When I was young, the way I became interested in English language for the first time was through pen paling with a Canadian friend. The letter we meant here was not emails but real letters. We would write and get letters over a year, which gave me some special feeling of using English. Looking back this feeling was “feeling connected” to the rest of the world.
However, I have been a bit skeptical with using email to be connected to someone you do not know because it could be superficial and does not last long unless you find something interesting enough to keep talking to each other. I thought E-pals was just another site that link you and someone else so that you can send emails and pretend to make a friend for a while. It was not!
The most surprising feature that I found was that there were many global projects going on. The Way We Are is just a kind of the projects. It is an Epals-National Geographics collaborative project where students will engage in a collaborative learning experience to know a diverse of culture and people of different part of the world. Through email exchanges, students will build friendships and learn about the daily lives and characteristics of the local environment of students who live in another region of the world.
I believe this project could help students to improve their writing skills to exchange information with each other, to develop collaborative skills, and raise sensitivity to other culture while they share the purpose of communication.
I strongly believe motivation is the single most important element of language learning and this kind of projects can provide language learners with something other than just language – being connected to other people using the target language.