What is an Email Exchange?
What is a Collaborative Project?
What Makes a Good Collaborative Project?
Can an Email Exchange Be a "Project?"
How Can I Join an Email Exchange?
How Can I Start My Own Email Exchange?
How Do I Start a Project on ePals?
How Do I Join a Collaborative Project?
Where Can I Find "Open" Projects to Join?
What is ePals Project Library?
Where Can I Get Good Ideas for Projects?
What is a Project Workspace?
What Tools are in my Project Workspace?
How Do I Get Started in my Project Workspace?
How Do I get Started as a Project Leader?
How Can I share My Great Project on ePals?
An email exchange is collaboration between two or more classes where the primary method of communication is email. Students are usually matched one-to-one and emails are exchanged on a regular basis so that students can establish a relationship with their ePals. It is often used for language learning or writing practice but can also be a strong tool for cultural and global learning. Email exchanges can accommodate classes in different parts of the world because the work is done asynchronously—each classroom group can read and write their emails when they have access to their computers.
For an email exchange to be a success, however, the collaborating teachers need to go beyond just organizing the initial contact of students. Teachers (perhaps in collaboration with their students) need to develop interesting topics and tasks, maintain a schedule of email contacts, and provide necessary support and coaching so that students can express themselves and interpret messages, especially if the messages are not in their primary language.
Where Can I See Samples of Successful Email Exchanges?
Spanish Pen Pals – From Paris, Texas to Barcelona, Spain was featured as an exemplary email exchange in our Teacher Spotlight in October, 2012. This project is a language learning email exchange, where students practiced their English and Spanish. In addition to exchanging emails, students sent videos and cards. Teachers provided additional support for the exchange by providing their students with music from the collaborating country, virtual tours of the area, grammar and language support and other mini-lessons as needed.
The French-American Alliance began as an email exchange between schoolds in New York, USA and Arras France. Students wrote about a variety of topics such as their schools, their families, their favorite activities. Students also sent photos, without identifying themselves, to see if their ePals could guess who they were, based on their earlier emails. Also, the classrooms exchanged time capsules of their countries. The American students sent such items as a Pez dispensers, American candy, Spongebob stuffed animals, American flags, Rice Krispie treats and photos. The French students sent French McDonald coupons, French magazines, a local newspaper, French CDs, a student-made movie of their school and photos. The project culminated with an actual meeting between the classrooms in New York City.
A collaborative project is a carefully planned, collaborative experience that is student-driven and teacher-managed, when possible. It is designed to help students learn 21st-century skills as well as academic content. Students often create and present authentic products as a result of the project. When planning and creating your ePals project in the Start Project area, here are some areas that you might want to think about or include.
A good collaborative project increases students' knowledge while enhancing their collaborative skills and global competencies—their ability to investigate the world, their ability to recognize different perspectives, and their ability to communicate ideas to a diverse audience.
A “good” collaborative project might have some of these elements:
Can I See Some Examples of Good Collaborative Projects?
There are many good examples of collaborative projects on ePals. In fact, Teacher Spotlight was developed in 2010 to showcase just that – exemplary collaborative projects that our members can easily replicate in their own classrooms. Currently, you can explore more than 60 projects featured in Teacher Spotlight. Many of these community-created projects are now featured in ePals Project Library. Here are just a few:
The Green Campus Project: explores how our lives impact our geography. Students explore their school campus, identify ways that humans negatively impact their environment, design a solution, and create a 2-minute movie presenting their original solutions. In addition, partners schools send photos of how they are lessening their impact on the environment and share any other creations or sustainability projects currently happening on their campuses. Student videos were posted on the class wiki for ePals members to view, rate and vote on the best solution. The solution receiving the highest rating was implemented on school grounds. Green Campus Project, with its real-world problem and student-driven learning, is now part of our Project Library in the Start Project area of ePals.
