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Ribbon HUNDRED 2019
Want to give your students an exciting, authentic connection to the world?

PenPal Schools

Connecting students around the world through exciting, authentic projects to learn about cultures and global challenges. 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.

What is PenPal Schools?

“You won’t find other apps that provide student to student connections guided with learning”

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.

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Innovation Overview
7 - 18
Age Group
500 000
3 718
Tips for implementation
It is free to use the general service. Students will need access to the internet and an internet enabled device. Schools which are unable to provide weekly internet access may struggle to participate. PenPal Pro subscription gives access to premium projects, as well as assessment and reporting functionality. PenPal Pro costs $199 per year for one teacher, although discounts and scholarships are available at the school level.
Contact information
HundrED Review

PenPal Schools combines a global connection with an exciting learning experience. Students from across the world can collaborate and communicate within an authentic context for learning.


Teachers feedback that using PenPal Schools has increased student engagement in learning.


PenPal Schools currently supports English, Spanish, French and Mandarin - PenPal schools is also commonly used as a English language learning tool. To date PenPal Schools is used by 150,000 students in 150 countries.


See this innovation in action

PenPal Schools: A World of Learning


Achievements & Awards


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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Sign up to PenPal Schools
Teachers can visit where they can register for an account. Teachers invite their students to join using the class code provided.
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Choose from dozens of topics
Teachers can choose standards aligned projects from a broad range of subjects such as social studies projects on fake news, the environment, and civil rights, and STEM projects on robotics, meteorology, and geometry.
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Familiarize yourself with lesson content
Go through each lesson before assigning the project to students.
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Pre-teach any necessary skills
Anticipate which areas students may encounter difficulties and consider pre-teaching these skills to support them to access the project.
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Timetable 30 minutes a week for PenPal time
Find the time for students to log in for 30 minutes each week to correspond with their penpals.
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Encourage intercultural understanding
Researching into their penpals' countries and cultures can increase general knowledge and deepen students' understanding of other cultures.
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