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ePals Research Page

 
ePals Research Page


ePals Group Member Introduction Page

                              Created by: Sarah Patterson, Caroline Haywood, Lacey Adams, Lisa Hartman, Julie Strauch, and Jacob Nagelhout


                                  

                                                                                         

                                                                                                                Visit ePals

I. History and Overview

ePals was founded by Nina Zolt (who wanted to improve learning opportunities for all students in this time of technology) and Tim DiScipio (who worked to build a safe place for learning for both teachers and students around the world). The two founders wanted to provide a place for teachers, parents, and students where it would be safe to collaborate and build online educational communities (1).

ePals was created in 1996 and began by being used in only four schools.  ePals has expanded over the last years for the students not only to connect with people but to provide tools for learning.  ePals developed Getting Started guides, quick tips for users, sales demos, and tool kits.This learning network has 4 strong products that are available to schools and districts. These products include: ePals LearningSpace, ePals GlobalCommunity, ePals SchoolMail, and in2books. (12) ePals has more than 600,000 teachers, over 25 million students and parents, and 200 countries (13). This makes it the largest learning network in the world because teachers, students, and parents know that it is a safe place to collaborate and share ideas (13). In 2007, epals and In2Books came together to form ePals, Inc. and the ePals Foundation (17).  Their purpose is to provide opportunities for international classrooms to work together (2)(3). 

"We are thrilled, but not surprised, by the significant growth.Over the past 14 years, ePals has been a market-leader in the field of virtual workspaces for the K-12 education community. We believe that a significant reason for this growth is that, unlike other companies, ePals' sophisticated policy management technologies make it practical for schools to extend the benefits on online accounts to students. In addition, our integration of learning activities and our global community makes it easy for educators to use ePals in their classroom on a daily basis." - Tim Discipio, ePals Co-Founder

 "For the last several years ePals has laid the groundwork for the dramatic shift now occurring in K12 markets around the world. Involving
students, parents and educators in meaningful online learning requires much more than websites, blogs and 'edu Nings.' ePals' products combine
sophisticated policy management technology, robust communication tools, and collaborative learning methodologies. It is these attributes as well
as the cost savings from cloud-based services that have resulted in customers selecting ePals products."   - Ed Fish, President of ePals

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II. How to use ePals

 

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ePals has a very easy to use website with simple navigational tools.  ePals home page has 7 tabs that have the most significant resources for teachers, students, business owners, families, or even community members. 

The first tab is labeled Home and will take you back to the beginning of the website at any time during your navigation through ePals.

The second tab is labeled Projects. Within this tab, anyone visiting the ePals website can choose a project, talk about projects on a forum, or share projects.  Anyone has the opportunity to upload their own project to ePals.

The third tab is called Collaborate.  Here is where anyone can find a classroom to collaborate with.  Also within this section one can search more specifically for a classroom in a certain country or even search for a classroom by project. 

The fourth tab is labeled Teachers.  Within this tab, teachers will have the option to navigate to choose a project, talk to other teachers via a forum, see other teacher’s work, and share their own work. There are also resources for teachers about skill building and training that can be found under the Teacher tab.

The fifth tab is labeled Students.  This tab is the most helpful tab for students who have never used ePals before.  If one scrolls over this tab, they will be able to explore the site more thoroughly.  Students have the option of clicking on Biodiversity, Black History, Storytelling, Team Earth, and eFilms on ePals to be directed to a more in-depth page.   Furthermore, students are given the opportunity to talk about ePals or any subject they wish under the student forum found on the tab.  Lastly, below this tab students can see other student’s work and share their own work.

The sixth tab is for Families.  This tab shows projects for families including, The Way We Are, Digital Storytelling, and Holidays and Festivals.  Under this tab there is also a family forum where families can talk to other families about projects.  Additionally, for those being homeschooled, there is a forum that can be found under the Families tab.

The seventh and final tab is labeled About ePals.  This section can direct you to information about the company, the products, partners, investors, and careers.  In addition, you can find news articles about ePals here (3).

