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Letter from the Director Ask Emerson Best Buddies Spotlight e-Buddy of the Month Tech Corner e-Buddies in Action!

contentse-Buddies in Action!

Each month, we are happy to take the time to highlight a school or agency that is involved in e-Buddies. Our hope is that this will be an opportunity to share some of the challenges and triumphs encountered through group participation in e-Buddies!

This month, we spoke with Sin Bee Tan from Castlereagh School in Perth, Australia.

How long has your group been involved in e-Buddies?
I first visited the e-Buddies website towards the end of the year 2003. Our students began their e-mail correspondence at the beginning of the year 2004.

How many members are currently matched with e-Buddies?
There are 11 students currently matched. One of the students has been involved in the e-Buddies project since 2004. Three joined at the beginning of this year.

What are some key challenges you have faced and overcome?
When I first started this project, organizing a format for the students and teacher aides to follow was the main hurdle. A set of written instructions proved unsatisfactory. A pictorial manual that depicts each step (using print screen) soon gave the students some degree of independence. They could read the simple instruction when it is accompanied by a picture. The manual was updated each year when it was found necessary to fine-tune each step.

The biggest challenge I face is to inculcate the students’ confidence. Many students have poor writing skills when they first join in the project. After more than 3 years of observations and learning, we developed a system to provide our students some structured guidance, leading to increasing independence in their writing. In the classrooms, the class teacher use the “Wh..” (Who, What, Where and When) questioning technique to prompt the students to tell their news. Our draft mail template has been modified several times. The present template seems to work well. In addition, our students use Word Q 2, a Word Prediction software, to help with their spelling and sentence construction.

How do you make e-Buddies work with your group?
My aim is to improve the communication skills of our students. After overcoming their initial lack of confidence, they generally are excited to read their e-mails and to reply to their e-Buddies. Receiving emails on a regular basis provide the incentive to write each week.

Our draft email template is structured to encourage our students to ask questions, to answer any question posed by their e-Buddies and to write on a News item based on their personal experiences. Our students tend to write more content in their replies when their e-Buddies ask questions.

What have your group members gained by participating in e-Buddies?
Participation in the e-Buddies project has helped to build up the literacy skills of our students and independence in using the Internet. There is practical relevance to be engaged in reading and writing e-mails. It is hoped that when our students graduate, they will be able to use these skills to network with family members and friends.

An indirect outcome of the project is the boosting of the self esteem of our students. They are engaged in an activity that their mainstream peers enjoy doing in their pastime. Amy Bradshaw, one of our pioneer participants in the e-Buddies project, pleasantly surprised us with her writing skills. She was highly motivated to correspond with her e-Buddy, Kelly. Since her graduation 2 years ago, she has used her skills to write an e-mail to Castlereagh School.

Greetings from the e-Buddies participants at Castlereagh School!
Greetings from the e-Buddies participants at Castlereagh School!

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Do you work with a group of e-Buddies participants? We'd love to feature your group here! Please contact us at ebuddiescomments@bestbuddies.org.


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