Tech Class: Thinking Globally (Photo: Brent Foster)

CHALLENGE Find ways to enrich the social studies curriculum for Grade 2 and 3 students, especially those who are reluctant readers and writers.

SOLUTION Use Skype, email, blogs and a variety of web-based tools to connect the classroom directly with students in other countries. Deborah Crep, OCT, has reached out to a school in the United States through and partnered with a former student teacher who now works in Venezuela. She’s partnered with classrooms around the world using activities based on the Flat Stanley book series (

LESSONS LEARNED Crep’s social studies curriculum includes comparing other cultures to your own. “That’s how I started with Flat Stanley. Last year he went to Australia, England and Mexico.” (The Flat Stanley Project was founded in the mid-1990s in London, Ont.) Students in these countries send back the cut-out character with photos and a letter — often by email — and her class makes collages using Smilebox ( With Kidblog (, the students also share pictures and stories with their international friends. “They can read and comment on our blogs, and we can read and comment on theirs,” Crep says.

The next step is making face-to-face connections using Skype. Crep says preparation is key: “We spend a lot time learning how to ask questions, how to learn more about where they live, and what are we going to tell them about Canada.” All the students get an opportunity to spend time in front of the webcam. “I base my oral communication mark on that.”

Crep showcases the students’ work — for all subjects — in online portfolios created with PBworks (, which students and parents can later log into from home.

OBSERVATIONS Being able to connect directly with students around the globe through Skype has brought social studies alive for Crep’s students. “At first they’re shy and they hardly talk, but as the year goes on they’re questioning and answering, and developing these multicultural friendships. It’s really an amazing thing.”

Kidblog also encourages students who find written communication difficult. “Kids that have the hardest time reading and writing really enjoy the blog. Last year, we had one boy who was a non-reader and non-writer, and he was learning that people responded to him if he was just typing ‘LOL.’”

At the first meet-the-teacher night, Crep shows parents how to log-in and see their children’s work online. She says it’s much easier to get parents engaged when she walks them through the web-based portfolios rather than simply sending home a note. She even invites them to participate. “We do a blogging activity late in the year that is just for parents, called ‘What was School Like for You?’ I was really pleased with a lot of the responses.”

HELPFUL HINTS Deborah Crep uses a “tech buddy” system to partner her students with Grade 8s who show them how to log-in and get comfortable with the computer. “When we went on the ePals site together, the Grade 8s were, like, ‘Wow, can we do this too?’”

You can do it too

You’ll need: laptops and a webcam, an interactive whiteboard (if presenting to the class), Flat Stanley books, by Jeff Brown, to introduce the character


  1. create online student portfolios with a free service such as PBworks (
  2. open account with
  3. find partners at other schools through or one of the many Flat Stanley Program website
  4. set up classroom account with (the teacher moderates all posts before they go live)
  5. introduce online activities to parents and obtain their consent