over the Net
The real power
of the Internet is the energy
generated by human
Tele-mentoring is bringing
new resources into classrooms and making it possible for teachers
to join their students as learners. Teachers who model learning
strategies are often more effective than those who can quickly supply
factual information. Examples of models of telementoring and resources
that have been created to support them can serve as a guide to designing
new telementoring programs. This guide is arranged in three parts:
1) Examples of Telementoring
- Ask an Expert
- Pair Mentoring
- Group Mentoring
2) Design Issues
in Creating Telementoring Programs
- Telementoring Human
- Matching Challenges
- The Nature of the
I find it useful to divide
telementoring into three types of programs as they have different
constraints and requirements.
- Mentor Experts who agree to
respond to questions
- Mentors who are paired with
a single learner
- Mentors who work in partnerships.
These are information resources
provided by companies and communities. In most cases the experts
see their role as giving the information sought. In some cases,
the experts are also great teachers who understand that giving other
the skills to find one's own answers is often better than giving
information answers. Mentors who take this approach are helping
information seekers to acquire important skills as well as providing
"Ask an Expert" mentoring programs
usually involve only a single exchange. A question is asked, the
answer is given. In some cases there may be an extended dialog
but for the most part, this is the exception.
Access to these human resources
is an important way of connecting classrooms to the global community.
There is an Ask
An Expert locator that
has lists of experts in most subject areas. but you can find help
in any subject area. Another source arranged by category is Pitsco's
an Expert" listing.
In both these lists, you may find links to resources that are
intended for a specific community. You should read the site to
make sure that it is an open Internet invitation and read the
procedures for asking a question. Most sites keep archives and
it is good practice to search for your answer before sending off
a new question. In a Passport to Knowledge Project where students
were invited to send questions to scientist (after checking the
archive) 500 of the 1000 questions were duplicate questions.
I recommend that you have students
reflect on the answers to these three questions before they send
off questions to ask an expert mentors. We need to value the time
of those who agree to help.
- 1) Why do I want to know the
answer to this question?
- 2) Is this the type of question
that is not likely to be easy to find in an index or by a simple
- 3) What am I going to do with
the answer when I find it?
Here are few of my favorites examples
of Ask an expert resources:
Eric for any question
in education. Your basic Internet library reference desk.
a Geologist is a place
to find answers to questions about volcanoes, earthquakes, mountains,
rocks, maps, ground water, lakes, or rivers. A team of geologists
answer questions on a rotating basis.
Dr. Math answers questions
from K-12 students and their teachers about Mathematics. Questions
can be about homework, puzzles, math contest and problems, or
any other mathematical topic. There is a great archive of past
questions and answers.
a Mad Scientist "The
laboratory that never sleeps" with the "collective crania of scientists
from around the world fielding questions in different areas of
Classroom Mentors in
Australia is a great example of local area mentoring.
American hosts "Ask the Experts" in all areas of
For more extensive listings of Ask an Expert opportunities for
schools see lists at Center
for Improved Engineering and Science Education.
While most "ask an expert" sites have responses generated
by human, Ask Jeeves
is an internet butler who will take natural language question
and answer them using search technologies.
2) Tele-mentor Pairs:
The word mentor comes from
a root that means enduring. When we think of mentoring we generally
think of a relationship between an expert and a learner that is
long term. In fact, there are some who want to save the term mentoring
and tele-mentoring only for these types of relationships. In this
list, I have made a distinction between different forms of telementoring.
There are two main roles that
a mentor plays. One is providing expertise and the other is to
serve a role model. In educational mentoring, the expertise is
in a specific area and the role modeling helps the novice learn
the necessary skills to enter or continue on a career path. Social
mentors help with personal development and serve as adult role
models. Because one-to-one mentoring is about developing a relationship,
it is hard to make a distinction between social and educational
mentoring. However, most of the resources and programs listed
here are directed more toward educational mentoring than social
Telementoring as the term implies,
involves the use of distance technology--email, text, audio or
video conferencing.--to develop the relationship. Telementor pair
relationships are the most difficult to support as matching strangers
requires a great deal of work on all sides. However, when a good
match is found, the effects can be very powerful.
Research has validated the visible
results of many face-face mentoring programs. While there have
been a number of case students and some evaluation studies, tele-mentoring
programs are relatively new. One finding that is often cited is
that the mentors learn as much or more than the novices. This
finding is consistent with the research literature on peer tutoring.
The strongest educational gains are for the students who tutor,
rather than the students who are tutored.
Many of the
programs initially listed in 1997 are no longer in operation.
Teachers are often paired in mentoring programs and in some cases
these relationships are facilitated by technology. A less formal
arrangement was created by a high school English teacher. Ted
Nellen, the teacher at Murry Bergtraum High School, NY sent a
message to a writing forum inviting the participants to "adopt"
one of his high school students and help them with their English
webfolio. While the "Adopt a Student:" site no longer exists,
it was an e creative way in which a high school teacher brought
additional human resources into the classroom.
Packard Mentor Program,
offers to connect its employees to students in an e-mail mentoring
Net Pals Projects uses
the same software to facilitate mentor-student exchanges with
mentors from the community who volunteer to work with students.
