Cristina Cunha, teacher at Universidad Católica de Valencia (UCV), has designed a computer application that improves children with Down syndrome’s ability to learn English. The online program, based on intelligent tutoring systems, can be used on a tablet or a computer and has doubled the performance of the elementary school students it has been tested on.
This tool, which she developed for her doctoral thesis, reveals an innovative approach compared to traditional methods. Cunha has tested it in different children’s associations in Valencia, Madrid and Málaga, and now aims to broaden the age group it could apply to, the contents it can provide and the countries where it can continue being researched.
The project, presented in the UCV, is based on the fact that ‘in today’s society there is a growing number of adult people with Down syndrome willing to enter the job market, a situation which requires them to have a specific schooling level’, Cunha explains.
That is why these people ‘should undergo training that follows the same structure as other students, although in a way that is adapted to their special cognitive characteristics. In this sense, one of the obligatory subjects is studying English as a foreign language’, she stressed.
In order to ease the group’s learning deficiencies, Cunha designed this online training system, which adapts to the cognitive profile of each student. This tool differs from other multimedia learning methods by its use of adaptive tutoring techniques.
By taking into account the learning characteristics that children with this syndrome share, the teacher has proven that ‘it is possible to improve the learning of a second language, English, specifically, in contrast with other methods that don’t take this collective’s cognitive profile into account.’