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English for the underserved: alternative technology to close the digital divide

Michael Carrier
Author and ICC Board Member
“English for the underserved: alternative technology to close the digital divide”



Michael Carrier is managing director of Highdale Consulting and consults for a number of educational organisations. He has worked in language education for 30 years as a teacher, trainer, author, and director in Germany, Italy, Poland, UK and USA, and lectured worldwide. Michael has an MA in Applied Linguistics and an MBA, and is engaged in both the academic and management aspects of ELT.

He was formerly Executive Director of Eurocentres USA, CEO of the International House World schools network and Director, English Language Innovation at the British Council in London. He has written many ELT coursebooks and professional articles, including the Break into English series, Front Page series, Business Circles. His area of specialisation is educational technology and until 2014 he was Technology Editor of MET Journal.

He is currently serving on a number of boards - as Trustee of the TIRF research foundation in the US, ICC - the International Language Association, and International Students House in London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, the Society of Authors and the Oxford & Cambridge Club in London.



Researchers have observed that the so-called ‘digital divide’ is preventing learners in emerging economies from gaining equitable access to global education and knowledge resources. It seems clear that the lack of access to digital technology and learning resources, because of infrastructure issues or cost, can reduce learners’ access to information, knowledge, and wider opportunities for education, skill development and employment. But it is also true that new and alternative technologies can help to bridge this digital divide, and this talk will outline those alternative technologies and impacts in the area of English language education.

Much of the research and practice of English language teaching rests upon the assumption that teachers and students will have first world access to electricity, connectivity, learning devices and associated technology. This talk uses research data and evidence from edtech development projects to look at the less privileged world – the next billion learners of English, in rural areas of Africa & Asia, the learners who need radical innovative interventions to help them bridge the digital divide. It looks at primary and secondary school contexts, including rural areas, in the context of both broader educational infrastructure development and the provision of skills needed for economic growth.

Learners and communities have difficulty accessing electricity, connectivity, textbooks. These are difficulties that we can find solutions for, with new kinds of technology that help to solve low bandwidth and low resource issues, for example by leveraging ownership of smartphone devices at low cost.

This talk will reference examples of edtech projects in emerging economy contexts, inviting participants to contribute their experience of both problems and potential solutions. In conclusion, it will demonstrate how the adoption of these edtech solutions to connectivity, content access, power infrastructure and device management could result in disadvantaged learners achieving more equitable access to education.


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