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Simms, J., and Simms, B. (1994). The Electronic Generation Connection. The Computing Teacher, 21(7), 9-11.

Description of classroom practice:

CONTEXT: Since many of the students at Hickory Grove Elementary School in Michigan come from single-parent families and do not have frequent contact with their grandparents, the primary goal of the Electronic Generation Connection was to encourage relationships with adults, while at the same time integrating technology into the curriculum. To accomplish this goal, students in Jan Simms' third grade class were paired with senior citizens from a local group, the Mature Minglers, while students in Bruce Simms' fifth grade class at Della Lutes School were paired with senior citizens from the Waterford Drop-In Center. Students were assigned to write biographies of their keypals.

: In preparation for the project, Jan's third graders learned the AppleWorks word processing program, while Bruce's fifth graders learned Microsoft Works. Students then began composing a series of questions needed to write their senior's biography. Once their biography questions were complete, the two classes became keypals. This provided additional experience in logging on and off, sending and receiving messages, and downloading files.

At the same time, Bruce provided the seniors with inservice training in the uses of telecommunications, computers, BBS's, logging on and off, sending and receiving messages, and so forth. The students and seniors were then "connected." After many conversations, and when the students felt they had received enough information to write a biography, students created books using word processing and graphics software. Maps were created using GEO.USA and GEO WORLD to depict the location of the seniors' place of birth, title pages and jacket covers were made using Slide Shop, Print Shop, Graphics Gallery, and AppleWorks, and photographs were digitized. Later, students' books were shared with the seniors at a party, where for the first time, students and seniors met face to face.


Not only did the project give the students an audience for their writing, it gave them a reason to write effectively. Historical information (the seniors provided) often intrigued the students and pushed them towards finding out more on a particular topic. And of unmeasurable significance, the Electronic Generation Connection served to develop "caring, meaningful relationships" between the two generations. Students showed improvement in cooperative learning skills, leadership, self esteem, and academic achievement.


Jan and Bruce Simms, 1080 Frankel Lane, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302 E-mail: or

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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