Virtual technologies and realities for learning foreign languages – “IRENE” project

EFL teacher, students with disabilities, Second Language, SLD, mixed classrooms, IRENE, 3Dlexia, Montessori

Country Studied: Greece, Italy, Austria, Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Netherlands

Area of Focus: Language, Reading, Spelling/ Writing, Assistive Technology, Multi-sensory

“IRENE – Increase the empowerment of adults and migrants with specific learning disorders”, is an Erasmus+ project, started in September 2018 and ending in August 2021.

The project “IRENE – Increase the empowerment of adults and migrants with specific learning disorders”, uses virtual technologies and realities to try help adults learn a foreign language. Partners from seven European countries (Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands and Spain) collaborated to develop and test an innovative methodology and create an E-learning multilingual interactive platform at a transnational level.

The project’s target group are adults between 18 and 35 years old, who experience learning difficulties and are therefore discouraged to learn a foreign language. The project will support these adults undertaking a ‘second opportunity’ to learn outside the traditional school paths. Language teachers will be provided with didactic and methodological tools and will be trained to improve their skills when working with people with learning difficulties.

The IRENE project intends to fill the knowledge gaps through the production of three main outputs:

  • Comparative research of existing teaching methodologies in the partner countries.
  • Didactic approach introducing a model to develop learning content and guidelines.
  • E-learning platform offering playful and stimulating modes for language learning. The platform will be structured in four separate sections: pronunciation; study; exploration and learning together.

Until today, it has been developed:

A Comparative Desk Research of the results of an analysis on the topic of foreign language learning and learning difficulties in adults performed by the project partners.

Partners worked on developing an interactive computer game, where user can take on the role of one of the characters travelling to a foreign country and must navigate both the linguistic and cultural paradigms of the country, as well as explore its historical past and solve the ensuing mysteries.

The main characters in IRENE Adventure are students going on a week Erasmus exchange to different European cities. An Irish student goes to Turin, an Italian student goes to Rotterdam, a Greek student goes to Vienna, a Dutch student goes to Valencia, an Austrian student goes to Vejle, a Spanish student goes to Larisa and a Danish student goes to Tralee. The students are welcomed at the train station of the city by their friends, visit different places together, go shopping and buy things, have dinner at their host families, talk about their lives, learn new things and have an exciting time together.

The Curriculum Design is a description of the model for the learning contents and guidelines, which are used and implemented in the educational platform. The Curriculum Design describes the cognitive objectives, the structure of the platform, the didactic materials and the evaluation of the developed contents.

This method can be used in either an individual or a class course at a university or even a college class. All students can participate and there is no restriction. The important element, however, is that the instructor must be aware of the needs of the learner in order to be able to help him in a separate way and approach.

This practice is an integrated model of education for adults who want to learn a foreign language. Each time the teacher chooses a different way of approaching the course in order to be able to reach his students. After being fully informed of any weaknesses of his/her class, then, if possible, the teacher has the appropriate tools and the students are familiar with technology, then he/she can enlist all the digital programs that will help him/her learn a foreign language.

Targeted Groups of the project are:

  • adults between 18 and 35 years old who experience learning difficulties,
  • immigrants with learning difficulties,
  • foreign language teachers.

The project is aiming to support adults between 18 and 35 years old who experience learning difficulties and are therefore discouraged to learn a foreign language.

The educational project IRENE is innovative as it implements the design of online teaching modules focused to facilitate the learning of European languages by adults with SLD, using immersive teaching set in a virtual reality environment with speech recognition and synthesis.

  • Modern ways of teaching
  • Use of technology
  • Retaining knowledge through a pleasant way of teaching