Busan Beat Article: an Abridged History and a Bright Future

Hello! We recently have been published in Busan Beat. Musa, our business developer, wrote a lovely article that I am sharing with our blog readers. Enjoy!

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BUSAN BEAT AUTUMN 2017 BFIC“Storypal.”
International pen pal exchange projects are popular among language educators
because of their practicality in making language learning alive. Every day, on
various online teacher community boards, English teachers around the
world update messages looking for pen pal partners. The teachers seek
to provide opportunities to students to practice languages outside of the
classroom and to gain more cultural exposure.
However, the traditional pen pal projects demand a lot of time from teachers
as they need to find partners, arrange student communication methods and
logistics. In 2011, it was no exception for Heehwa who later co-founded, “Storypal.” She was interested in connecting Korean elementary students with their peers in Kenya. Through an online introduction to an after-school mentor in Nairobi, she got a chance to implement the exchange project between 2012 and 2013. Although she was able to find a partner, in many aspects Heehwa encountered the difficulties that are common in traditional pen pal projects.
From this experience, Heehwa wondered if there could be a sustainable support
the mechanism for teachers to facilitate international exchange projects in
classroom settings. The idea further developed in 2015 when she met Sumbal,
a Pakistani American who at the time was teaching at an elementary school in Korea.
Together, they started reviewing concepts and requirements of pen pal projects and interviewed Korean teachers who had previous pen pal experiences. Through these discussions, Sumbal and Heehwa decided to build an online platform specifically designed for like-minded teachers to address the challenges faced by traditional pen pal
projects. The two co-founded Storypal Inc. in 2015.
With the vision of providing an easy, safe and fun platform for educators
and learners to collaborate globally, the site officially opened in March 2017.
Having the head office in Busan and a research project in San Francisco, the site
currently supports early users, many of whom are from these two cities.

Storypal contributes to Busan’s vision of being a city thriving with talent, technology and culture by not only connecting teachers and students to international communities, but also improving their cross-cultural communication skills. All teachers can join for free. New members in Busan and San Francisco can request the Storypal team to visit their schools for orientation and boarding on Storypal.

More information can be found at http://www.storypal.co.

October Week 3

Storypal Weekly

Quote of the Week

“Many leaves. One Tree.”  – Shel Silverstein

Upcoming Events

Storypal is invited to showcase the platform at the EdTech exhibition in Singapore this November! We are so excited to make more bridges for global friendship and education.

Educator of the Week 

Our first Educator of the Week is Ms. Minji Kim.

She teaches at Anrak Middle School in the lovely beach city of Busan, South Korea. Ms. Kim is using Storypal with her class. They are teamed up with a school in Southern California. If you follow us on our Storypal Facebook page you may have seen her and classroom. She has been an educator for 11 and a half years.

Below is our interview with her.

 

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Q. Why did you become a teacher? 

Minji: I wanted to become a teacher to help students broaden their views about the world. I was interested in English when I was in school because I was interested in the world outside of Korea. I wanted to teach students that there is another world to experience and  I wanted to help my students realize their dreams. I believe English can be a key resource to make their dreams come true.

Q. What are some of your teaching goals this year?

Minji: My goals this semester is to first add a little change to our curriculum. I want to better motivate my students. Up until last semester, our speaking test was to memorize given sentences and say them to the teacher without looking. I changed it to a self-introduction speech with visual aids. The second goal is to communicate this change with all of my colleagues.

Q. Can you share a fun fact about yourself? 

Minji: I have many hobbies. I like dancing so I learned how to dance to salsa, jazz dance, and tango. I have a scuba diving license. I go diving every year. I like writing. I write on my blog. I also write a monthly article about teaching and school life for a teachers’ magazine.  I love traveling as well. I traveled more than 25 countries so far!

If you have a chance, send her a message on Storypal. She does not need a partner teacher right now, but if you are able to collaborate and connect with her, please do so! Ms. Kim was one of our first teachers to use our site this school year.

 
Thank you for sharing your classroom with us Ms. Kim!
We hope your school year is off to an amazing start everyone!

October Week 4

Storypal Weekly

Events

Storypal would like to congratulate KOTESOL on having a successful 2017 International Conference. We were able to participate this year. You can find more information about it on their website which is linked below. We were fortunate enough to take participate in the conference. Our Facebook page has pictures of the event. Our next event is November 8th to 10th in Singapore! It is EduTECH Asia 2017.If you are going to be attending, please let us know! We would love to meet you.

Learn more about KOTESOL

Check out our booth!

