Personalized Learning Instructions Models: Do They Work for Higher Education?

Disruptive technology and the Covid-19 pandemic have shifted the education paradigm around the world. Many educators have evolved their teaching paradigm into more technology-mediated since the traditional classroom suddenly shifted into an online classroom. The demand for online education, such as e-learning platforms, has developed as the urge for remote collaboration rises during the pandemic. Therefore, embracing technology in the classroom is required to engage students in online classroom interaction. This way, a pivotal permissive factor of technology drives a new pedagogy to retain students deeper and personalize learning. Remarkably, the upcoming Industrial Revolution 5.0 is personalization. This way, teachers and educators must implement a personalized approach to teaching and training based on each individual’s unique competencies and learning preferences. This fact aligns with the ISTE Standards for Educators, particularly an educator as a designer (ISTE, 2022), point 2.5.a, 2.5.b, and 2.5.c:

2.5.a Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

2.5.b Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.

2.5.c Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovative digital learning environments that engage and support learning.

What is Personalized Learning?

In the 21st century, personalization in instruction is defined as an instruction that tailors learners’ learning styles, intelligence, and interest preferences (Gilbert and Han, 2002, cited in Samah et al., 2011). This way, all learners will be provided with the critical challenges and opportunities for self-development and learning if these differences are taken into account (Aviram et al., 2008; Jung and Graf, 2008, cited in Samah et al., 2011). Moreover, Bray and McClaskey (2015, cited in Netcoh, 2017) define a “personalized learning environment” as one in which students “have a voice in what they are learning based on how they learn best” and “have a choice in how they demonstrate what they know and provide evidence of their learning. In a learner-centered environment, learners own and co-design their learning” (p. 14).

At the classroom level, PL teachers leverage technology (e.g., online curricula, learning management systems, videos) to deliver a more student-centered experience (Bingham, 2017, cited in Bingham, 2019). Bingham (2019) further elaborates that PL uses technology to tailor instruction to students’ needs and interests (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014; Miller, Gross, & Lake, 2014). These technologies can house all information about students, such as current progress, past achievement, social-emotional comments, and behavioral information. All these are to free up better teachers’ time to address individual student needs (Bingham, 2017). Technology can be used as a classroom management tool. Classroom management may be an issue when classrooms rely on technology, particularly new teachers (Bingham, 2016).

Regarding the role of the teacher in personalized learning environments, Bishop et al. (2020) discuss the following main points. Whereas in traditional classroom settings, the teacher primarily determines learning objectives, teachers in PLEs base the learning objectives on individual students’ questions, interests, and aspirations. Therefore, teachers in PLEs are expected to serve as facilitators of “inquiry, problem-solving, and creative expression” by transferring “control over learning toward the students themselves” (DiMartino & Clarke, 2008, p. 74, cited in Bishop et al., 2020). Similarly, rather than preparing resources based on teacher-identified learning goals, teachers may become curators in PLEs, helping students access appropriate resources suited to their unique projects (Keefe & Jenkins, 2005, cited in Bishop et al., 2020). Finally, because personalized learning focuses on tailoring instruction to individual students rather than an entire class, teachers in PLEs may find themselves acting as coaches to an individual or small groups on project tasks, goals, and standards, as they forgo whole group instruction (Bray & McClaskey, 2015; Clarke, 2013; DiMartino & Clarke, 2008, cited in Bishop et al., 2020).

Personalized Learning in Higher Education

The use of technology has provided new opportunities to make higher education more flexible and student-centered (Palmer & Devitt, 2008, 2014, cited in Wanner & Palmer, 2015). Also, many university leaders see that technology provides new ways to meet the challenges of the higher education sector in the context of economic constraints, increasing globalization of education, and changing pedagogical approaches (OECD, 2005; Allen & Seaman, 2013; OECD, 2005, cited in Wanner & Palmer, 2015). In other words, technology is not the primary determinant of flexibility, but a crucial enabling factor as technology and new pedagogies need to be harnessed to engage students on a deeper level and personalize students’ learning. Importantly, Bingham, Pane, Steiner, and Hamilton (2018, in Lokey-Vega & Stephens, 2019) consider technology the critical differentiator. This significant point is in line with Alhawiti and Abdelhamid (2017), claiming that current technology has the potential to construct an e-learning environment capable of acquiring learners’ preferences, building and managing sharable and reusable semantically modeled learning entities, and providing customized e-learning services for each learner according to his/her preferences and personal characteristics.

A previous study conducted by Sáiz-Manzanares et al. (2019) reveals that a personalized Moodle-based e-learning system has improved student learning outcomes. In this study, hypermedia resources and active methodologies such as PBL and process-oriented feedback appeared to facilitate learning outcomes. Student satisfaction with teaching practice appears to be related to the LMS’s design, level of personalization, and the use of process-oriented feedback (Zacharis, 2015; Hattie and Timperley, 2007, cited in Sáiz-Manzanares et al., 2019). In summary, this study concludes that best practice in implementing Blended Learning is related to a careful pedagogical design of the LMS. The effectiveness of e-personalization designs has been demonstrated in this study, consisting of hypermedia resources and active methodologies such as PBL process-oriented feedback and self-assessment quizzes that facilitate learning outcomes and the acquisition of deep learning.

Personalized Learning Instruction Model

1. Genius Hour

Genius Hour is a project during school that allows students to explore their passions or wonders and make a product based on that within a set amount of time, usually 1 hour a week. It is an idea coined by Google, where their employees are given 20% of their time at work to work on their projects (Daim, 2021). Daim further elaborates on the six steps for Genius Hour, as shown in my Presentation 1 (Please click the number icon to see the detailed information).

Presentation 1. 6 Steps of Genius Hour

(Yuyun, 2022)

Simos (2015) discusses that Genius Hour’s curricular concept embodies an optimal learning relationship: students embracing their power and responsibility in the learning process work with educators who can facilitate and guide that learning to ever-greater heights. In the Genius Hour model, instructors allocate a portion of class time—often the 20 percent that gives the approach an alternate name (20% Time)—for student exploration of a self-selected and given topic. Students turn to various sources in their explorations and consider the topic from various angles before synthesizing all of their research into a central understanding. This process culminates in a final product, project, or artifact shared with the class and potentially the larger school community (Kirr, 2014, cited in Simos, 2015).

A significant body of research supports the need for the increased focus on differentiation that the Genius Hour model fosters. Student interests, both existing and burgeoning, are brought to the forefront of the classroom when a differentiated model is implemented, allowing teachers to “use time flexibly, call upon a range of instructional strategies, and become partners with their students to see that both what is learned and the learning environment are shaped to the learner” (Tomlinson, 1999, cited in Simos, 2015).

Carter (2017) elaborates on six basic tenets of personalized instruction employed in the Genius Hour model, covering:

  1. Dual Teacher Role
  2. Learn About Your Students
  3. Create a Culture of Collaboration
  4. Create an Interactive Learning Environment
  5. Build Flexible Pacing, But With Structure
  6. Create Authentic Assessments

2. The QUEST Inquiry-Based Learning

The QUEST model for inquiry-based learning (Wicks, 2017) uses language better aligned with assignment expectations, eliminates confusing terminology, e.g., triggering events, and introduces a separate fifth step to help educators and students practice connected learning, as illustrated in my Presentation 2. Please click the arrow icon to see the before and after steps.

  1. Ask a Question about the standard being studied related to a topic of interest. (Personalize the question for your discipline or field.)
  2. Understand the standard and topic better by conducting research and sharing a resource. (Practice and improve information literacy skills.)
  3. Educate and learn from others about the standard and your topics. (Collaborate with your peers to resolve problems.)
  4. Find a Solution or resolution for your question, even if the solution is to ask more questions. (Reflect on what you have learned during your inquiry.)
  5. Teach others about what you have learned by blogging about it and sharing it on social media. (Practice connected learning by engaging an authentic audience with your solution and seeking their feedback.)

Presentation 2. 5 Steps of QUEST Inquiry-Based Learning

Based on my experience as an online learner, I found that QUEST Inquiry-Based Learning employs personalized learning by leveraging digital tools. Throughout the whole steps of online learning, the learner can ask questions, investigate a topic, and share their findings. This model allows students to explore a topic in-depth and share their discoveries with others to maximize active and deep learning. This way, leveraging technology to create, adapt, and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

On the other hand, the Genius Hour model implemented in online learning is an innovative learning environment that engages and supports learning. Throughout the whole steps of Genius Hour, the learner explores a self-selected and given topic. This way, learners turn to various sources in their explorations and consider the topic from various angles before synthesizing all of their research into a central understanding. Again, similar to the QUEST model, the Genius Hour model leverages technology to create, adapt, and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

Practical Strategies for Successful Personalized Learning

A successful personalized learning initiative has the following characteristics (Grant & Basye, 2014):

• Students’ interests and abilities are engaged in authentic, real-world activities to promote the learning of content area standards.

• Teachers take on the roles of facilitators and coaches in the classroom rather than the dispensers of knowledge.

• Students control the learning paths to achieve established goals, building self-efficacy, critical thinking, and creativity skills.

• Technology enables students to choose what they learn, how they learn, and how they demonstrate their learning.

• Formative assessment throughout the learning cycle, supported by digital tools, helps teachers and students address weaknesses and build on strengths.

• Progress through subject area content is measured by demonstrating proficiency in identified skills and understanding.

• Technology is integrated throughout teachers’ and students’ experiences to support learning.

To sum up, technology, teacher, and learner play a pivotal role in implementing personalized learning in online classrooms. Some previous studies have revealed that technology has the potential to construct an e-learning environment capable of acquiring learners’ preferences. Also, particular learning models, such as the Genius Hour and the QUEST Model, are excellent examples of employing personalized learning in higher education since the current technology is a crucial enabling factor as technology and new pedagogies need to be harnessed to engage students on a deeper level and personalize students’ learning. Some practical strategies should be implemented to create successful personalized learning in higher education.


Alhawiti, M. M., & Abdelhamid, Y. (2017). A Personalized e-Learning Framework. Journal of Education and E-Learning Research, 4(1), 15–21.

Bingham, A. J. (2016). Drowning digitally? How disequilibrium shapes practice in a blended learning charter school. Teachers College Record, 118(1), 1–30.

Bingham, A. J. (2017). Personalized learning in high technology charter schools. Journal of Educational Change, 18(4), 521–549.

Bingham, A. J. (2019). A Look at Personalized Learning: Lessons Learned. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 55(3), 124–129.

Bishop, P. A., Downes, J. M., Netcoh, S., Farber, K., Demink-Carthew, J., Brown, T., & Mark, R. (2020). Teacher roles in personalized learning environments. Elementary School Journal, 121(2).

Carter, N. (2017). Genius Hour and the 6 Essentials of Personalized Education | Edutopia.

Daim, L. A. M. (2021). Genius Hour Online Edition Step By Step Guide.

Grant, P., & Basye, D. (2014). Personalized learning: A Guide for Engaging Students with Technology (First). International Society for Technology in Education.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Educators

Keefe, J. W., & Jenkins, J. M. (2005). Personalized instruction. Phi Delta Kappa. KnowledgeWorks.

Lokey-Vega, A., & Stephens, S. (2019). A Batch of One: A Conceptual Framework for the Personalized Learning Movement. Journal of Online Learning Research, 5(3), 311–330.

Netcoh, S. (2017). Balancing freedom and limitations: A case study of the choice provision in a personalized learning class. Teaching and Teacher Education, 66, 383–392.

Sáiz-Manzanares, M. C., García Osorio, C. I., Díez-Pastor, J. F., & Martín Antón, L. J. (2019). Will personalized e-Learning increase deep learning in higher education? Information Discovery and Delivery, 47(1), 53–63.

