DuoLingo and Rhizomatic learning- an analysis of practice.


This blog post will explore and analyse the use of android application DuoLingo in a teaching and learning environment, showing clear links to learning theory. The application DuoLingo was created by Luis Von Ahn with the dual-purpose of enabling language learners to access lessons for free, while simultaneously translating the entire content of the internet. Language lessons are often expensive for people aiming to learn, cutting off a large amount of the world population wishing to do so.

DuoLingo Creation (skip to 9 minutes)


The DuoLingo application can be downloaded by anyone with access to a smartphone or wi-fi enabled device for free (Von Ahn, 2017). This enables more of the population to learn valuable skills and information easily. There are, however, still issues surrounding access as an internet connection is not a reality for a large proportion of the world’s population (Stats, 2017). DuoLingo can be used by individuals wishing to engage in learning for personal growth, but there is a feature to enable it to be used effectively in the classroom. A school version is available, free to download, and teachers can set tasks and monitor activity from a centralised dashboard. Students can complete tasks and spend time navigating content at their leisure (Van Ahn, 2017)– a far more humanistic approach to traditional language learning and grammar drills (Bates, 2016).



The nature of society in the digital age- where information is accessible at the touch of a button- in addition to the ephemeral characteristics of social trends and media, means that people want everything at a time that suits them. Almost anything is available at the touch of a button. DuoLingo utilises blended learning, a combination of methods designed to ensure retention, and success. The application basically works based on dynamic immersion theories of language learning, much like a baby first learns to communicate (Shapiro, 2015).


DuoLingo also heavily employs a rhizomatic learning theory- using the analogy of a plant growing, new knowledge is like the roots, with no beginning or end, and no external constraints to force direction the learning takes (Cormier, 2008). This is similar, if not a continuance of, Piaget’s theory of schemas in acquiring knowledge (Schunk, 2014) .


The tools that DuoLingo feature are numerous: students can work through lessons at their own pace, and the application will save progress, and provide an accurate proficiency percentage. In addition to this, students earn points and can spend these buying new topics or personalising their profile. As the application can be used in this way, it is clear how it links to Rhizomatic learning theory- no constraints on learning and the individual can progress according to personal potential, not a predetermined marker. Cormier (2008) states:

 In the rhizomatic model of learning, curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process’ (Cormier, 2008, pg 1, online)

rhizomatic learning.png

The role of the teacher using DuoLingo in the classroom is to monitor progress, checking for completion of tasks, to encourage autonomy amongst students and provide support where necessary. Tutor assessments can be carried out, in addition to the gamified assessments the application provides. The teacher, in accordance with Rhizomatic theory, provides a ‘window’ for students to enter an established learning ‘community’, whether it be their peers, or others using the application (Van Ahn, 2013).


The learner plays a much more active role in the lessons than in a traditional behaviourist classroom. They are responsible for their own learning and can repeat lessons when needed, and skip ahead if able to do so. The fluidity of the application means more students can engage with the content- if not in the classroom, at a time that suits them, aligning with humanist theory


Knowledge is viewed as improvement on proficiency levels, a personalised way of measuring rather than meeting criterion based bench marks. Rhizomatic theory dictates, however, that knowledge is difficult to define in the digital age, due to the ephemeral nature of knowledge and technology advancing so quickly (Cormier, 2010). However, as DuoLingo is concerned with teaching language- language does not advance at a speed comparable to that of science and technology, so it is much easier to measure.


Knowledge is gained by context and association- simple words progress to sentences rapidly, via process of elimination and knowing the context (Van Ahn, 2017). For example, in a sentence such as ‘the boy ___ milk’ with options such as ‘drinks’ ‘eats’ or ‘plays’, it is by context that a user can figure out the missing word.


Formal qualifications cannot be gained from this application, but the language proficiency level has been tested independently, and has been shown to be an accurate and reliable measurement of language learned (Vesselinov & Grego, 2012). The percentage a user gains can be imported to online networking profiles, such as LinkedIn- greatly helping anyone using the application for employment prospects.


Advantages of DuoLingo include it being free, easy to access with an internet connection, simple to see and track progress and is a reliable method of assessing language proficiency. Challenges include access issues (% of the world population still have no access to the internet) and digital literacy. Not everyone with access will be able to use the interface, excluding a rather vast proportion of people from learning. It could also be argued, that with no face to face interaction, DuoLingo does not cater for all learning styles as chronicled in the VAK (Visual-Auditory-Kinaesthetic) model of learning (Kearsley, 1998).


885 words


Bates, B., 2016. Learning Theories Simplified. London: Sage publications Ltd.

Cormier, D., 2008. Dave’s Educational Blog. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 03 March 2017].

Cormier, D., 2010. Community as curriculm and open learning. Dave’s Educational Blog, 17 June.

Kearsley, G., 1998. Educational Technology: A Critique. Educational Technology, 38(2), pp. 47-51.

Schunk, D. H., 2014. Learning Theories An Educational Perspective. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd.

Shapiro, J., 2015. Duo Lingo for schools is free, and it may change the EdTech market, Los Angeles: Forbes.

Stats, I. L., 2017. Internet Live Stats. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 03 March 2017].

Van Ahn, L., 2013. Augmented intelligenceL: the Web and human intelligence. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 371(1987).

Van Ahn, L., 2017. Duo Lingo. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 03 March 2017].

Vesselinov, R. & Grego, J., 2012. Duo Lingo Effectiveness Study, New York City: City University of New York.

Von Ahn, L., 2017. DuoLingo. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 03 March 2017].



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s