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Educator of the Week

The educator we are highlighting this time is from California. Her name is Lauren.

Q. You have an interesting job, can you tell the SP community what it is?

Lauren: I am an educational technology coach. My job is to help teachers integrate technology into instruction in authentic and meaningful ways.

Q. Why did you become a teacher?

Lauren: I became a teacher because I always loved helping others with challenging material. In high school, I was a volunteer tutor in the library and I spend hours volunteering to tutor middle school students when I was in college. It seemed like a natural transition to move into teaching

Q. What are some of your interests?

Lauren: I enjoy reading, watching Dodger games, and spending time with my 10-month-old son, Jackson

Q. Can you share some of your goals for this school year?

Lauren: My goals this year are to help teachers embed digital citizenship lessons into their curriculum throughout the school year. I want to empower teachers to help students learn about cyberbullying, copyright, information literacy, and staying safe online.

Q. What are some countries you want to visit?

Lauren: I would like to visit Italy, Poland, and Japan.

 

Storypal Lingo of the Week – “Match Wish”

What is a match wish? It is a series of several clicks that allow teachers with global outlook connect with each other.

Human Heroes

I am sitting in a cafe in Chinatown. I am drinking a Thai Iced tea made by a Chinese-American man. While I sip on my drink I take in all the flavors of the tea and of my surroundings. I hear Spanish, Chinese, and English being spoken around me by the different patrons. Thank you, globalization for making this moment possible.

Humanity benefits when we are able to mix and choose from different ideas. We benefit when we are able to understand cultures and see for ourselves. Our exposure to different views, beliefs, and cultures causes us to reconcile this new information with our personal identity.

Globalization has made people eclectic. Our personal identity is interwoven with our global identity. Global identity is being proud of you who are, being proud of your cultural background but looking past borders.
Global identity lets us look at the world and claim our own unique space within it. How can we bring global identity into the classroom?

First, by showcasing young learners personalities, and then showing them how the world benefits from their presence. When I was teaching in Seoul I wanted to instill values of self-love, compassion, and global citizenship deep within my students. The order of those values was crucial in my classroom because self-love and self-compassion lead to true growth.

I wanted to celebrate who they were and test who they thought they were. I would have my students take lighthearted personality tests. (I used National Geographic Kids as a resource for this). The personality tests results would be close to reality or outrageously off. The class would indirectly build each other up by agreeing or adding personality traits.

Building up their self-confidence and acknowledging their individuality caused a shift in my students. My young learners looked visibly more relaxed and happy. Once I felt that this boost of confidence was high enough, I would move on to compassion. I did my best to teach self-compassion and compassion for others.
Compassion was one of the hardest values to teach and it was a daily challenge. I had to leverage on each student’s talents and create team building exercises. Compassion in the classroom will be a separate blog topic in the future.
After I had built up their self-love and made some strides in self-compassion, I would move on to introducing global identity.

I made each student a human hero. A human hero doesn’t have superpowers. A human hero doesn’t have magical powers. A human hero is just that, a human. What makes each human hero different is their personality, talents, and their ability to solve problems or create something new in the world.

I told my class that there was no wrong answer. I compared each student to colors and the world to a painting. Student first focused on just Korea. I started prodding them to think bigger. If a child wanted to focus on an issue that they thought only Korea was facing, I would give them a list of other countries that may benefit from what they were doing. I found myself saying, “This solution can help others! Maybe people around the world would like to wear your designs? How can we make this idea bigger?”

I believe whenever you have the opportunity to nurture someone’s growth, know that the impact you can have can be everlasting.
Educators, we are gatekeepers to the world. We can instill self-love, compassion, and global citizenship. This school year let’s find ways for our students to explore their personal identity and global identity.

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Connections, Storypal, and YOU.

Why do we spend so much time sharing, liking, and viewing content on our favorite social media apps? How many events, meetups, and parties do we attend each year trying to meet the “right” people? Who was the last person you spoke to?
Connection is innately part of the human experience online and off.

We are connectors, connecting, and connected.

Connection is powerful force that pulls us to action, to think, and to try.
Storypal wants to take this naturally occurring human behavior and use it to change the world.

How?
By helping educators and learners connect with other educators and learners worldwide.
There are so many apps that connect individuals to other individuals, but not enough that connect classrooms to other classrooms.
When learners are at their most impressionable, they need the most exposure.

Why?
Firstly, because educators deserve as many resources as possible to help their careers flourish. A larger community could unlock even more creativity.

