Tag Archives: Mentoring

Mentoring: Lost in Translation

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference

Orland-Barak, L. (2005). Lost in translation: Mentors learning to participate in competing discourses of practice. Journal of Teacher Education, 56(4), 355-366.


This article focuses on the “competing discourses of practice” between mentoring and teaching. Instead of focusing on what is similar between the two, the author focuses on what is different, suggesting that mentoring for teachers is like speaking/learning a new language.

The study is based in the Israeli education system where there are formal programs with “school mentors” for new teachers within a school, and “outside mentors” who are assigned to a school and often teach part-time elsewhere. The mentors observe, evaluate, organize and conduct workshops, lead staff development, and assist with curriculum.

Challenges in this role include:

  • Finding it diffcult to implement a new curriculum in their own class while trying to mentor novice teachers in the same thing
  • A dual sense of accountability to teachers and principals/inspectors
  • Trying to make sense of being a mentor and being a teacher and differing behaviors for each
  • They believed in mentoring as “collaborative and democratic,” but their actions were more “prescriptive and controlling”
  • They might be an expert in teaching, but a novice in mentoring, which causes dissonance

Skills mentors need:

  • Confidence in themselves and their profession
  • Ability to develop relationships with teachers
  • Evidence of master in their content area
  • Ability to understand the “power relationships with new accountabilities”
  • A clear vision of what it means to be a good professional in changing contexts

In this study, the education system is centralized and focused on product, whereas the universities are focused on process. This scenario pulls the mentors in different directions.

Application to VC

Similar challenges?

  • Do educational service level agency VC support personnel or our VC coordinators run into any of these challenges?
  • Are there any competing expectations that make life difficult for our VC coordinators in the schools?

I haven’t heard anything that sounds quite like the level in this study. However, there may be similar challenges:

  • Competition for Time: VC Coordinators who support VC on top of their regular job (teacher coordinators and media specialists who teach full time)
  • Competition for Tech Integration: VC Coordinators who are responsible for promoting and supporting the integration of technology in their school. Is there enough time for VC plus all the other technologies?
  • Competition for Curriculum: A tightening of the curriculum with little room left for creative teaching.

Your Turn

What do you think? What are other challenges that school level VC coordinators face in trying to mentor teachers to use VC in the curriculum?

Mentoring: Sharing Teacher Knowledge of Technology

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference

Margerum-Leys, J., & Marx, R. W. (2004). The nature and sharing of teacher knowledge of technology in a student teacher/mentor teacher pair. Journal of Teacher Education, 55(5), 421-437.


This qualitative study examined the mentor relationship between a student teacher and her mentor teacher, in the light of teacher knowledge (content, pedagogical, and pedagogical content knowledge), and the use and application of educational technology.

Educational technology is an area in which mentor teachers are eager to access content knowledge held by student students. … They also perceive that student teachers’ teacher education coursework will have contained more educational technology information than their own coursework (Margerum-Leys, 2004, p. 423).

Student Centered Learning & Information Technology
Another interesting quote makes connections between the move from computer as a logic teaching tool to a information and communication portal and the movement towards student-centered learning environments. The author suggests these two have occurred in parallel.

Sidenote: This article is from a dissertation written in 2002. The author suggests education is moving from acquiring hardware to focusing on educationally sound applications. Are we now focusing on the “acquiring of tools” still to the detriment of focus on educationally sound applications? I’ve heard rumblings of this from the recent NECC. Something to think about.

Learning to use the remote in the Jazz workshop
Learning to use the remote in the Jazz workshop

Learning From Each Other
The heart of the mentoring relationship in this study is that student teacher and mentor teacher learn from each other, and sharing knowledge about educational technology creates professional development on both sides of the relationship. In several example scenarios shared, one modeled a lesson for the other, and the other then taught that same lesson in later periods (it was a middle school with 5 sections). Sometimes the student teacher took the lead with a new technology tool, and sometimes the mentor teacher took the lead. The mentored each other throughout the process.

  • The mentor teacher took the lead in pedagogical and classroom management.
  • The student teacher often (but not always) took the lead with content knowledge of educational technology.

Pedagogical content knowledge

The author defines pedagogical content knowledge for educational technology as the

knowedge of appropriate instructional strategies specific to the implementation of technology-enhanced learning activities. (Margerum-Leys, 2004, p. 433).

