What is an Email Exchange?

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.

What is a Collaborative Project?

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 clear and simple description of the project
  • Objectives, essential questions or a driving question for the project
  • A list of standards addressed by the project
  • A culminating activity
  • An instructional plan
  • Resources and preparation list

What Makes a Good Collaborative Project?

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:

  • Takes in account perspectives from around the world, & makes connections between local and global;
  • Is  immersive rather than an observational experience;
  • Uses primary sources and field experts when possible;
  • Is problem or challenge-based and guided by a relevant/strong driving question (or series of essential questions) of interest to the students that invites multiple answers;
  • Requires students to truly collaborate throughout the project rather than work side-by-side and then share their work at the end;
  • Has real-world outcomes  and opportunities to communicate and present ideas/materials to authentic audiences, whenever possible;
  • Gives students authentic roles and real-world problems to address, whenever possible;
  • Allows students to make authentic connections and have meaningful interactions with others;
  • Is student-driven and allows for student choices, whenever possible.

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.

Can an Email Exchange be a Project?

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.

And, remember, if you create an Email Exchange Project, in addition to monitored email, you will have a collaborative, private workspace with ePals suite of web 2.0 tools (blog, wiki, forum, media gallery).   (See About Project Workspace.)

How Can I Join an Email Exchange?

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.

In the Join Projects listings, we suggest you use the “Find Your Match” search tool to narrow the search to just email exchanges. Either type email exchange into the key word search, or check the box next to email exchange in the project type to do so.  These projects will be email exchanges that also have project workspaces.  Browse through the projects that are found in your search, and put in a join request to become a member. (How to Join a Project)

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)

How Can I Start My Own Email Exchange?

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.

  1. First consider the parameters of your project. How long do you want this email exchange to last? How frequently do you want students to write? How often will students have access to email and how much time can you dedicate to this project? Will you just use email or will you also use Skype, postal mail, video, etc.?
  2. Then think about some of the partner details. What languages can you communicate in? Do you want partners from anywhere or a specific country? If it is a specific country, what is their school calendar? Can it coordinate with yours? Watch this Preparing for Collaboration video for more tips.
  3. Determine where you will post your email exchange on ePals. There are two places to post your email exchange project idea in order to share it with other teachers in the ePals Global Community—in the Join Project listings and in the ePals Wanted Teacher Forum.
    • Creating an Email Exchange Project

      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.)

    • If you would rather do the email exchange without the project workspace you can post your email exchange idea in the ePals Wanted Teacher Forum. Post your email exchange idea here and invite other teachers to contact you. Teachers can respond to your posts or contact you directly if you include your ePals email address in the message.
  4. Invite Members to Join Your Email Exchange. Browse the Find Classroom area of the site and look for potential email exchange partners.  Use the “Find Your Match”search tools to narrow your search. For example, if your students are learning French, you may want to find ePals from France.  By inputting the keyword France, you will bring up all classroom profiles that mention the word France.  This will likely include classrooms that are looking for partners from France. By further narrowing the search to classrooms from Europe, you will get a much higher percentage of classrooms that are actually located in France. 

    When you find a profile that is of interest, click on the green View Details button.

How do I Start a Project on ePals?

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.

Personalize

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:

  • Add relevant educational standards to the Objectives and Standards tab;
  • Change the format of a culminating activity (from video to PowerPoint, for example;)
  • Adapt the Lesson Plan to use additional tools provided in your private workspace;
  • Create a timeline that works for your classroom.

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.

How Do I Join a Collaborative Project?

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:

  • Featured Projects
  • “Find Your Match” Search Tools
  • “All Projects” Project List

  • Featured Projects:   In this area, you will find projects that ePals recommends.  Featured Projects can include timely projects (for example, projects about the holidays) or projects from our partners (such as Smithsonian Institution or National Geographic).  Featured Projects will change on a regular basis.

