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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Creating a culture of online learning and mentoring

Creating a culture of online learning and mentoring

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Recently, the school I work at advertised for an online learning and mentoring coordinator. I think this is a really proactive step - but it raises an interesting problem. This school is a middle sized high school (about 750 students) located in Western Sydney. Computer access on site is quite high - (about 1 machine for 2 students) and access at home is equally high (more than 90% of students have computers with internet access at home). It is a day school, so the online learning component would obviously be in addition to normal face to to face teaching - perhaps supplemental or maybe after school hours. My questions are these: 1. How would this coordinator go about creating an online learning culture? What tools or strategies would you recommend for using this? How would the coordinator establish a 'critical mass' of participating students? 2. What would online mentoring look like, as opposed to online learning? What advice would you give to set this up?

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Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Susan,
Thanks for the contribution to the discussion. Can you just elaborate on something for me: when you suggest that mentoring should be community based, do you mean that it should be face to face? Not quite sure I followed you.

Susan Gauvin's picture
Susan Gauvin
Canadian, parent, homeschooling, raised in public education depends upon the area of learning. I think that Khan academy for my daughter works great...but if I want her to use her math to do something in the way of project-based learning I want her to interact with another person (could be one on one or in the form of a community activity or class). If using tools etc... Video is a great introduction, and for visualizing the project. I don't like the idea of leaving my daughter with a stranger...but as there are offices for rent these days...why can't there be glass walled offices for rent for the purposes of tutoring...o.k. I'm getting off the topic into safety...but I'd like to see mentoring centers, sites etc. Often I see retired people with skills like welding, woodworking, seamstresses etc...why couldn't they make a few extra dollars mentoring youth as well? In other words there are people living right next door to us in every community, needing a few extra dollars, that have skills that they are unable to use, that are dying for the opportunity to make them of use, and would probably like a safe environment in which to use them...Don't you think? I mean I can't teach an olympic athelete to swim but I've taught a few of my nieces and nephews, kids I've babysat and also when I volunteered for assisting at summer camp when I was 13 years old! Now in my 40's ...I look back and wish I had more opportunity to engage in those type of activities. What a way for a kid to start a resume!...My daughter reads to my son, and plays make a word games with him when I'm busy...She deserves a teaching badge for that ^_^. My daughter plays piano with a 12 year old girl once a week as my daughter is 9 and is just beginning...its something in an area where there is nothing available...and I'm thankful for that as I don't have the time to learn and teach these things, but want my daughter to be able to create joy in and around her life. (Actually I've seen tutoring space for rent here in China for those purposes ...for english tutoring)

I think a database of who can mentor in what area has to be set up...its up to the mentor and what the mentor is willing to do. Example a mother might like to offer a baking bread thing one time a month, a grandmother might be open to discussing something online from her apartment, such as how to organize your time, a retired welder might be able to make himself available to do a demo for 10 dollars an hour 1 time per week or on one or perhaps under supervision in a place of business or something. I guess a disclaimer or some form of trust would have to be set up. ...I really don't know. Fear is a big thing these days too...but that is something people just have to get over. (what's the name of that movie with Clint Eastwood...the one with the car where he mentors the youth with gang trouble?...) I'm not saying I'd like to find one mentor to mentor my daughter...I'm saying a child could probably use several in many differant areas depending upon "what their interests/talents/skills are and what they might like/need to know and try".

Susan Gauvin's picture
Susan Gauvin
Canadian, parent, homeschooling, raised in public education

...edutopia's discussions are becoming fragmented and varied so I'll answer your typing question here. The Dance Mat typing is very good. I wouldn't need a mentor for my daughter in that area if access to that continues to be so good. She really enjoys that.

CL's picture
Higher Ed

Susan, intriguing ideas. I see some limitations with practical school policies; while it is similar to enrichment programs that bring in guest presenters.

Your suggestions remind me of a man I met on a walk -- he was a retired linguist, who had extensive experience. His opportunities to teach people ended when he stopped working, but he seemed to want to keep sharing his expertise.

Retired professionals can express themselves through an athaneum or elder hostel, but there are not many venues for them to impact young minds.

Ms. Evans's picture
Ms. Evans
Founder of EVS Orlando Tutor

I have a student/mentoree in Nigeria who spurred the motivation behind the mentoring I would like to offer. He saw my ad on Facebook and so it goes.... It is a large project that needs attention and monetary sponsorship. You can see my Facebook page for details. I would love to see your proposal, while I continue to pray and research (during limited free time) for my Nigerian. Thanks so much. EVS Orlando Tutor on FB

Susan Gauvin's picture
Susan Gauvin
Canadian, parent, homeschooling, raised in public education

Marshall Barnes mentioned he is working on cutting edge presentations by scientists/artists via Skype for his "Superscience for High School Physics" ...???...Perhaps that could spark some ideas

Ruqaya Alhussain's picture
Ruqaya Alhussain
Lecturer, ETL student

I think the most important to create an online learning culture in the described context is to assure the implementation of the curriculum materials, practices, and applications in this online environment. It could begin with blended learning since it's a newly established learning context, with the students will keep with the previous learning characteristics they used with an addition to the new techniques and procedures. Another aspect to consider, that communicating and networking between the students themselves and their instructors will increase the coordination and collaboration among these parties, this will develop an online learning culture. Skype -as mentioned in previous comment-, Blackboard, Moodle, and any other tool or platform will allow communicating and networking between involved parties.

Thomas Stanley's picture
Thomas Stanley
Educational Consultant-former teacher in high school

One of our online teachers mentored students who had failed the math proficiency. It was amazing the success rate he had based on a simple strategy. After reviewing each students strengths and weaknesses he worked only on improving areas that were close to helping to student pass the proficiency test. I tried this with my face-to-face students and my online blended learning students and it worked everyone of them passed the proficiency. They were not bogged down in learning so many details just focusing on a few things.
The program inlcuded:synchronous learning, asynchronous, video and audio help, and homework hotlines. It was a great success.

Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi Thomas,

Can you share with me how the homework hotlines work? Accessibility, funding, and etc?

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