Samah, N. A., Yahaya, N., & Ali, M. B. (2011). Individual differences in online personalized learning environment. Educational Research and Reviews, 6(7), 516–521.

Simos, E. (2015, August). Genius Hour: Critical Inquiry and Differentiation. English Leadership Quarterly, 1–3.

Wanner, T., & Palmer, E. (2015). Personalizing learning: Exploring student and teacher perceptions about flexible learning and assessment in a flipped university course. Computers and Education, 88, 354–369.

Wicks, D. (2017). The QUEST model for inquiry-based learning.

Being A Lifelong Learner through Professional Learning Network

As a lifelong learner, an educator is expected to keep learning about cutting-edge issues and trends. A lifelong learner plays a vital role in the educational process as it helps educators incorporate new tools and strategies into the learning process to boost their students’ learning development. This expectation is to comply with the evolvement of curriculum, advancement of technology, and market demands. Educators learn from and with others through professional development and explore various promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning. Educators can do their professional development in this digital era through Professional Learning Networks (PLN). This fact aligns with the ISTE Standards for Educators, particularly an educator as a learner (ISTE, 2022). Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to enhance student learning. Thus, this article addresses how educators set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness (Point 2.1.a). Besides, this article points out other points of ISTE Standards for Educators, that is to pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks (Point 2.1.b) and stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences (Point 2.1.c.).

Educators as a Lifelong Learner

Technology and education have been evolving rapidly in the past few decades. Thus, being a lifelong learner plays a vital role in the educational process. It helps educators incorporate new tools and strategies into the learning process to boost their students’ learning development. Educators who are lifelong learners are more successful than those who are not. The traditional learning model differs from Lifelong Learning methods in important ways, as illustrated in Figure 1 (World Bank, 2002, cited in  Divjak et al., 2004).

Figure 1. Traditional versus Lifelong learning

(World Bank, 2002, cited in  Divjak et al., 2004)

As lifelong learners, educators have the following characteristics as suggested by Started et al. (2018).

1. Conquer Challenges

People with a lifelong learning mindset treat mistakes and challenges as part of learning, not as failures. They learn from mistakes to continue and solve a problem or challenge. As long-life learners, educators make learning their daily basis to hone their current skills and develop new ones while enriching their minds.

2. Innovate to Improve Learning Outcomes

When educators take courses outside of professional development and collaborate, they discover creative teaching methods. Teachers who put their heads together to develop innovative ideas to use in teaching achieve better student outcomes than outdated teaching methods.

3. Act as a Role Model for Students

Educators who engage in lifelong learning set an example for their students because they practice what they teach. This way, in turn, encourages their students to develop into lifelong learners. Effective educators accomplish this by sharing experiences of working through the learning process.

Thus, to illustrate clearly, here is the word cloud of educators as lifelong learners.

Figure 2. Lifelong Learning Word Cloud

(Yuyun, 2022)

What is a Professional Learning Network (PLN)?

Tobin (1998, cited in Trust et al., 2016) coined the term “Personal Learning Network” to describe a network of people and resources that support ongoing learning. While the terms Professional Learning Network and Personal Learning Network are often used interchangeably, I use “Professional Learning Network,” or PLN, because this article focuses on teachers’ learning related to their professional work. PLNs are related to but can be differentiated from two other concepts pertaining to educator learning, the professional learning community (PLC) and the personal learning environment (PLE), as elaborated briefly in Professional Learning Community Using Social Media: Yea or Nay? – Ignasia Yuyun. Following Krutka et al. (2016), PLCs are collaborative teams, typically based in a single school or district, which yielded positive results (Vescio, Ross, & Adams, 2008). Then, in contrast to the collaboration emphasized in PLCs, PLEs tend to emphasize using technologies to help individual learners direct their learning (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012). Lastly, PLNs integrate both the collaboration central to PLCs and the emphasis on learner autonomy and technologies from PLEs.

Moreover, Trust et al. (2016) explored that PLNs can also be differentiated from online communities, practice networks, and social media sites. According to them, online communities are groups of people who connect for a shared purpose, while a network refers to a “set of nodes and links with affordances for learning” (Wenger, Trayner, & de Laat, 2011, p. 9). Social media sites are digital tools that people can connect and communicate with others. Each of these terms refers to a single medium for connecting with others. PLNs are broader, multifaceted systems that often incorporate multiple communities, networks of practice, and sites that support both on- and offline learning.

Previous studies have revealed some advantages of PLNs. Through PLNs, teachers participate in these online spaces to find, share, and create professional knowledge (Carpenter & Krutka, 2015; Trust, 2015; Duncan-Howell, 2010; Forte, Humphreys, & Park, 2012). Besides, teachers can collaborate with and feel supported by a community of education professionals (Carpenter & Krutka, 2014, 2015; Hur & Brush, 2009; Visser et al., 2014). Interestingly, some researchers have also explored how participation in online spaces shapes teachers’ identities (Barab, Kling, & Gray, 2004; Luehmann & Tinelli, 2008) and support diverse affective, social, cognitive, and identity aspects of growth for whole teachers (Trust et al., 2016). Importantly, in line with the advancement of technology, PLNs are uniquely personalized, complex systems of interactions consisting of people, resources, and digital tools that support ongoing learning and professional growth.  PLNs can provide myriad ways (e.g., online, blended, local, global) for teachers to grow based on individual and group needs (Trust et al., 2016; Tour, 2017).

Krutka et al. (2016) identified five critical elements as standard to PLN experiences: engaging, discovering, experimenting, reflecting, and sharing. Figure 3 explains and highlights the interactions among these elements. These fluid and interconnected elements characterize teachers’ experiences at different times and in diverse ways.

Figure 3. Elements of teachers’ professional learning network activities

(Krutka et al., 2016)

A variety of personal, interpersonal, and conditional factors must be considered before successfully implementing professional development activities, including PLNs. Therefore, Prenger et al. (2021) identified the following characteristics from the literature:

  1. Structured and guided activities that are related to the practice
  2. A shared goal and focus on a concrete outcome
  3. Collective focus on student learning
  4. Individual prior knowledge and motivation
  5. Trust
  6. Collaboration and active participation
  7. Reflective dialogue
  8. Leadership
  9. Stakeholder support: school (principal) and colleagues
  10. Facilitation

Classroom 2.0, Edmodo, and The Educator’s PLN are three popular PLNs for teachers containing information aggregation and social media tools (Trust, 2012). These Web sites make it easy for individual members to shape their learning. These Websites allow individual members to create a profile page, join interest groups, participate in discussions, share resources, and build relationships with other members. However, each Web site is unique and adapted to the community members. The Educator’s PLN and Classroom 2.0 share many similar features. However, The Educator’s PLN Web site is more member-focused because its main page features uploads and posts from members. Classroom 2.0’s main page features Classroom 2.0 LIVE and other administrator-driven content. In comparison, Edmodo has one of the unique and beneficial features in allowing teachers to create groups for their classes. After teachers create a group page, they receive a unique code that they share with their students. The students use this code to join the group. Teachers can post notes, alerts, assignments, quizzes, polls, and grades on the group page.

Practical Strategies to Increase the Longevity of PLN

As lifelong learners, educators are expected to consider strategies to increase longevity when participating and establishing PLN. Clifford (2013) provides some practical strategies for developing a productive PLN.  

When using the PLN, educators must:

  1. Keep the spirit of collaboration as your driving force, as PLNs are all about working together.  Be reciprocal and resourceful.
  2. Join an online community to share ideas and contact people for direct feedback.
  3. Join a Meetup group.  Meetups are common thread interest groups that meet in the real world and can also extend to social networks.
  4. Become a beacon of light as PLNs rely on the open sharing of information. It is best to start with a specific interest and then grow into other topics as time goes on. Become an expert in a particular niche by researching current trends and then draw an enormous following on the network via blog.
  5. Initiate to ask questions, as PLNs are all about learning. Try simple searches on TED talks, Wikis, blogs, or news articles before posting a question.
  6. Be an active participant since brainpower is the main asset of a PLN. Keeping up to date through regular posts will grow the PLN.
  7. Remember to be polite and acknowledge contributions to the rightful owner by showing common respect for the people in your network. 
  8. Designate a professional and personal account to keep social life on Facebook and professional life on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. 
  9. Create a landing page to consolidate all of the accounts on a landing page.  A webpage or personal blog will make it easier for people to find the PLN and showcase the different projects.
  10. Engage newbies by including a mix of newbies, peers, and experts to keep with the essence of collaboration.

Furthermore, Clifford (2013) provides some strategies for establishing a productive PLN:

  1. Use Diigo, Evernote, or Pocket to bookmark links.  You can access them anywhere and on any device.  For example, Diigo is like creating your library.  Diigo is the preferred tool for educators. It allows you to highlight paragraphs, clip pictures while reading, bookmark a page in a “virtual” library or online archive, add tags to search for information later, and share resources in a group. 
  2. Use a reader to subscribe to blogs.  Google reader allows you to manage multiple subscriptions to blogs and easier access to new research.  You can also use Scribd or Yahoo News Social to share what you read with others publicly.
  3. Establish a platform by establishing a blog site on WordPress or  A blog provides a worldwide stage to share your views on education, spread your passion, and find kindred spirits.  The consistent posts can develop lasting connections and plan new projects.  Fellow bloggers will appreciate the time you put into creating meaningful materials. Your ideas can then be re-shared as a link.
  4. Share on Twitter first. Twitter reigns king, for now.  Anything can change with technology, but Twitter is the most commonly used tool among academics for expanding PLNs.  LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ also provide access to different networks. Later, you can use other means to develop further and manage your networks, such as Skype and Google tools. Many new platforms are emerging, so stay current by reading tech or social media news on a site such as Mashable.
  5. Consider your role as a searcher, assembler, designer of data, innovator of subject matter, and researcher. Consider your learning style when designing a specific approach to your PLN:
  6. Activist-Learning by doing, such as writing a blog.
  7. Reflector-Learn by reviewing situations, such as posting opinions to articles.
  8. Theorist-Prefer to learn by researching information and data, such as creating a model.
  9. Pragmatist-Apply is learning to real problems by creating a project that uses PLNs in the classroom.
  10. Aggregate resources together. There is an excellent chart of resources for mapping out your PLN plan on this blog.
  11. Take a free course to learn about PLNs. MOOCs are Massive Online Open Courses that are free to the public.  For instance, this course, complete with handouts, shows you how to establish a PLN.  You learn actively by taking small steps to create your PLN, such as creating a blog, Twitter account, and content. 
  12. Stay current with new tools. Many specific tools on different applications allow you to customize and organize your PLN to fit your needs.  Chrome and Windows 8 have several free applications that are worth trying.
  13. Simplify logins. You can speed up the login process by installing a Password management application.
  14. Establish a classroom learning network. Share your expertise with other educators on a website or blog.  Create a class website or teach students how to create their PLN. For instance, they might use Google scholar to research a paper or share ideas on Google Hangouts.

In conclusion, as lifelong learners, educators must never stop learning to adjust students’ needs and characteristics influenced by the disruptive era. Notably, in digital spaces, all users in education (teachers and learners) contribute to knowledge as seamless learning is inevitable. However, it is imperative to take into account some factors and strategies when educators initiate, participate, and organize the PLNs to improve their longevity.


Clifford, M. (2013). 10 Tips for Using PLN.

Divjak, S., Dowling, C., Fisser, P., Grabowska, A., Hezemans, M., Kendall, M., Mihnev, P., Ritzen, M., Syslo, M. M., Vicari, R., & van Weert, T. (2004). Lifelong Learning in the Digital Age: Sustainable for all in a changing world (T. J. van Weert & M. Kendal (eds.); Lifelong L). Kluwer Academic Publishers.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Educators.

