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A Quick Guide to Getting Started with Telementoring

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About this guide

This guide is designed primarily for teachers serving as project liaisons in the Telementoring project. It is organized in accordance with the liaison's major responsibilities and includes pertinent materials for initiating Telementoring in schools. Items that are underlined in the text of this document may be found under the heading in which they appear in the color-coded sections at the back of the binder.

Materials and activities included in the Quick Guide are based on a year's worth of pilot testing conducted with volunteer mentors and pre-engineering students at a technical high school in New York City. The guide is intended to complement and support discussions and activities that occur on-line in the Teachers' Lounge. Please feel free to use the Teachers' Lounge Listserver ( to communicate with other teachers in the project and with CCT-Telementoring Staff.

A Few Words About Telementoring...

The Telementoring project varies considerably from traditional mentoring programs that focus on providing content expertise and skills development to students as they engage in project-based work. The Telementoring project was specifically designed to provide a very different mentoring experience for young women who have traditionally been overlooked in mathematics, science, and technology. Research tells us that young women often do not get the validation and personal guidance that they need from supportive and knowledgeable female mentors who are sensitive to their interests and concerns. This lack of support often results in many young women opting out of science and technical fields because of unresolved and unexamined conflicts that they experience as they engage in fields which challenge common notions of femininity.

Central to the Telementoring project's goals is creating on-line environments in which high school girls can safely discuss their school experiences and feelings with practicing women professionals who have "made it" in science and technical fields. There is a growing abundance of evidence at the undergraduate level that women are more negatively affected than male students by the absence of this kind of positive feedback from teachers and lack of attention from their departments (Matyas & Dix, 1992). Furthermore, recent studies have shown that when provided with access to both career and emotional support from mentors, young women report that emotional support is more valuable (Ragin, 1989; Association for Women in Science, 1993).

While boys could conceivably participate, girls are the central focus of the Telementoring program. We recognize that schools may feel the need to provide alternative opportunities for boys to deal with issues about how they view and treat young women in technical classes and their own issues that arise from pursuing technical fields. These activities, however, are not under the purview of the project. We urge schools and educators to further explore how they might specifically address the needs of boys and girls together in their own schools. We also encourage project liaisons to use any of the Telementoring program's materials that they feel are useful for starting additional mentoring efforts at their schools.

Your Role as Liaison

We hope that this Quick Guide and the on-line spaces established for you will be helpful in answering your questions about the Telementoring project and process. Throughout the course of this project, CCT-project staff will also be available to assist you in implementing the Telementoring program at your school.

We expect that project liaisons will further refine the program to meet the needs of their own students. And in fact, we are looking forward to working with you as co-researchers! One of the purposes of this project is to learn how to build and sustain supportive on-line environments. During the year, we will be collecting specific data and feedback from you and your students. Additionally, if there are any tips that you learn along the way while implementing the program, please share them in the on-line "Teachers' Lounge" or send them to: The Telementoring Project, EDC/Center for Children and Technology, 96 Morton Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10014. Your input helps to keep the program dynamic and responsive!

Recruiting Students & Introducing the Program

We are hoping to work with 10-15 young women per school. You may select these students from among those enrolled in your AiS classes, your AiS club or similar classes that you teach. However, all students selected must have individual e-mail addresses as well as access to computers and telecommunications tools. The young women should also be involved in science, engineering, technical or computing project work and interested in forming a relationship with a female professional in these fields.

To recruit young women for the program, you may want to distribute brochures and mention the program during AiS class or club meetings. We also recommend that you host a short Introductory Meeting in which you explain the purpose of the project and what students can expect if they choose to participate. At this meeting, you should distribute the Telementoring Student Application. All students selected for the program must complete this application, as their responses are important for the mentor matching process and our research.

Additionally, we request that you send a letter to parents which explains the program and their child's responsibilities/activities and which invites them to talk with their daughters about the Telementoring experience. This should be sent prior to the Orientation Meeting.

When making your final selection of students, you may want to consider student need (presence of positive adult influences) and motivation (why they want to be involved and how willing they are to commit to an extended on-line relationship). We have found that young women tend to bond quite well in this program--to support, advise, and tutor each other--and that this is very exciting for them. We encourage you to use the occasion of this Introductory Meeting to share your own excitement about the project and its possibilities for your students.

Orientation Meeting for Students and Parents

By mid-November, we would like for you to have selected the students in your school who will participate in Telementoring '95-96. At this time, you will need to host an Orientation Meeting for the students and their parents. We suggest that you serve light refreshments and try to establish a friendly, informal, open-to-questions atmosphere at the meeting.

The Orientation Meeting will serve as an opportunity for you to clarify the program for students, explain the program to parents, and answer any questions that might arise. It will also set the tone of the Telementoring Program at your school.

At the meeting, you will need to distribute a Student Orientation packet of materials which includes: the Welcome Letter, Telementoring Guide, the Spaces and Places Guide for Students; and the Netiquette Guide. Additionally, students and their parents should read and sign the Acceptable Use/Project Agreement during the meeting. This document insures that when students join the program, they do so with the understanding that they are to behave appropriately and participate regularly in on-line discussions and conversations. It may also help to assuage parental fears about network use and misuse. All students and their parents/guardians must sign the agreement to participate in the program. Mentors may not be assigned to students who have not returned this signed document.

