A group of children play with tablets in class: they have to rescue a group of people who escaped from an oasis and are inside the pyramid of the lost words. To do so, they have to solve a series of language questions. This 1-hour activity takes place once a week and 600 students are enjoying it in Catalan schools, apart from the other 5,000 students from different European countries, which use the tools of the European project iRead in their language lessons. The University of Barcelona takes part in this project together with thirteen institutions from other European countries. The aim is to promote the learning and interest in reading through this game and new technologies, such as e-books for each student and apps so that instructors and linguists can better understand the mechanisms of language acquisition.
“The iRead system (Infrastructure and integrated tools for personalized learning of reading skills) is an adaptive and integrating system to offer help in the developmental process of reading skills and promote interest and motivation in reading”, says the coordinator of the project, lecturer at the Faculty of Philology and Communication, Roger Gilabert. The Catalan students who take part in this project are students of second grade in primary school (in first language lessons) and sixth grade in primary school (in foreign language lessons). iRead is also used in the United Kingdom, Romania, Germany, Greece and Sweden.
iRead uses tablets with three apps. There are games to detect deficiencies in reading (in phonology, morphology, morpho-syntax, and syntax) and suggest solutions. The other app is an e-reader that provides tests with stressed elements that appeared during the game. “For instance, if the student has worked on the suffix –ment when s/he accesses the reader, s/he will see this suffix in bold letters in the text, following the input enhancement technique”, says Gilabert. Last, the system includes a teaching tool that enables teachers control the content. The implementation at schools is expected to last the entire academic year 2019/2020, while the project will end in December 2020 after analysing the obtained results.
iRead, coordinated by University College of London, is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 program. Other participants in the UB are the lecturers Sara Feijoo, Joan Castellví and researchers Antoni Ramis, Judith Serra and Matthew Pattemore, with the support from the Research Group on Language Acquisition of the UB.