Krutka, D. G., Carpenter, J. P., & Trust, T. (2016). Elements of Engagement: A Model of Teacher Interactions via Professional Learning Networks. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 32(4), 150–158.

Prenger, R., Poortman, C. L., & Handelzalts, A. (2021). Professional learning networks: From teacher learning to school improvement? Journal of Educational Change, 22(1), 13–52.

Started, G., Now, A., & Fischer, G. (2018). Why Good Educators Are Lifelong Learners. EWU Online.

Tour, E. (2017). Teachers’ personal learning networks (PLNs): exploring the nature of self-initiated professional learning online. Literacy, 51(1), 11–18.

Trust, T. (2012). Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher Learning. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28(4), 133–138.

Trust, T., Krutka, D. G., & Carpenter, J. P. (2016). “Together we are better”: Professional learning networks for teachers. Computers and Education, 102, 15–34.

EDTC 6104 Community Engagement Project: A Reflection

Technology and information systems have received much attention in education as they are essential in 21st-century teaching and learning activities. More and more teachers are introduced and trained to incorporate the application of technology in their pedagogical practices to maximize the teaching and learning experience inside and outside the classroom. Indeed, the role of technology use in education has become more vital because there have been several specialized research areas in this field, such as digital literacy and technology-enhanced learning.

In Indonesia, the skills to use technology in one’s pedagogical practices have become necessary for secondary teachers. On the one hand, it has excellent potential to enhance the experience and autonomy of the students in their learning process. Using technology, teachers have more opportunities to explore creative, flexible, and various learning media and materials that best fit their students’ learning needs. On the other hand, technology skills also have great potential to advantage the teachers. For example, it can facilitate teachers to manage better their class administration, monitor student learning, and progress, and even enhance their qualifications as an educator.

Besides the use of technology to enhance teachers’ pedagogical practices, another essential aspect of Indonesian education that has been drawing much attention is the new curriculum paradigm (Merdeka Belajar, which means freedom to learn) which promotes “Profil Pelajar Pancasila” or Pancasila Student Profile in Indonesian schools, as seen in Figure 1. In this new paradigm, Indonesian students are equipped to uphold ethics, be global citizens, be collaborative, creative, critical thinkers, and autonomous learners (Wulandari, 2021).

Figure 1. Pancasila Student Profile


Target Audience

In responding to the challenges of the technology era and the new curriculum paradigm in the education field, many teachers are expected to explore various learning activities to achieve the “Profil Pelajar Pancasila” indicators by leveraging digital technologies. For this reason, intending to train and equip local secondary teachers around or outside Jakarta, the UKRIDA Department of English (UDE) is organizing a workshop on the themes of Leveraging Digital Technologies to Implement Inquiry-Based Learning (QUEST Model) (Wicks, 2017) in the Secondary Classrooms.

These secondary school teachers play a pivotal role in exploring various instructional strategies in the new curriculum paradigm in Indonesia, which promotes some critical values in student learning, such as ethics, global citizenship, critical thinking, autonomy, creativity, and collaboration. These values are in line with the essential skills for the 21st classroom (Chiruguru, 2020). Also, advocating digital technologies in the classroom will support teachers to shift from traditional teaching paradigms to technology-enhanced teaching.   Notably, this point is essential in this disruptive era.

Workshop Design

The coaching will be in the form of a workshop organized by the UKRIDA Department of English, including faculty members and the student committee. The workshop will be a hybrid, meaning participants can come on-site or join online. This hybrid workshop hopefully reaches more audiences. This preparation teaches me how to collaborate well with the learning community. Due to synergy, the typical result has a more excellent value than the sum of values of each outcome (Miro Inc., 2021).

The workshop is a half-day activity, and it will be around 3-4 hours. It can start from 8 to 12 if the hybrid workshop is implemented with the following structure:

  • Opening and Watching Video (15′)
  • Material Presentation (45′)
  • Hands-on Activity – Practice and Presentation on QUEST (60′)
  • Hands-on Activity – Lesson Plan Project (60′)
  • Individual/Group Presentation (60′)

Incorporating blended, flipped, or online learning elements in the workshop will accommodate participants’ needs. Therefore, I use flipped learning to encourage participants to watch and read recommended references and materials before the workshop. This way, students learn more independently (Song, 2016). The related references and materials are shared via UKRIDA Learning Management System. Once participants register for the workshop, they will be informed to access the LMS before the hybrid one. Then, blended learning accommodates those who cannot be in in-person workshops, allowing participants to choose when and where to engage with the study materials (Mintz, 2008). Also, online learning will follow up the workshops by developing the PLC among schoolteachers.

Some required digital tools and resources were selected to include active elements in the workshop, as leveraging technology engages students when given opportunities for choice, collaboration, and creativity (Schuler, 2020). Here are some applications I will use in the workshop:

Addressing the ISTE Coaching Standard

The workshop will cover the ISTE Coaching Standard 3, particularly point 3a, 3b, 3c, and 3d (ISTE, 2022):

■ Standard 3a: Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.

I will explore inquiry-based learning theories, concepts, strategies, and models to help participants understand some background knowledge before implementing the QUEST model. Also, I will explore a bit of culturally relevant pedagogy. I will use some journal articles and my experience exploring inquiry-based learning in the classroom.

■Standard 3b: Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate, and aligned to content standards.

During the hands-on project, I will ask participants to make a lesson plan using the Understanding By Design template. Participants practice identifying digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate, and aligned to learning outcomes.

■Standard 3c: Partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.

During the hands-on project, I will ask participants to make a lesson plan using the Understanding By Design template (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). Participants practice evaluating the efficacy of digital learning content and tools since they must select certain learning content and tools for their class.

■Standard 3d: Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.

Using the Triple E Framework, I will help participants to assess the effective use of technology to improve student learning.

This workshop is one of the opportunities to disseminate what I have learned in the DEL Certificate program. I learned a lot in experiencing the Inquiry-based QUEST model in a fully online learning environment. From my perspective, this learning model also applies to personalized learning in technology-supported environments, which sparks me to share its benefits with other educators. Hopefully, I can share more enlightening topics I have got in the DEL Certificate program in the future.


Chiruguru, S. (2020). The Essential Skills of 21 st Century Classroom. March, 1–13.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Coaches.

Kolb, Liz. (2022). Triple E Evaluation Rubric for Lesson Design. Retrieved on August 14, 2022, from

Mintz, J. (2008). Flexibility and access: implications of blended learning for higher education. In N. Whitton & M. McPherson (Eds.), Research Proceedings of the 15th Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C 2008) (pp. 7–14). The University of Leeds.

Miro Inc. (2021, February 9). The 6 C’s of education.

Schuler, J. (2020). Improve Student Engagement and Learning with Technology Coaching.

Song, Y.-M. (2016). Characteristics and Advantages of Flipped Class. In Jian-Min Chen (Ed.), 2nd Annual International Conference on Social Science and Contemporary Humanity Development (SSCHD 2016) Characteristics (pp. 226–229). Atlantis Press.

Wicks, D. (2017). The QUEST model for inquiry-based learning.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). The Six Facets of Understanding. In Understanding by Design (Issue November, pp. 82–104). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Wulandari, T. (8 July 2021).Profil Pelajar Pancasila yang Dirumuskan Kemendikbud, Ini Lengkapnya. Retrieved on 14 August 2022 from

The Efficacy of Digital Learning Content and Tools: Essential Points to Consider

Educators worldwide have leveraged digital technology in teaching and learning as it can significantly aid teachers and students. However, teachers and students must be wiser in leveraging technology, particularly in selecting digital learning content and tools. Considering the importance of digital learning content and tools in a face-to-face, online, or hybrid classroom, I elaborate on how educators evaluate these two essential parts. This issue is pivotal in the coaching program, so educators know how to adopt appropriate digital learning content and tools in their institutions and classrooms. What aspects should be considered to evaluate digital learning content and tools before implementing them in the classroom? This point addresses the ISTE Coaching Standard 3 (Collaborator), especially point 3C, how coaches partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.

What are  Digital Learning Content and Tools?

Digital Learning Resources (DLRs) refer to digital resources such as applications (apps), software, programs, or websites that engage students in learning activities and support students’ learning goals. There are three categories of DLRs: digital academic content tools, digital productivity tools, and digital communication tools. DLRs, as defined here, do not include the hardware or infrastructure needed to use the digital resources.

Digital academic content tools include software, applications (apps), programs, or websites that offer academic content resources or engage students in activities to learn academic content or skills, including, but not limited to, language and literacy content or skills. In English language learning, for example, technology development has impacted academic content, including various digital modalities (Netto-Shek, 2017). Digital productivity tools cover software, applications (apps), programs, or websites that students use to plan, document, organize, and analyze content. They do not contain academic content. Digital communication tools include software, applications (apps), programs, or websites that students use to communicate, collaborate, network, or present information. They do not contain academic content (Zehler et al., 2018).

Essential Points to Consider

The evaluation of the quality of these resources plays a significant role in designing and implementing engaging educational content. Mhouti et al. (2013) believe evaluation instruments designed for the digital learning resources are needed for three reasons. First, the design of multimedia learning materials is frequently not informed by relevant psychology and education research, so accessing various digital learning resources is easy. Second, some resource repositories use quality metrics to order search results to mitigate this search problem. The efficacy of this technique is directly dependent on the validity of the evaluation tool used to generate the quality ratings. Third, quality criteria for summative evaluations can potentially drive improvements in design practice.

Other than four aspects (academic, pedagogical, didactic, and technical quality), educators should consider other aspects when using digital content for teaching and learning (National Library of New Zealand, 2022), such as aligning information to learning needs, being selective in what digital content to use for what purpose; being honest, ethical and responsible with others information to abide by legal requirements; using individual and collaborative practices to benefit learning and considering the target audience — students, teachers, and the school community. Moreover, educational decision-makers must evaluate the time, cost, learning curve, and long-term usefulness of fully integrating technology (Screencastify, 2022; Wightman in Koç, 2014). In particular, Wightman in Koç (2014) focuses on software and hardware tools.

Therefore, some instruments for examining and evaluating digital learning content and tools have been developed. These instruments can be used before or after bringing digital learning content and tools to the classroom. To illustrate, Mhouti et al. (2013) suggest an instrument for examining and evaluating the quality of digital learning resources, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Four Dimensions of Digital Learning Resources Quality

(Mhouti et al., 2013)

Another example is from Brendan Wightman, a Cambridge trainer experienced in technology integration, suggesting that several common factors must be considered in evaluating software and hardware tools (Koç, 2014). The instruments can be seen in Figures 2 and 3 (Software logistical and hardware evaluation framework and Software pedagogical evaluation framework).

Figure 2. Software logistical and hardware evaluation framework

(Koç, 2014)

Figure 3. Software pedagogical evaluation framework

(Koç, 2014)

Moreover, some critical evaluation surveys are also developed by Schrock (2022). Her web page includes forms for teaching the process, articles for learning about the aspect of literacy, and a list of bogus sites to showcase that all things on the Web are not real.

Overall, evaluating digital learning content and tools is essential in designing more interactive and engaging materials in this digital era. Coaches and educators should consider critical aspects before and after incorporating digital learning content and tools into the classroom. This wisdom in leveraging technologies leads to developing some evaluation instruments, which will improve the quality of the teaching and learning activities.


ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Coaches.

Koç, S. (2014). Evaluating technology use in the classroom.

Mhouti, A. El, Nasseh, A., & Erradi, M. (2013). How to evaluate the quality of digital learning resources ? International Journal of Computer Science Research and Application, 03(03), 27–36.

