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MS 217 makes hi-tech friends

The students wrote Word documents to their distant partners, which their teacher collected and e-mailed to the teacher in Weinheim, Germany, school publications official Valery Rodi explained. Because of the six-hour time difference, the German students waited after school hours to get their missives in real time. The two classes found one another through a Web site that links school groups, she said."We used a laptop to type letters," said student Amy Deng, 13, of Briarwood. MS 217 is one of 22 schools in New York City to get laptops for school use, and the emphasis on technology was the reason for the technology fair, Rodi said. Monday was the first time the students "chatted" online in real time, she said.Each week the letters had a different theme, explained teacher Perla Bautista. "They sent us an 'all about me' project," with each student's name and basic information, she said. Subsequent themes included food, holidays, weekend activities and local landmarks, she said."They asked what we do on the weekend, and we typed our answers in the computer," said Alejandro Sanchez, 13, of Briarwood. "I said I went to the movies and studied." But besides the letters, the students traded snapshots of their lives. Each school had a small, stuffed mascot they mailed to the other, one a bear named Bobby after Robert Van Wyck and the other a lion named Goleo. The students took turns taking the mascots around town, snapping photos with a disposable camera."I took Goleo to a Chinese restaurant in Flushing, to the library and to see friends," said Deng, who was born in China. Goleo learned a lot about food with the students. Bipasha Haque, 13, of Jamaica, said she took the stuffed lion to the Kebab King restaurant. Delisha Dias, 13, of Briarwood, took him to the supermarket, as well as the Laundromat, church and her grandmother's house.The Briarwood class is a mix of native- and foreign-born students. Sanchez was born in Colombia, Haque in Bangladesh, Dias in Sri Lanka, and Bautista in the Philippines. In this respect they are much like their German counterparts, many of whom were born in Turkey, Bautista said.The high-tech experience opened their eyes. The students all said they think they might go to Germany one day.The pen pal project was one of 12 demonstrations at the fair, with every subject represented, Rodi said. Other projects included demonstrations of geometric formation and memoirs."The idea was to show how technology can be used across the curriculum," she said.Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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