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III. How ePals Relates to other Applications

ePals is a project-based social networking site. Unlike other social networking sites, ePals is considered more of a "learning network." Instead of sharing news or facts, this website lets anyone upload projects and teaching tips (1). ePals does not have much competition like it. It is a virtual workspace for creating, managing, sharing, and working together on educational matter.  It is great for teachers, students, and parents. There are several other websites dedicated to classroom help like Schoology and Blackboard, but none are quite like ePals (14). ePals takes the parts of all the other websites and puts them into one large website. It connects classrooms internationally, shares projects and lessons, and teaches students. Epals challenges learners to think critically, and allows learners of all ages to collaborate with each other in a content rich and safe environment.  ePals also helps teachers to learn to use technology in their classrooms.

StudentsoftheWorld is a website much like ePals. Students can join and find penpals from all over the world. The students can participate in blogs, forums, groups, and chats. They can also learn about other countries, play games, and find schools in other countries. Teachers can also use this website to find penpals for their class. StudentsoftheWorld does not offer anything like LearningSpace, In2Books, Platform, or SchoolMail. Also, members cannot upload projects to the website to share with other members. (32)

A similar website to ePals is iEARN, which stands for international education and resource network. iEARN is a global network for teachers and youth to communicate and collaborate on the internet. iEARN holds a more specific focus on enhancing the knowledge of our world to people to essentially create better global citizens who will improve the quality of life on our planet. In doing this, iEARN has created a website program that is very similar to ePals. It is a non-profit organization that is currently made up of 30,000 schools and youth organizations in more than 130 countries around the world. iEARN was created in 1988 and has established online school linkages to allow students to engage in educational projects with peers in their countries and around the world. Currently, there are 150 projects available. Unlike ePals, iEARN has international partnerships set up with several countries for learning projects. ePals currently is paired up with 200 countries where iEARN has around 130. ePals although very similar to iEARN is more focused on enhancing the education of young students and teaching tips for teachers. (38

Different ePals products offered/ Unique Uses

LearningSpace is a unique way for teachers, administrators, students, and parents to organize and communicate about their educational information.  When someone signs up to be a member of LearningSPace, they create a profile and specify who they are (teacher, student etc).  They then have access to all sorts of programs. They can join or create groups (like Mrs. Smith’s 2nd Grade Classroom, or Heritage High School French Club) and collaborate with the other members who are apart of this group through blogs, forums, wikis etc. Classroom Connect allows two groups from different communities to come together and form one group where they can collaborate with one another. Each member of LearningSpace is also given a digital locker where they can store all their educational documents, photos, videos, and more. They can access these files from any computer. They can also share their lockers with other members to allow for collaboration on the file. Finally each member is given access to ePals’ SchoolMail and GlobalCommunity, which are described below. Every member can be assured of the safety of this site. The member may speicify who can see what information. They can even block all teachers, or students from their information. Also, members can request to monitor all written content before it is published.  There is even an inappropriate language filter. (8)

ePals Global Community is a great way for teachers and students to connect with classrooms from around the country and the world.  Students can collaborate with other students outside their classroom to work on projects and lessons.  This application allows for a safe environment for students to look up other profiles of other students and to collaborate with them through email and work together. This really broadens a student's learning environment (3).

ePals SchoolMail is a free, easy-to-use, and safe way for students and teachers to communicate and collaborate by providing multilingual electronic communication solutions to schools and districts worldwide. This program is very effective and useful for not only the teachers and school administrators, but also the students in grades K-12 and their parents. This program is managed by teachers and administrators and allows free service for them to use with in their schools. Through this program, they are able to monitor email content, while still giving students a safe, easy, and secure way to communicate on their schoolwork with peers worldwide. The only device required for this program is a computer with an internet connection...no additional software or user directories on a hard drive. This program is very well protected and secured for many districts worldwide because teachers and administrators are able to control and monitor the content that is being exposed. If needed, teachers and administrators can block: email messages, unwanted content, bullying, teasing, threats, racial hate speeches, or sexually oriented harassment. This program features: policy-managed email capabilities, instant language translation,(8 different languages provided) virus protection and scanning, anti-span filtration, spell checker, manuals and tutorials, as well as all the other features needed to create an email. Using ePals SchoolMail is a great collaborative learning experience that is said to lead to: improved literacy and cultural understanding through the process of safe global email exchanges with built in language translations, improved reading, writing, and critical thinking skills with the use of online collaboration tools, and the opportunity to enhance in their writing skills through the increased amount of writing used in ePals SchoolMail.  (37)

