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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Sandy Scragg

Online penpals, or keypals, allow students to learn what everyday life is like in other parts of the world. This is a great activity to integrate into your language arts or social studies curriculum. 

To register your class for keypals, or to have students search for their own, we recommend the following sites:

ePALS Classroom Exchange
A completely free service, ePALS provides members with the collaborative tools, ideas and community needed to communicate worldwide in ways that are both fun and educational. 

Classroom Connect's Connected Teacher to Teacher Search Locate and contact educators from around the world to hook up with project collaborators and get keypals. Use Teacher Search to find other educators, or introduce yourself by creating a profile so other educators can find and contact you

Emailing Experts

It's easy to get in touch with professionals via email. It's not hard to find someone's email address compared with their personal phone number or even a direct line at work. You can find someone via a Google search, by visiting a site that has their own roster of experts like RefDesk's hotlist of Experts for pros in various lines of work. A particularly great site is the UN's "Ask An Ambassador."

However you find an expert, remember that these are busy people who may or may not have time to help you and your students. Of course, be polite, make first contact yourself, and get their permission before allowing students to contact them directly. Jill Williams, a teacher in New York City, contacted an orthopedic surgeon at the Yale School of Medicine after seeing his name in an article in the New York Times. Dr. Renshaw began corresponding with Jill and her 5th grade class, sharing statistics on pedestrian safety. His input transformed her class and her students. Read more about Jill's online collaboration and view her curriculum unit on Pedestrian Safety.

Neil Battagliese, a teacher in South Portland, Maine, wanted to address his students' curiosity about extra-terrestrials. He had them email scientists found by emailing the astronomy departments of several top universities. Once they had the scientists' permission, his students created an online survey then graphed the results to compare their beliefs about extra terrestrial life with their own. See the survey results, and view his entire curriculum unit, "Are We Alone?"


A listserv is an email-based mailing list that provides an online forum for discussing issues of interest to its members. Sign up, and messages posted by members get sent to your email in-box. There are literally hundreds of listservs dedicated to education issues. See a sampling of the major lists.

Do you have a question or comment about this article? E-mail Sandy.

Sandy Scragg is a consultant forTeachers Network's TeachNet Project. She has been a technology trainer, staff developer, and an English teacher for the New York City Public Schools.


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