Education World writer Sherril Steele-Carlin takes a look at some online mentoring projects. Included: Links to more than 15 Web sites that offer online mentoring.
Mentoring online is not all that much different from mentoring face-to-face. Neither will work if the mentor is not committed to the program. Mentors need to be dedicated to the program and to their mentees if the relationship is to be successful.
Online mentoring can take many forms.
Online mentoring can be a powerful tool. Studies by Save the Children, which runs Do Good, Mentor a Child, one of the largest and best-known mentoring programs in the United States, found that kids who had caring mentors were less likely to skip school, become involved with drugs or alcohol, or act out.
Mentors may be helping kids, but mentors themselves find they reap significant benefits as well. Mentors have reported that mentoring helped them
"I love working with kids because it's so great to watch the lights go on in their heads. It's a little harder to detect by e-mail, but I can still tell when we've connected. This match with Austin has been a hit right from the start!" Cooper noted.
"My mentee taught me about topics she was interested in and I helped her in science and math," Tracie Tingle told Education World. Tingle mentors middle school girls for CyberSisters.org.
"[I hope] my mentees will continue to have confidence in these areas!" Tingle added. "We still e-mail each other and I hope we'll continue to stay in touch."
Many mentors find they get the best results when they continually support and challenge their students. Mentors who do that also experience the most satisfaction with their role as mentors. Managers of mentoring projects say successful mentors share other traits as well. They're usually good communicators and they stick with students for long periods.
The Electronic Emissary Project at the University of Texas (Austin) supports K-12 teachers and students by connecting them with more than 150 experts in a wide variety of fields. In that project, the telementoring expert, teacher, and students form "emissary teams."
"During my service, a few emissary teams have stood out as exceptional," Laura Amill, a telementoring facilitator/researcher with the project, told Education World. "What distinguishes exceptional teams is their longevity.
"Normally teams stay together for one school semester, during which time they plan and complete a mutually constructed project," Amill added. Currently, however, I am minimally facilitating three teams that have been together for two or more years. Those teams are devoted to their projects. For two of the teams, the subject matter experts and teachers have been the driving forces that keep the conversation flowing."
Telementoring is a win-win situation, one that any school can provide. If you're interested in setting up a telementoring program in your school, several Web sites provide tips and technical help. One of the most complete is the Virtual Volunteering Project. This site offers plenty of background information on mentoring, and on setting up a mentoring project. In addition, the WebQuest Exploring the World of Telementoring walks novice telementors through all facets of the process.
Article by Sherril Steele-Carlin
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