At this time the group mentoring is underway, I think. I have assembled a room in TI and sent out several invites to a group of technology teachers, coordinators, directors and otherwise involved in educational technology in independent schools in the Dallas Metroplex. The invites were sent out to 53 people that are on a list such people in the area. Some of these people are regular attendees at our group meetings (TEC). Many of these individuals are seldom seen at these meetings. Our face to face meetings occur 2 to 3 times per year.
The purpose of this mentoring project is to increase the frequency and depth of dialogue between members of this group. All to often our face to face meetings are very shallow and little real dialogue takes place. These face to face meetings are about 1 hour long. As this is an online group mentoring project, I am finding that it does not fit so neatly into the mentoring toolkit forms. For this reason, I have considered changing the project. However, this project addresses a very real need in our community. I am finding that the problems that I am encountering are related to trying to get a large diverse group of individuals to participate in an exchange of dialogue at regular intervals. I have been frustrated at the level of participation.
The group currently has 13 members signed up representing 10 to 11 different schools in the area. I have also received several other e-mails from individuals that are planning to join us. One just came today. This individual sent out an e-mail to the larger group discussing Gary Stager’s presentation on A Case for Computing that will be hosted by Macromedia. Her desire was to start an ongoing conversation on this topic and attend the presentation in the virtual environment. This is an individual that I have shared some of my experiences regarding taking class with Gary. This is the type of dialogue that I would like to see this group participate in. I sent her another personal invitation to the group and she plans to join. Unfortunately, she is headed out of town with a group of students for about two weeks. This means that she will not be active until sometime after that time as she will be camping and canoeing with the students and there will not be any internet connectivity.
This last story seems to be the pattern for how this project is going. This is an authentic experience in group mentoring and community building. One of the issues that is very obvious at this time is that everyone is working within their own schedule and timeline. This means that the project is not progressing in a manner that fits the mentoring tool kit. However, progress is being made. I have made it a personal goal to post at least three different items a week as well as add to the links and files that are there. Each time this is done, I invite others to follow suit and post topics, files and links. While that has not taken off yet, I am still very hopeful. As one member said, “don’t give up on us Chris. This is a great idea and could be a rich place for dialogue. We are just very busy”.
Since this is a group mentoring project, I am a mentor as well as a mentee. This does make it a little difficult as I am looking for help and information from the group as well as supplying mentoring help. The flow of information has been predominantly one way. But if I am anything, I am persistent. The group seems to like the concept and feels that it is needed. However, schedules seem to be getting in the way. I have a feeling that this type of group represents a paradigm shit for most of this group. While involved in technology, they are not necessarily as “plugged in” as I have been. After all, I “drank the punch” and am in a different place than I was less than a year ago.
Some ideas for increasing the interactivity of the group include:
1. Live chat with the group
2. Continue to invite others to join
3. Increase frequency of personal posts from 3 to 5 per week.
4. Post some personal blog material relating to how I see the future of educational technology now that I have been through over half of this program. This should have the possibility of really rocking the tables and prompting discussion
5. Host a TI exploration session involving live chat and threaded discussion to expose this group to more of this virtual environment.
6. Invite guest speakers to the group for a live chat session.
As I said earlier, I would consider making a rapid change in the focus of my mentoring project and go to something that is easier and fits the template and timeline better. However, I am encouraged that the group seems to want something like this. It is also a very real need for all of us in this group and so it is about as authentic a project. It is something that will last far longer than the mentoring/team leadership class. For these reasons, I continue to pursue the group mentoring of TEC.