No online learning platform puts “global” in global education more effectively than ePals, an absolutely brilliant website that connects millions of educators in over 200 countries and territories.
If you don’t use ePals, either you belong to a shrinking minority of educators unaware of its existence, or you aren’t serious about preparing students to excel in an increasingly flat world.
Unlike so many places of learning, ePals doesn’t pay lip service about technology, global citizenship and preparing students to excel in the 21st century. These folks are the real deal, and they walk the walk better than anybody else.
If ever I form my own school, I would ask ePals for permission to copy its approach:
ePals is a platform designed to promote meaningful teaching and learning, showing teachers and students how to use technology strategically to promote the fundamental learning principles essential for academic achievement. This involves creating a safe and secure content-rich environment that challenges students and educators to research smartly, collaborate with other learners of all ages, think critically, problem-solve, and communicate their learning using various web 2.0 tools. It is this way that technology serves deep learning and is not simply an add-on in the classroom.
Are you designing a history unit on India? Connect with Vilas Yashwantrao, who teaches at Changu Kana Thakur Vidyalaya in New Penvel, Mumbai. If you teach Portuguese, e-mail Vera Vieira of Escola Profissional in Rio Maior, Portugal.
Simply click the “Find Classroom” tab at the top of the main homepage. Users receive an array of options to narrow search results (such as age, region, class size and language). You also select whether to collaborate via e-mail, Skype or video.
Twice, I have had the opportunity to teach an independent study on “Genocide in the 2oth Century.” If I offer it again, I’ll contact Steve Schels of Sparta High School in New Jersey, who teaches a similar course to seniors.
“We would like to know how genocides are remembered in nations which have experienced them and how or if it is taught in schools in these countries,” Schels posts. “We’re thinking of setting up a blog where our students can post their thoughts and we can invite your students to post their comments too.”
It’s so refreshing to find like-minded colleagues in America and abroad, and I can’t thank ePals enough for making these connections possible.
Still not sold? Not a problem. There’s nothing to buy.
Thanks to partnerships with Dell, Smithsonian, Cobblestone & Cricket, Microsoft, National Geographic, IBM and others, the service is completely free—no strings attached.
The site looks absolutely beautiful, and it’s so incredibly easy to navigate. It took me about 15-minutes to learn, but I’m somewhat of a tech geek. I asked three friends to give it a spin, and everybody offered glowing remarks about the site’s intuitive layout and warm, friendly feel. One of my guinea pigs, a new mother, plans to use ePals once her baby gets older.
Teachers can also join larger projects involving multiple schools. I stumbled upon an interesting proposal crafted by an elementary school teacher: “In this unit, students will become meteorologists as they explore the conditions that make up weather. Through an ongoing e-mail exchange, students will share weather related information about their own location while learning about the weather in their ePals location.”
The potential ePals provides is limited only by the teacher’s imagination. Making this all the more true, according to Vice President for Global Community Stephanie Cohen, ePals will eventually allow users to directly embed video, podcasts and other multimedia directly onto the site.
To make successful matches, ePals has an entire staff dedicated to helping create effective profiles and project descriptions. Renowned educators also create content and lesson plans for teachers to utilize as they deem fit. The website also provides a vast array of ePals generated forums, activities, discussions and games.
I’m also super impressed by the site’s privacy settings, which requires children under 13 to submit a parent or guardian permission form. The company also goes to great lengths to protect the limited private data it collects, and to guard against the transmission of inappropriate content, site administrators approve outgoing messages.
As a journalism teacher, I’m especially excited about “News Now: For Students, By Students,” a newly launched feature. In a single swoop, ePals has recruited more potential correspondents than any major news organization. Watch out New York Times!
I have only scratched the surface with the powerful tools that ePals offers, and what’s possible to accomplish on this groundbreaking website. For a more detailed overview, check out the video demonstration at the top of this post.