Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Best Christmas Gift Ever

This year I had the great fortune to connect with a teacher in Germany in an effort to design a project through e-pals for our students to participate in.

Our correspondance began through epals and then morphed into a series of exchanges via our personal e-mail in an attempt to get each our students connected and corresponding. There were many hurdles along the way, including: making sure that EVERY student had a partner to correspond with, dealing with language barriers, making sure that the e-mail addresses were accurate, and navigating our own personal technology challenges such as obtaining access to computer labs. In the end, we provided 32 students in Germany and 32 student in New York with e-pal connections.

The e-mail exchanges began in quite a basic manner. Sharing hobbies, interests, names, ages, etc. But they ended in some quite real connections that the students made. One of my favorite moments was the VERY first time a boy named Adam in my class received a message. He literally jumped out of his chair and said, "what is that word you taught us yesterday that means extremely happy?" "Oh yes, jovial...that's how I feel right now!"

As a culminating activity to our e-pal exchanges, we decided to have the classes Skype with one another. This in itself was a logistical challenge due to the time differences, but in the end the German group decided to host an evening holiday celebration and invite parents, and I held a "lunch bunch" celebration. We shared holiday songs (in German and English), ate pizza and allowed each student to come face to face to the camera to meet their e-pal and open a gift.

The project had frustrating moments along the way...as most projects involving coordinating people and technology often have. Was it worth it? You decide....here are some quotes DIRECTLY from the student e-mails:

"I hope you have a wonderful day and you are my best american friend and
very amazing, wunderful and nice. I thank you so much for our beautiful friendship. With love from another land,your friend"

"Every time I have an e-mail from you I´m very, very happy!"

"Thank you for your nice e-mail."

"Your mail is cool"

Reading the things they shared (to the best of their ability with little experience in the english language) was quite special.