ePals Global Community

| NETS*T Standards for ePals Global Community | ePals Site Review

NETS*T Standards for ePals Global Community

1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

Teachers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments. Teachers...
.....a. promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness
.....b. engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources
.....c. promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes
.....d. model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments

2. Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS•S. Teachers...
.....a. design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity
.....b. develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become
active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress
.....c. customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using
digital tools and resources
.....d. provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology
standards and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching

3. Model Digital-Age Work and Learning

Teachers exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society. Teachers...
.....a. demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations
.....b. collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success
and innovation
.....c. communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital-age media and formats
.....d. model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning

4. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

Teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices. Teachers...
.....a. advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright,
intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources
.....b. address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies and providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources
.....c. promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information
.....d. develop and model cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with colleagues and students of other cultures using digital-age communication and collaboration tools

5. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership

Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources. Teachers...
.....a. participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning
.....b. exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community
building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of other
.....d. contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching profession and of their school and community

ePals Site Review

.....I was bound and determined NOT to review ePals because I have seen that site before and wanted to see something different. However, while browsing for another site I was not impressed with any, perhaps because the others seemed more geared toward older students. I'm not sure about the last one ("Collaboratory Project") because the link is inactive. So - I am ending up reviewing ePals anyway.
.....ePals lists itself as a "Global Community", which is exactly what it is. They not only have complete plans for tons of creative collaborative projects, but they also maintain a database of groups willing to collaborate in other projects. You are able to upload your own project ideas and they now do "Teacher Spotlights" focusing on a member's project. This month's feature is "Mystery Skype Location". The teacher sets up a "secret" collaborating classroom in a different part of the country (or world). Each class must develop a list of questions which will help them narrow down the location of the other group. Questions involved details of transportation, climate, agriculture, major attractions, proximity to waterways, and more. They research and prepare answers to the same questions to relate to the other group. When ready, they videoconference to ask and answer all the questions. At the end they try to guess where the other group is located.
.....ePals has also now partnered with National Geographic to provide another set of projects of global interest. Topics include digital storytelling, world holidays, water, weather, global warming, natural disasters, and others. All of the topics are adaptable to each classroom's needs. All projects include details decriptions, lesson plans, evaluations, collaboration ideas, and NETS*S standards which are addressed by the project. I looked at the digital storytelling in more detail to see what it entailed. A calendar is provided as an organizing tool and timeline. The unit itself has six parts: Understanding Digital Storytelling, What makes a good story?, Developing a Story Topic, Writing the Story, Creating the Images, and Sharing and Reflecting. Understanding Digital Storytelling gives background information on what is meant by the term "digital storytelling" and provides journaling ideas to get started. It provides a link to video projects created in Africa. The only bad part of this is that the stories are in French with English subtitles so the students need to be old enough to read it on their own or have it read to them. The examples are all very good though. What makes a good story? offers discussion questions and asks the students to create a definition of a "good story". They then share their ideas with their collaborative partners via email. Developing a Story Topic discusses types of stories with a brainstorming activity and another email assignment to help them choose a topic for their project. Writing the Story guides students through the beginning stages of story creation using graphic organizers and find a collaborative partner (prearranged choices by the teacher) to share their story creation with. As they begin writing, they engage in peer editing via email. Creating the Images has the students create a storyboard to organize the details of the images they will need for their stories. Sharing and Reflecting is the final stage of the project. This is where they do their filming and put their projects together. They share their stories and offer reflections and support to each others' finished products.
.....When searching for projects and collaborators, ePals enables you to search by project types, countries, classroom profiles, and by teachers. They also provide teacher, student, and family resources. I was very impressed with the ePals collaborative site, even more so than the first time I browsed through it a couple years ago. Though our district does not support online collaboration yet, the project ideas can be done locally using technology as a starter. When our district is ready to allow collaboration at the elementary level, this is the first place I am heading!