A Keypal is like a Penpal but instead of using pen and paper to interact the pals use computer and keyboard, in other words email or some other form of electronic communication.
I first came across the word Keypal when I was reading How to Teach English with Technology by Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly. They have a whole section on Keypal projects and they describe one in which “two groups of keypals are learning English in different countries”. They also discuss “keypal project issues” within a pedagogical framework.
The term Keypal generates over 51 thousand hits on google and many of these come from a teaching context. One of them www.epals.com/ claims to connect over seven million students from 191 countries. This site is used by other sites that produce lesson plans for tired teachers. There a Keypals lesson plan sits alongside plans for maths and computer lessons.
However, the worldwide educational community is not the only group using the term Keypal. Like the root word from which it developed (penpal) a Keypal can develop from a purely written communication to a wider relationship. The first message on the board of the site www.keypal.com/ when I looked at it was: “looking for a good husband”. The other messages ranged from “hello” and “sport”, to “=)” and “waitting for true love”. Clearly pedagogical issues are not the only ones that count in the world of Keypals!
I once had a penpal. I suppose I was about ten years old and she lived in France but I lived in Scotland. We communicated for many years but we never met. Now I don’t even remember her name, but I know that the relationship was important to me, a sort of virtual relationship long before I ever heard the word “virtual” but I suspect long after I knew what the word “imagination” meant, and definitely long before I had ever ventured outside of my own country apart from in the world of my dreams. Why was my penpal from France? How did we “meet”? The answers to these questions are hidden in the mists of my memory but I imagine they had something to do with that famed “Auld Alliance” between Scotland and France, something to do with the hidden pattern of relationships whose influence remains though the original actors are long dead.
Now I have no penpals, though given the number of people who I communicate with by email it might be said that I have many Keypals. Or am I too old for that? I have not yet heard the term applied to those who are no longer young but maybe I will soon!
Pal – friend, comrade, mate, chum.
Penpal – a pen friend.
Paypal – system on the internet for paying money.
Key – we use the keys on a computer for inputting information.
Keyboard – a set of keys on a computer.
Keypad – for instance the numbers keys on the side of the computer keyboard.