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PenPal Schools – Challenges and Solutions in Globally Connected Learning

This is a guest blog post written by Joe Troyen

 

Globalization for adults – in our workplaces, politics, and daily lives – has been developing rapidly for decades now. However most students are not much more globally connected now than they were before the birth of the internet. While there are many reasons why global learning has been so slow to develop, most fall into one of two categories: too much work for educators and inadequate learning outcomes for students.

Teachers and parents who homeschool their children are notoriously busy, so taking time for global learning – whether it’s coordinating a pen pal exchange or figuring out how to set up a videochat across time zones – just isn’t a priority for most. A variety of organizations provide some resources to help, however many educators fail to utilize these resources, and those who do must still devote a lot of time to coordinating the exchange.

Many educators have put in hours of work to overcome these logistical hurdles only to be underwhelmed by the learning outcomes for their students. I’ve spoken with hundreds of teachers and parents who have struggled to get more than a few outgoing students involved in a class-to-class videoconference, or spent hours setting up a pen pal exchange only to be disappointed by non-responsive partners. Because of the difficulty in setting up a successful exchange, global learning frequently means learning about the world, not engaging with it.

We started PenPal Schools to address these problems and provide a better way for students to connect and learn. Educators can connect with other classrooms and parents around the world in minutes, eliminating the hassle of time zones, curriculum discrepancies, and other logistics. Once connected, every student is guided through collaborative online lessons proven to deliver substantial learning outcomes. All lessons are aligned to academic standards and designed to improve a range of skills – from reading and writing, to digital literacy and social & emotional abilities. And because the program is free, students are exposed to a variety of perspectives from peers spanning 144 countries.

Global learning is often not a top priority due to pressures to focus on hard skills such as reading comprehension and writing. However, by integrating skill development into global projects, it’s possible for students to practice these crucial skills while also expanding their horizons.

 

About the Author

Joe Troyen is the founder of PenPal Schools, an organization that connects over students from 144 countries to learn together through collaborative online projects. Students learn about world cultures and share perspectives on issues such as human rights and environmental sustainability, all while practicing essential reading, writing, technology, and social-emotional skills. Learn more at www.penpalschools.com, check out a map of participating classrooms around the world, or watch a short video: How PenPal Schools Works

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