Muddling through the blogosphere

NCTE Ports of Entry Session


It was my privilege to join Monica Edinger and William Teale for an early Sunday morning NCTE session, Ports of Entry.

I’ve known Monica – and stood in awe of her work – for close to ten years, so I don’t know why the level to which she promotes questioning, creating, and sharing with her 4th grade students still amazes me. For a glimpse into her Web 2.0 journey, start with her presentation and then take a tour of Edinger House, her classroom blog.

William Teale added another layer to our presentation by pointing out that, although Monica and I have been exploring and experimenting with new tech tools for over a decade, many teacher are still intimidated by technology and the time commitment required for meaningful integration into the curriculum. Bill showcased two online projects: ePals and in2books. Although I was vaguely familiar with both ePals and in2books, I did not realize these two programs are both under the umbrella of ePals, a once fee-based program that is now free and very dynamic. The power of ePals is that a teacher with limited tech proficiency can easily enroll his/her students not only for online pen pal “demographics dances” (bill’s words), but can also connect them to powerful lessons and projects that promote global awareness and social action on such vital topics as water.

The in2books project provides free books to Title 1 schools, grades 3-5, and connects students with an adult pen pal (carefully screened by the organization!) for the purpose engaging students in reading and writing and promoting a love of books. Here’s a link to an NBC spotlight on the program –

OK, and the good news about our 8:30 a.m.-on-a-Sunday session was that our participants outnumbered the three of us, were impressively awake, and seemed to share our enthusiasm for Web 2.0 in the elementary classroom 🙂


  1. Gail – I was one of those “impressively awake” people and thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. Somebody from ePals was there and indicated to me that the in2books offer wasn’t limited to Title 1 schools anymore.

    Two things stand out in my notes from your session. First, you (or perhaps Monica) said “they don’t have to be where the information is” – I thought that was an excellent way to sum up all that we’ve been talking about.

    Second, either you or Monica said something like, “We’re fanatical about their privacy, their safety.” That was the theme of many of the tech sessions at NCTE, the “walled garden” approach, and it has me wondering a lot about what “privacy” looks like now.

    My school is much more open than that, and that’s my preference, too. But I really wonder what “privacy” means in today’s world, and how that impacts our students. No epiphanies there, just something I’m spending a lot of time thinking about.

  2. I enjoyed doing this with you and Bill and learned a great deal. Those who did attend the session were so interested that it made it very, very worthwhile.

  3. @Karl – Thanks for joining our session. I have the contact information for Rita Oates from ePals = roates@corp.epals, in case you want to reach her. I’ll be contacting her too re books for non-Title 1 3rd-5th graders. There’s no mention of that offer in the in2books brochure and I think she said the deadline to apply for non-Title 1 is next week.

    In the seven years that I’ve been involved with student blogging projects, I’ve moved from the “walled garden” approach to a “bringing our voices to the world approach,” but always with the request that teachers monitor comments.

    Carl Young’s NCTE ACE session left me thinking not only about the need for students to be aware of their digital footprints and to think twice about what they are posting/sharing, but also to actively develop a positive online identity. His presentation links are posted – here. I suspect your students are getting a jump start on projecting a positive image.

    Thanks again for joining our session,

  4. Karl,

    I’m thrilled to know you were at our session! You may have meant me regarding the privacy comment; I’m not sure. For me (and those at my school) it is about safety. (I told the story of the child on amazon.) My students are nine and ten and I’m particularly interested in teaching them to be cautious all on their own. I believe you are at a high school? If so, I think the situation is pretty different at that age level. Or do you think not?

  5. Pingback: Vote for Me … Please? « educating alice

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