A Quick Guide to Getting Started with Telementoring
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) to communicate with other teachers in the project and with CCT-Telementoring Staff.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
Additionally, we will collect the following in-depth data from you and your 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.