ePals in2books is a way to form great learning communities around the world. This program allows 3-5 grade students to engage and challenge their learning experience by pairing up with adult pen pals and reading authentic books of their choice and then writing teacher-monitored letters to discuss on topics or issues of the books. This program focuses usually on under-resourced communities with low income or students with culturally diverse backgrounds. Pen Pals help motivate these young students to read and write and learn about people or places they've never seen before. They also have shown to increase achievement on standardized tests. Overall, Pen Pals offered in in2books offer students friendship, guidance, and encouragement to become a smarter and better person. (22)

Platform is a distributed learning platform created to give other companies the opportunity to use the ePals network through sponsorships or licensing. There are four different ways they can do this: a Content Center, a Community Center, an ePals Learning Center, or an ePals Custom Platform. In a Content Center, the company is given a sponsored site in ePals Global Community. The company can advertise their cause to an audience of K-12 students, parents, and teachers. In a Community Center, a company is given a sub-community in ePals. In that community, the company can promote their content through blogs, forums, and other tools. In an ePals Learning Center, ePals creates a learning community for the company where the company’s employees can collaborate and organize information. And in an ePals Custom Platform, ePals creates a Learning Community for the company and also gives them the opportunity to use ePals suite of APIs to customize the Learning Center. (31)

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III. Real World Application

ePals has a great way of relating lessons, activities, videos, projects etc. to real world scenarios.  Below will be examples of lesson plans created for elementary, secondary and post secondary levels of education. Each level will consist of at least one science, teachnology, mathematic or engineering lesson plan.

A great way for students to learn and connect their everyday encounters with the education they recieve is to share it and learn from other classrooms from different parts of the world.  ePals enables students to work collaboratively on projects through their classroom connect for learning.  An example could be two 6th grade classrooms are learning about rivers in science class.  One class is from the United States and the other is from Egypt.  Each classroom can share what they know about the rivers in their country to the other classroom.  Students can be paired off in groups from each classroom and work on a project that involves a river from each country.  They can email back and forth sharing information teaching one another about their native rivers.  Then they can submit the project online to epals. This allows students to connect their knowledge on a broader scale.

ePals is providing a safe secure customizable email for the stuents and parents in the New York City Public School System.  The goal of this program is to provide a safe, secure space where students can communicate and share a learning experience with others in their school or around the district. Parents would be able to receive e-mail from their school about school events and their child’s progress in class, and be able to contact their child’s teachers more easily.(39

Elementary Lesson Plans

Title:

Elementary Lesson Plan #1

Description:

This lesson plan should help student improve their letter-writing skills.

Target Audience:

2nd grade

Objective:

This activity should help students effectively write a letter in a professional format. Children will write these letters to other children in classrooms in other states or even other countries. Thus, they will be able to write friendly letters to children in other places.

Attachments:

^Elementary Education Lesson Plan 1.docx
^Elementary Education Lesson Plan 1.pdf

Title:

Elementary Lesson Plan #2

Description:

This lesson plan will teach students about the six different biomes of the world.

Target Audience:

2nd grade

Objective:

Given their own research, the research of their classmates, and the research of the other ePals classrooms, the students will be able to identify and describe the six biomes of the world through the creation of biome mobiles.

Attachments:

^Elementary Lesson Plan 2.docx
^Elementary Lesson Plan 2.pdf

Title:

Elementary Lesson Plan #3

Description:

This lesson plan will teach students about another country's holidays and traditions.

Target Audience:

3rd grade

Objective:

Given their class discussion, ePals e-mails, and books, the students will be able to show an understanding of another country’s holidays and traditions and identify differences and similarities with American holidays and traditions through participation in discussion, writing of e-mails and a summary.

Attachments:

^Elementary Lesson Plan 3.docx
^Elementary Lesson Plan 3.pdf

Secondary Lesson Plans

Title:

Secondary Lesson Plan #1

Description:

This lesson plan is for students to use their knowledge about rocks learned in the classroom and correctly
identify each class they belong to.