National Library of New Zealand. (2022). Digital content — finding, evaluating, using, and creating it. How to find quality digital content.

Netto-Shek, J. A. (2017). Technology-based English Language Instruction Technology-Based English Language Instruction. In M. K. Kabilan, R. M. R. A. A. Aziz, & J. A. Netto-Shek (Eds.), 21st Century Learning & English Language Education (Issue July, pp. 1–20). USM Press in collaboration with MELTA.

Schrock, K. (2022). Critical Evaluation of Pieces of Information.

Screencastify. (2022). A Complete Guide to Implementing Tech in Schools, Classrooms.

Zehler, A. M., Yilmazel-Sahin, Y., Massoud, L., Moore, S. C., Yin, C., & Kramer, K. (2018). National Study of English Learners and Digital Learning Resources.

Digital Content in Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) and Personalized Learning (PL): What Should Educators Do?

Digital content refers to the online curriculum and instructional materials based on core subjects and electives used by students in an online or blended learning environment (EdTechReview, 2013). Educators can use digital content to integrate pedagogical frameworks, such as culturally responsive teaching and personalized learning, into classroom instruction. To this extent, educational technology coaches can partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate, and aligned to content standards. This goal aligns with the ISTE Coaching Standard 3 (Collaborator), especially point 3b. In the following elaboration, we will see how digital content is articulated in the learning process to make students feel valued, honored, and empowered perceived by CRT and PL frameworks.

The Role of Digital Content in CRT and PL

Great teachers leave the most significant lasting impact on their students. They often see students for who they are before they see this themselves. These teachers uplift their students by developing their interests, celebrating their uniqueness, and challenging their assumptions about the world and themselves. One way to achieve this goal is to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion when personalizing learning. Also, culturally responsive education, transformative justice practices, and anti-racism are other critical components of this work (Broussard et al., 2016).

While personalized learning is never solely about the technology or digital content, integrating flexible content and tools is essential in creating a successful personalized learning classroom. By leveraging digital content and tools, teachers can provide students with individualized paths and pace. Teachers also understand how to use foundational, adaptive, and highly customizable content and tools to differentiate the path, pace, and performance tasks of learning. Where digital content and tools are used, they do not replace the teacher; instead, they work alongside the teacher to better support students’ needs by providing remediation, practice, extension, and various ways to demonstrate knowledge authentically (Johns, 2018). In other words, in personalized learning, educators purposefully use digital content and tools.

Moreover, learning design needs to be flexible, and technologies can be created to support representation, adaption, sharing, and implementation through broad-ranging colocation practices. It opens the door to engage in culturally relevant teaching methods that empower learners and has the potential to push students to have critical perspectives on policies and practices that have a direct impact on their lives and communities (Ladson-Billings 2014, cited in Engerman & Otto, 2021).

On the other hand, digital content can serve as an equalizer in culturally responsive teaching in schools (Beerer, 2017). To this extent, educators must remember that not every student needs a device in a classroom powered by digital content. Therefore, educators need to check what all students need and deserve in “going digital” cultural responsiveness through the following questions:

  • Is instruction relevant to students’ lives and the world around them?
  • Is your teaching preparing students to be future-ready?
  • Do the instructional resources enhance students’ learning?
  • Do the instructional resources reflect the students in any way?
  • How will you impact or change students’ lives?

What Should Educators Do?

This part elaborates on how educators can use digital content to implement culturally responsive teaching effectively. Therefore, Beerer (2017) lists the following ways:

  • Integrate digital content into your instruction. Digital content captures up-to-date images, situations, and subjects to illustrate and pose real-world problems. This practice will increase engagement among students of all abilities and backgrounds and allow them to “see themselves” in the content, thus making classroom instruction even more relevant.
  • Ensure the digital content is high-quality. High-Quality Digital Content (HQDC) provides learners multiple pathways to understanding, ensuring that there is almost always another pathway to learning immediately available. To this point, we can begin with a graphically attractive visual design, and then students are naturally drawn to the material.
  • To motivate students, use digital activities such as high-quality graphics, games, virtual labs, and robust math and science challenges. Think of digital content as the thin end of the wedge and use it to engage students in topics traditionally taught through direct instruction. This strategy will not only create more student-centered instructional opportunities and encourage students to think more deeply, but it will also help support teachers as they become facilitators of learning.
  • Build students’ vocabularies with various digital resources such as videos, animations, and images. Different types of videos, images, animations, and definitions (of course) enable students to determine the meaning of content vocabulary while exerting control over how they best learn words. This strategy will help in bringing elements of learner agency into your classroom.
  • Engage students in experiences, such as a virtual field trip to the North Pole, that they would not ordinarily have, or perhaps may never have, to build an understanding of others. Recent technological advancements in virtual reality and augmented reality can help build new experiences for students that would be impossible to replicate in any other way. These experiences work with minimal technology investment and can be viewed with the inexpensive Google Cardboard device. In addition, students can access these experiences on a laptop, PC, or tablet and still receive a unique 360° perspective through arrow keys, a mouse, or by dragging on a touch screen.
  • Close the “belief gap.” The belief gap is a lack of belief among some educators in the potential of students from low-income families and students of color. Going digital allows us to move students from consumers of information to creators of information and empowers them to share, display, and showcase their work, thinking, and accomplishments to the community and globally. Equally important is that by encouraging students to use digital resources in their daily school work, educators can show students that they are preparing them for success in the world beyond the classroom.
  • Know your students and the communities you serve. Take the time to learn about your students’ culture, history, and backgrounds. Just as digital content can fill in the gaps in your student’s understanding of the world, you can use it for personal and professional development to learn about who your students are and where they come from. In addition, take the time to know your students’ circumstances. For example, find out which students do not have internet connections at home so you can devise strategies to help them access content outside the classroom. Alternatively, learn which language is spoken in your students’ homes to create plans to better connect with parents for whom English is not the primary language. This type of information will help you better serve your students.

Besides, leveraging digital technologies to create a culturally-responsive classroom is essential. This way, educators can consider the following strategies (TeacherPediaNG, 2021):

1. Learn about your students

To meet the needs of your students, we have to know who they are. Adopting open communication to learn about your students is a good teaching style to help your students feel valued. Open communication also helps to reveal their learning needs and preferences. We can use Zoom, Google Meet, or other video conferencing apps to communicate with students. Also, we can use Google Forms to create and distribute questionnaires or surveys and gather information about your students. These strategies also work for personalized learning environments.

2. Celebrate Diversity

As educators, we can also consider publishing content in multiple languages not just for inclusion but to help students gain proficiency in other languages for effective communication. On the other hand, apps like Google Translate, Reverso, and iTranslate help you communicate with people that do not speak English. You can also integrate these tools into the school’s website. Besides, EdTech tools, such as YouTube Live or YouNow, will help you virtually bring parents, friends, and well-wishers from different regions for special events or showcasing learning activities within the school.

3. Promote collaboration

Promoting collaboration is the easiest way to encourage peer learning and groom students that are not discriminatory due to cultural differences. Google Hangouts, ePals, Skype, and even Empatico allow real-time and asynchronous collaboration and support among teachers and students worldwide. Besides, teaching with online resources can be used for building a multicultural classroom, such as Google Cultural Institute.

4. Create a classroom library

Creating a comprehensive classroom library helps teachers to develop a culturally-responsive classroom. It could be an e-library or physical library with books, research works, and stories detailing the history and culture of different regions across the globe. Google search features also allow students to find resources peculiar to other cultures, narrowing searches by language or region/country.

One additional point in using digital content in CRT and PL, educators are encouraged to use evaluation instruments designed for the digital learning resources. Some studies elaborate on the importance of designing evaluation instruments for three reasons (Mhouti et al., 2013). First, the design of multimedia learning materials is frequently not informed by relevant research in psychology and education (Nesbit, Li, & Leacock, 2006; Shavinina & Loarer, 1999). This design has resulted in easy access to various digital learning resources. Second, to mitigate this search problem, some resource repositories use quality metrics to order search results (Vargo, Nesbit, Belfer, & Archambault, 2003). The efficacy of this technique is directly dependent on the validity of the evaluation tool used to generate the quality ratings. Third, quality criteria for summative evaluations can potentially drive improvements in design practice (Nesbit, Belfer, & Vargo, 2002). Mhouti et al. (2013) emphasize that awareness of these criteria, which can affect resource quality, is an essential step toward elaboration.

To sum up, educators need ample time to define, research, explore, and select digital content to implement in a face-to-face, distance, or hybrid classroom. This way, coaching support can facilitate educators to become proficient through regular practice. Also, educators are encouraged to collaborate with their colleagues by sharing what they have learned from reflecting on, researching, and responding to online resources. Learning from students’ successes and families’ feedback to know what material best suits their learning needs can improve the practice (Devonish-mazzotta, 2020).


Beerer, K. (2017). Building Culturally Responsive Classrooms with Digital Content. Getting Smart.Com.

Broussard, J., Cmap, K., Dougherty, N., Flanders, C., Schantz, D., & Strunk, C. (2016). The Core Four of Personalized Learning.

Devonish-mazzotta, K. (2020). Supporting Learners with Culturally Relevant Digital Resources. Winter 2020 Issue.

EdTechReview. (2013). Selecting Digital Content For Your Educational Institution.

Engerman, J. A., & Otto, R. F. (2021). The shift to digital: designing for learning from a culturally relevant interactive media perspective. Educational Technology Research and Development, 69(1), 301–305.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Coaches.

Johns, S. (2018). The Core 4 Elements of Personalized Learning. Education Elements.

Mhouti, A. El, Nasseh, A., & Erradi, M. (2013). How to evaluate the quality of digital learning resources ? International Journal of Computer Science Research and Application, 03(03), 27–36.

TeacherPediaNG. (2021). What is a Culturally-responsive How to Use Technology to Create a Culturally-responsive classroom?

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) in Personalized Learning (PL): What Matters?

Cultural responsiveness is part of an ever-evolving orientation and pedagogy and a necessary component of personalized learning. Culturally responsive teaching and personalized learning are designed to empower learners by including the learners’ cultures, languages, and backgrounds in the learning process. According to Krasnoff (2016), “ teachers must be prepared with a thorough understanding of the specific cultures of the students they teach; how that culture affects student learning behaviors; and how they can change classroom interactions and instruction to embrace the differences.” Learning your students’ likes, beliefs, backgrounds, and families are essential to teaching. Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) validates and recognizes students’ cultures while incorporating student culture into the learning environment. Personalized learning brings engagement, motivation, and learning into the classroom when implementing CRT. Teachers can personalize learning through CRT by incorporating literature, music, and art that is culturally responsive. Another meaningful way the teacher can personalize learning through CRT involves incorporating families into classroom activities by inviting families to school events like field trips, class celebrations, or curriculum events (Armstrong, 2020). This fact aligns with the ISTE Coaching Standard 3 (Collaborator) (ISTE, 2022), especially point 3a, how coaches establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies. Also, this issue is in line with the point of 3d, how coaches personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.

A Closer Look: CRT and PL

Culturally responsive teaching uses ethnically diverse students’ cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives as conduits for teaching them more effectively (Gay, 2000). Besides, it is inclusive, empowering, transformative, emancipatory, and humanistic. Gay (2000) further claims five key strategies closely related to the culturally responsive pedagogy: cultural bridging, personalized feedback, learner autonomy and empowerment, teachers as collaborators, and humanistic teaching. In CRT, teachers consider students’ different backgrounds and needs by offering them customized feedback and support. Learner autonomy and empowerment enhance student confidence and transform learning. In addition, when teachers regard themselves as co-educators and co-learners, the learning becomes reciprocal since students are treated as power-sharing partners. This point aligns with the ISTE Coaching Standard 3 point 3a. Lastly, culturally responsive pedagogy is “humanistic” and ethical as care and compassion are implemented to humanize learning.

