I have been teaching French since 1996 and all but four of those years I have had a decent amount of access to technology for my classes, but I never really spent a lot of time using that technology to let my kids meet others abroad until this year.
I have had a membership to epals for about 8 years, I have seen it change through time. This year I decided I needed to do more to get the kids global. I needed to do more to practice their grammar and their vocabulary and maybe build a little more confidence in their language skills.
I had no idea what I was missing all these years. My class has been connected with two different classes in France. My students, despite their level of language skills are able to do a lot with their penpals. As they grow in their skills, the kids are adding more and more to their letters. The French one class has been very directed with what they write. I give them a topic, and tell them exactly what I expect to see in their letters. They get graded on what they write. My older levels are a little more fluent. I give them a topic and let them roll with it.
I get asked almost daily if there is email. It was awesome to open the mailbox a few weeks back and have paper letters. The kids don't know a lot about snail mail, and getting a letter written from someone in France is a very unique lesson for them. We end up spending a lot of time talking culture, comparing the paper, the penmanship, the grammar and language skills the kids have. It is a spectacular way to introduce the kids to cultural things they often miss.
I am very grateful that I decided to locate a class this year. I think my students are going to get connections outside the classroom they never would have had and I am certain their language skills will be expanded greatly.