The Great Bean Race: This collaborative project, combining science, culture and geography, is a competition among classrooms from different countries to see which collaborative team can grow the tallest bean plant. Controlling for certain variables (including growth time and bean seeds), multiple teams within each classroom design and conduct a controlled bean plant experiment to investigate ideal conditions for growth. On an agreed-upon date, the challenge begins: seeds are planted, daily growth and temperature measurements are recorded in a log. Measurements and digital pictures are taken weekly. Emails messages between classes keep the competition lively. At the end of three weeks, the winner will be declared. The Great Bean Race is now a part of our Project Library in the Start Project area on ePals.
Mstery Skype Location: This is a fairly simple project that offers a great learning experience for the students." Research and problem solving drive this game in which classes exchange clues about their location, while trying to figure out the other classes’ whereabouts. In this short project, students work cooperatively in the classrooms and communicate in real-time with a classroom in another location. They have meaningful interactions, using real-time geography, research and mapping skills. Mystery Skype Location is now part of our Project Library in the Start Project area of ePals.
Yes, an email exchange can be a project. For an email exchange to be a successful collaborative project, the collaborating teachers need to go beyond just organizing the initial contact of students. Teachers need to develop interesting topics and tasks, maintain a schedule of email contacts and develop a culminating activity. You can use the Email Exchange Project that we have in our Start Project library or you can create an Email Exchange project of your own.
You will find teachers looking for partners for an email exchange in two places on the ePals site: in the Join Project listings and the ePals Wanted Teacher Forum.
A teacher who wants to do an email exchange without the project workspace – using only email-- posts his or her request in the Teachers Forums, under ePals Wanted. These teachers have formed a specific idea of what kind of exchange they would like to have.
They are looking for members. You can browse the forum and respond to any posts that look like a good match for your group. Remember – in your mail settings you have the ability to get an email sent each time someone replies to a forums post you’ve made. (See Mail Settings)
You will find teachers already looking for partners for an email exchange in two places on the ePals site: in the Join Project listings and the ePals Wanted Teacher Forum. If you browse both places and don’t find an email exchange that you want to join, you can start your own. To start your own email exchange.
You can create a project in the Start Project area and have it listed in Join Project. Visit the Start Project library and look at Email Exchange—An ePals Project.
This is a basic email project, written by ePals staff. It can be modified to meet the particular needs of your classroom. (See How to Start a Project) If you use this project to create an email exchange, you will get a project workspace in addition to your students’ email accounts. This workspace will include a wiki, a blog, a media gallery and a forum for you and your collaborating teachers to use with this exchange. This might be a good choice if you are going to exchange videos or artwork, as you will have a place to post the artifacts for all collaborating partners to view and comment on them. (About Your Project Workspace.)
Log into ePals.
From your homepage, find the Start Project link on the Navigation Bar, which is the horizontal bar located across the top of the ePals homepage. You will also see a Lead a Project link under the green Get Started tab in the middle of the page. Both of these will take you to the ePals Project Library and the Start Project page.
If you are looking for project ideas, ePals Project Library has more than 60 projects available for you to use. (See What is ePals Project Library.)
To Start a Project, first decide if you would like to use a project template from ePals Project Library, or if you plan on creating your own project.
To Use a Project template from ePals Project Library:
On the Start Project page, choose one of the projects templates from the ePals Project Library, and click the green go button. (See more detailed description of project templates here.)
Once you are in the project template, click on the orange Personalize arrow to start the process of creating your own project group.
You now have the ability to edit the project in any fashion. If a red asterisk (*) appears, you must review this page. Here, you will find a red asterisk on the description page. Here, you will want to confirm that your username appears in the Teacher box. We also suggest you personalize the name of the project. For example, you might want to change the name of “Outside My Classroom Windows – A Community-Inspired Project” to something that reflects your classroom. A good example would be “Outside My Classroom Windows, from Washington, DC, USA.”
We encourage you to edit the project description, to reflect your classroom as well. You may only add one – two sentences, but it will help differentiate your version of this project from other teachers. For example, you might like to add an opening sentence that says “My 10 year old students and I go to school in Washington, DC, where the view from our school windows includes the Washington Monument. We want to know what you see from your school windows!”
Note: This description screen will appear on our Join Project page. There may be several other versions of this project, also seeking partners. The more engaging your description is, the more likely you will be to receive join requests to your project.
