Illinois Middle School Students Connect With Friends in Other Countries

An international studies teacher in Waterloo, IL, is using free video chat technology to connect his middle school students with students their age in other countries.

Bill Theobald, who teaches middle school students at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School about other countries, has connected his students to counterparts in Norway, France and Canada, all by using services like ePals, Skype and Edmodo, available to schools at no charge.

And that's the key, Theobald said. "It's all free so schools can afford it," he said in a news report from the Sun Herald.

That's why his eighth-grade class was recently able to connect with their "keypals," an updated version of "pen pals," in Kathrine Kopperud's eighth-grade class in Norway, the students in Illinois calling in at 9:30 a.m. and those in Europe at 4:30 p.m. Oslo time.

The students shared opinions about their favorite holidays — Christmas for the Americans, National Day (May 17) for the Norwegians — and their favorite foods — ham, potatoes and cookies for the Americans and pinnekjott for the Norwegians.

"It's amazing the picture and sound from 7,000 miles away," Theobald said. "The world is so small."

During one video chat before Christmas, the Norwegian students — whose English was much better than the American students' Norwegian — helped their United States-based friends to learn how to say "Hi" in their language ("Hei") and "Goodbye" ("Ha det").

While Theobald's eighth-graders will continue to make friends with the students in Norway, his sixth-grade students regularly connect with students at Aberdeen Composite School in Saskatchewan, Canada, and his seventh-graders with similarly-aged students at College Les Gorguettes in Cassis, France.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.