Common Sense Review
Updated August 2013

ePals

Students learn together in well-rounded, collaborative global classroom
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Educators can connect their classroom with other teachers and students in different regions across the world based on location, age, language, and other factors.
  • Teachers can also find learning-based projects for their class to participate in.
  • A Teacher Resources section provides lesson plan ideas, forums, and other helpful materials.
  • Students can also access learning resources, including science articles and experiments, geography information, and writing tips, on the site.
  • Teachers can also monitor student e-mail exchanges and easily access project and class information from their homepage.
Pros
The site provides access to students around the world, a safe way to communicate, and ready-made group projects.
Cons
Feedback mostly comes from users, not official sources, but many sections encourage kids to comment on each others' submissions, and they often do.
Bottom Line
A safe communication system and excellent learning materials more than make up for ePals' reliance on user comments for feedback.
Erin Brereton
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Fun items, like multi-player games that reinforce logic skills (which could use better instructions and more ways to learn from mistakes), give kids things to read, watch, and do. Kids are encouraged to submit their own content.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Kids can learn about geography, other cultures, science, and more, and express themselves by contributing original content. They'll work together on group projects and learn about dozens of subjects through articles and other resources.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

A Help Center contains videos and basics on site usage, with tips on topics like student collaboration. The Resources section can help educators enhance instruction with Common Core-related projects and forums to share ideas.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

You get 30 student accounts when you register, and you can set up workspaces for multiple classes. After setting up a classroom, you can post announcements, assignments, and other items for students. Teachers can also help kids connect with students from countries like Peru, Canada, and China who speak more than a half-dozen languages, including Spanish, French, Japanese, and German.

Teachers can collaborate on projects in a private ePals project workspace. They can also exchange ideas on several site forums that center on sharing literature in the classroom, teaching students with special needs, and mentoring new educators. The site has incorporated several safety measures, which it refers to as SchoolSafe; one lets teachers monitor incoming and outgoing student email. To ensure legitimate educators are using ePals, site administrators review new members before they're approved and can interact with other users. Site staff members also monitor forum and media gallery posts.

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What's It Like?

ePals is a website that connects K-12 classrooms in more than 200 countries to share content and ideas and collaborate on projects. Teachers create a profile with a brief description about who they’re hoping to connect with and why -- such as a third-grade class that would like to meet French-speaking students to collaborate on a global green living project. (Users can submit a project, which administrators have to approve, or choose one to join that's based on culture, language learning, and other topics.)

Teachers can search for partner classrooms by language, age, and keyword, and can also factor in region/country and class size. The system will also recommend classrooms. Once connected, classes can video chat, email, or communicate through a private workspace on the site.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Creating a safe space for kids across the world to communicate and collaborate, ePals is a really neat idea that works. In addition to its collaborative nature, the site offers a significant amount of quality content. Kids can share ideas and success stories about trying to change the world in the Global Citizens section, which also includes geography-related activities, quizzes on women's history, and more. A Science Center houses experiment- and environment-based articles, videos, and other materials. The Smithsonian section features museum content.

Kids can also express themselves on ePals by sending a hard news, feature, op-ed, or photo story; sharing poems or visual story representations; or becoming an ePals blogger and submitting a post once a month on a suggested theme. Other activities encourage kids to write fan fiction, check out international reading choices, or learn about different cultures. The site also has more than a dozen games, for a variety of ages, which range from spider matching challenges to Sudoku and stress memory, language, logic, and other skills. It's well-rounded content for kids, and there's lots for teachers to explore as well.

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