Moreover, one hallmark of personalized learning is using individual learning plans and pathways. Knowing every student well is the first step in guiding them on a path that maximizes their success in demonstrating proficiency over competencies. A critical lens through which we learn about our students is cultural competency, or understanding and embracing one’s and others’ diverse cultures, languages, beliefs, and values (French, 2016). A key feature of personalized learning and cultural responsiveness is knowing your students, understanding where they come from, how they learn, and how best to respond to their individual learning needs (Bowlby, n.d.) Bowlby (n.d.) further discusses that personalized learning and cultural responsiveness encompass academic and cognitive skills, health and wellness, social and emotional development, culture and language, and living situation.

In CRP, it is up to the teacher to build a positive classroom community, interject instruction with opportunities for student input, connect classroom learning with the real world, and set high expectations for all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status (Bennet, 2001; Villegas & Lucas, 2002), cited in (Lawrence, 2020).

Centralizing on students, both responsive cultural pedagogy (CRP) and personalized learning (PL) share some common interests, such as promoting student agency and engagement. It is suggested that knowledgeable and sentient educators reclaim personalized learning as a humanized pedagogy that cultivates student agency and keeps equity and inclusion at the center (France, 2019). Some recommendations are building an accessible and inclusive curriculum, developing agency and autonomy, humanizing technology integration, and reclaiming personalized learning. Besides, Taylor and Sobel (2011) consider equity goal to narrow the achievement gap in all content areas as measured by state testing results, district graduation rates, and curriculum-based assessments. This equity goal is to create a culturally proficient environment.

Instructional Strategies Recommendation

Utilizing diverse students’ cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles makes learning more relevant and practical in CRT (Gay, 2010). For instance, in a review of studies related to CRT, Morrell (2008, cited in Ramirez & Jimenez-Silva, 2014) contended that CRT has positively influenced secondary ELLs’ engagement and academic achievement. Therefore, educators can utilize CRT to enhance personalized learning opportunities in the classroom through a podcast, blog posts, and Instagram accounts linked together on the website (Strey-Wells, 2019).

As cited in Chuang et al. (2020), previous studies have suggested that a well-structured CRT curriculum can facilitate a teacher’s understanding of how cultural backgrounds and experiences can be used to enhance students’ learning achievements (Chou, Su, & Wang, 2018; Gunn & King, 2015; Whitaker & Valtierra, 2018).

Furthermore, Taylor and Sobel (2011) list the following 12 components to provide an organizational framework for planning and reflecting on implementing culturally responsive pedagogy:

  • Considering the Learner: Who is the learner?
  • Environment/Environmental Print
  • Curriculum Considerations
  • Language Objective
  • Social Context for Learning/Grouping Strategies
  • Content/Instructional Materials
  • Scaffolding/Instructional Adaptations
  • Distribution of Attention
  • Checking for Evidence of Student Understanding
  • Classroom Behavior/Managing the Classroom
  • Connecting with Family, Community, Local Culture
  • Teacher’s Personal/Professional Growth

Culturally responsive teaching takes the stance that when teachers connect students’ home cultural knowledge, beliefs, and practices to the content, pedagogy, or language used in the classroom, the academic performance and school experience of learners from culturally diverse groups will significantly improve. To begin to support a connection between students’ background knowledge and the content, Gay (2010, cited in Taylor & Sobel, 2011) further recommends that teachers design their instruction to:

  • Teach students style-shifting (code-switching) skills to easily maneuver between home and school languages and cultures.
  • Build the moral commitment, critical consciousness, and political competence that students need to consider their role in promoting social justice and social transformation.

Each recommendation involves teachers getting to know the individual learner’s prior knowledge, background, learning preferences, and life experiences. Such knowledge provides teachers invaluable insights into the learner’s cultural scene, language and literacy knowledge, and life experiences. Using a cultural lens to situate the content through students’ prior knowledge and cultural perspectives, teachers can effectively activate and build on this knowledge and use it to engage students in meaningful learning. Culturally responsive pedagogy involves teachers using effective teaching practices—like those described above—to help students find relevance in the curriculum, content, and learning experiences at school. ‘‘

Finally, more practical instructional strategies are recommended in CRT (Maddahian & Bird, 2004), including:

Cooperative learning

1. Cooperative learning, apprenticeship, and peer coaching are three vehicles for joint learning.

2. Students collaborate to bridge race, ethnicity, and class gaps.

Active learning and apprenticeship

1. Teach through active application of facts and skills, interaction with other students, and use of computers and multi-media.

2. Teach through modeling and observation, hands-on laboratory experiences, active practice, and guided reflection with the coaching of students, graduated responsibilities, and supportive scaffolding

3. Utilize methods that employ rhyme and music to enhance the retention of ideas. Instructional conversations

1. Create mutual understanding through instructional conversations.

2. Provide ample opportunities for students to read, write, speak, and receive feedback.

Constructive learning

1. Use constructivist and activist learning approaches.

2. Emphasize developing generative competencies such as higher order thinking, critical learning skills, and creative problem-solving.

3. Enable students to read, write, process information, analyze, and make conclusions and inferences from a broad vision of world events.

4. Discuss their everyday experiences and enable students to understand how they can shape their neighborhoods.

5. Use the subject to address student needs beyond its content.

Applied learning

1. Relate students’ learning to their everyday knowledge.

2. Build on students’ prior knowledge and experiences, home languages, and school context.

3. Use multiple means to present knowledge, content, and learning experiences.


1. Provide support to student learning by breaking a complex task into smaller tasks, modeling the desired learning strategy or task, and then gradually retreat that support so that the student becomes self-reliant.

Targeted teaching

1. Modify curriculum-learning activities for diverse students.

2. Recognize and target students’ problem areas.

Holistic development

1. Address a child’s total development. First-order hunger, malnutrition, and primary healthcare needs must be addressed before learning, or intellectual achievement can be addressed.

2. Holistically educate students without separating political, social justice, and cultural issues.

3. Understand that students are different linguistically, behaviorally, culturally, and emotionally and address their needs.

To sum up, integrating CRP and PL in the classroom creates a deeper understanding of students and provides high-quality learning experiences to all students. This way, educators must modify and adapt their instructional strategies in response to students’ particular learning needs. Hopefully, by understanding these two concepts, coaches and educators will be aware of exploring new instructional strategies in the classroom by leveraging digital technologies.


Armstrong, A. (2020). Culturally Responsive Teaching in Early Childhood Education Four ways to validate and affirm young students ’ cultures in meaningful ways, which can boost A Weekly Dose of What Works.

Bowlby, D. (n.d.). Personalized Learning and Cultural Responsiveness. Desiree Teaching Toolkit. Retrieved July 11, 2022, from

Chuang, H. H., Shih, C. L., & Cheng, M. M. (2020). Teachers’ perceptions of culturally responsive teaching in technology-supported learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51(6), 2442–2460.

France, P. E. (2019). It is Time Teachers Reclaimed ‘ Personalized Learning ’ in the Name of Equity Build an Accessible and Inclusive Curriculum.

French, D. (2016). Personalized Learning, Cultural Competency, and Knowing Every Student Well.

Gay, G. (2000). Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice. In Teachers College Press (Multicultu). Teachers College Press.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Coaches.

Krasnoff, B. (2016). Culturally Responsive Teaching: A Guide to Evidence-Based Practices for Teaching All Students Equitably. In The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges.

Lawrence, A. (2020). Teaching as Dialogue: Toward Culturally Responsive Online Pedagogy. Journal of Online Learning Research, 6(1), 5–33.

Maddahian, E., & Bird, M. (2004). Conceptual Framework for a Culturally Relevant and Responsive Educational Model (Issue 178).

Ramirez, P. C., & Jimenez-Silva, M. (2014). Secondary English Learners: Strengthening Their Literacy Skills Through Culturally Responsive Teaching. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 50(2), 65–69.

Strey-Wells, C. J. (2019). How Educators Can Utilize Culturally Responsive Teaching to Enhance Personalized Learning Opportunities in the Secondary Classroom (Issue May).

Taylor, S. V, & Sobel, D. M. (2011). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Teaching Like Our Students’ Lives Matter. In Syria Studies (Vol. 7, Issue 1). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Teacher Roles in Personalized Learning Environment

The digital world encourages teachers and students to reorient themselves to new ways of thinking about teaching and learning in higher education. As an educator, a teacher plays the role of a learning facilitator with technology to support student achievement (empowered learner, digital citizen, knowledge constructor, innovative designer, computational thinker, creative communicator, and global collaborator). Mainly, cultivating actual student agency in the learning process in personalized learning is essential. The goal of personalized learning is to engage students in co-creation, build the curricula on mutual interests, and develop a person’s abilities and strengths, thus igniting intrinsic motivation for success and contribution. This fact aligns with the ISTE Standards for Educators, particularly an educator as a facilitator (ISTE, 2022), point 2.6.a, 2.6.b, 2.6.c, and 2.6.d:

2.6.a. Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in independent and group settings.

2.6.b. Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on maker spaces, or in the field.

2.6.c. Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.

2.6.d. Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge, or connections.

Differentiation vs. Individualization vs. Personalized Learning?

Before digging out further into the Personalized Learning classroom, let us see the comparison between differentiation, individualization, and personalization. With the ultimate goal of helping all students achieve their learning potential, educators have often adopted methods to differentiate instruction, that is, to design varied types of education to meet individual students’ learning needs and goals (Grant & Basye, 2014). In the 1960s and 1970s, approaches to differentiation became more formalized with the advent of individualized instruction. Although technically, the method included teaching strategies that met individual students’ needs, students usually worked through prepackaged materials. Grant and Basye (2014) state that personalized learning is a 21st-century model of differentiated instruction that addresses each student’s readiness, interest, and learning profile through differentiation of content, process, and product. Personalized learning is often conceived of as an instructional method incorporating technology and mobile devices to help all students achieve high levels of learning.

Moreover, Myers (2018) elaborates the definition of the respective terms. Differentiation is an instructional learning approach where the content, process, product, or learning environment is customized to the students in the classroom (Zmuda et al., 2015). More importantly, the teacher regulates the design and administration of the learning experience for groups of students (Green & Mahoney, 2017; Kallick & Zmuda, 2017). In the differentiated instructional approach, the learning targets are identical for all learners, but the learning modality varies based on the learner’s needs (Grant & Basye, 2014). Conversely, personalized learning provides students with agency and autonomy in their learning process as they design, analyze, and refine their demonstration of mastery (Kallick & Zmuda, 2017; Zmuda et al., 2015). With individualization, the teacher develops a learning “playlist” and assigns individual students to learn tasks, usually through a digital tool (Green & Mahoney, 2017; Zmuda et al., 2015). The student controls the pace of their learning and gives the student agency in their learning process while co-create their learning path (Green & Mahoney, 2017); and engagement is based on relevancy to the student not completing the given task (Zmuda et al., 2015). Table 1 compares the instructional approach to differentiation, individualization, and personalization (Bray, 2018; Grant & Basye, 2014; Myers, 2018).

Table 1. Comparison of instructional approach to differentiation, individualization, and personalization

(Bray, 2018; Grant & Basye, 2014; Myers, 2018)

Teacher Roles in Personalized Learning Environments (PLE)

Myers (2018) claims that the rise in personalized learning environments shifts the teaching and learning paradigm (Bingham et al., 2018; O’Donoghue, 2009; Zmuda et al., 2015) and the pedagogical capacity of leaders and teachers (Zmuda et al., 2015). Notably, the teacher’s role in the classroom has shifted from a traditional to a personalized learning environment, as seen in Table 2.