The development of this knowledge builds on existing knowledge of content and pedagogy. The author suggests this can best happen by placing student teachers where there is access to technology and they can learn to use it well in the classroom.

Teachers Plan a VC Lesson Together
Teachers Plan a VC Lesson Together

Application to VC

  • Pre-service teachers. Wouldn’t it be great if all pre-service teachers could experience VC in their student teaching? With only 30% of schools in the U.S. having access to VC, it may be unlikely. But what are YOU doing with the local universities to make sure student teachers experience VC? Two of our local universities have VC experiences at Berrien RESA every year. Roxanne’s Bluebonnet program is another model.
  • Learning to integrate VC in the curriculum. It’s obvious from this study (and our experience) that you can’t just teach a teacher how to dial, click, type, hit buttons. There MUST be some modeling and learning how to use it in the curriculum. You can’t expect teachers to make the jump from “here’s a tech/tool” — now figure out how to use it in the curriculum.
  • Mentoring. We’ve talked about this already, but mentoring includes modeling and assistance on how to use VC in the curriculum.

What do you think? What is included in pedagogical content knowledge for using videoconferencing? Do you have a relationship with the local university that helps teach pre-service teachers about VC? Please comment!

Mentoring: The Leader as Mentor

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference
Gibson, J. W., Tesone, D. V., & Buchalski, R. M. (2000). The leader as mentor. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 7(3), 56-67.

Summary/Interesting Notes
Leaders nowadays are “coaches, facilitators, and team leaders.” One of the most potent ways to influence someone is to mentor them. The variety of ways of mentoring are usually related to the goals of the organization. Informal mentoring could include teams (think Jazz) and luncheons (think Roxanne’s end of year celebration).

Why people become mentors can be explained by the social exchange theory (think of a relational calculator of costs & benefits) and the communitarianism theory (people help others without direct personal benefit to build up the community).

Wheatley (1999) suggests that leaders are evaluated by the number of new leaders they develop.

Dancing in the Jazz Workshop
Dancing in the Jazz Workshop

A master is defined as someone who started before the learner (Zukav, 1979, 1990) In the ancient tradition the job of the master is not to teach, but to dance with the learner. In this sense the master is following the learner’s path of inquiry by presenting only the information that is asked for by the learner. The master begins this dance with the essence of the knowledge, the core of what there is to know and builds outward from that core in directions driven by the learner (p. 61).

Enforcing mentoring or formal mentorship programs tend to have more challenges than informal mentoring.

The paper included a focus study group with 10 managers from hotels and independent properties. They found effective practices for mentors:

  • It’s best to learn to be a mentor by being mentored
  • Informal mentoring is more effective than formal programs
  • Informal mentoring is for all levels, not just new employees
  • There are only three ways to learn management: trial and error, modeling and mentoring; mentoring is the most efficient way to learn

“Mentoring is the leader being the master of learning – and learning is the leader sharing the essence of a lifetime of experience.”

Application to VC
Yesterday we thought about the VC coordinator mentoring teachers. Today, think about the district level or educational service agency level person mentoring the VC coordinators (in light of a complete support structure).


  • What are the cost/benefits to providing mentoring to your VC coordinators?
  • I see the costs as mostly time, but the benefits are the schools using VC more, and the VC coordinators becoming more independent.

Building the Community

  • How are you building up the community of VC coordinators in your area?
  • I like Roxanne’s model with user groups where the coordinators get to know each other and share tips with each other. They learn from each other, not just from Roxanne. Read more here, here, here, here, and here.

Doing the Hokey Pokey in Jazz

Dancing with the Learners

  • How are you dancing with your VC coordinators?
  • “The master is following the learner’s path of inquiry by presenting only the information that is asked for by the learner.”
  • How are you providing just-in-time learning?
  • For me, this means starting each year with a VC coordinator training (which I hope to take national this fall. Interested?). Then, I offer other trainings, usually again in the fall. Short bits of: Scheduling, Troubleshooting, Using Your Document Camera. Usually 2nd or 3rd year coordinators attend these trainings. Then of course there is all the phone calls and quick VC advice sessions throughout the year as needed.

What about non-functioning VC Coordinators?
As I think through this process, I’m starting to think more about my coordinators who don’t take advantage of these services. Whose schools aren’t using VC very much. I don’t usually think about them because the others keep me so busy. But as I reflect over the summer, I wonder how I can pull them into the learning community?

