PenPal News is an online penpal exchange platform that connects classrooms to discuss current events. By reading news, students learn about real-world issues like immigration, poverty and the environment, and write to penpals about how these subjects relate to their own lives and communities.
Since launching in 2012 (in public beta) over 11,000 students have used PenPal News to learn more about the world and each other. Whether connecting 8th graders in California with peers in Ghana, or 5th graders in rural Arkansas and New York City for our Red State - Blue State election-year program, PenPal News strives to bring together students from different backgrounds to share experiences and find common ground.
Logistically, we make penpal exchanges super-easy for teachers to setup and execute. We automatically partner classrooms (across geographic, cultural, and socio-economic lines) and match students. All written communication happens on our platform and is guided by a weekly Common Core-aligned curriculum, designed to take 45 minutes.
The social writing that happens on PenPal News has greatly increased student engagement and helped capture student's authentic voice in many of our piloting classrooms. As one middle school teacher wrote to us recently, "it's amazing how changing the audience makes a huge difference in motivation to do written work.”
Our team is well-suited to build out a product that combines journalism, technology and online collaboration in the classroom. Michael Bernstein, CEO, previously worked for NPR's "On The Media" and graduated with a degree in Media Studies from Pomona College. Gaelen Hadlett, CTO, previously worked at the startup, Daylife, and has taught free engineering arts classes in public elementary and middle schools in New York City for the past five years. He is currently completing a master's degree in Neuroscience and Education at Teachers College. Marisa Kaplan, head of curriculum development, is an educator, curriculum consultant, and learning architect. She previously taught at The Equity Project Charter School and the Manhattan School for Children. Marisa holds a Master's of Science in Learning Disabilities from Hunter College and a Bachelor's Degree from NYU. She blogs about Ed Tech and other topics at EdGeeks.com.