Monday, November 15, 2010

Mod.11 How could I use ePals in my ESL class?

The most useful feature in ePals seems that teachers (and, of course, parents also) can monitor how students (and children) are working on tasks and communicating with ePals online. Often times, a privacy issue is raised as an important concern with this type of social network (communication) tools. However, if teachers are to search for another teacher who is searching for ePals instead of having students to do so on their own, it might be easier to control the students’ activities and protect their privacies. In addition, since teachers’ profiles must be completed and approved to send and receive emails to/from ePals, they will feel secure in contacting each other.

In ESL classrooms, I would use this website to make students be able to 1) write well-formatted and well-organized emails, and 2) understand and imagine lives of ePals who are living in different ways from the students. More specifically, in a culture class (I can say this is an ESL writing class which is based on cultural contents), I will use the tool for having students compare and contrast (similarities and differences between) the students’ lives and their ePals’. I will first divide the students into some groups each of which explores one country with the members, which means the group members ask an ePal/ePals to obtain information about their lives.  The activity gives the students many chances to carefully think what questions they need to ask, and what type of register they will need to write in when they ask questions. After collecting information and summarizing it, they will give presentations and upload their written work on the website so that all classmates can share the information.
ePals looks a wonderfully useful tool for teachers in finding online friends for students while protecting their privacies, monitoring their work, and motivating them to study by themselves.