Table 2. Components of Teachers’ Shifting Roles

Bishop et al. (2020) define personalized learning as an approach that encourages partnership between individual students and teachers in the learning design that emerges from students’ interests, questions, needs, and preferences to foster self-directed learning (Bray & McClaskey, 2016). These learning opportunities respond to the wide variance of students’ identities and needs (e.g., cultural, cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and moral) and often prioritize the development of twenty-first-century skills such as critical thinking, communication, creative thinking, and collaboration (Nikolic & Milovanovic, 2021).

Teachers are critical to personalized learning as they must deal with complex instructional design. This way, teachers must have good communication and collaboration skills by developing new pedagogical reflective thinking. This skill is used in mentoring learning, mediating values and social skills, and systematically evaluating the activities of students and teachers (Järvelä, 2006). Moreover, Bishop et al. (2020) summarize how teachers’ role in traditional classrooms differs from PLE. (See Personalized Learning Instructions Models: Do They Work for Higher Education? – Ignasia Yuyun). The teacher primarily determines learning objectives in traditional classroom settings. On the other hand, the learning objectives on individual students’ questions, interests, and aspirations are the core of PLEs. Therefore, teachers in PLEs are expected to serve as facilitators of “inquiry, problem-solving, and creative expression” (DiMartino & Clarke, 2008). Similarly, teachers may become curators in PLEs by helping students access appropriate resources suited to their unique projects rather than preparing resources based on teacher-identified learning goals (Keefe & Jenkins, 2005). Finally, because personalized learning focuses on tailoring instruction to individual students rather than an entire class, teachers in PLEs play a role as coaches to the individual or small groups on project tasks, goals, and standards, as they forgo whole group instruction (Bray & McClaskey, 2015; Clarke, 2013; DiMartino & Clarke, 2008). Furthermore, since the PLE is closely related to student-directed learning (SDL), Hiemstra (2011) asserted that teachers have six instructional roles in SDL. The roles include content resource, resource locator, interest stimulator, positive attitude generator, creativity, critical thinking stimulator, and evaluation stimulator. To sum up, Bishop et al. (2020) revealed the teacher role in PLEs as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Teacher roles in personalized learning environments

(Bishop et al., 2020)

Amro and Borup (2019), through the interview session, revealed some responsibilities of teachers when using personalized learning software, including (a) orienting students to the software and learning expectations; (b) troubleshooting technical issues; (c) motivating students to fully engage with the software, (d) monitoring students’ behavior and personalized learning in the system; and (e) providing students with additional instruction in small groups or individually. These roles are proper to facilitate students using technology and learning strategies in digital platforms and virtual environments.

Overall, through the transition to a personalized learning model, shifts in roles will be encountered along with technological influences. Teachers facilitate the learning process instead of control of information and learning for the students. This way, teachers give room to develop students’ agency and autonomy as they co-create the student’s learning script. In this case, the leadership transformation is needed to support the teachers. Providing flexibility, time, and professional development will support the transformation and empower teachers. Notably, organizational strategy and change management connective tissue are badly needed to drive teachers to become leaders and vanguards of the shift.


Amro, F., & Borup, J. (2019). Exploring Blended Teacher Roles and Obstacles to Success When Using Personalized Learning Software. Journal of Online Learning Research, 5(3), 229–250.

Bingham, A. J., Pane, J. F., Steiner, E. D., & Hamilton, L. S. (2018). Ahead of the curve: Implementation challenges in personalized learning school models. Educational Policy, 32(3), 454-489.

Bishop, P. A., Downes, J. M., Netcoh, S., Farber, K., Demink-Carthew, J., Brown, T., & Mark, R. (2020). Teacher roles in personalized learning environments. Elementary School Journal, 121(2).

Bray, B., & McClaskey, K. (2016). Personalization vs . Differentiation vs . Individualization Report ( PDI ) v3.

Bray, B., & McClaskey, K. (2015). Make learning personal: The what, who, wow, where, and why. Corwin.

Clarke, J. H. (2013). Personalized learning: Student-designed pathways to high school graduation. Corwin.

DiMartino, J., & Clarke, J. H. (2008). Personalizing the high school experience for each student. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Grant, P., & Basye, D. (2014). Personalized learning: A Guide for Engaging Students with Technology (First). International Society for Technology in Education.

Green, J., & Mahoney, S. (2017). Leading personalized learning: Digital programs help meet the needs of all students: Using technology to individualize learning environments. District Administration, 53(7), 52-53.

Hiemstra, R. (2011). Self-directed learning: Individualizing instruction—Most still do it wrong! International Journal of Self-Directed Learning, 8(1), 46–59.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Educators

Järvelä, S. (2006). Personalized Learning? New Insights into Fostering Learning Capacity. In PERSONALISING EDUCATION (p. 126). Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Kallick, B., & Zmuda, A. (2017). Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with habits of mind. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Keefe, J. W., & Jenkins, J. M. (2005). Personalized instruction. Phi Delta Kappa.

Myers, R. G. (2018). Transitioning to a Personalized Learning Environment Leveraging One-to-One Devices [Kennesaw State University].

Nikolic, T. M., & Milovanovic, M. (2021). Innovative Approach To Personalized Teaching and Learning in the Vuca World. 12th International Conference on eLearning, October, 60–65.

 O’Donoghue, J. (2009). Technology-Supported environments for personalized learning: Methods and case studies. IGI Global.

TeachThought. (2022). Components of Teachers’ Shifting Roles.

Zmuda, A., Curtis, G., & Ullman, D. (2015). Learning personalized: The evolution of the contemporary classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Professional Learning Community Using Social Media: Yea or Nay?

Collaboration is compulsory in this digital era to learn and grow together. Notably, educators are expected to be long-life learners to comply with cutting-edge issues and trends.

Through collaboration, educators can improve their knowledge, skills, and experience to solve problems. Collaboration allows teachers to work together and learn from others (Englert & Tarrant, 1995, cited in Scott, 2015). Proper practices then increase student achievement scores and school culture resulting in data-driven improvement. I believe that collaboration among educators, colleagues, and students is getting more accessible by leveraging digital technologies through an Online or Virtual Professional Learning Community. This fact aligns with the ISTE Standards for Educators, particularly an educator as a collaborator (ISTE, 2022). Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Therefore this article addresses how educators dedicate planning time to collaborating with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology (Point 2.4.a.) and use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams, and students, locally and globally (Point 2.4.c.).

What is a Professional Learning Community (PLC)?

For over a decade, practitioners have promoted professional learning communities (PLCs) as an effective structure for providing teachers with professional development (Chappuis, Chappuis, & Stiggins, 2009; DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, cited in Blitz, 2013). PLC is sometimes used interchangeably with Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). Let us see what makes them different from each other. As seen in Scott (2015), PLCs are a group of teachers with a shared focus on student learning that consistently collaborates for continued school improvement (Dexter, Seashore, & Anderson, 2002; Jackl, 2009; Reichstetter, 2006). Whereas PLNs are networked individuals with shared interests that interact virtually for collaboration, creation, contribution, and information consumption for personal learning and development (Bauer, 2010; Warlick, 2010).

Three main factors that distinguish a PLC from team meetings are (a) commitment, (b) conditions, and (c) collaboration. As cited in Scott (2015), teacher commitment to student learning and school improvement is supported by a shared vision, purpose, and goals (Hord & Sommers, 2008; Jackl, 2009; Strahan, 2003). Human and structural conditions set the foundation for successful meetings and a positive learning environment (Kruse, Louis, & Bryk, 1994; Reichstetter, 2006). Collaboration occurs through shared personal practice, reflective dialogue, and pedagogical content and knowledge (Andrews & Lewis, 2002; Vescio, Ross, & Adams, 2006). On the other side, through PLN, educators can share and interact anytime, anywhere, and active learning (Bauer, 2010; Warlick, 2009; Way, 2012, cited in Scott, 2015).

Moreover, the State Government of Victoria (2021) found ten principles that bring together the best available research on school improvement to create effective PLCs are:

  1. Student learning focus: School improvement starts with an unwavering focus on student learning.
  2. Collective responsibility: For every child to achieve, every adult must take responsibility for their learning.
  3. Instructional leadership: Effective school leaders focus on teaching and learning.
  4. Collective efficacy: Teachers make better instructional decisions together.
  5. Adult learning: Teachers learn best with others on the job.
  6. Privileged time: Effective schools provide time and forums for teacher conversations about student learning.
  7. Continuous improvement: Effective teams improve through recurring cycles of diagnosing student learning needs, and planning, implementing, and evaluating teaching responses to them.
  8. Evidence is driven: Effective professional learning and practice are evidence-based and data-driven.
  9. System focus: The most effective school leaders contribute to the success of other schools.
  10. Integrated regional support: Schools in improving systems are supported by teams of experts who know the communities they work in.

Online or Virtual Professional Learning Community

Combining PLC and PLN will allow the design of an Online Professional Learning Community (OPLC) to enable teachers in small schools to build social capital and professional development opportunities to impact student learning and overall school improvement positively (Scott, 2015). Notably, the rise in technological advancement has shifted the PLC into online or virtual PLC.

Ford, Branch, and Moore’s (2008) description of the VPLC, cited in Bedford (2019), further clarifies this definition by stating that it uses Internet technology to facilitate engagement and interaction among faculty for relationship building and learning. As the knowledge is experienced digitally, the VPLC has the potential to mitigate biases and limitations that may exist in face-to-face or synchronous settings (Trust, Carpenter, & Krutka, 2017, cited in Bedford, 2019).

Some advantages commonly asserted for online PLCs over traditional PLCs, Blitz (2013) summarized that online PLCs:

  1. Provide more time and space for teachers to learn and collaborate (Reading, 2010; Tsai, Laffey, & Hanuscin, 2010).
  2. Lower the cost and time demand that traditional professional development activities place on busy teachers (Beach, 2012; Cirillo & Shay, 2007; Duncan-Howell, 2010; Hodes, Foster, Pritz, & Kelley, 2011).
  3. Create opportunities to satisfy personal learning interests and goals better because participants have more freedom than in a face-to-face group meeting to connect closely with members who share the same goods without disturbing the group dynamics (Chalmers & Keown, 2006; Curwood, 2011; Fasso, 2010; Forsyth & Schaverien, 2005).
  4. It can serve a broad range of education improvement goals (content-, skill-, or student-focused), pursued individually or together (Lieberman & Mace, 2010).
  5. Provide opportunities to scale educators’ interactions broadly and efficiently because online PLCs do not limit group size and allow busy educators to participate and contribute meaningfully to the group (Lieberman & Mace, 2010; Sorensen, Takle, & Moser, 2006).
  6. Enable complete and timely access to valuable internal resources, such as archival data, and resources not available locally, such as expert knowledge (Nistor, Baltes, & Schustek, 2012; Pijanowski, 2010).
  7. Can provide daily guidance for teachers in applying novel curricula or pedagogies (Vavasseur & MacGregor, 2008).
  8. Can provide professional mentoring for entry-level teachers (Dorner & Karpati, 2010).
  9. Enable PLC designers to collect rich, real-time assessment data on participants’ engagement and learning, including longitudinal data (Schlager, Farooq, Fusco, Schank, & Dwyer, 2009).