Edit Project Content
Go through remaining tabs, editing content as you see fit. You may want to:
To move from tab to tab, click on the green back and forward arrows at either the top or bottom of the page. You can also click directly on the gray tab headings.
When you have finished editing, and are ready to move onto Match Info, please click on the orange Match Info tab.
Provide Match Information
Once you have edited the content of the project, it is time for you to describe the kind of collaborative partner(s) you are seeking.
Again, if a red asterisk (*) appears, you must review this page. Here, you must go to both the Match Criteria tab and the Partner Info tab. (You have already reviewed the Description tab.
Match Criteria Tab
On the Match Criteria tab, you should check all boxes that apply to your project. Choose applicable subject(s), communication tools, project duration and the frequency of communication. Frequency of communication is left undefined; on average, communication of once a week is considered average.
On the Partner Info tab, you are required to give the Project Language. This is the language in which you would like students and teachers to communicate. We define a language exchange as a language-learning project in which all participating project members are able and willing to communicate in all languages described in the exchange. For example, a French-English language exchange might take place between students in France who are learning English and students in Australia who are learning French. (Note: A project run by a teacher in Turkey, which will be conducted in English, is NOT a language exchange, because participating students are not expected to understand Turkish.)
All remaining items on this page are optional. We encourage you to complete them so that your project will attract more interest. The text box at the end, titled “Anything else you want potential partners to know” is your chance to distinguish your version of this project from another teacher’s version. There may be 20 different teachers hosting the same project from ePals Project Library. (Often, there are more than 50 versions of The Way We Are Project on our Join Project page!) By completing this box, you can distinguish your project from the rest.
To Create Your Own Project
On the Start Project page, choose the Create Your Own option from the top of the page.
Once you have chosen Create Your Own Project, you see a short set of instructions. After reading these, click the Personalize tab.
Now, you are at a blank, editable screen.
Just like with a project from our Project Library, there are required and optional sections. A project Title and Description are required. We encourage you to look at each of the gray tabs and add content as much as possible. Next, click the orange Match Info tab. From here on, the instructions are the same as described above, with choosing a project from the Project Library.
Joining a project on ePals is a great way to get involved in a collaborative experience. By joining a project, you will become part of an already-planned project. The Project Leader (who created the project) will guide all participants. This is a great way to get started on ePals.
Most ePals projects are seeking classroom participants – teacher and students (or family and children.) Some projects are for teachers only. (Often, these projects are about professional development or mentoring.)
Currently, there are hundreds of project groups seeking members. Here’s how you can search through them and submit your Join Request.
Go to the Join Project Page
To begin your project search, log into to ePals.
From your authenticated homepage, find the Join Project link on the Navigation Bar, which is the horizontal bar located across the top of the ePals homepage. You will also see Join Project link under the green Get Started tab in the middle of the page.
This will take you to our Join Project page. This page is an index of all projects that are currently accepting new members.
There are 3 parts to the Join Project Page:
Use Search Tools
Before you begin your search for the right project right project to suit the needs of your classroom, ask yourself the following questions:
To narrow down potential projects so that fewer appear in the Project List, use the search tools located on the left side of the page. You may choose to search by:
After you have narrowed the field, please review the projects that appear on the Project List. To do so, click on the green View Details box beneath the brief project description.
Review Project Details
Here, you will see the Project Description.
By clicking on each of the gray tabs, you will find more project information.
The final tab shows information about the teacher who is the Project Leader. If you would like to contact the teacher with questions about the project, just click on his or her name.
This will take you to the teacher’s profile form with a green Contact button. Click on the Contact button to send an email message.
Put in a Join Request
After reviewing the project, you can take one of 2 options:
Join Request: When you click the green Join Request button, an email alert is automatically sent to the Project Leader, who will has the ability to look at your Classroom Profile, and add you to the project.
Save: If you are not ready to join the project, but would like to remember it, you can click the green Save Project button, and this will create a quick link to this project on your homepage, under the Project Management tab.
All project groups that are currently open and accepting new members are listed on ePals Join Project page.
ePals’ Project Library is our collection of nearly 70 project templates for your use. They can easily be edited and adapted for your classroom.
Where Can I Find the Project Library?
