Chair on Innovative Informal Digital Learning in Disadvantaged and Development Contexts

University of Wolverhampton – Professor John Traxler

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“Developments contexts” describes communities in the Global South that are not technologically or economically privileged; “disadvantaged contexts” describes similar communities in the Global North.

What unites these communities is their distance and difference from mainstream, national, Western or Global norms and resources, and the ways in which this impairs their capacity to live fulfilling lives. The UNESCO Chair has several complementary aims, firstly to explore research tools and techniques that would enable more authentic understandings with these communities, secondly to adapt innovative pedagogies to empower their learning and deploy free and familiar web2.0 technologies to deliver this learning.

Chair Themes

Information Technology
Sustainable Development

Related Chair

UNESCO Chair on Digital Education, Interdisciplinary Teaching and Sustainable Development

Mount Kenya
University, Nakuru (Kenya)


“The designation as a UNESCO Chair is an incredible endorsement, platform and catalysis for what I believe are the vital educational and technological changes and initiatives that will help us address the problems and challenges common to local and regional disadvantage and development.

These include the challenge of getting better tools and techniques to help us understand communities distant and different from the norms of conventional university research and building informal digital learning spaces that empower these communities.”

Professor John Traxler

UNESCO Chairs are based within Institutes for Higher Education and specialise in specific research fields. They provide policy advice to the UK National Commission for UNESCO and HM government, as well as reviewing UNESCO applications.


Many years ago, I did some fieldwork in Kenya talking to communities of subsistence farmers about a proposed project that would have enabled them to access European scientific digital resources on animal health, plant health and soil health. On reflection, much of this struck me as deeply problematic. My European colleagues from scientific backgrounds did not seem to have ways of engaging with the farmers that would ensure meaningful and ethical conversations about the farmers’ lives and needs. Meanwhile, the farmers themselves did not have the hardware, connectivity, literacy or digital skills to exploit the resources being provided online. At the same time, the farmers in different villages or valleys had traditional ways of dealing with diseases but the proposed system did not promote sharing and discussing these, only broadcasting scientific knowledge from Europe.

This experience has been replicated in many subsequent projects and missions, demonstrating several repeating themes. One of these is the lack of research tools and techniques to understand the situations, needs and aspirations of, in the Global North, for example, Roma, the homeless, the displaced and refugees and, in the Global South, for example, minority, aboriginal, nomadic or deeply rural peoples. Another is the focus of international agencies on supporting school systems, often ignoring those communities that have been ignored or oppressed by such system and the linked focus on scale and sustainability, jeopardising minority, indigenous and nomadic cultures, pedagogies and languages.


I am Professor of Digital Learning at the University of Wolverhampton in England and have been recognised as one of the pioneers of mobile learning. My current focus and our UNESCO Chair designation are both a continuation of that and a reaction to it. To explain, mobile learning now seems stuck inside a small community of researchers that still mostly focus on education systems in more privileged countries and communities whilst ignoring the facts that many people use mobile technologies and social media to generate ideas, information, images and opinions and to share, transform, merge, discuss and broadcast them, in fact for people to help themselves and others to learn. I see this as a massive opportunity to empower communities with the learning they value using technologies they control.

Professor John Traxler

John Traxler, FRSA, is Professor of Digital Learning in the Institute of Education at the University of Wolverhampton and UNESCO Chair: Innovative Informal Digital Learning in Disadvantaged and Development Contexts.

He is a Founding Director of the International Association for Mobile Learning. He is co-editor of the definitive, Mobile Learning: A Handbook for Educators and Trainers, and of Mobile Learning: the Next Generation, available in Arabic, of Mobile Learning and Mathematics, Mobile Learning and STEM: Case Studies in Practice, Mobile Learning in Higher Education: Challenges in Context, and Critical Mobile Pedagogy, and many keynotes, panels, papers, articles and chapters on all aspects of learning with mobiles. His journal papers have been cited over 9000 times and is in the top 2% in his discipline. He has worked on many digital learning projects and missions.

He has been responsible for large-scale mobile learning implementations, small-scale mobile learning research interventions, capacity building, major evaluations, landscape reviews, and curriculum development.

He has extensive experience developing e-learning and mobile learning capacity amongst university teachers. Over the last five years, he has become involved in policy and strategy. He is a frequent international keynote speaker, and has worked with a number of international agencies and international corporates.


University of Wolverhampton
Professor in Education


University of Brighton

Role at UNESCO

UNESCO Chair on Innovative Informal Digital Learning in Disadvantaged and Development Contexts

Since 2021



Read about the work of John and his team, within the digital learning sector, below.