You will have noticed that I’m fond of alliterations, especially for my titles of blog posts, and this one sprang to mind as I contemplated what to write about mentoring for teachers in 2010. A little light magic is required to provide engaging and effective mentoring for the ‘new teachers’; technology stewards as Nancy White refers to them in her new book Digital Habitats, EWenger, N White and JD Smith, 2009.
I’d like to share with you some of my techniques of ementoring and utilising as many of the web 2.0 tools as are relevant to produce that magic. You may wish to join me at LearnCentral for the Mentoring Mondays Australia Series in February. Join me online in Elluminate on Feb 1, 8 and 22 at 8.00 pm AEDT.
Creating presence: using Google Talk, Skype and Elluminate
Google Talk is a useful tool for sending instant messages from your Google gmail desktop. I use Google Mail and have added Google Talk (both text and chat) to my Google tools. People can see when you’re online, a green icon shows in your Gtalk panel when you are active, enabling people to contact you briefly. This can help to avoid the ‘phone tag’ game that is played when you phone, they’re not there, they phone back when you’re not there. Gtalk gives you the green light to contact instantly. GTalk can enable you to provide an instant reply to a query from a mentee – just takes a few minutes of your time – easy.
My favourite real time communication tool is Skype. It has been a reliable and robust tool for me for several years now, and I tend to think of it first when suggesting a meeting with those I mentor. Yes first, over and above the telephone, because Skype enables me to have a voice conversation free of charge (important if your mentee is geographically remote from you or even in a difference time zone). Skype enables me to share files and my desktop if required – simple tools that provide instant access to documents and visuals relevant to the conversation. Skype enables me to make notes in text chat whilst listening and these can be seen immediately by the mentee – providing instant validation and summary. Skype can be used as a ‘back channel’ when you are exploring a website together and talking to your mentee about that. Skype can be used in conjunction with Google docs where you are collaborating on a planning document for example. Skype is free and easy to operate, therefore a simple tool to ask your mentees to use.
It is essential that Skype mentoring sessions be planned in advance to ensure that time has been allocated for the task – an agreed schedule that you can share using a Google calendar, gmail or googlewave. Plan these so that they follow a known pattern of conversation and make the mentee comfortable in that space. Let them know that the session text will always be available for them.You may also wish to let people know that if they send you a text message in Skype first you may be available for a voice chat at random opportunities when you and your mentees are online at the same time. Skype enables you to see who is online, away or not to be disturbed. This is an essential element of creating presence. (My Skype identity is coach.carole)
When the mentoring meeting requires more multi media sharing and the ability to multi task for a larger number of mentees, I choose Elluminate. My Elluminate V Office can hold up to 25 people so I can conduct one-to-many mentoring sessions. Application sharing enables me to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ how to use a particular web 2.0 tool or can be used to collaborate on the creation and editing of a document live in real time. My group of mentees can also share live presentations, for example when preparing for a face-to-face conference or presentation, by enabling them to upload their PowerPoint slides to Elluminate and to practice navigating through them and talking to the group. Peer support and the building of community is enhanced for such a group by the use of Elluminate sessions on a frequent basis.
Elluminate enables me to mentor on a one-to-one basis. I often use my Elluminate V Room at LearnCentral for this purpose. This room is open all the time, and can be used for ad hoc sessions as well as planned and scheduled ones. I would just send an invite to join me in my V Room from LearnCentral with a note about what date and time. A one step process that is quick and easy to do. I also provide a link to my V Room and V Office on my network site. This enables people to find me quickly and easily. This is another essential ingredient for creating presence.
Next up: Providing support: using Moodle, Wikis and GoogleSites