Digital Divide and Language Learners

Hello, I am a new member to this group and I joined because I believe that Learning Circles are becomeing more and more important to adult education. I specialize in teaching ESL and, at best, less than 10% of the target population can be enrolled in ESL classes. At the same time, many adults in general simply cannot attend regular classes no matter what the subject. But they certainly can through learning circles,
Below is an article I have written which sums up my classes and approach.:
Bridging The Digital Divide - at last!
For more than 15 years we have been using the term “Digital Divide” in adult education to describe the fact that low-income adults are not able to afford computers or internet service and are therefore unable to access technology as well as they should.
Well, now there is a solution to this problem that includes:

  1. Teaching computer basics in adult literacy classes.
  2. Providing user-friendly websites in blended literacy classes, which are regular classes that include computer instruction in a computer lab setting.
  3. Providing a means for students to own a low-cost computer.
  4. Using Smartphones as fundamental part of instruction.
  5. Providing texts, CDs, and DVDs and Thumb Drives.
  6. Advertising – publicity.

I have been teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language for more than 25 years and I have been using a Drop-In approach at a public library for a over a year and a half.
The students are low income Latino immigrants, usually women between the ages of 35 and 60. Most of them work during the day and have children. I provide classes to about 25 students on one day of the week, in the morning and evening.
When students enroll in the class, they receive a copy of one of my textbooks and a printed sheet with the information concerning my two EFL websites, and
And if they are own a computer, they receive a thumb drive with many of my texts and videos. I encourage those without computers to buy a used laptop at a second hand store so that they also can use the thumb drive.
All the students are also added to a WhatsApp Smartphone group which I use to send lessons during the week and also notifications, such as cancellations, etc. If students miss a class, I send them the text or video that covers the topic or question.
At the same time I have created Facebook groups which provide English lessons on grammar, pronunciation, Readings and …songs!
People need to solicit membership in these groups and there are about 4000 members in total.
I advertise my program on a Facebook swap meet, and sometimes post a video showing people how to study English at home with my websites and inviting them to the class.
At the same time I am a member of several Facebook groups of English teachers where I post information and participate in discussions. I also have been posting some videos recently and am getting a good response.
Current plans include making my whole program available on Smartphone thumb drives. I have approximately 1500 pages of text, 100 five minute videos and many audios.
The goal is to be able to provide my whole course to anyone who would like to study at home and in a WhatsApp group.
In summary, learning English as a Foreign language is a long process for an adult, and in this way I can provide people with an opportunity to study anytime, anywhere at their own pace – while they also learn computer basics and …bridge the digital divide…at last!!!


Smartphones are everywhere in the U.S. and in many other countries. They are used for communication, information searching, shopping and many, many other purposes; however, many smartphone owners don’t know how to use them, or use them effectively, for advancing their personal or career learning. There is an important role for libraries and adult basic skills or non-formal education programs to help adult (and child) smartphone owners use them well for learning. Learning circles can play an important part.

I have developed a learning circle design whose focus is adult English language learners, or adults who want to improve their basic skills, to help them learn how to download and use apps for their learning, and to build peer-learning support for users of the same adult English language, literacy or basic skills app. The purpose is to help participants get up-to-speed in using English language, literacy and basic skills apps. I have written two blog articles, one on my own blog, for public libraries, and another for adult ESL/ESOL programs, published on the World Education blog.

Here are the links:

For adult ESL/ESOL programs , on the World Education Ed Tech Center blog:

For public libraries , on my own blog:

Please let me know if you have questions or thoughts about how you — or others — might use “App to Speed” learning circles.

Thanks for sharing this @Paul_Rogers Let us know if you end up testing learning circles with your network of English-language learners.

I shifted your post to fit under “courses and topics”.

I’ll also note to others that your courses seem useful for those who speak Spanish who seek to learn English and

Crisis in ESL / Beginners
There has been a change in the way federak funds are used in adult ESL classes for immigrants in the United States (ESL- English as a Second Language).

The funding is being diverted away from classes that include anyone who wants to learn basic English towards classes that only focus on Workplace English. And eventually there will probably be a charge for these classes.

This turn of events is actually a blessing in disguise because technology, especially the use of the smartphone, not only provides an alternative but also can be a better way to teach/learn a foreign language, especially English.

Years ago we talked about “Bridging The Digital Divide” which focused on ways to bring technology to low-income communities. Years ago, such as back in the days of desk-top computers and CDs.

Now nearly everyone owns a smartphone with access to the internet.

I have been “teaching” ESL using smart phones, the internet and WhatsApp for about 5 years now, and at the same time taught “live” classes. Now I have decided to change my whole program so that everything can be done using smartphones, tablets and laptops.

The majority of my students are women who are about 40 years old, work at low-income jobs and have children. Most of them know little or no English, and they lack computer skills. BUT they all like WhatsApp.

I have developed two free websites and I also provide a series of texts which I print up myself and sell at cost.

A major concern in my approach is to help them learn day-to-day English, and, in the case of mothers, how to read with their children, especially if they are first and second graders.

All of these students are all very busy, and English is not easy to learn. So I encourage them to spend 5 or 10 minutes a day reviewing or study lessons.

There is a lot more to this, but for now I will just add that in my opinion it is absolutely necessary to include the use of smart phones in English language instruction so that the students will be able to learn at their own pace, step by step, without the added anxiety of classroom attendance.


Thanks for adding some extra context and the reference.