A county Wexford teacher has invested her wedding savings into developing a new website aimed at teaching Irish to primary school children.
Michelle O'Brien (24) from Ramsfort Park in Gorey and fiancé Sean O'Neill have committed the money set aside for their wedding next year to developing Spraoi Ville, an interactive Irish website aimed specifically at teaching Irish to primary schools.
Such is Michelle's faith in the project, that she has decided to teach part time this year, so she can travel around the country demonstrating her website to primary schools.
Michelle teaches French and Business at Gorey Community School, but she saw a gap in the market for an educational website for Irish. ' It's been on my mind a long time, but I started on the project in February,' she said. 'I was working on it from 5 a.m. and then going to work, and then working on it again to 11 p.m. It was a slow creation process.'
'I knew there was no way the banks would give me money, so I didn't even go to them,' she said. 'My fiancé Sean put our wedding fund into it. He's basically financing it. He knew I would make a success of it, and I hope I will.'
She engaged a team of seven web developers in Bulgaria to create the website. She said this was purely on financial grounds, and explained that she got three fluent Irish speakers to proof read all the content before it was put up on the site.
The website went live at the weekend, so Michelle is now hoping that teachers across the country will sign up to use it in the classroom, and that parents will sign up at home, so their children can use it in the evenings. '
Spraoi Ville includes a school, a theme park, and shops, and a farm, where the children explore through Irish. There are four subject areas: maths, geography, science and Irish. The children earn 'coins' for learning and getting answers right, and they can then use these in the rest of the virtual world to buy clothes, food, or go on rides in the theme park.
The website can be screened on interactive white boards which are used in many schools now. 'I've had principals contacting me saying it's a brilliant idea,' said Michelle. 'I'm hoping the kids will go home and do their homework on it.'
Voiceovers on the site have been recorded by several local children. The website will also contain a chat facility, but children will not be allowed to give out any personal information.
While basic areas on the site are free, a fee of €49.95 per year applies, or €4.95 per month. Michelle said that once the website starts earning money, they will add to it, taking into account feedback from teachers.
As for the wedding next year, Michelle hopes the wedding fund will have been replenished by then. 'If you don't take chances, you never know,' she said. ' This week is launch week and I'm hoping it will go well. It's been seven months' work. If Irish is made fun like the other languages, then people will learn it.'
The website can be found http://www.spraoiville.com