While it is desirable for parents to attend the Orientation Meeting, some families may not be able to accommodate evening or after-school meetings. It is important to be aware of and sensitive to diverse family circumstances. Try to make these participants and their families feel welcome. Parents or guardians who cannot attend meetings should be telephoned at least once during the course of the program, and if possible, they should be updated occasionally on the progress of their daughters.

Involving Parents & Families

Family involvement is an important component in the Telementoring program, as in most educational endeavors. We recognize that, unfortunately, it is often the most difficult to facilitate/coordinate.

Throughout the project, parents should be invited to comment (to the Project Liaison and CCT-Telementoring Staff, if necessary) on their concerns as well as their suggestions for improving the program or telementoring relationships.

At some time following the project's mid-term, CCT-Telementoring Staff will also be coordinating an on-line Parents Week. This week of activities will consist of various discussion forums that encourage parents to communicate on-line with student mentors and other parents. If possible, we would like for you to arrange one or two times during that week when parents/families could visit your classroom to talk with each other and to access e-mail and WWW sites. We will contact you later about the details of Parents Week.

We welcome you to experiment with other strategies for involving parents in the project. Please feel free to share your ideas and strategies on the Teachers' Lounge Listserver.

Preparing Students for On-line Experiences

In preparation for their Telementoring relationships, participating students will be subscribed to a "Student Lounge" Listserver. (To facilitate this action, project liaisons will need to forward a list of student names and e-mail addresses to CCT-staff.) This on-line mailing list provides a space for students to talk among themselves and about common concerns, hopes, events, etc. During the first year pilot study in NYC, Telementoring students found this space to be extremely useful.

Before actually meeting their mentors on-line, students will be asked to compose and share a short biography in this lounge. These bios are the major way in which students will introduce themselves to mentors and others in the program. They should be approximately one page in length and include at least the following information:

  • Student Name;
  • Family information that student feels is relevant (e.g. number, names, and ages of siblings);
  • Interests at School (e.g. classes that student is taking or has enjoyed);
  • Extracurricular Interests;
  • Career Interests.

    Additionally, students will need to think about and record initial questions they would like to have answered by their mentors and (if desired) by other students in the program. Students' "Burning Questions" should be shared and critiqued by other project participants in the class.

    Mentor-Student Matching and Support

    In late November, you will receive the names and Mentor Profiles of approximately 15 professional women who have volunteered to be Telementors. (The number of mentors assigned to your group will vary slightly depending upon the number of young women enrolled in the program at your site). Each of these mentors has been screened and trained to work in the program. Their profiles will include such information as: Race; Residential Region; Job Title; Career Field; Hobbies & Interests; and Notable Quotes.. Mentors have also indicated what topics (for example, Career Opportunities and Options, Balancing Family and Work, and Self Image/Self Confidence) they are comfortable talking with students about.

    In matching your students with Telementors, you will want to keep in mind the following matching criteria: (1) Students' academic and career interests (from Student Application).
    (2) Student and mentor hobbies (from Student Application and Mentor Profile).
    (3) Mentor Support

  • Is mentor able to address the student's expressed areas (topics) of interest?
  • Is mentor able to address student concern with particular subject matter (i.e. math)?
    (4) Mentor Preferences--Mentors may have expressed preferences about whether it is important to them to be matched by field, gender, institution, or ethnic/racial background.
    (5) Mentor's expressed ability to be frequently on-line (from mentor profile) -- with student expectations/needs (subjective).
    (6) General impression of students and mentors (subjective assessment and style/tone of Mentor Profile).

    Matching is best done with the help of a friend or colleague. We strongly recommend that you collaborate with another teacher in pairing students with mentors, and we encourage you to use the on-line Teachers' Lounge to discuss questions and concerns that may arise about this process. CCT-Telementoring Staff are also available to assist you.

    Once you have made the matches, you should send e-mail to both mentors and students notifying them of the match. In the Notification Letter, which should also be sent to CCT-Telementoring Staff, be sure to include a phrase indicating that students and mentors should contact you if they are having any problems. Early detection of sometimes simple problems (occasionally technical glitches) is often the key to forming successful on-line relationships.

    Participation in Research - Feedback

    As collaborators in the investigation of how best to create and support on-line mentoring relationships, we welcome your feedback and suggestions throughout the entire year. However, at certain points during the project, we will also ask for specific comments and pieces of information. Following is a checklist of basic information that we request from you:

  • Paper Copies of student applications for all students;
  • Names and e-mail addresses of all students selected to participate in the program;
  • E-mail Copies of Notification Letters to Mentors indicating which students are matched with which mentors.

    Additionally, we will collect the following in-depth data from you and your students:

  • Pre- and Post-Surveys of Student Experiences and Attitudes;
  • Student Journal Responses (students will be e-mailed journal questions every six weeks);
  • Early year site visits;
  • Mid-project evaluations from teachers;
  • Late year site visits;
  • End-project evaluations from students;
  • End-project interviews with teachers and select students.

    Finally, we will collect and analyze the student-mentor correspondences for students at selected sites. These sites will be determined, with your input, at a later date.

    Additional Resources

    We are presently developing a WWW site for the Telementoring Project. This space (for teachers, students, parents, and others interested in the goals and activities of the project) will include information, resources, and further web pointers on the subjects of recruiting, supporting, and sustaining young women in science and computing classes. We welcome your suggestions for this site.