Your Turn
What do you think? Do you support VC coordinators? How are you “dancing” with them?

Ideal Support Structure for VC

This morning, Jerry made some great comments/reflections on the support of VC related to mentoring. I’ve been thinking about this support structure issue for quite a while, and pretty soon I’ll be able to share some research that backs this up too!

So here’s my dream scenario for supporting VC in schools. There are ways to adapt this structure if your scenario is missing a piece or two. See if this matches what you find as successful in your area.

Jazz Workshop: Teachers and Coordinators Learn to Use VC
Jazz Workshop: Teachers and Coordinators Learn to Use VC

Educational Service Agency Level

  • A curriculum integration person, who helps teachers integrate VC in the curriculum, trains the school VC coordinators, creates resources to support VC in the curriculum, and facilitates original programs for the schools.
  • A technical support person, who runs the MCU (if applicable) and assists the districts in getting VC to work through their firewalls, explains how VC works to the district techs, troubleshoots videoconferences, finds alternative ways to connect a VC if the school can’t do it on their own, upgrades software on the endpoints, provides just-in-time training to the district technical personnel, etc.


School District Level

  • Technology Coordinator. At the very least, the technology coordinator needs to be aware of videoconferencing, the benefits to student learning, it’s impact on the network,  how to make VC work through the firewall, how the cables are hooked up to the projector/monitor etc to assist when problems arise, how to dial, and basic videoconference troubleshooting.
  • This person needs support from the ESA level tech person as they often are so swamped with every day technical support that they don’t have time to learn the intricacies of making VC work on their network.

Ashton Graham Mentors During the Jazz Workshop
Ashton Graham Mentors During the Jazz Workshop

School Level

  • VC Coordinator who is supported by the people listed above.
  • The VC Coordinator has many names: site facilitator, cart manager, etc. and could be the librarian, media specialist, a couple of lead teachers, the school technology facilitator, a media paraprofessional, or even a secretary. I have two coordinators who are secretaries – they are in small schools with limited staff.
  • The VC coordinator supports the teachers as I described yesterday.


  • I don’t think any of these positions need to be full time for videoconferencing, except if possible at least one person at the educational service agency level or district level if the district is large.
  • In very large districts, the educational service agency level support is provided at the district level.
  • In some cases, schools receive some of the educational service agency support from organizations such as CILC and TWICE.

Your Turn:
What do you think? Do you agree? How does this match up to your area? Are you missing any of the pieces? How could you work to fill the gap?

Or another question might be: Is this support structure unique to VC? or is it helpful in all educational technology implementations?

Or another question: What other great examples do you know of where these structures are in place?

Please comment and share!

Mentoring: Learning to Teach (with Technology?)

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference
Fairbanks, C. M., Freedman, D., & Kahn, C. (2000). The role of effective mentors in learning to teach. Journal of Teacher Education, 51(2), 102-112.

Note: This article is specifically about mentors in the process of learning to teach. But I wonder if the findings can apply to learning to teach with technology also? Let’s think about it!

The qualitative study focuses on mentoring relationship between the student teacher and the mentor teacher. The authors reference Britzman (1991) that learning to teach is a social process where the student teachers sort through the contradictions between the pedagogical knowledge they learned and the realities of teaching. The article also makes connections to Lave and Wenger (1991)’s situated learning and legitimate peripheral participation (which is a great model for the gradual taking over of teaching that happens during student teaching).

The major categories of assistance and mentoring that occurred during the student teacher / mentor teacher relationship are:

  • Helping student teachers survive their beginning teaching experiences and define their teaching lives
  • Establishing relationships based on dialogue and reflection (negotiation with each other, finding balance between leading and following, articulating craft knowledge)
  • Building professional partnerships (partnering to teach a lesson, developing new curriculum together)

They ended the relationship more as a team than as a mentor/student relationship.

Mentor Teacher Exposition
Mentor Teacher Exposition

Application to VC
So think with me just a wee bit about how this same process goes on as teachers learn a new technology, such as videoconferencing.