Target Audience:

10-12 grade

Objective:

Given a list of rocks, their textbook and an egg carton, students will be able to correctly collect and classify if rocks are igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic while correctly identifying at least one mineral found in each rock within their collection with 100% accuracy.

Attachments:

Secondary Lesson Plan 1.docx
Secondary Lesson Plan 1.pdf

Title:

Secondary Lesson Plan #2

Description:

This lesson plan is for students to gain knowledge about ecosystems around the world by collaborating with other students around the world through email exchanges.

Target Audience:

9-12 grade

Objective:

Given the opportunity to collaborate with other students from around the world the students will be able to identify and describe the similarities and differences between the ecosytem they live in and the ecosystem of their ePal classroom.

Attachments:

^Secondary Lesson Plan 2.docx
^Secondary Lesson Plan 2.pdf

Title:

Secondary Lesson Plan #3

Description:

The purpose of this activity is for students to imitate the writing style Edgar Allan Poe used in the opening paragraph of his “Masque of the Red Death.”

Target Audience:

10-12 grades

Objective:

Given the opening paragraph of the “Masque of Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe, students will be able to create an opening paragraph that mimics Poe's style (and includes some of the same literary elements he used) with 100% accuracy.

Attachments:

^Secondary Education Lesson Plan 3.docx
^Secondary Education Lesson Plan 3.pdf

 Post-Secondary Lesson Plans

Title:

Post-Secondary Lesson Plan #1

Description:

The purpose of this lesson is for students to understand how different weather can be around the world.

Target Audience:

High school graduate and above.

Objective:

After completing this lesson, students will be able to communicate and work with others from different countries without having to leave their home country, understand weather in different parts of the world and know how to take proper data and interpreting it into a presentation.

Attachments:

^Post Secondary Lesson Plan 1.docx
^Post Secondary Lesson Plan 1.pdf

Title:

Post-Secondary Lesson Plan #2

Description:

This lesson plan is a business writing project that teaches the effectivness of using images in your writing.

Target Audience:

High School Graduate and above

Objective:

Given the opportunity to collaborate with other students within the classroom the students will be able to identify and describe the areas that go into marketing and producing a product for sale on the market.

Attachments:

^Post Secondary Lesson Plan 2.rtf
^Post Secondary Lesson Plan 2.pdf

Title:

Post-Secondary Lesson Plan #3

Description:

This lesson plan is a marketing project. Groups decide on a product, a marketing plan, and a production plan.

Target Audience:

High School Graduate and above 

Objective:

After completing this lesson, students will be able to communicate through pictures better within there writing.

Attachments:

^Post Secondary Lesson Plan 3.rtf
^Post Secondary Lesson Plan 3.pdf

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IV. Demonstration of Educational Value

ePals is a great tool to enhance the education of students.  It focuses on students and teachers using email in the classrooms.  This can be a great way for teachers to better communicate with parents and students.  Teachers can assign homework and have the students submit their completed work by email.  Students can use ePals to communicate with other students, a pen pal, from around the world and learn different aspects of a topic that is taught in another country.

ePal's curriculum based e-mentoring program, in2books, is for students who are in grades 3-5 who may be from under resourced communities. ePal partners up a student of this back round with an adult and commits 10 months (September-June) to writing 6 pen pal letters as well as reading 5 books. The student and adult share information, thoughts, ideas, etc along the way during these 10 months. By this, the student is learning better thinking skills and literacy. It is also likely for the student to become a better writer and reader. (11)


    (30)

An example of the educational value of ePals is; a group of three history classes could start a wiki, and each class can then post an individual page to the wiki about a different aspect in history or a topic the classes are covering.  Thus the seperate classes could contribute different view points and topics pertaining to the subjects and help thier peers gain further perspective on the topic through the wiki. 

ePals can also be an educational value to those who are in post secondary education:  "I think it would be great to have students do a project, much like we are doing.  It would be ideal for it to be used throughout the semester, however.  For example, if an engineering professor wanted to use ePals, he would use it to promote and emphasize communication and bring more excitement into a the same old traditional engineering education, by having assignments due through ePals." -Student at Purdue University

ePals is a great resource for teachers to collaboate with others from around the globe.  As a teacher you can participate with others and provide a ideas and help to others.  ePals can provide opportuities for you as teachers to participate in many ways such as, mentoring, exchanging of ideas, and aiding in research. 

