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Telementoring: Help for Students (and Teachers) Is Just a Mouse Click Away!

Technology Center

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.

Online Mentoring Isn't Just for Students!

Online mentoring isn't just for students. It can be a boon for teachers too!

New teachers often need extra help coping with classroom organization and day-to-day lesson preparation. First-year teacher mentoring has been around for many years, but online mentoring makes it possible for teachers to access information 24 hours a day. Mentoring New Teachers is packed with tips on mentoring beginning teachers. The site also contains lots of helpful information for teachers who are in the process of setting up classes or writing lesson plans -- with or without a mentor to help them over the rough spots.

It used to be that most adult-to-student mentoring was done face-to-face. Now, however, technology has provided a new tool for mentoring kids -- the computer. Online mentoring, or "telementoring," uses computers and the Internet to bring mentors and children together.

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.

  • e-mail. Mentors e-mail each mentee privately, sending assignments and information to one mentee at a time.
  • online chats. Live chats allow instant responses and clarification and keep some kids more interested and involved. Chats are also a good way to talk to a large number of kids at once.
  • online bulletin boards or message boards. Mentors work with more than one student at a time. Students post messages; the mentor and other students read and comment on them.

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.


Kevin Cooper, a mentor with the International Telementor Program sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, is currently mentoring a sixth-grader named Austin. He and Austin have discovered that they share a love of astronomy and space. "I believe that having something like this to aim for [Austin dreams of working at NASA.] will help Austin stick with his education, even when the going gets tough," Cooper told Education World.

Mentors may be helping kids, but mentors themselves find they reap significant benefits as well. Mentors have reported that mentoring helped them

  • clarify their own goals and values,
  • discover how to be a role model,
  • learn new skills,
  • become interested in a teaching career,
  • experience the pleasure of making a difference in someone's life.

"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

"[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 can be a rewarding and beneficial experience for everyone. Mentors give of themselves and, in return, see their mentees grow, evolve, mature, and thrive!

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.


Online sites for students and teachers in search of mentoring programs include the following:


Article by Sherril Steele-Carlin
Education World®
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