Pen pals becoming camera pals

Tuesday, June 19 2012

It used to be that children would have to wait weeks between messages from their pen pals. Depending on the country, these breaks between missives could even extend into the months. With the popularization of email, communication between distant correspondents became easier, but there was still room to grow.

As technology has advanced and improved, the possibilities for pen pal communication have become even more varied and interesting. Many children - and adults - have begun using video conferencing as way to connect with peers from around the world. Instead of just words on a page (or screen), online conferencing allows them to hear the voice, see the facial expressions and even experience the living accommodations of their interlocutors.

Although it works well for homes, many schools are adopting web conferencing as a way of offering their students real-time exposure to different cultures and languages. In fact, some teachers are finding the technology an excellent medium for pupils to practice their foreign conversation skills.

Although it's many steps removed from traditional pen pal correspondence, using video conferencing in this way has many of the same benefits. It can help promote tolerance, breakdown stereotypes and encourage an interest in the rest of the world.

Whether for households or school systems, many people are turning to video conferencing as a way to help children make friends around the world.