Almost a month ago, I signed my classes up at http://www.epals.com. It is a website that matches classrooms from around the world that are looking to work on similar projects together. I had my students get parental permission and started e-mailing teachers in other countries that had students of a similar age. I finally had a class respond over the weekend and my students e-mailed students in Italy today. My students are incredibly excited and enthused about communicating with students from around the world.
Here is how it works. After you get parent permission (the site wants it for students under the age of 13, I made all of my students get one), you create an account for each student. There are several options on the types of accounts that you can create for them – those are explained at the site. After you have created the accounts, you get to select the amount of monitoring that you would like to have over each account. I selected the highest level of monitoring, which means that each e-mail has to be approved for delivery both incoming and outgoing. My students grumbled a little bit about this, but when I explained why this was necessary, they understood. It was also a selling point with parents. Students can access their account anywhere they have access to the internet. I have signed up for computer lab time, our ePals are e-mailing us from their homes.
Even after our first day e-mailing, I can see the types of conversations that we will have about letter writing, use of slang, how to write questions, spelling, and editing on the computer. I am excited to have them start receiving responses.
Eventually, I want them to share the books that they are reading and the literature that their ePals are reading. This might lead into a shared project – the sky’s the limit!