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Each week, Education World's Great Sites for Teaching About... page highlights Web sites to help educators work timely themes into their lessons. This week's sites are among the best on the Web for teaching about keypals and penpals.

  1. Gaggle Net
    You can't have a keypal without email! This free email service, which allows teachers to acquire email accounts for their students, includes a built-in filter that blocks junk mail and inappropriate language. Because the email is Web based, it can be accessed from any computer using the student's name and password. There is an advertising banner on the screen, but a no-ad service can be purchased for a small price.

  2. ePals
    ePals provides K-12 students with the opportunity to communicate with students and adults in more than 100 foreign countries. Through the use of email, photographs, images, as well as sound and video clips, students learn what life is like in other countries -- and they do it within the security of a registration-required environment.

  3. Key Pals and Correspondents Exchange
    Publisher Houghton-Mifflin offers an array of email projects that allow participating students to communicate with other students throughout the world. The many projects include French Keypals, Toys in the Future, Postcard Geography and a variety of travel Buddy projects. If you're looking for email correspondents with a thematic curriculum connection, this is the place to find them!

  4. Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connections
    Based at St. Olaf's College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, IECC emphasizes a global perspective as it unites classrooms around the world in partner correspondence and email projects. The services are run as mailing lists. Teachers who subscribe can post their own queries for collaborative projects and/or receive correspondence from other teachers. The site includes lists for higher education as well for as K-12 students. Its newest, and possibly most intriguing service, however, is the intergenerational list, which pairs children and senior citizens for correspondence and friendship.

  5. Keypals Club
    Mighty Media offers this opportunity for classrooms to correspond with students from around the world. Members of the Keypals Club can participate in projects or simply form friendships, while being protected by stringent safety and privacy policies. U.S. students must have parental permission to participate.

  6. Keypals Club International
    Keypals Club International was founded by kids for kids and is not affiliated with the Mighty Media club. The purpose of the site, whose motto is "We're a bunch of friends," is to help students develop "a greater understanding of kids around the world through the use of e-mail, chats, club activities and homepages." Here, students can have their own homepage, enjoy chats and email, and be part of a digital community that has the friendly feel of a backyard treehouse.

  7. Student Letter Exchange
    Claiming more than a half million participants a year, this organization calls itself "the world's largest penpal organization." Penpals, not keypals, register at the Student Letter Exchange, which helps locate English-speaking students who want to correspond with students around the world. Registration is free for those willing to allow a penpal to choose them. Ordering a particular penpal requires a fee.

  8. Electric Postcard
    An original long before online greeting cards came into vogue, Electric Postcard allows students to send electronic greetings to friends or classmates. Students create a postcard at the site, then send an announcement to the recipient that a postcard is ready to be picked up. The recipient "picks up" the postcard at the site. A very simple idea successfully implemented here. This site doesn't introduce new friends. It simply allows students the opportunity to communicate with those whose email addresses they already know. It does, however, offer possibilities for promoting correspondence among students within a classroom or school!

  9. Kidworld Keypals
    Kidworld Keypals is a site-based email service at which students browse age-specific lists looking for compatible correspondents. After reading brief descriptions of each child's interests, students choose a keypal and click on the name. A ready-to-use email template appears. Because the child's email address appears on the template, registration at this site requires parental permission. Unfortunately that permission can be typed into a field at the site without a required signature! Still, with teacher supervision, this is a low hassle, streamlined approach to keypals.

  10. Trucker Buddy
    Trucker Buddy is a non-profit organization that matches students and professional truck drivers as penpals -- not keypals. The program offers students in grades 2-8 an opportunity to learn about the driver's travels and provides them with experiences and materials to enrich the classroom curriculum. Although the program is presently full, teachers can enroll their classes on a waiting list. Look at the Trucker Buddy Web sites for Mrs. Platt's class and Mrs. Witte's class to see why the program has become such a success!

Article by Walter McKenzie
Education World®
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