Fostering Online or Virtual Professional Learning Community Using Social Media

VPLCs draw on various technology tools to provide social and dispersed learning opportunities, as described by Atkins, Koroluk, and Stranach (2017, cited in Bedford, 2019). Some empirical studies reveal that many VPLC delivery models use online blogs or discussion board features supported by email and document sharing to facilitate conversation among colleagues using an asynchronous design (Bedford & Rossow, 2017). Also, synchronous VPLCs can be designed using videoconferencing software, such as Skype or Google Hangouts. In addition, these platforms can be combined for a blended format, offering flexible delivery of content and conversation (Hodes & Cady, 2013; Matzat, 2013).

Turning to some advantages of social media as a platform for professional learning, Bedford (2019) explore some critical points. Social media supports learners in being producers of information rather than passive consumers, promotes learning through understanding others’ experiences, and embraces a desire to continue learning with a social community of peers (Sullivan, Neu, & Yang, 2018). Next, building features into the social media environment that capitalizes on the diverse engagement preferences and communication styles is one example of how the individual can be nurtured within the social media learning environment (Constantinides, 2012). Recent contributions to the literature offer other suggestions to address situational and design features that may inhibit participation. Kind and Evans (2015) recommend embedding features into the social media site that include opportunities for participants to respond, question, and contribute and be easily updated to provide interactive, time-sensitive information. Participants in social media for learning report enhanced self-improvement through purposeful design, such as building a platform embedded into the user’s regular work routine (Donelan, 2016). Participants also appreciate being able to draw on shared beliefs and find this can create a sense of community. According to Belange, Bluvshtein, and Haugen (2015), these shared beliefs can include understanding the importance of connectedness in all aspects of life, including learning that cannot easily be supported in other modes.

On the other hand, the social media drawbacks for PLC are still rare as researchers still focus on the disadvantages of social media in teaching-learning. For instance, Greenhow and Robelia (2009, cited in Rios et al., 2010) offer a long list of potential risks when using social software in adult education. These include workload concerns for educators and students, lack of trust in peer feedback, ownership issues regarding public and collaborative spaces, difficulty adapting publicly available tools, and difficulty in protecting anonymity. Furthermore, practitioners adult educators (Zascerinska, 2010) indicate the crucial actions that a trainer must undertake in applying social media as a learning environment to achieve educational success. The most frequent methods mentioned are staying in touch with the participants, discussing moderation, including group tasks, creating an active learning environment, providing constant and accurate feedback, and respecting the diversity of participants’ work styles. These drawbacks might occur in different contexts, particularly in online or virtual PLC.

To sum up, it is inevitable to find benefits and drawbacks from leveraging technologies in PLC, including using social media. Knowing digital technologies is highly recommended to promote teacher-teacher collaboration and teacher-student collaboration. Exploring various platforms will be beneficial for educators to comply with the rapid advancement of technology and upgrade their digital competencies. So, keep learning and exploring!


Bedford, L. (2019). Using social media as a platform for a virtual professional learning community. Online Learning Journal, 23(3), 120–136.

Bedford, L., & Rossow, K. (2017). Facilitating professional learning communities among higher education faculty: The Walden Junto model. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 20(2). Retrieved from

Blitz, C. . (2013). Can online learning communities achieve the goals of traditional professional learning communities ? What the literature says. In Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic (Issue September).

Hodes, T., & Cady, J. (2013). Blended-format professional development and the emergence of communities of practice. Math Education Research, 25, 299–316. doi:10.1007/s13394-012- 0065-0

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Students.

Matzat, U. (2013). Do blended virtual learning communities enhance teachers’ professional development more than purely virtual ones? A large-scale empirical comparison. Computers and Education, 60, 40–51. Retrieved from

Rios, E. D. S., Donato, A. M., & Sprott, D. (2010). Advantages and disadvantages of social media as a learning environment in adult education. Interagir: Pensando a Extensão, 0(15), 1–9.

Scott, K. (2015). Identifying the Perceptions and Preferences of Teachers in Small Schools toward Online Professional Learning Communities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. (Issue May 2015) [Texas Tech University].

State Government of Victoria. (2021). Professional Learning Communities. Education and Training.

Zaščerinska, J. (2012). A Methodology of Evaluation of Efficiency of Engineering Curriculum in the Context of Sustainable Development. Management of Sustainable Development (MSD) Journal, 4(2), 21-28.

Enhancing Student Engagement in Online Learning through Fishbowl Discussion: A Reflection

Creating a classroom environment conducive to discussions is the key to successful discussions, regardless of whether the discussions are face-to-face or online, whether synchronous or asynchronous. Many practices for creating an inclusive learning environment also create a learning environment conducive to discussions. Instructors can improve the likelihood that their class environment will be conducive to student discussions by establishing trust and community with and among their students (UW KnowledgeBase, 2020). This point aligns with the ISTE Standards for Students, particularly as a digital citizen (point 2) (ISTE, 2022). This point highlights that students recognize the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of living, learning, and working in an interconnected digital world. They act and model in safe, legal, and ethical ways. As digital citizens, students are expected to:

a. Students cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation and are aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world.

b. Students engage in positive, safe, legal, and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or networked devices.

c.  Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for using and sharing intellectual property rights and obligations.

d. Students manage their data to maintain digital privacy and security and know data-collection technology to navigate online.

Ensuring that students also have access to their discussions is a crucial element to the overall success of the discussion. Before a course start date, careful thought around technology, tools, bandwidth, and accommodations for discussion tools can help to ensure that all students will be able to participate in discussions throughout the course. Once an accessible discussion tool has been selected, how-to guides and technical support can help to remove barriers to engaging with the device that students who do not have prior experience with the device may face.

What is active learning?

University students are expected to do Higher Order Thinking (HOT) (See  Boosting Students’ Innovative Design and Computational Thinking Through Project-Based Learning in Higher Education). Wiggins and McTighe (2005) have developed a multifaceted view of what makes up a mature understanding, a six-sided view of the concept. When students truly understand, students can explain, interpret, effectively apply and adapt, have perspective, emphasize, and have self-knowledge. This mature understanding aligns with the active learning approaches that promote skill development and higher-order thinking through activities that might include reading, writing, and discussion. Metacognition — thinking about one’s thinking — can also be an essential element, helping students connect course activities to their learning (Brame, 2016).

Cited from Ghilay and Ghilay (2015), active learning involves providing opportunities for students to meaningfully talk and listen, write, read, and reflect on the content, ideas, issues, and concerns of an academic subject (Meyers & Jones, 1993). Bonwell and Eison (1991) similarly define active learning as any strategy involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing. To actively study, learning should include any technique involving students in the learning process and holding them responsible for their learning (Bonwell & Eison, 1991; Yoder & Hochevar, 2005).

McKeachie and Svinicki (2014, cited in Ghilay & Ghilay, 2015) claim that active learning has many benefits:

  • Students are more likely to access their prior knowledge, which is a key to learning.
  • Students are more likely to find personally meaningful problem solutions or interpretations.
  • Students receive more frequent and immediate feedback.
  • The need to produce forces learners to retrieve information from memory rather than simply recognizing a correct statement.
  • Students increase their self-confidence and self-reliance.
  • For most learners, it is more motivating to be active than passive.
  • A task that one has done themselves or as part of a group is more highly valued.
  • Student conceptions of knowledge change, which has implications for cognitive development.
  • Students who work together on active learning tasks learn to work with people of different backgrounds and attitudes.
  • Students learn strategies for learning themselves by observing others.

What is a fishbowl discussion?

The Fishbowl Discussion is an example of active learning; this teaching strategy encourages full student participation, reflection, and depth of knowledge. A small group of students is selected to be the fish (in the Fishbowl), the Inner Group. Meanwhile, the rest of the class will be observers (out of the Fishbowl), hereafter called the Outer Group. The Inner Group participates in a discussion responding to an instructor prompt. The Outer Group outside of the bowl listens and reflects on the alternative viewpoints. In online learning, this fishbowl discussion is done synchronously (2 hours via Zoom) and asynchronously (1 week via LMS forum discussion).

Students will read the shared eBook and resources related to the topic assigned by the lecturer in my Curriculum and Technology Design course. After reading the references, they worked in a group (inner or outer groups) to discuss critical points in the given topic. The Inner Group starts the online discussion, and the Outer Group observes and responds to the discussion. The audience is also involved in responding to the discussion. This way, students will actively and ethically engage in online forum discussions and share online sources through online discussion. Throughout this unit, students will: 1) read book chapters, 2) discuss the book chapters in both inner group and outer group, and 3) engage in online forum discussion. The unit addresses Learning and Communication in Technology Enhanced Language Learning (which covers reading, criticizing, discussing, and engaging) taken from Technology Enhanced Language Learning: Connective Theory and Practice by Walker and White (2013). Besides, this activity addressed the ISTE Student Standard point 2 b (engaging in positive, safe, legal, and ethical behavior in social interactions online) and 2c (respecting intellectual property online). The unit is appropriate for senior undergraduate students.

Lesson Plan for Synchronous and Asynchronous Fishbowl Discussion

This lesson plan is intended for undergraduate students using a virtual teleconference platform like Zoom, Teams, Google Meet (synchronous), and Learning Management Systems such as Moodle, Canvas, Google Classroom (asynchronous).

Synchronous Fishbowl Discussion (2 hours)

Introduction 5 mins

  1. Teacher talk: inform the purpose of the Fishbowl Discussion activity regarding the topic and explain the mechanism of Fishbowl Discussion activity.

Inner Group 30 minutes

  1. Introduce the topic to the audience.
  2. Each member delivers critical points on the topic.
  3. Each member responds to critical points and exchanges opinions one to another.
  4. This discussion is being monitored and observed by Outer Group. In this time, the Outer Group complete the Self-Monitor Sheet.

Outer Group 15 minutes

  1. Each member asks questions to clarify or argue the Inner Group discussion.
  2. The Inner Group responds to the questions from the Outer Group.

Audience Participation 15 minutes

  1. Other students ask questions to clarify or argue the Inner Group discussion.
  2. The Inner Group responds to the questions from the audience.

Self-Assessment and Self-Reflection (1  day)

  1. After the session, the Inner Group members complete the Individual Self-Assessment and Group Self-Assessment.

Participation Assessment (during the class session)

  1. The lecturer and teaching assistant monitor and observe the student’s participation during the discussion.

Asynchronous Fishbowl Discussion (1 Week)

Introduction (Day 1)

  1. Teacher announcement: inform the purpose of the Fishbowl Discussion activity regarding the topic and explain the mechanism of Fishbowl Discussion activity.

Inner Group (Day 1 and 2)

  1. Introduce the topic to the audience.
  2. Each member delivers critical points on the topic.
  3. Each member responds to critical points and exchanges opinions one to another.
  4. This discussion is being monitored and observed by Outer Group. In this time, the Outer Group complete the Self-Monitor Sheet.

Outer Group (Day 2 and 3)

  1. Each member asks questions to clarify or argue the Inner Group discussion.
  2. The Inner Group responds to the questions from the Outer Group.

Audience Participation (Day 4, 5, 6)

  1. Other students ask questions to clarify or argue the Inner Group discussion.
  2. The Inner Group responds to the questions from the audience.

Self-Assessment and Self-Reflection (Day 7)

  1. After the session, the Inner Group members complete the Individual Self-Assessment and Group Self-Assessment.

Participation Assessment (during the whole week)

  1. The lecturer and teaching assistant monitor and observe the student’s participation during the discussion.

Throughout this session, students had the opportunity to engage in online forum discussion using the fishbowl technique, use online tools to collect and annotate online sources, use the rubric of self-assessment individually and in the group, and effectively summarize the chapter. The learning analytics in LMS can be seen here


I learned a lot from analyzing this lesson plan by implementing the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework. I have taught this lesson five times previously through offline learning, but I did not have a chance to apply this framework in this lesson planning. Notably, using the UbD framework in my first online learning lesson was interesting as this was my first experience. Shifting the offline to online learning is another challenge to experience. This way, I was forced to modify the Fishbowl discussion in an online context, including asynchronous and synchronous ones. A well-planned and carried-out discussion offers students the opportunity to engage actively in their learning. The format of discussions itself is best suited to higher-level Learning Outcomes, such as applying, analyzing, and evaluating. When panels are designed to be low-stakes opportunities to construct knowledge in learning teams or the broader learning community, students can actively demonstrate their understanding of the targeted learning outcome for the discussion activity.