From your homepage, find the Start Project link on the Navigation Bar, which is the horizontal bar located across the top of the ePals homepage. You will also see a Lead a Project link under the green Get Started tab in the middle of the page. Both of these will take you to the ePals Project Library.
The project library is housed on the Start Project page. After you have reviewed all the projects in our library, you can easily edit one and begin a collaborative project experience. In the Project Library, you will find an index of all projects that are currently accepting new members.
There are 3 parts to the Project Library:
Please Note: On this page, you will also find tools to help you start your project. These tools are located at the top of the page, by the Select from Library and Create Your Own links. To learn more about these, go to How to Start a Project.
What Kind of Projects are in the Project Library?
In the Project Library, you will find a wide range of projects, covering many subjects including math, science, literature, culture, reading and writing. You will also find projects that have been developed by different groups.
How Can I Search Projects in the Project Library?
To search for projects, use the “Choose by Project Type” search tools to narrow the field of projects. Pick the subject or type of project you’d like to do. You are able to check more than one box at a time.
How Can I Add my Project to ePals Project Library?
If you have developed a project that you have used on ePals, and would like to see in the project library, we encourage you to send it to us or to submit it for recognition in our Teacher Spotlight feature. You can submit projects at email@example.com.
ePals Project Library has over 70 collaborative projects, on a wide variety of subjects, ready for you to use. All you have to do is explore library, choose a project, and, if you’d like, edit it to fit your classroom. Go to Project Library.
On ePals, a Project Workspace is a set of webpages, combined with communication tools, which, in effect, create an online “space” – (imagine an online classroom) where people (“members of the project group”) can congregate to talk about a common topic. In this virtual classroom, educators can develop collaborative and authentic learning activities to engage student interest and motivation. The Project Workspace enables vigorous and real-time collaboration, allowing your students to embark on true, 21st-century, global learning.
To really understand your Project Workspace, you need to understand some of the features and rules that are part of an online project group. By understanding the various roles and permissions, you will better understand how to use your Project Workspace.
Your project workspace includes a suite of digital tools (wikis, blogs, media galleries, forums, calendar) to make collaborative global learning a reality. These tools are embedded into five separate areas:
All teachers who are part of a project are able to post to the Project Calendar. We encourage the Project Leader to post important dates for the Project, including email schedule, due dates for drafts and final tasks, etc. In addition, all teachers in the project should post dates that relate to their own school schedules: school vacations, holidays, testing periods. Adding these dates to the calendar will ensure a smooth progression through all steps of the project.
The Project Workspace File Exchange actually consists of two separate media galleries in which you can store digital files. You can store all kinds of digital files in your media gallery, including word documents, pdfs, videos, photos, PowerPoint documents, excel documents and audio files. All project members (teachers and students) can upload files to the media galleries. All files uploaded to a media gallery can be viewed by all members of the project group. Also, all members can comment on files, and rate them. Comments and ratings are both good ways to bring a social element into your Project Workspace.
In Your Project Workspace, you will find two separate Discussion Boards (or forums).
In the Workspace Blogs tab, you will find two blogs:
In the project wiki, all members of the project group can add new pages, edit content on pages and comment on the wiki. In addition, all teacher members of the group can delete content, delete and edit comments and lock pages of the wiki. At any time, all members of the group can look at older versions of the wiki content by clicking on History.
Download All About My Project Workspace
Getting started with your project workspace is kind of like getting your classroom ready for the first day of school. You may want to start with your calendar, filling in dates in the calendar, posting messages on the project leader’s blog, and posting opening threads in your forums.
See Project Leader’s Tutorial for detailed suggestions.
As the leader of a project, you have the responsibility of moving the project forward. Think of it as being the host of an event. There are several tasks that will fall to you, to ensure that your project runs smoothly. These tasks include include:
By doing these items, you elevate the project and increase chances of a successful, impactful learning experience.
We've developed a Project Leader Guide to help you through each step of the process. Download your Project Leader Guide here.
We’d love to hear about your great projects! If you have completed a great project, we encourage you to submit it to ePals Teacher Spotlight. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to sharing your successes with our global community.