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Lt. Governor Lawton Announces Wisconsin Connects

Monday, March 23rd, 2009 at 11:57 am

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton announced today at the Wisconsin Educational Media Technology Association (WEMTA) annual conference the launch of her Wisconsin Connects initiative, which links Wisconsin students with classrooms around the world. This initiative is a partnership between Lt. Governor Lawton and ePals, a global community of collaborative learners, teachers, and academic experts in over 200 countries and territories.

“Wisconsin Connects gives students access to high-tech tools that will provide entry to other cultures, build relationships that strengthen America’s stature in the world, improve global understanding and position Wisconsin students to develop their global competencies at a young age,” said Lt. Governor Lawton.  “Participating students will improve their communication and internet technology skills and become better prepared to compete in a 21st century global economy.”

The Wisconsin Connects initiative grew out of a trade and cultural mission to China led by Lt. Governor Lawton last October as chair of the National Lieutenant Governors Association. While in China, Lawton toured a middle school in the Sichuan province, the region of China most devastated by the 2008 earthquakes, and agreed to explore the potential for an international student correspondence program.

Lawton also announced today that Kathy Sanders’ first grade classroom at Taylor Prairie School in Cottage Grove would be the first to sign up for Wisconsin Connects. Ms. Sanders will use ePals to find a partner classroom in China with whom her students can trade e-mails and blog posts about natural resources and energy conservation.

“The opportunity for young students to connect and collaborate with global communities empowers them to reach out creatively in a 21st century environment,” said Kathy Sanders, Library Media Specialist for Taylor Prairie Elementary School in Cottage Grove, Wis.  “I have seen the excitement build as our students share information about their school and their community.  Learning is about engagement, and ePals gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in their own learning and learn about other cultures in the process.”

ePals provides these tools free of charge to Wisconsin schools and allows teachers to access a variety of social networking tools and content, including the Classroom Match feature, e-mail, blogging tools, focus areas, and forums.

Teachers who wish to sign up their classroom can visit the Office of the Lt. Governor website at www.ltgov.wisconsin.gov, click on the “Initiatives” tab, and then click on “Wisconsin Connects” to get started.  Specific questions should be directed to Matt Dulak at 608-266-3516.

“Through ePals, educators can find classrooms from all over the world – including Asia, South America and Europe – with which to safely connect, exchange ideas, and work together,” said Edmund Fish, President and CEO of ePals, Inc.  “Creating opportunities for students to collaborate and experience real life purposes for their work has consistently been shown to motivate students and enhance performance.  We look forward to the success of Wisconsin Connects with Lt. Gov. Lawton and WEMTA as they continue to promote the effective use of technology in the classroom and improve student achievement across Wisconsin.”

ePals was founded in 1996 and merged with In2Books in 2006. It offers K-12 students and teachers around the world a safe environment for building and exchanging knowledge based on protected connectivity tools, evidence-based curricula and authentic, collaborative learning experiences.  The company’s mission is to support lifelong learning through collaborative experiences that empower and inspire.  ePals is especially committed to enabling academically rigorous educational opportunities in economically disadvantaged environments worldwide through the ePals Foundation.  For more information, visit www.epals.com or www.wisconsinconnects.net.

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