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The 7 Keys of the Dragon: An e-learning game-like environment for Albanian and Russian

In this paper we report the development of an interactive open source extensible software for the teaching/learning of Albanian and Russian to students (9-12 years old) with the respective languages as their heritage languages. This game-like e-learning environment, dubbed the 7 Keys of the Dragon, is designed to supplement the material that was created for the language classes and, ultimately, to preserve bilingualism. At the theoretical level, it builds on insights from: (a) Cummins’ (2001 et seq.) Framework for the Development of Academic Expertise (Cummins, Brown and Sayers, 2007), (b) Constructivist approaches to learning (Spantidakis 2010) and (c) Transformative pedagogy (Cummins 2001, Skourtou, Kazoullis & Cummins 2006), as well as on the results of a comparative analysis of the ambient language with the languages in question (i.e., Albanian-Greek and Russian-Greek).
Based on the assumption that games in language learning are associated with intrinsic motivation and meaningful exposure to the target language, the environment was set on the basis of a fictional storyline in which the Wizard of a village is captured by a Dragon. Users need to go through certain language tasks in order to earn credits (in the form of keys that open gates) that will eventually allow them to set the Wizard free and complete the game. During the learning process, the user gets constant motivation and a sense of competition by a specific game-module that awards badges for specific achievements (e.g., best author for the user with the highest score in essay writing). Fun graphics, sound effects, and an intro video aim to engage the user in the plot and provide a learning experience that is both fun and educational. Texts are associated with language tasks with different focus (language/grammar, meaning and language use) and three levels of difficulty, which aim at developing the users’ reading and writing skills and, in general, their linguistic competence.
A variety of scaffolding materials (synchronized audio texts, translations, glossaries) and quiz types (true/false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, fill-in-the-table, sorting, pairing, listening, essays, crosswords and non-gradable in-class or at home activities) are associated with each text. In-game assistance is provided by two cartoon-like characters: the Dragon, who provides navigation details and the Wizard’s Apprentice, who provides assistance in the language tasks. All these tools – together with real-time correction of all quizzes – allow the student to work on his/her language skills on his/her own.
The application also provides messaging between the student and the teacher, and an online magazine where students can post their activities. A separate application for teachers facilitates essay correction and commenting on the students’ language progress and achievements. New texts and quizzes can be added over time using the administrator application, which also provides an environment for user management. All data, including user information, learning material and user answers to quizzes, is stored in, and retrieved from an online database. An embedded updater automatically downloads the latest version of the application, ensuring all users are always up to date.


Anthi Revithiadou    
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Anthi Revithiadou is currently Associate Professor of Linguistics (Phonology) at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Her research interests focus on phonological theory, the morphosyntax-phonology interface, language typology, grammar modelling and L2 acquisition. From September 2010 till November 2013 she was the Project Leader of Action 5: Reinforcement of the Mother Tongue in the Program Education of Immigrant and Repatriate Students (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Scientific Director: Prof. Anna Anastassiadis-Symeonidis, URL:

Vasilia Kourtis-Kazoullis    
Department of Primary Education
University of the Aegean

Vasilia Kourtis-Kazoullis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Primary Education at the University of the Aegean, Rhodes, Greece. Her main research interests are Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), Bilingualism and Second Language Learning/Teaching. She has collaboratively designed electronic language learning environments for the teaching of Greek as a Second Language and for the teaching/learning of other second/foreign languages. She has published journal articles and chapters in books on topics dealing with her research interests.

She is academically responsible for two European Union funded projects for the area of the N. Aegean: one dealing with literacy for immigrant families and the other dealing with CALL training for Greek literature/language/history teachers. She is also involved in other European Union funded projects as a researcher where she has designed electronic language learning environments and created communities of learning.

She teaches for two master’s programs at the University of the Aegean and one master’s Program at the Greek Open University where she also supervises dissertations dealing with CALL, bilingualism and second/foreign language learning.

Maria Soukalopoulou    
Department of Linguistics
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Maria Soukalopoulou is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Linguistics, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and a teacher in Primary Education. She holds a degree in Linguistics from the Department of Mediterranean Studies, University of the Aegean, a degree in Primary Education from the Department of Primary Education, University of the Aegean and a MSc in Computer Assisted Language Learning from the School of Education, University of Manchester.
Her research interests concern CALL, L2 Phonology Acquisition and the teaching of Greek as a Foreign Language. In the project "Reinforcement of the Mother Tongue" she was responsible for the design of electronic language learning materials for teaching Albanian to Albanian-Greek bilingual children.

Konstantinos Konstantoudakis    
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Konstantinos Konstantoudakis is a graduate of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. He holds a MSc in Digital Signal Processing with Distinction from King's College, London, UK, and is currently a PhD candidate in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki while also working as a freelance software engineer. In the present project, he has developed the student application, integrated graphics and sound, programmed animations and co-designed the platform along with colleague Christos Zarras.

Christos Zarras    
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Christos Zarras is a PhD student at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. He holds a diploma in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a MSc in Advanced Computer and Communication Systems from the same department. Currently, he works as a freelancer software engineer in various projects of the European Commission and other European Organizations. In the specific application, he has designed and configured the backend infrastructure, namely the application and database servers. Moreover, he has defined and implemented the database schema and web services. Finally, he has developed the Administrator and Master Administrator applications.

Nestoras Pelesoglou    
Night Breed Creative


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