Friday, September 26, 2014

New and Improved Pen Pals

For this blog, I’ve been asked to explore the website ePals! ePals is a web-based tool that helps students from grades K-12 interact with other students from around the world.
Features of ePals
The main feature of this site is for teachers to find other classrooms that their class can interact with. I found a lot of teachers create an account for their specific class. For example, while browsing the site I came across this ad:
As you can see the teacher gives a brief description of their class stating the age, native language, and goals. There were DOZENS of these postings from countries all over the world. 

There is also a feature called ePals Clubhouse. This is a place where students can connect with each other and publish their writing, play games, create art. The website is incredibly interactive and gives students the opportunity to speak and work with other students.
Parents are largely concerned about who their children are speaking to on the internet. A nice feature about ePals is that it is a protected space for student interaction. The teachers can manage and monitor what the students are able to see and interact with. ePals complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
How I'd Implement it in My Classroom
One activity I found on the site that I was really liked was creating your own cultural profile. First, I would find a teacher who had English speaking children in their classroom that were willing to partake in an e-mail exchange. What I would do is have each student in my class and the other teacher’s class create a cultural profile. This is where a student fills out a Cultural Profile Worksheet that has information about them as well as photos. Each student in my class would be assigned to a student in another class and they would look at their cultural profile. They would read each other’s profiles and create a dialogue based on what they read. If the teacher agreed I would like students to be able to Skype with one another after they have created their questions.
Although this activity would take more than one class, students would have two goals.
  • Students will be able to fill out a cultural profile worksheet using information about themselves.
  • S tudents will be able to generate 5 questions they could ask their ePal after viewing their cultural profile.

This would fulfill NYS ESL Learning Standard 4 that students will listen, speak, read and write in English for classroom and social interaction. They will be writing about themselves while filling out the cultural profile worksheet and the questions they have for their ePal. They will be reading when they are reading their ePals cultural profile. They will be speaking and listening when skyping with their ePal and having a conversation using the questions they had written.
Overall, the site is incredibly fascinating. It gives students the opportunity to interact with people their age that they probably would never have the chance of working with otherwise.

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