The videoconference coordinator / site facilitator / VC champion, if she has a teaching background, often leads the lessons to begin with. The VC coordinator:

  • Chooses the program based on the teacher’s curriculum
  • Signs up for the teacher
  • Helps to prepare the students for the videoconference
  • Stays in the room during the videoconference to help run the camera and facilitate the dialogue


Then, hopefully, the partnership moves to more dialogue and reflection. The VC coordinator:

  • Negotiates with the teacher and starts to encourage the teacher to participate in the process
  • Finds a balance between leading and following, starting to let the teacher take the lead
  • Articulates knowledge about VC: how to sign up, how to prepare students, how to use the remote to mute & use presets


Finally, there is a professional partnership.

  • Teacher and VC coordinator plan lessons together
  • Teacher and VC coordinator create new curriculum (collaborative projects) together
  • The VC coordinator moves into a “supporting” role instead of a “promoting” role

Your Turn!

What do you think? Does this model apply? Which stage are YOU at with the teachers in your school? If you’re at the educational service agency, are you moving through these stages with your school level VC coordinators? Is anything missing at any of the stages?

Please comment! How are you mentoring your teachers in using VC in the curriculum?

Mentoring: Student Technology Mentors

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference
Butler, T., & Chao, T. (2001). Partners for change: Students as effective technology mentors. Active Learning in Higher Education, 2(2), 101-113.

This article described using university students as technology mentors for faculty. I realize this is a higher ed article, but I thought the lessons could still be applied. One of the elementary schools in our county uses students as technology helpers for teachers – making PPTs, assisting with the printer problems, etc. Could a school have a VC Team that helped teachers use VC? Something to think about!

The University of Alberta’s Arts Technologies for Learning Centre uses undergraduate and graduate students to work part-time as technology mentors. The faculty come to ask for assistance, and students are assigned to them to advise, guide and coach the instructors. The goal is to help the instructors feel more comfortable in using instructional technology. The benefits include growth for both the faculty member and the student. Sometimes the faculty ask for instructional design assistance beyond the level of the student; then the student consults with others to bring the necessary assistance to the faculty member.

The students must have technical and interpersonal skills to be selected, as well as the ability to learn quickly, listen well, and be patient.

The students benefit from increased technical skills, increased communication skills, and the benefit of thinking more about teaching and learning. The faculty were saitsfied with the services and the found the mentor support helpful.

The authors believe the success factors were:

  • An emphasis on change for the faculty, not just getting work done for them
  • Student mentors are from the same field as the faculty members
  • Respect for the students’ load
  • Student mentors who are willing to learn and innovate

Challenges included:

  • The student turnover rate
  • The need to provide an instructional strategies orientation for the student mentors

Implications for VC
Of course, K12 students are not college students or graduate students. However, let’s brainstorm some ways students could help teachers during a VC:

  • Dialing the far site; redialing if the call drops
  • Managing the microphone (muting/unmuting)
  • Managing the remote (camera presets)
  • Managing the visuals (document camera, computer, etc.)

How could students help teachers before a VC?

  • Could students help search for programs that are at a specific grade level, cover a specific topic, and are within a certain cost range?
  • Students could also help to gather the materials and props necessary for a VC.
  • Students could follow a checklist to make sure phone numbers, IP numbers, etc. were gathered for the event

Would it work best to have one student in each classroom trained to be a VC mentor?

Would it be better to have a team of students? Would they be able to leave class to help start a VC?

Young students help teachers bring technology tools into their lessons. Credit: Edutopia

Some other models

What are some other ways mentoring relationships could be set up in K-12 schools?

Your Turn
What do you think of this idea? Can students provide some mentoring support to teachers in integrating videoconferencing in the curriculum? Have you tried any of these ideas in your school? Please comment!

Mentoring: Effectiveness for Mentors

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference
Allen, T. D., & Eby, L. T. (2003). Relationship effectiveness for mentors: Factors associated with learning and quality. Journal of Management, 29(4), 469-486.

Mentor Picture from Creative Commons @ Flickr

This study examined the mentor relationship from the mentor’s perspective. They received surveys from 249 mentors in the accounting and engineering professional fields. They found that in mentor pairs, perceived similarity between the mentor and protégé related significantly to mentorship quality and mentorship learning. They also found that the duration of the mentorship affected the importance of perceived similarity – it was more important in shorter mentorships than longer mentorships. Gender similarity was found to be not significantly related to mentorship quality and learning.

The authors reference Kram (1985) suggesting that a reward of mentorship is to shape the other person to see characteristics of themselves in that person. Mentors desire to create a mirror image of themselves to fulfill generativity needs. However, in a mentor relationship of  a longer duration, the perceived similarity is not as important for the mentor’s sense of benefit from the relationship.

