Revisiting the digital divide(s): Technology-enhanced English language practices at a university in Pakistan

Keywords: mobile-assisted language learning, digital divide, digital practices, technology-enhanced language learning, smartphones, learner training


With the rapid penetration of technology in the lives of students, it has become important for educators to look for opportunities to enhance students’ engagement and achievement by integrating technology in education. However, deciding which technologies should be included is a big challenge for higher education institutes, particularly in developing countries with limited financial resources, such as Pakistan. As students’ non-educational use of technologies shapes their academic use of technology and learning process (Swanson & Walker, 2015), integrating students’ preferred technologies can help fulfil their educational needs and expectations. This paper investigates the digital practices of undergraduate students in a public university in Pakistan and examines the impact of gender, study major and medium of education on the use of digital devices by students. The data is drawn from 316 responses to an online survey, administered online. The results of the study reveal that although a substantial proportion of the students had access to digital tools such as smartphones and computers, there was limited use of them for educational purposes. The technology most extensively accessed by undergraduate students for this purpose was mobile phones. Use of university-provided computers and bringing their own computers/laptops to campus were much less popular choices. Further, most students were not sufficiently comfortable with their digital skills to use their devices for educational purposes, although many were interested in getting training in how they could do this.

Author Biographies

Shaista Rashid, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Shaista Rashid works in the area of the integration of technology in language learning and teaching. Her research interests are in CALL, MALL, learner training in the use of technology for language learning and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Una Cunningham, Uppsala University, Sweden

Una Cunningham is Professor of Multilingualism in Education at Uppsala University. Her research interests are in multilingualism and digitally-enhanced language learning. She is the author of Growing up with two languages: A practical guide for the bilingual family (3rd edition with Routledge 2011).

Kevin Watson, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Kevin Watson works in the area of sociophonetics. He uses large scale spoken corpora and experimental methodologies to examine language production & perception and phonological change. He has published on the accents of north-west England and New Zealand, and also on phonological variation in English as a second language.

Jocelyn Howard, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Jocelyn Howard is a teacher educator in second language pedagogy, cultural studies, and the integration of technology in language teaching and learning. She researches language education and language teacher education, covering ESL, EFL and languages other than English, with a current focus on developing intercultural awareness within language programmes.