THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
The ISPY project is a Key Activity 2 Languages Multilateral Project, financially supported by the Lifelong Learning programme. The project aims to develop a new online networking platform which allows interaction between young adults across Europe and helps them learn a new language via problem-solving challenges and tasks. The project partners have drawn inspiration from the espionage theme in order to keep foreign language learning fresh and exciting. Learners log in and they are soon challenged, perplexed and entertained while covering a set of ten modules in the target language of their choice. Each module consists of a range of activities including photo stories, web quests, short tasks, quizzes, listening tasks and extended tasks that call for collaboration through a moderated forum. Guidelines are also developed as part of the project to support teacher training.
By encouraging learners to communicate with peers across Europe through a funny virtual environment this innovative project aims to have a positive impact on developing language and intercultural skills. It focuses not only on improving intercultural dialogue in Europe but also on reinforcing language skills that are relevant to the workplace. In doing so we envisage that learners will be able to develop general and vocational language skills for use in both formal and informal situations.
The ISPY project aims to develop a new online platform to help young adults across Europe learn a new language. The platform aims to develop learning situations which will enable learners to learn a new language via problem-solving challenges and tasks within an interactive environment. By fulfilling the tasks learners will be able to develop general and vocational language skills for use in both formal and informal situations.
The project promotes language learning and encourages both teachers and learners to participate more actively in developing their language and cultural competencies. The espionage theme acts as an incentive in this endeavour by engaging its participants (learners/ teachers) emotionally and mentally. What is also innovative is that it gives opportunities to teachers/trainers to develop new tasks at a higher level, hence becoming a progressive learning and teaching tool. Learners/trainees and teacher/trainees can generate their own new learning situations. This would be achieved by the development of guidance tools for creating new content using the existing mission templates.
The main objectives of the project are:
1. Develop an online networking platform for learning languages (general language and vocational language skills) (formal and informal learning context) available in English, Dutch, Spanish, German, Romanian and Polish.
2. Develop learning situations which will allow interaction between learners from different countries who will work together to learn a new language, via problem-solving challenges and tasks.
3. Develop a training manual for teachers and educators, supporting professional development (including pedagogical guidelines and reference to the Common European Framework of Reference)
The project course provides a flexible learning format: learners work at their own pace and work through the activities and quizzes on their own schedule. Learners have an easy access to all materials. They also have access to authentic materials in six European languages (English, German, Spanish, Romanian, Polish and Dutch); all materials are designed with audio files that are embedded into each module (which definitely will help learners improve their pronunciation: from a single word to complete conversations) Learners will have an enjoyable experience while learning by being exposed to a story (on the topic of espionage) that enables them to make decisions based on their knowledge of a situation together with their learned understanding of a language and culture. In addition to basic vocabulary building and grammar activities, the language online course programme includes reading comprehension activities that allow learners to understand new meanings, expressions and words in different contexts. The vocabulary dealt with in the modules belongs to basic categories such as nationalities, food, jobs, house, sports or places in cities.
The project provides innovative tools to sustain and enhance learners’ engagement and motivation in language learning in upper secondary and pre-vocational and vocational education and training. The theme chosen appeals to people’s appetite for problem solving, which makes learning a language memorable and pleasant. The learner is provided with clues from which the identity of the criminal may be deduced but the solution to the crime is revealed at the end of the course/game. The learner cannot find the solution unless s/he achieves the tasks in the target language. Thus, finding a solution to the crime becomes similar to learning a foreign language.
In order to achieve the main project objectives and start the development of the platform, the consortium carried out research on each partner’s national context, language provision, ethnic distribution and representation, general educational systems, teacher training provision, languages taught, methodologies and pedagogies, materials used and techniques and use of ICT in language teaching. The executive summary can be downloaded on the ISPY website: www.ispy-project.com.
The next stage undertaken was the outlining of the learning situations of each mission within the platform. They are now the basis of the flash content which sits within a virtual learning environment and is accessible by all types of learners and educators involved. Each mission implies learning tasks displayed in very attractive technical interactive environments. These missions do not only introduce the learners to the foreign language but also provide them with a lot of practice in the fascinating online space. The learners gradually discover and complete activities which are also rooted in the cultural context of each language. Learners’ progress is ensured by authentic audio files and catchy visual images. The online space is friendly and definitely makes learners feel at home, creating a comfortable atmosphere.
Language learning is structured on topics and achieved through a wide range of challenging tasks (exercises) which guide the learner through the ten missions.
The platform provides interactive, diverse and attractive teaching materials and it enhances the participants’ motivation to learn and tests their competences in learning and practicing formal and informal language structures.
Alongside the platform the partners also developed a pedagogical guide, which includes sections on the use of ICT in language learning, a ‘How to Teach’ section and recommendations for implementation and future improvements. The How to Teach section gives teachers/trainers valuable tips on how to mange the missions in an interactive manner and even create additional missions using the templates of the missions and environments available.
Language learning is interactive, challenging and takes place through a virtual environment which encourages learners to communicate with peers across Europe. The platform benefits from using excellent creative graphics, which suits the learners’ expectations. Its graphics systems stem from advances in image technology, which enables the new story to be told. Its graphics elucidates a decision, dispels a doubt, or adds dynamism to all the project stages.
We are confident that the insights generated by this project will have enduring relevance to people in other contexts The consortium expects to achieve the aims by ”collaboratively working together in developing learning situations which are appropriate for the target users identified. In addition the consortium aims to actively involve learners and other potential end users in order to do this and promote a better understanding between countries and culture”(www.ispy-project.eu).
The main benefit of the project being awarded the ELL was an increase in visibility at national level (as the project was developed with a team of international experts).
In order to develop high-quality projects, we believe that project coordinators should implement projects based on a careful planning, employ diverse teams of experts from relevant areas for the products to be developed and focus on bringing innovation in their field.
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