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PenPal Schools: Connecting Globally
This presentation will introduce an educational website that cultivates intercultural collaborative skills, using examples from work completed by students at a small national university in southern Japan. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is a popular choice for teachers seeking to incorporate real-world English practice opportunities in the classroom. Among the usual methods, PenPal Schools (https://www.penpalschools.com/) offers something a little different. In contrast to traditional online pen pal websites such as ePals (https://www.epals.com/) where teachers set up writing projects via email or snail mail, PenPal Schools is topic-based and does not have a fixed timeline. This makes it more flexible for teachers juggling time, schedule and syllabus differences. Students are kept safe when navigating the online world through monitored exchanges and a website algorithm that ensures that their respondents are kept within their age range. They learn about a topic through reading articles and watching videos, then respond to the topic and connect with peers via comments. Through these activities, students develop respect for other cultural values, and appreciation for their own.