Secondly, because connecting educators and learners internationally is one of the most effective ways to engage a young learner in practicing their communication skills, their social and emotional learning, and their cross-cultural understanding.

If you are not an educator, then why should you care?

Well, most societies are already benefiting from different channels of connection. The very act of being connected to another place isn’t the end result for Storypal. The end result is expanding someones understanding and giving rise to opportunities.

How many opportunities have come your way because of connections?

Educators and learners are missing out on what should have been a key component of education from the beginning, but many factor kept this from occurring.

This is the best time for them to be connectors, connecting, and connected.

How can you help?
Be a connector.
Promote Storypal to families, schools, and cities everywhere.

Create a new path for educators and watch learners creativity launch to new heights.

Tips on Raising a Culturally Aware Child

Exposure to diversity is important, and it is important to highlight that differences aren’t necessarily “weird” or bad. The skills of global etiquette and appropriately interacting with other cultures will prove to be a valuable asset in a child’s future. A parent does not need a degree in Ethnic Studies or Anthropology to teach their child to be culturally sensitive. All that is needed is imagination, openness, and a bit of research. Here are a few ideas for teaching the children in your life about the cultural diversity around them:

Ethnic Food Spot:

Next time you go out to your favorite ethnic food spot don’t just eat the food.Get to know the person who’s behind the food. Ethnic restaurants tend to be family owned, and if you have the chance to talk to a person who comes from that cuisine’s country of origin, take it! Have your kids engage in a short Q and A. Learn more about the cultural decor or customs together. They will learn to talk to adults, and learn to ask questions.

2. Books:

Pick up a book that is by an author that is culturally different from you. Encourage your kids to be sleuths and try to figure out what the cultural jargon means. Books have a tendency of revealing similarities and differences that exist in the human condition and your kids will develop their language skills while discovering what they have in common with people from around the world!

3. Festivals and Holidays:

Festivals bring a culture to you. They have food, dancing, and put cultural traditions on display/allow your kids to participate in cultural traditions in your own backyard! When attending holiday celebrations, be sure to look up cultural practices that are part of the celebration. Part of being aware is being respectful. Seek out holidays that are unfamiliar, but popular in other cultures, like Lunar New Year.

4. Online Cross-Cultural Exchange

Did you ever have a pen pal growing up? Wasn’t there a sense of excitement learning about the other person’s life? Well the concept of pen paling has been brought up to date. There is an easy, safe, and fun website that allows you to do that with your kids. Storypal.co Storypal.co is a website that is made for teachers, guardians, and young global learners. Before starting, users are vetted to create a safe environment. Learners are able to communicate with peers from all over the world. They can share their daily lives, interests, and stories, all the while learning more about their selected subject, language, and the world around them!

Summer Food: Patbingsu

Patbingsu is a Korean dessert that I just tried for the first time today!  Patbingsu can have an array of toppings. The one that I ate had red bean paste, rice cakes, condensed milk, toasted almonds, and shaved ice. It had a nutty and sweet flavor.

I grew up in  multicultural areas and I am used to Pakistani and American summer time treats. Patbingsu reminds me of desserts form both countries, but the addition of red bean is what makes it really unique. I highly recommend it if you are in an area to try it!

Summer Time Food: Nangmyun

Food is always a good starter conversation for culture. I am using it as a topic for my sixth graders. It is a light topic and everyone has an opinion on food. Although I am teaching my students about food, I want them to be mindful and thoughtful. I want them to see how food is dependent on religion, geography, and other factors. I am focusing the next few posts on summer time foods.

Nangmyun is, for the most part, a summer time dish. Summers is in Korea are hot and humid. Nangmyun is a cold noodle dish. The  nangmyun is usually made of buckwheat noodles. What makes Nangmyun a summer time dish is that the chicken broth/beef broth has  small pieces of ice inside of it.  When you take a bite into the noodles they taste tangy and fresh. It is perfect on a humid day.

Nangmyn is unlike anything I had ever tried before. I am hoping that my video inspires teachers and students to share their favorite summer times foods from wherever they are.

Teaching Culture to Your Students

Culture is both an important and complex idea that students must learn.  I needed my explanation of culture to be simple enough so that my sixth grade EFL students could easily grasp the concept. I chose to focus on the three concepts living, thinking, and behaving. Culture is how people live, think, and act based on where they are from.

I know that the definition is quite simple, but I believe that the concept of culture will evolve as my students move up in grade level. Over the next few weeks I will be making short videos around Seoul that explore culture. I am starting with how people live because that covers the basics of life (food, water, sleep, and shelter.) I am really excited to see how this experiment goes!

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