Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 16

Accepted Abstracts

Improving English Skills via Interactive Listening: Podcasts and Radio for Developing Countries

Michael Carrier, Highdale Learning (United Kingdom)


Young people in disadvantaged communities in developing economies often find it difficult to gain access to the high quality English language learning they need to gain access to education and employment opportunities.
Secondary school classes are not always effective in producing high levels of language proficiency, and both private schools and language schools are too expensive for many young people. ICT approaches to language learning have been shown to improve students' motivation and lead to better learning outcomes. But the power of modern technology to support learning is less helpful when for economic reasons students do not have access to reliable internet and technology. When we talk about new technological approaches to language learning there is the danger that we focus only on privileged students in rich countries who have access to the latest tools and devices. Part of our obligation as educators should be to find ways to help those learners who do not have access to the latest technology and we can do this by researching and developing more low tech solutions, low resource solutions, to assist students in learning - in both classroom-based and self-study contexts. This talk will outline such a project designed to find solutions to this problem. The 'English Connects' project produced low level English language learning interactive listening activities that students could access for free, either online or through broadcast radio. These learning programmes develop new types of interactivity so that learners can develop listening and speaking skills even if they are not able to participate in a classroom environment. Interactive radio has been used in many countries to develop broader educational skills (cf World Bank (2010) referring to EDC's radio programmes). This project uses a simplified version that could be used by teachers in class, or by students listening to podcasts online (if they have internet access), or listening to free radio broadcasts from local stations. The content of the materials is designed to match the local context, in this case West African Francophone countries like Senegal and Mali.
The programs were developed in two strands: General English which contained tourist contacts and simple interactions with foreign visitors colour, and English for the Workplace which focused on the English needed to work locally in the offices of an international company or in the tourism and hospitality industries. The talk will outline the nature of the learning approaches, activities and materials in this project and engage the audience in discussions of how to provide low resource solutions to learners in developing economies and disadvantaged communities.

Keywords: Online learning, listening activities, radio, podcasts.

[1] World Bank (2010) Retrieved from:

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