Matching an expert or experts
with a group or a class of learners is often a more effective strategy.
In these partnerships there is room for different forms of contribution
by all participants. The distributed expertise of the group becomes
clear and everyone can be both a learner and a teacher.
Learning Forums provide
a unique experience for elementary and middle school teachers
to reflect on and refine their mathematics teaching practices
through on-line seminars.
Emissary project matches
a subject matter expert as a mentor to a classroom for year.
Telemation Project lists
curriculum projects for online learning. These listings include
authors of the curriculum who serve as mentors.
in Residence matches
a professional writer with a classrooms of developing writers
for a fee.
Passport to Knowledge, although
not a mentoring program, does include opportunities for students
to interact with scientist through video conferencing, television,
and email in projects like Live
Telementoring is a university
sponsored discussion of issues in chemistry instruction.
Project is a project
of SUNY Potsdam Teacher Education and connects a small team of
teachers who explore issues related to the improvement of elementary
Internet Institute brought
400 teachers together online and an impressive array of mentors
to conduct summer workshops across the U. S. exploring ways to
make use of the Internet in classrooms.
Teachers Enhancement Network
offers graduate-credit science and mathematics courses to teachers
nationally. Teachers are able to participate in the telecomputing
courses from convenient home or work locations by dial-up modem
connections or Internet access. The Network provides teachers
with high quality graduate science courses taught by university
scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. It also enhances professional
networking nationwide between science teachers and active research
Design Issues for Tele-mentoring
In thinking about new designs for telementoring,
it is helpful to the discuss responses to following questions.
Who will mentor whom?
How will the mentors be selected and what training will they be
provided? Good mentors are also good teachers.
How will mentors and
learners be matched? Will it be based on content (matching inquiry
to expertise), or talents of learners and mentors (person to person),
or mentor to topic area (mentor to group)? The matching process
should be as simple or automated as possible as it can be very
different for the program to develop is the matching takes a great
deal of interaction among individuals.
Nature of the Interaction
What is the focus of
the mentoring? Will it involve modeling the integration of many
different aspects into a specific role (role model), or will it
be to provide expert advice on a specified domain (subject expert)?
Will the mentor be proactive or reactive to the needs of the learner?
When should one respond with questions and when with answers that
promote inquiry? The answers to these questions are very important
in shaping the design of the program.
What will both mentors
and learners give and get? What are the benefits that each will
gain. There are many benefits that occur to the people involved
but it is important to be very clear about the rewards and the
commitment from the outset.
How will the program
continue over time? What will motivate the mentors to continue?
How will the matching structure be supported? If the program is
to expand, plans for its growth will need to be set at the very
beginning. If it takes a personal phone call to set up the matches,
who will make the personal phone call when there are hundreds
of matches? It is helpful to project the scale of the mentoring
program and ask how each part of the process will occur at that
These resources have
been developed by mentoring programs and are available as
resources to those who might find them useful. They include
advice as well as tools for structuring the interactions.
Resources, a Canadian nonprofit organization since 1975,
provide expertise in peer, mentor, and coach systems. Their
site is a great place for design issues and examples of
Reflective Dialogues for Teacher Professional Development
by William Spitzer Kelly Wedding and Vanessa DiMauro is
one of the best resources for learning how to be an online
Telementoring Young Women
in Science, Engineering, and Computing was a three year
project which matches female high school students with professional
women in technical fields. While the project has finished,
is still posted.
Sanda Kerka has written
an Eric digest article: New
Perspectives on Mentoring - 1998,
summarizing various mentor concepts, paradigms, and practices
with a short section on telementoring.
has a short course on mentoring
skills which does
Center at BNN
has great resources including a workshop and tools for mentoring.
Judi Harris has written
a number of research
articles on her
telementoring project called The Electronic Emissary which
brings together Students, Teachers, and Subject Matter Experts.
of California Mentor Program Guide
(Rita Peterson) was not designed for telementoring but covers
many of the major issues of mentoring and could be used
without much change as a telementoring guide.
S. Government Technology Literacy Challenge
is a grant cycle to create technology mentors. The mentors
would volunteer and there would be a trainers of mentors.
Each mentor would prepare 10 new mentors each year until
all teachers are technology literate.
(Editor) Sue Espinoza, East Texas State University.
As teaching and
learning opportunities are rapidly appearing online, teacher
education programs are realizing the importance of preparing
teachers of today and tomorrow to participate in the global
arena of the Internet. Each of the papers in this section
describes the integration of specific telecommunications
activities into pre-service teacher education classes.
teachers to teacher each other by supporting teacher reflection
on experiences in teaching through writing.
David J. Wighton, ( 1993)
An Examination of the Potential for an Educational Network
. While this
paper is a bit old now, it does include references some
of the early research on telementoring.
Tours to the Learning Spaces in the Present
and Live book and video is another form of
telementoring as it is available online with all the
links to the authors and projects.
Telementoring on the Web is a Webtour by Margaret
Riel, 1997 last updated Octoter 2002
Questions or comments to Margaret Riel at email@example.com
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