Digital Pen Pals with Gmail


Third graders at Fox Hill School will soon have the opportunity to practice and improve their writing skills through participating in a new classroom center called Digital Pen Pals.

The idea for this new center came from third grade teacher Heather Lisano. Heather wanted a fun and engaging way for her students to not only strengthen their writing skills, she was looking for a way to, “teach and incorporate 21st century technology skills.” After hearing her idea, I offered to create a Digital Pen Pals lesson, a PowToon to introduce the lesson to her students, and a screencast walking students through the process of writing an email using the Gmail app (see videos below).

The best part of the Digital Pen Pals lesson is that students are learning a practical life skill they will carry with them throughout the rest of their academic careers and into the workplace. As our society continues to become more technologically advanced, it is imperative students understand how to communicate formally in a digital space. Learning this skill at the elementary level gives our students years to perfect the art of digital communication.

The Digital Pen Pal center will be a place where students can compose an email to another student using the Gmail app (students are only able to email other students or teachers within the Burlington domain), have a digital conversation, and learn appropriate digital etiquette, which is a major component of responsible digital citizenship.

We hope that Digital Pen Pals will become a center  in all of our classrooms and we encourage all elementary schools to develop a similar digital learning opportunity for their students.

Introductory PowToon 

Rather than introducing the Digital Pen Pal lesson traditionally (written instructions) we created a simple, yet effective video via PowToon. The video introduces students to the core components of an email:

The subject line
The greeting
The body
The closing

The video also emphasizes students should use their best writing skills when composing an email.

Gmail app tutorial 

The screencast below demonstrates how to use the Gmail app step by step and provides students with a real-world example of how they can use email to communicate with their peers and/or teachers.


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