Mentoring is a process that is essential to all of us in the teaching profession.  As teachers everyone has participated in the mentoring process.  Teachers have been the young teacher starting out doing thier student teaching.  Maybe you were the teacher being the mentor for that young teacher, or maybe you provided some advice to others about effective lessons or how to handle a student.  ePals provides a place for teachers from all over the world to help other teachers.  You can ask questions and respond to others.  Theses forums have a very helpful teachers to help others from around the world, the translate feature.  Now the language barrier is no longer an obstacle in international mentoring and cooperation. 

   (29).

 ePals also provides a place for teachers to share projects and ideas with each other.  One thing that teachers pride themselves on is the sharing of ideas.  If a teacher has a great idea for how to inspiring thinking or teach a lesson others typically like to borrow those ideas that the students respond very well to.  Teachers all have great ideas, and if you want to learn and grow as a professional it is important to seek out new ideas and strategies.  ePals provides a place for teachers share thier accomplishments and a place for teachers to access the new ideas.  There are hundrededs of examples of projects that teachers have provided to help others expand thier horizons.  Topics range from technology to digital storytelling to global warming.  ePals acts as a digital teaching workshop to help professionals be the best at what they do, and have the most successful lessons and projects for thier students.  (26).

 ePals is a great place also to try and conduct research about learning on local, nationwide, or global level.  Teachers want to know how students learn and what is most effective.  How students learning is a very important concept to understand within the profession.  Like any other scientific concept it is important to research to better understand the process of learning.  ePals can give a researcher access to classrooms from all over the globe to help understand the learning process.  The forum provides a place to propose ideas to teachers on the whole, and see if there are any volunteers to help you. Another option for you to find classrooms through the collaborate tab.  You can contact teachers and propose research ideas and how the teacher and his/her students can help you in your research. (27).

Students also can collaborate with each other.  They have the ability to work on projects with others from around the globe.  ePals has different projects set up that allow for input by individual classes or groups in cooperation.  These projects are located in the Student Explorations section.  There are many different topics ranging from biodiversity, to Black History, to Digital Storytelling.  Each one of these areas has a place that describes the focus of the projects, and has a forum where students can contribute ideas and commentary on individual works that have already been uploaded.  These areas allow for the students to have real input and opinons on the projects, and the best part about it is that there is real global discussion.  Students can have conversations about the problems they see and what they learned with students from all over, and the diversity in opinion can open the door to many new ideas and ways to look at things.  If you can connect with people from all over the world and get feedback it will help students see things from a more well rounded perspective.  Past generations could only get the feedback and perspective of the people in thier own classes, communties, or states.  Now the whole world is at students fingertips and learning can take place in a much broader spectrum than ever before.    (33).


This image describes the learning space where there is a combination of email, blogs, discussions, documents created in school, and different groups of people collaborating about educational projects. It is considered a learning community.

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V. How is ePals used Internationally?

ePals allows for students to connect internationally with other students from around the world.  Students can learn, communicate and collaborate together on projects and different assignments.  There are classrooms in 200 countries around the world that students can travel to using the internet and tools provided on ePals. 

This web 2.0 technology lets students see what other children experience in their own countries around the world. They can step into a classroom (through video) and see what others see everyday. ePals calls this "virtual field trips." This is all part of the biodiversity page.

ePals is an excellent website to connect learners locally, nationally, and internationally. In ePals GlobalCommunity, classrooms are available around the world for you to collaborate with other students. With more than 200 countries and territories to choose from its easy to take your pick. This allows a classroom from certain parts of country to connect with another classroom from anywhere in the world to share, connect, and collaborate. (10)

Using ePals, teachers have the option to become informed either by email or through their ePals account on how to start an international project (34).

Other countries can use ePals just like the United States does. Teachers, students, and parents can get lesson ideas, contact other classrooms to communicate, and use all the other ePals features (15). 

ePals is a great resource for teachers that want to connect with other international classrooms. Not only is it great for foreign language teachers, but also teachers of all other subjects. For instance, a history class in France could contact a U.S. classroom to ask them about the American Revolution (16).