  • “Find Your Match” Search Tools:  These tools enable you to quickly and easily narrow down projects to those that might appeal or pertain to your classroom.

  • “All Projects” Project List:  This list includes all open projects –those currently accepting members.

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:

  • Are the ages of the project group participants comparable?
  • Will there be a language barrier?
  • Does the project work time-wise? (school breaks, testing,)
  • Is the topic appropriate for my goals?

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:

 

  • project language
  • Ages of students 
  • Geographical region
  • Type of project
  • Length of project
  • Kind of collaboration

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.

Where Can I Find "Open" Projects to Join?

All project groups that are currently open and accepting new members are listed on ePals Join Project page. 

What is ePals Project Library?

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?

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.

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:

  • Featured Projects
  • “Choose by Project Type” Search Tools
  • “All Projects Templates” Project List

  • Featured Projects:   In this area, you will find projects that ePals recommends.  Featured Projects can include timely projects (for example, projects about the holidays) or projects from our partners (such as Smithsonian or National Geographic).  Featured Projects will change on a regular basis.
  • “Choose by Project Type” Search Tools:  These tools enable you to quickly and easily narrow down project templates to those that might appeal or pertain to your classroom. 
  • “All Projects” Project List:  This list includes all project templates in 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.

  • An ePals Project:  developed by ePals staff
  • A Community-Inspired Project:  These are based on projects successfully implemented by ePals teachers.  Each project includes the teacher’s resources, lesson plans, and examples of student work.
  • Partner Project:  These projects have been developed by one of ePals’ partners: Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic, Educurious, etc.

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 epalsinaction@epals.com.

Where Can I Get Good Ideas for Projects?

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.

You can also find great examples of projects in ePals Teacher Spotlight feature.  Every month, a different ePals teacher is featured for his or her innovative collaborative project.  In addition to introducing the teacher, Teacher Spotlight includes project lesson plan, applicable handouts or rubrics, and examples of the culminating projects.  All elements you might need to replicate the project are available for you.  Began in 2010, we now have more than 60 featured projects.  Go to Teacher Spotlight.

What is a Project Workspace?

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.

  1. Each project group has a Leader (the teacher who initiated the project) the Project Leader is also the “manager” of the Project Workspace.
  2. Members of the group include all teachers and students who have been accepted into the project by the Project Leader.
  3. Project Workspaces are set up with built-in permissions, based on a user’s role (manager or member.)
  4. Project groups are private and can only be seen by members of the group.
  5. Content in project groups is not moderated, since it is a private space visible to only your group members.

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:

  • Home
  • Calendar
  • File Exchange (2 Media Galleries)
  • Discussions (2 Forums)
  • Project Blogs (2 Blogs)
  • Project Wiki

What Tools Are In of My 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:

  1. Calendar
  2. File Exchange (2 Media Galleries)
  3. Discussions (2 Forums)
  4. Project Blogs (2 Blogs)
  5. Project Wiki

Calendar

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.

File Exchange

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.

Discussions

In Your Project Workspace, you will find two separate Discussion Boards (or forums).

  • Teacher Discussions: Teacher members of the Project Group can discuss details of the project, teaching techniques, strategies and successes.
  • Student Discussions: Encourage students to get to know each other by communicating on the Student Forums. Ask questions, post polls, find out what student life is really like in another country.  Because these Project Forums are private to your workspace, they are not moderated by ePals staff.  Therefore, students can talk live-time, without waiting for moderation.

Blogs 



In the Workspace Blogs tab, you will find two blogs:

  • Project Leader’s Blog    Project Leader can post assignments and project schedule.
    Project Members’ Blog 
    All members of the group can post in this blog.

Wikis

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

Get Started With a 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.

Get Started as a Project Leader

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:

•Accepting members into the project
•Posting project assignments
•Setting a group calendar
•Uploading documents to your project workspace.

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.

How Can I Share My Great Project on ePals?

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 epalsinaction@epals.com. We look forward to sharing your successes with our global community.