Here’s a tool with tremendous potential upon scale-up and one that answers a lot of key education questions with flying colors, such as:
__Will it help advance Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the classroom?
__Can it easily and realistically integrate with what teachers already have going on for their students?
__Does it support students in the core subjects as well?
__Is it informative, does it connect students to the real-world beyond the classroom and does it engage them in meaningful learning?
On top of all that, it’s hip, cool, social, uses technology just like kids love, and it’s not experimental—nearly 45,000 students have already been served.
It’s the International Telementor Program, or e-mentoring, and works by matching students about to embark on a weeks-long specific academic project with successful professionals already in the workforce who help them through it.
The pros spend minutes a day checking in via their computer; their bosses encourage it as it’s socially responsible and corporately approved.
The students love it—teachers consistently tell stories of kids who had little interest in certain academic areas suddenly exhibiting a surge in discipline—they want to come to school to check their messages from their mentor. After all, before their project got underway, it was the mentor who chose them, so the student feels a special honor in having been personally selected.
Projects range from Chemistry in Everyday Life – Processed Foods; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (based on the Stephen Covey book); Career and Education Planning; Independent Science Investigation Projects, Childhood Obesity, Sharing the Planet, Heroism During the Holocaust, Making Positive Choices, Life After School—and many more remarkably relevant and interesting titles. Teachers can also use their own.
Students have connected to doctors, lawyers, business executives, movie industry people, scientists, explorers, and leaders in every field.
It’s actually quite genius an idea. David Neils, a former Hewlett-Packard software developer, is the nonprofit program’s passionate founder and program director who has the pleasure of knowing the benefits of the program, but the pain of knowing he could actually help a lot more students if only more companies and school districts were simply made aware of its existence.
The program may not be a match for every last classroom across the nation (it takes a teacher or class coach truly committed to excellence), but through the very real communications mentors impart to the students, it swiftly introduces a high level of quality, accountability and educational excellence into a classroom and is therefore worth a very good look.
Check it out for yourself at telementor.org
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