> Penpal Schools

Helping teachers connect their students to learn with penpals around the world and from different backgrounds

PenPal Schools is the world’s largest project-based learning community, with over a quarter million students in 150 countries. Students collaborate through online projects ranging from human rights and the environment to fake news and robotics, all while practicing literacy, technology and social-emotional skills. PenPal Schools was recognized by President Obama and selected by Common Sense Education for the Best Edtech of 2017.

PenPal Schools projects are designed for students ages 8-18 and are aligned to a wide variety of academic standards. All projects are inquiry-based and are offered at multiple difficulty levels, which can be differentiated based on student ability. Some projects are designed specifically to accommodate English-language learners.

Students work in groups with classmates to create original videos, presentations, service projects, art, poems, and more. Students then share their creations with peers, teachers, and parents from around the world in the PenPal Schools Showcase. As students collaborate with their classmates to create projects they practice a variety of social and emotional skills.

Students must work together to combine their various talents, accommodate multiple opinions, and combine their efforts into one cohesive project. To help students create their projects, they log in to complete a series of lessons. Each lesson includes a video, non-fiction text, and discussion question. Once students answer the discussion question they gain access to a forum of thousands of students from around the world who have answered the same question.


Students must then interact with peers from around the world to gather diverse perspectives to include in their projects. Students must develop empathy and respect for other cultures and perspectives, while learning how to collaborate productively with peers with different working and communication styles.

PenPal Schools makes global project-based learning easy for teachers by providing pre-made, self-guided projects. However, teachers still play an active role. Teachers can review student projects in the Showcase, and can review every message that students send and receive in the lesson forums. Teachers can provide students with private written feedback and can grade student work across a wide variety of reading comprehension, writing, digital citizenship, and social & emotional skills. Assessment criteria are customizable and are aligned to Common Core standards. In addition to teacher assessment, students must reflect on their own performance and learning, and are encouraged to provide feedback to classmates and peers around the world.

In addition to reviewing and grading student work, teachers can access supplemental offline class activities as well as a wide variety of professional development resources related to social-emotional learning, project-based and inquiry-based learning. Teachers can also connect with teachers worldwide through educator forums, and can invite teachers from the PenPal Schools community to join them in projects. Teachers can search by country, subject, student age, and other factors to find classrooms around the world to invite to projects.

As part of our professional development opportunities, PenPal Schools provides educators with opportunities to discuss concepts related to project-based learning with colleagues around the world. Our teacher forums are very active with educators and experts who share tips, resources, and examples of success from their classrooms.

Joe Troyen, Founder of PenPal Schools

Beginning in Fall 2018, parents will be able to log in to review their students’ work in the Showcase. In Winter 2018 we will launch a parent mobile app (See a mockup in Exhibit E). Since spring 2019, parents and administrators have been able to analyze extremely detailed and holistic student learning data and access recommendations to address learning gaps.

Join the world’s largest collaborative learning community – PenPals Schools makes project-based learning easy, loved by students and teachers in 150 countries!

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