08 July 2013

Pen Pals PBL: Found an International Fan Club

Questions about favorite foods, colors, animals, and classes only go so far in developing a real human connection. But get a handful of teenagers going on their favorite celebrities or pastimes, and they can go on and on. However, aside from language barriers, there is also the matter of being able to find common interests across cultures. Sure, there may be a quorum on each side of the Skype of kids who are into the Jonas Brothers, but one side's passion for basketball is met with the same polite indifference that the other's fútbol mania evokes for them.

So what is the problem that needs to be solved in a pen pal--or epal--exchange? Finding and sharing those common interests. What's more, at the outset, there might not BE anything in common,  so the problem becomes a matter of persuasion: THIS is what you need to know about my favorite team/artist/hobby, and THIS is why and how you should find out more.

Driving Question: How can you get kids in Argentina* to participate in a fan club devoted to what you're most passionate about?

The project-type outcome I predict would probably have to be some sort of online presentation, probably a site that could be updated communally, like a wiki or a blog--a choice that could be left up to kids depending on what they want to present and how. They'll probably want to incorporate some video and/or music and photos, and they'll need to explain what the Argentine audience is seeing/hearing and what's cool about it. Of course a little background information will be necessary too, and it can be skeletal stats-type information or narrative (depending on the student's proficiency/comfort level).

I also think this could be an excellent way to form natural collaborative groups--those who like the same thing sticking together to make something they're all proud of and where they can share the latest news related to their passions throughout the year/semester.

Some need-to-know questions that could help guide the club foundation might be...
  • What do I spend the most time doing/talking about when I can choose?
  • What do I like about doing/talking about this?
  • Why do other people like doing/talking about this?
  • What do other people need to know to understand my passion?
  • How can I make other people as excited as I am about this?
  • What media can best explain what is special about my topic?
  • How can I set up my online club to make people want to participate?

Culmination and continuation
After the small groups create a page to attract new members from Argentina, they'll then share them with their counterparts across two continents--maybe across the country too--and see how many they can get to join AND actively participate throughout the course. This may have to involve a prerecorded presentation built into the sites or asynchronous dialogue connected to them, given the different school meeting times.
I'd like to see the fan clubs become a regular out-of-class assignment, where students do something in Spanish on the page at least twice a month. Possibilities for fan club activities might include...
  • Start/moderate/participate in a discussion in Spanish (multiple exchanges--Skype, chat, forum, etc.) on a topic related to your passion, e.g. favorites and opinions or clarification and advice.
  • Provide an update (current or historical) with links to sources (in both languages?), at least a paragraph in length.
  • Add images/videos (5-10? cited and APPROPRIATE) related to your topic with titles/short descriptions in Spanish.
  • Write and/or record a review in Spanish related to your topic (e.g. song, album, game, event, episode, website, location)
  • Create fan art (including prepared recipes for foodies) and describe in a paragraph in Spanish (or if it's fan fiction or a parody, WRITE in Spanish!)
  • Write and/or record a how-to guide in Spanish related to your topic.

But what if no one joins their club? Why then, they have the option of jumping ship and joining someone else's! Maybe they just end up liking someone else's better than their own--that's okay too! If the English class kids in Argentina end up making their own clubs too, I think participation in one of theirs would be mandatory too. If some groups in classes across the country/continents have similar interests,  they could even elect to consolidate, just participating double, half in each language, on the same site! In the end I would like to come up with some kind of awards for most active clubs and most active members (most active club memberships?) to recognize those who go above and beyond with participation, too, though my objective is for the participation to be its own reward.

* I have a cool connection in Argentina :)


  1. Wow, sounds like a really engaging project for students. Can't wait to see how it goes! Keep us informed! What platform are the students using to create their club?

  2. Most used either Google Slides or Prezi, but Prezi did not load well during the presentations. One group did Wix and another did Google Sites. The kids in Argentina stuck to Blogger.

    We had massive problems getting Google Hangout to work, so we ended up with Skype, and it was tough without screensharing, so we're making videos.