May 29, 2012
Osolo, Daly Pen Pals Meet
A typical end-of-the-school-year experience, one classroom of students meeting their pen pals from another school face to face, got a new look last week when two Elkhart third-grade classrooms officially introduced themselves.
And neither group left their classroom.
Thanks to the district's interactive white boards, Jeff Kreider's Osolo Elementary students viewed and chatted with their pen pals from Gladys Stevens' Daly Elementary classroom.
An Osolo student meets his Daly pen pal face to face
Well, there wasn't actually a lot of chatting going on. Just as if they actually were in the same room together and pairing up for the first time, the two groups of third graders were a bit shy.
Kreider, who has been using pen pal relationships in his classrooms for several years, encouraged his students to think of a question to ask their pen pal when it was their turn to stand in front of the computer camera and introduce themselves.
Many students could not think of a question to ask. Several were too shy to even talk to their pen pal, who was pictured on the computer and displayed in larger form on the white board.
Of those who did come up with a question to ask, more than 90 percent of the students from both schools chose "What are your plans for summer vacation?"
A couple of students were brave enough to come up with a question of their own. "What's your favorite subject?" one of Kreider's students asked his pen pal.
"Do you have any pets?" another student asked. "Yes," her pen pal responded.
For the most part, however, the question, or the answer, wasn't nearly as important as the opportunity to introduce themselves and see what their pen pal actually looked like.
This opportunity to Skype, video chat face to face, was a first for almost all of the third graders.
"It's nice to be able to put a face with who you've been writing to," Kreider told his students as they began working on their final letter of the year. "After seeing your pen pal, have you come up with anything new you want to ask them?"
Meagan said she's enjoyed having a pen pal. "It gives you the opportunity to meet new people," she said of the pen pal assignment. "It's nice to have somebody new to talk to and send letters to."
Kobi Barnes is a former Daly student, but said he hadn't known his pen pal before. Kobi said his pen pal letters included facts about himself, such as his favorite subjects and hobbies, and things he wanted to know about his pen pal.
He said the two classes began writing in the fall and it was exciting to finally get to meet one another. "It was amazing," Kobi said. "I'd never seen Jemini before."
Meagan Rodman said she has Skyped before with a friend of a friend, but it wasn't as exciting as meeting her pen pal face to face.
"I felt like I was meeting Airrianna in person," Meagan said. "It felt like we were in the same room together."
Meagan added it has been fun getting to know someone from another school. "I asked her what her favorite subject is and if she watches "I Carly" and "Victorious,'" Meagan said, adding she was surprised to learn Airrianna doesn't watch much TV.
Osolo third graders chat with their Daly pen
pals with the help of a computer and white board
Kreider said he's been using pen pals in his curriculum for several years. His previous class corresponded with his brother's third-grade classroom in Colorado. When his brother moved to a second-grade classroom, Kreider asked Daly's Stevens to partner up.
It felt like we were in the same room together,
students said of Skyping with their pen pals
He pointed out students learn a variety of skills, including writing, editing, and personal communication, when working with a pen pal. "Letter writing is almost a lost art now," Kreider pointed out. "But students still need to learn good communication and writing skills, regardless of which forum the're using."
Big into using technology in the classroom, Kreider explained using Skype to introduce the students to each other seemed like a perfect way to end the school year. He and Tim Myers, Daly's technical coordinator, were able to get the process up and running in the two schools.
Daly's Stevens said the Skype event was one of the highlights of the year for she and her students. "The students have been excited about having pen pals all year, but this took things to a level that made them feel very special," Stevens said.
"The opportunity was a social and personal one, but the technology experience was the most powerful," she continued, adding only a few of her students were familiar with the capability to view and talk to someone using the computer.
"This type of communication is certainly going to be something that will be a part of their not too distant future with the way technology moves," Stevens noted. "Just think about how the students can now use laptops, create computer presentations, and take online courses."
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