In February Lori Lawrence, a 5th grade teacher in Middletown, New York, reached out with a request. She wanted to create a virtual pen-pal class for her 5th grade blended classroom. I thought it would be neat to connect my students in Wyoming with hers in New York and so we scheduled a time for our classes to Skype. The results were amazing!
Students in Wendy Daniels 4th grade blended classroom in Evanston, WY join a virtual pen pal session with 5th grade blended students in Middletown, NY.
Initially we had to arrange some logistics and decide what programs would work best for our kids and our devices. After discussing it with Lori and our techies, we went with the idea of creating a google doc as a base for inspiring awesome conversations between students. I had to think back to what an “old school” pen pal letter would include, and we adapted it to fit our current lifestyle and interests. My students started a google doc, we shared it with our virtual penpals, and the collaboration was incredible to watch!
Minutes into our first online meeting, this was the buzz in the classroom: “This is my favorite day of the whole year!” “Why haven’t we done this before?” “I love blended learning, I can write with my friend across the country and they answer me right away!” “Did you know it’s a blizzard in New York?” They watched the clock hoping class wouldn’t end. After over an hour of real-time conversation, the kids couldn’t get enough. They have kept in touch since then, and continue to inquire about more “meetings” with our New York friends. This was by far the most authentic writing and technology communication experience we have had to date.
Students in Lori Lawrence's 5th grade blended classroom in Middletown NY.
Some clips from the conversations included:
“I’m in 4th grade.”
“Do you take the bus?
“That’s cool I hope you get to be a doctor..”
“You are going to be the best pen pal ever!”
“How many classes do you have?”
Building a blended environment has laid a foundation for essential 21st Century skills , like being able to communicate virtually with people from all over the country or the world. Education Elements has allowed me to network with other blended educators across the U.S. to share and develop best practices, and in this case, my students got to network too. Blended learning has created opportunities for my students to experience firsthand a modern educational experience. I am looking forward to creating even more of these great experiences for them.