Moreover, I found some potential tools to integrate online synchronous and asynchronous Fishbowl discussions, such as Learning Management System (LMS) and videoconferencing. These two tools support me in engaging students in online discussion. Again, a well-planned discussion format should be prepared to engage students.

In summary, this particular project was excellent practice in designing active learning and instruction in online learning. Teachers can incorporate asynchronous and synchronous activities to engage students. Leveraging digital tools assists us in creating more interactive activities and fosters us to be more creative in designing various online activities, mainly to engage students actively. Hopefully, I can explore more exciting and engaging activities to promote student engagement in online learning as a digital citizen in this interconnected digital world. Fighting!


Bonwell, C., & Eison, J. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1, Washington, D.C.: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development. 

Brame, C. (2016). Active learning. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from

Ghilay, Y., & Ghilay, R. (2015). TBAL: Technology-Based Active Learning in Higher Education. Journal of Education and Learning, 4(4), 10–18.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Students.

Meyers, C., & Jones, T. B. (1993). Promoting active learning: Strategies for the college classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

UW KnowledgeBase. (2020, July 15). Using Online Asynchronous Discussions to Increase Student Engagement & Active Learning. Retrieved on 2021, March 20 from

UW KnowledgeBase. (2020, December 18). Fishbowl Discussion (classroom). [online]. Retrieved on 2021, March 20 from

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). The Six Facets of Understanding. In Understanding by Design (Issue November, pp. 82–104). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Yoder, J. D., & Hochevar, C. M. (2005). Encouraging active learning can improve students’ performance on examinations. Teaching of Psychology, 32(2), 91-95.

Promoting the 6C’s of Education through Digital Technologies in Higher Education

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

-Alvin Toffler –

Communicating creatively and collaborating globally play an essential role in 21st-century education. University graduates must be equipped with these 21st-century skills to compete globally and comply with the competitive markets. Therefore, teachers need to foster new skills in the classroom—mastery of the 6 Cs of education, including critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship/culture, and character education/connectivity. It is clear that the 6Cs” need to be fully integrated into classrooms, schools, and districts around the country to produce citizens and employees adequately prepared for the 21st century. Notably, technology proliferation leverages these six skills employed in teaching and learning. These 6 Cs of education are in line with the ISTE Standards for Students, particularly as a creative communicator (point 6) and global collaborators (point 7) (ISTE, 2022). As a creative communicators, students are expected to:

  1. Choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  2. Create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  3. Communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models, or simulations.
  4. Publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

As a global collaborator, students are expected to:

  1. Use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning
  2. Use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts, or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints
  3. Contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal
  4. Explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions

What are the 6C’s of education?

To be successful, students need more than just the basic 21st Century Skills associated with the 6Cs. They also need emotional intelligence, grit, perseverance, an intrinsic desire to learn, and the capacity to empathize with others. Therefore, embracing the 6Cs is critically essential to prepare students for their future.

Figure 1. 6C of Education for the Future

1. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the process of filtering, analyzing, and questioning information/content found in various media and then synthesizing it in a form that offers value to an individual. It allows students to make sense of the presented content and apply it to their daily lives (Miro Inc., 2021). This skill covers problem-solving, higher-order thinking (HOT) skills, real-world problems, project-based learning, and interdisciplinary approach.

Chiruguru (2020) further elaborates four (4) definitions of critical thinking and problem solving:

1. Reason effectively a. Use various types of reasoning (inductive, deductive, etc.) as appropriate to the situation.

2. Use systems thinking

a. Analyze how parts interact to produce overall outcomes in complex systems.

3. Make judgments and decisions.

a. Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims, and beliefs.

b. Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view.

c. Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments.

d. Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis.

e. Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes.

4. Solve problems

a. Solve unfamiliar problems in conventional and innovative ways.

b. Identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions.

2. Communication

Communication provides how the individual can present information. Information is presented in a multitude of means through a variety of media. Communication must be clear and concise, compelling and engaging, and eventually be presented in a meaningful way to the individual and the audience. This skill covers effective communication, self and peer review, information fluency, media fluency, and digital fluency.

Chiruguru (2020) defines communication as sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions. It is much easier and more challenging to communicate simultaneously in the technological age. Technology has provided more convenient ways to communicate, but sometimes the various ways can become overwhelming. Without effective communication, there is no way to get anything done inside the classroom or anywhere, which is why this is an essential 21st Century skill. Therefore, he further proposes some strategies how to communicate clearly:

  1. Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills in various forms and contexts.
  2. Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes, and intentions.
  3. Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g., to inform, instruct, motivate, and persuade)
  4. Use multiple media, technologies, and know-how to prioritize the impact and effectiveness.
  5. Communicate effectively in diverse environments (including multilingual and multicultural)

3. Collaboration

Collaboration is the skill of utilizing various personalities, talents, and knowledge to create a maximum outcome. The outcome must provide a benefit to a group or the entire community. Due to synergy, the typical result has a more excellent value than the sum of values of each outcome (Miro Inc., 2021). Collaboration skill includes team building, effective communication, self, and peer assessment, collaborative mediums, and suitable technologies.

Further, Chiruguru (2020) defines collaboration as follows:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams.
  2. Exercise flexibility and willingness to help make necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal.
  3. Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member.

4. Creativity

In the 21st century, an individual must create something new or create something in a new way, utilizing the knowledge they have already acquired. It signifies art and various solutions to a problem in real-life situations (Miro Inc., 2021). Howard Gardner cites “the creative mind” as one of the five minds we will need in the future. To cultivate such a mind, he says, we need an education that features “exploration, challenging problems, and the tolerance, if not active encouragement, of productive mistakes.”

Creativity can be closely intertwined with other critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Innovation today has a social component and requires adaptability, leadership, teamwork, and interpersonal skills. Increasingly, the capacity to innovate is linked to connecting with others and communication and collaboration facilities.

Besides, the following are some characteristics of creativity proposed by Chiruguru (2020):

  1. Think Creatively
    • Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (brainstorming)
    • Create new and worthwhile ideas (incremental and radical concepts)
  2. Elaborate, refine, analyze, and evaluate original ideas to improve and maximize creative efforts.
  3. Work creatively with others
    • Develop, implement, and communicate new ideas to others effectively.
    • Be open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives; incorporate group input and feedback into the work.
    • Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real-world limits to adopting new ideas.
  4. View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation are part of a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes.
  5. Implement innovation
    • Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and valuable contribution to innovation.

5. Citizenship/Culture

Miller states the culture as one of the critical pieces of the 6 C’s, while Michael Fullan features citizenship. They are not so different when we look closer and go hand in hand. Individuals need to be in touch with everything surrounding them—both culture and community (Miro Inc., 2021). The culture encourages the individual to appreciate where we have come from, who we are now and how we can move into the future. Besides, it associates the individual with all surrounding them: art, drama, dance, poetry, history, science, religion, written and verbal language, technology, and the individual. Embracing culture covers the context of information, exchange respect, collaboration, building community, and real-world problems.

6. Character Education/Connectivity

According to Miller (cited in Miro Inc., 2021), understanding the importance of human connectivity in a world filled with technology is necessary to teach children. Fullan (2018) highlights character education as the last C. It includes a school’s commitment to helping young people become responsible, caring, and contributing citizens. Connectivity places the individual in touch with their world. In today’s existence, that is increasingly through the technology rapidly changing the way they view their world, understanding that connections are personal no matter the means of contact and that humanity must remain in light of how the technology may change for each individual. This skill includes an interdisciplinary approach, encouraging collaboration, enabling technology, information fluency, and encouraging reflection.

How to foster the 6C in the Higher Education classroom?

Leveraging digital technologies to foster the 6C in the classroom, particularly in Higher Education, is an excellent strategy in teaching-learning activities. Teachers can embrace these 6C skills through online collaborative learning. Online learning is best accomplished through interactions and collaboration (Bonk, 2009; Palloff & Pratt, 2007, cited in Altowairiki, 2021). Online collaborative learning is more than an activity; instead, it needs to be conceived as an overarching way of learning that fosters continued knowledge building (Lock & Johnson, 2017, cited in Altowairiki, 2021). Through collaborative learning, students must communicate in a digital learning community. This way, they can develop and support self-regulation skills, digital literacies, and the perceived learning of students (Blau et al., 2020). In Higher Education, some tools can encourage students to collaborate or work on projects, such as Padlet, Jamboard, Miro, Google docs, Google slides, Google sheets, and many other tools.

Here are some examples of online collaborative learning promoting the 6C skills of education:

1. Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Project-based learning is a teaching method that students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. Shin et al. (2021) propose some PBL design features (Please see Project-Based Learning in Higher Education). PBL has some steps, as seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Project-Based Learning Cycle

Furthermore, as seen in Figure 3, teachers also can incorporate digital technologies in Project-Based Learning. Successful project-based learning (PBL) seeks to develop models for deeper understanding in school and college by engaging students in projects. This method blends classroom teaching, technology use, and problem-solving through projects and real-world challenges (Jain, 2017).

Figure 3. Using Technology in Project-Based Learning

2. Genius Hour

A Genius hour is another teaching method in the classrooms of the 21st century. The movement refers to a certain amount of time during class that teachers give students to explore their passions (Miro Inc., 2021). The crucial part of genius hour is defining a fine line between helping students focus on the problem and researching the topic independently. At the same time, it is acceptable to guide them initially, at some point, to let them work at their own pace and in their style.

According to Heick (2014), in Teachthought, there are six genius hour principles, as seen in Figure 4. A sense of purpose refers to the purpose students find in the topic they choose to explore. Students design their learning methodology, and through inquiry and navigation, students make sense of ideas vital to them.

Figure 4. Genius Hour

These two online collaborative learning activities inevitably foster the mastery of the 6 Cs of education (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship/culture, and character education/connectivity). Besides, the 6Cs highly support the ISTE Standards for Students. Remarkably, these skills play an essential role to equip university students in global competition.


Altowairiki, N. (2021). Online Collaborative Learning: Analyzing the Process through Living the Experience. International Journal of Technology in Education, 413–427.

Blau, I., Shamir-Inbal, T., & Avdiel, O. (2020). How does the pedagogical design of a technology-enhanced collaborative academic course promote digital literacies, self-regulation, and perceived learning of students? Internet and Higher Education, 45, 100722.

Chiruguru, S. (2020). The Essential Skills of 21 st Century Classroom. March, 1–13.

Diaz, P. (2020, January 28). A way to promote student voice—literally.

Fullan, M. (2018). Global Competencies: The 6 C’s FINAL.

Heick, T. (2014, September 28). 6 Principles of Genius Hour in The Classroom.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Students.

Jain, S. (2017, February 5). 7 Ways to Integrate Technology For Successful Project-Based Learning.

Miro Inc. (2021, February 9). The 6 C’s of education.

Perkins, D. (2019, December 12). 8 Steps for Teaching Through Project-Based Learning.

Shin, N., Bowers, J., Krajcik, J., & Damelin, D. (2021). Promoting computational thinking through project-based learning. Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research, 3(1).