Joe Troyen, Founder
Teaching students about the world around them has the potential to be awe inspiring, yet often the lessons and materials can feel removed from the real world, lacking the substance and authenticity to spark excitement.
Access to their international peers is an opportunity to learn about other cultures and ways of life, and to begin to think globally, yet few students have the chance to do so.
PenPal Schools is a social enterprise connecting students around the world through collaborative online projects. Groups of penpals use weekly sessions to connect and collaborate on a selected topic, which could be anything from folk-tales and French art to immigration and environmental protection.
The approach is designed to be simple and effective. Teachers select a project and receive lesson plans that are aligned to Common Core, TEKS and IB international standards. With a PenPal Pro subscription teachers can track progress against a wide variety of standards at a student, class, school and district level and the information can be integrated into Learning Management Systems. A Partner Schools scheme is used to test new projects and features to ensure that the lessons meet the needs of today’s schools.
The lessons develop a range of skills including reading, writing, digital literacy, social emotional learning and world knowledge, with students logging on once a week to learn and share with classrooms around the globe.
Through the high quality learning materials and authentic interaction with global peers, challenging topics such as culture, equality and languages are brought to life. Learning becomes dynamic and students are engaged in building social and academic skills whilst increasing their understanding of the real world implications of what they learn.
Busy teachers need only a few minutes to set up as the lessons are self guided and incorporate mixed media with differentiation to ensure that most learning styles and needs are met. What's more, every student can usually be partnered with 3-4 penpals from a range of different countries, maximising their learning experience.
In 2015, President Obama recognized PenPal Schools as one of the world's leading social enterprises, as part of the Spark Global Entrepreneurship coalition.