going to interrupt the learning process or the time it takes to use is cumbersome, this leads to “the tool detracting from the focus of the lesson” (Petty, 2017).  As a result, the digital tool needs to be easy to navigate and have training and support so students can focus on the learning of language skills (Guth, 2016; Miller, 2019; Petty, 2017).  Learning to use new tools takes time, usability along with the ability to save progress and partially finished work is essential (Hertz, 2010).


When evaluating a digital resource, teachers need to take the time to investigate the resource for themselves.  Part of this investigation needs to look at the advantages and disadvantages of the resource.  Educators know the content, pedagogical and technological knowledge they possess, and as a result, they are the best judge of the costs and benefits for them as teachers (Koehler, 2012).  As educators, the best source of advice is our teaching colleagues and specialists in the field (Miller, 2019).  As language learning is a personal journey, educators need to ensure that the selected digital resource has the ability to be flexible and cater to diverse needs (Anderson, 2020a; The Handbook of Technology and Second Language Teaching and Learning, 2017).   The last component for educators is to make the workload more manageable, from tracking student response to embedding the digital resource into the school’s LMS (Guth, 2016).


There is a perception in education that adding technology will engage students.  The danger of this is that “students can quickly get distracted when using technology tools; engagement in using a device is not the same as engagement in learning.” (Kolb, 2019a, p. 22).  When looking at the engagement aspect of evaluating digital resources, it is crucial to focus on making sure that students see the resource as part of the learning not as an add on to the learning (Kolb, 2017).  In order to improve student engagement, technology and digital resources, authentic tasks, collaboration and creativity need to support the language learning along with a healthy dose of competition (Ferlazzo, 2013; Guth, 2016; Kolb, 2017, 2019b).


While teachers must consider the benefits and costs of using the digital resource for themselves, they also need to consider the benefits and costs of using the resource from the point of view of the students learning a new language (Hertz, 2010).  One area students want, is to retain control over the content that they create, this makes it extremely important to make sure that when selecting a digital resource that they can retain the sole IP rights to the content that they create (Guth, 2016).  When working with English language learners, in order to improve their speaking, reading, writing and listening skills they need to have plenty of opportunities to get feedback, as such this is a significant component of the student aspect (Carhill-Poza, 2017).


With a plethora of digital tools available to assist language teachers and students in English language learning.  A tool like the ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool can help language educators come to a decision about the right tool for their learning environment.  By moving away from having technology for technologies sake, teachers can ensure that their teaching is driven by sound pedagogy and the importance of focusing on the learning objectives of each and every lesson knowing that the technology they have chosen meets all the needs in the classroom.


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

Anderson, S. (2020b, 4th February) Testing The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool/Interviewer: J.-A. Angell.

Carhill-Poza, A. (2017). Re-examining English Language Teaching and Learning for Adolescents Through Technology. System, 67, 111-120. doi:10.1016/j.system.2017.05.003

Condon, L. (2017). 3 Steps to Choosing the Right EdTech For Your Classroom. Retrieved from

Ferlazzo, L. (2013, 14th July 2013). The Best Advice on Using Education Technology. Retrieved from

Guth, W. (2016, 11 November). Web 2.0 DIgital Tools Selection Criteria.  Retrieved from

The Handbook of Technology and Second Language Teaching and Learning. (2017). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

Hertz, M. B. (2010). Which Technology Tool Do I Choose? Retrieved from

Koehler, M. (2012, 24 September). TPACK Explained. Retrieved from

Kolb, L. (2017). Learning First, Technology Second : The Educator’s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons. Eugene, UNITED STATES: International Society for Tech in Ed.

Kolb, L. (2019a). SMART Classroom-Tech INTEGRATION: By asking the right questions, school leaders can coach teachers to use technology to drive deeper learning. Educational Leadership, 76(5), 20-26. Retrieved from

Kolb, L. (2019b). Triple E Framework. Retrieved from

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

Miller, M. D. (2019, 23rd August 2019). How to Make Smart Choices About Tech for Your Course. Retrieved from

Petty, B. (2017, 25th January 2017). How to Choose the Right EdTech Tools for Your Classroom. Retrieved from

Pride, C. (2016). SAMR modelling as a scaffold for classroom technology. Metaphor, 2(June), 43-44. Retrieved from;dn=161509039091674;res=IELHSS

Putnam, D. (2001). Authentic Writing Using Online Resources: Selling Our Words in the Community. The English Journal, 90(5), 102-106. doi:10.2307/821862

Saqib Khan, M., Ayaz, M., Khan, S., & Khan, D. (2016). Using Skype To Develop English Learners’ Speaking Motivation. 28, 41-48. Storybird. (2020). Storybird – Artful storytelling. Retrieved from

Feel free to share this post on one of your networks...

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.

Feel free to share this post on one of your networks...