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Special Education Teacher Mary Formeller

One of the most exciting developments at e-Buddies is the creation of the "e-Buddies Guide to Internet Literacy." This guide was developed in conjunction with Special Education professionals. The e-Buddies Guide to Internet Literacy is a comprehensive program that provides a series of lessons for teachers to facilitate e-mail friendships through e-Buddies between students with developmental disabilities and their nondisabled peers. The Guide consists of a teacher's manual with complete lesson plans, including topics for weekly discussions. In addition, there is a guidebook for student use during each lesson, which includes guided questions to assist students in developing their ideas.

Mary Formeller is a Special Education teacher in Maryland. She has had prior experience with Best Buddies High Schools but not with e-Buddies. She and her students have been using the e-Buddies Guide to Internet Literacy this semester. e-Buddies asked Mary Formeller to describe her experience with e-Buddies and with using the e-Buddies Guide to Internet Literacy.

Mary Formeller: I learned about e-Buddies from [Best Buddies High Schools Program manager] Jill Ellis. I did not participate at first because I was unsure how I would obtain e-mail accounts for my students. Next, I received a phone call from Katie Keiser [a Virtual Volunteer Manager with] e-Buddies, asking if I would field-test the e-Buddies Guide to Internet Literacy. I thought this would be a great way to find out about getting e-mail accounts for my students and structuring the e-Buddy program in a class environment. Getting the accounts was an obstacle in the beginning. We came up with innovative ways to get the kids on line and up and running. Now, all the students have their own personal e-mail accounts through the school system.

Students filled out applications electronically on line to sign up for e-Buddies. Next, they filled out two additional applications to obtain e-mail accounts. These are excellent activities for students in the Learning for Independence Program or students involved in any sort of functional academics program.

The students are now completely hooked on e-mail. They like to check their mail periodically throughout the day (who doesn't?).

Students are not only e-mailing their e-Buddies, but also their peers, teachers, and instructional assistants. Teachers and other staff are able to write to students. One of the e-buddy students just received an email from an administrator congratulating him on his fine performance at his IEP meeting. e-Buddies has been a wonderful program that has helped develop writing skills, technology skills, social skills, and even geography skills.

My students have e-Buddies from all over the world. One of my student's e-Buddies is studying in New Zealand! Others are from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Tennessee. We have a map in our room so students can see where their e-Buddies are from.

My favorite part of the e-Buddies Guide to Internet Literacy is the writing prompts it suggests. This gives nice topics and gives my students an easy jump into writing.

One of my students in e-Buddies was not in Best Buddies despite the encouragement from classmates and staff. Best Buddies went on a group outing. After hearing what an awesome time everyone had, this student e-mailed all her classmates and staff and asked if she could join. After we hooted and hollered in celebration, another e-Buddy e-mailed her back welcoming her to the club and telling her how she will make all kinds of new friends. What a wonderful use of technology.

If you are thinking about introducing e-Buddies to your class, don't hesitate. It is just another venue for matriculating student with disabilities into the school and community.

e-Buddies: Describe e-Buddies in three words.

Mary Formeller: e-Buddies is AWESOME!

If you are a Special Education teacher and would like to find out how your school can obtain the e-Buddies Guide to Internet Literacy please e-mail us at ebuddiesguide@bestbuddies.org.



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