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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

It started as a simple idea . . . What if it were possible to mentor a new teacher via a virtual mentor instead of the traditional 1-to-1 mentoring model? What if you used the power of digital resources to aid in this support, making sure that each had a particular strength in the key areas needed by a new teacher? What if you had key team members, virtual or on-site, that each took a role in that work?

As a principal, I worked hard to mentor the new teachers I hired over the years -- and there were many. Twice in my 19-year career as an administrator, I hired over ten new teachers in two different schools to fill gaps left by veterans who were retiring. Frequently the funding for on-campus mentor teachers was not available, so as a result, the need to provide mentoring and support to my new teachers fell heavily on my shoulders. It was an exhausting task, but one that was absolutely necessary.

Fast-forward five years to the revolution of the web developing into a source for educators, educational technology apps and social media. Now, as these resource tools continue to grow and develop, the potential to harness them to use as a "virtual mentor" is amazing! Will it take some work to develop a process? Yes. Is it possible to do and have it be as supportive as a traditional 1-to-1 mentoring model? Absolutely!

Enter Collaborative Mentoring for New Teachers! I'm very passionate about the idea of virtual mentorship and have been selected to present my panel at ISTE12 in June on this very topic! I also believe in the power of virtual mentorship as a tool that school administrators and support personnel can use to mentor new teachers.

Let's look at two recent "virtual mentoring" projects that I created in collaboration with colleagues, and consider how they might work to benefit you or a team of teachers.

The New Teacher Mentoring Project

Over a year ago, I developed the New Teacher Mentoring Project at the Educator's PLN. It was the result of a conversation I had with colleagues as to how to meet the 21st century education needs of the growing numbers of new and "not-so-new" educators. Who was available on school staff to guide them through new ed-tech applications that could support their curriculum practice? How could we support them to use these tools in a vibrant manner? How could we ensure support to their pedagogy along the way? What about making some global connections? To make this happen, more than 170 educators believed in this vision and volunteered to mentor a new or even not-so-new teacher -- virtually. Teachers from around the world who are skilled with ed-tech signed on to support those who might need a helping hand in the form of a mentor. Their professional information is shared on a public Google Doc and is available to all who desire to connect with a "virtual mentor." I think the idea of this opportunity to have a mentor on hand, potentially 24/7, is amazing! I encourage you to seek out this resource if you are a teacher looking for vibrant support. I will be working this year to expand the project on a greater scale!

Edutopia New Teacher Boot Camp

Last summer, over 1000 educators signed on to be part of our Summer Professional Development Series. We were excited to offer a free workshop on Web 2.0 tools for new (and not-so-new) teachers. Over the five-week workshop, participants learned about one new tool a week via a blog post shared by an experienced teacher in the field. The teacher shared the tool, how they used it with their class and the value it brought to their work. We also used a video interview tool Wetoku (that sadly is not longer available) so that participants could see and hear the teacher explain the tool being presented. Then participating educators did some practice lessons with the tools, started developing their own work, and finally uploaded it to the wiki. They also were strongly encouraged to share how they could see themselves using the tool with their class or school site. As a group, participants were able to brainstorm ways to integrate these tools into the classroom in creative and engaging ways. The boot camp happened virtually, via the blogs archived on the New Teacher Boot Camp page and the wiki in the link above. I highly encourage you to visit the wiki, check out the portfolio pages created by hundreds of teachers and consider taking the Boot Camp course on your own!

Now that I've shared these two great projects -- each of which was a collaborative project -- I'd love to hear from you! Are you a new teacher? Do you support new teachers? Do you believe that collaborative, "virtual" mentorship is possible? Have you created a virtual mentoring project? Share with us your thoughts, and I hope to see you at ISTE12!

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