As a student using ePals, you can exchange letters with people internationally.  Teachers with students starting out with their very first pen pal can log onto ePals and locate a classroom to write to.  The teachers from the different countries can correspond with each other and begin a pen-pal exchange.  It can be quite exciting for young children. Other students can participate in a tandem project or an online quest with classrooms in other countries via ePals.  Students can potentially develop life long friends and may even one day arrange to meet the people they wrote to or worked with all because of ePals (34).

Global networks like ePals insulate student communication from the rest of the internet and let teachers monitor eMail accounts, as well as provide for the creation of secure blogs that can only be seen by the recipients. Assisted by standards-based curriculum materials, these networks link participants from a diverse range of countries in a discussion of globally relevant issues.  Having the opportunity to do this, lets student grow culturally 35.

Another interested aspect of ePals is that it launched the Team Earth ePals Community Center that included community and content areas specifically applicable to Team Earth's key challenges. Visitors were guided through multi-media content to learn about Team Earth's issue areas and what they can do as individuals to take action. Classrooms then connected as a community to discuss the topics and find others around the globe to work with on relevant projects (36).

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VI. References

1. http://corp.epals.com/company/about-us.php (Caroline)

2. http://corp.epals.com/company/epals-executive-team.php (Caroline)

3. http://www.epals.com/ (Caroline)

4. http://www.epals.com/projects/info.aspx?divid=TechDirectorBenefits (Sarah)

5. http://www.epals.com/projects/info.aspx?divid=toptenemail (Sarah)

6. http://www.epals.com/projects/info.aspx?divid=biodiversity_home (Caroline)

7. http://www.corp.epals.com/products/epals-learning-space.php (Sarah)

8. http://corp.epals.com/products/epals-learning-space.php (Lacey)

9. www.maele.net/articles/.../Maureen%20Siti%20Hamin%20UKM.pdf (Lacey)

10. http://www.corp.epals.com/products/epals-global-community.php (Julie)

11. http://in2books.epals.com/content.aspx?caid=I2BCorp&divid=I2B_History (Julie)

12. http://www.epals.com/ (Julie)

13. http://www.corp.epals.com/company/about-us.php (Lisa)

14. http://venturebeatprofiles.com/company/profile/epals (Lisa)

15. http://www.epals.com/ (Lisa)

16. http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/38129.aspx (Lisa)

17. http://in2books.epals.com/content.aspx?caid=I2BCorp&divid=I2B_History (Lisa)

18. http://corp.epals.com/news/press-releases.php   (Jacob)

19. http://corp.epals.com/our-approach.php (Jacob)

20. http://www.stanford.edu/~kmd/Donaldson2003epals.pdf (Lacey)

21. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz5xZQYOb8g - By: Ellen Burns

22. http://www.corp.epals.com/products/in2books.php(Julie) 

23. http://www.corp.epals.com/products/schoolmail.php (Julie)

24. http://www.corp.epals.com/products/schoolmail.php (Julie)

25. http://www.epals.com/forums/117.aspx(Caroline)

26. http://www.epals.com/media/86/default.aspx

27. http://www.epals.com/forums/t/37105.aspx

28. http://www.epals.com/forums/t/7665.aspx

29. http://www.epals.com/forums/117.aspx

30.http://cs.in2books.epals.com/cfs-filesystemfile.ashx/__key/CommunityServer.Components.PostAttachments/00.00.06.49.78/SS_5F00_MapsAndGlobes.jpg

  (Julie)

31. http://www.corp.epals.com/products/platform-offerings/overview.php

32. http://www.studentsoftheworld.info/menu_penpals.php 

33. http://www.epals.com/projects/info.aspx?divid=StudentExplorations_Main

34. http://the_english_dept.tripod.com/epals.html

35. http://www.corp.epals.com/download/The_Rise-of-the-Globally-Connected-Student_eSchool-News.pdf

36. http://www.corp.epals.com/download/Case_Study_Team%20Earth-4-9-10.pdf

37. http://www.corp.epals.com/products/schoolmail.php

38. http://www.iearn.org/about

39. http://corp.epals.com/news/press-releases.php

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