Application to VC
As I read this article, particularly with it’s emphasis on the mentor learning from the protégé, I found myself thinking of those who mentored me, such as Sue Porter, co-founding mother of TWICE; Arnie Comer, who taught me how to run the ASK program for my schools. I thought about how I’ve mentored others (you know who you are!) in scheduling and organizational tips for videoconferencing, in the ASK program, in running projects for your schools. There’s also the mentoring the goes on in Jazz – in all directions! We are always learning new strategies, new training tips, new resources, new technology tools, new VC project formats from each other, whether new Jazz facilitators or old-timer lead facilitators.

All of my mentoring has been voluntary, which this study referred to as “informal.” Most (if not all) of my mentoring relationships result in more videoconferences for my schools. To me, this is a huge benefit of mentoring in my work. I’ll say it again: The more people you know, the more videoconferences you can do!

I learn from the people I mentor as well: new technology tools, new formats for projects, new ways to facilitate videoconferences, new ways to teach best practices to our schools.

I thought the perceived similarity part of the study was interesting. What similarities do I see in my mentors and mentees?

  • We all have a passion for education.
  • We’re all dedicated to bringing quality learning experiences to kids.
  • We all have a collaborative / giving / sharing spirit.
  • We all believe in constructivist learning.
  • We all believe in life-long learning – WE keep learning!
  • We all like to CREATE programs and events for kids.
  • Most of us are on Twitter and Skype. Ok I just had to throw that in! I’m sure no one has done a study on if twitter can be a communication vehicle for mentoring!!

These are also the characteristics that I want to see replicated in others, so that curriculum videoconferencing can be expanded throughout the world.

Your Turn
So, think about it! How are YOU mentoring others or being mentored? Is there another VC coordinator somewhere in your area or elsewhere that you’ve found during a collaborative project? Who can you continue to learn with & from?

The trick then, is to keep doing projects together, to VC and chat about how things are going once in a while, to ask questions such as “how do you do this or that”?

Please comment… how are you learning with others?

Mentoring: What's a Mentor, Anyway?

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

It is my belief that the school videoconference coordinator is critical to the successful implementation of curriculum videoconferencing in the school. I also believe that it’s critical that the school videoconference coordinator have appropriate support so that they can be successful. I think that those of us at the educational service agency level can mentor and/or coach our videoconference coordinators. So this investigation into the research and theory on mentoring and coaching will hopefully inform and improve my own practice, and maybe yours too!

Article Reference
Mertz, N. T. (2004). What’s a Mentor, Anyway? Educational Administration Quarterly, 40(4), 541-560.

The article begins with an overwhelming and almost frustrating review of all the definitions of mentoring and various supporting relationships and bemoans the lack of consistently used definitions.

Next there is a review of research and theory on mentoring, showing that there are different kinds of supportive relationships, different levels of commitment on the mentor’s part, and varying benefits from the relationship. Theories of interpersonal relationships, such as social exchange theory, can help us understand how people behave in a mentoring relationship. There are different costs and benefits in the mentoring relationship.

So the authors propose a conceptual model for mentoring that includes two main concepts of intent and involvement. Intent is the perceived purpose of the activity and the involvement is the amount of time & effort required.

They also suggest distinguishing between career advancement mentoring and professional development mentoring. Clearly supporting VC coordinators fits into the professional development category.

The model starts at the bottom with the lowest level of involvement and the intent and expands the involvement and intent. The higher levels could also include the lower levels. The level of involvement is represented by the number, and the intent by the words in brackets.

  • Level 1: Role Model, Peer Pal, or Supporter (modeling)
  • Level 2: Teacher or Coach
  • Level 3: Counselor, Advisor, or Guide (professional development / advising)
  • Level 4: Sponsor or Benefactor
  • Level 5: Patron or Protector (career advancement / brokering)
  • Level 6: Mentor

Application to Videoconferencing: Intent
Hmm. So does this model help us think about how we support our school videoconferencing coordinators?

  • Role Model or Supporter. We are role models when we model best practice use of videoconferencing.
  • Teacher or Coach. We teach in training our VC coordinators how to schedule, how to participate in programs, projects, and events, how to find partners for collaborations, how to support teachers, and how to troubleshoot videoconferences.
  • Advisor or Guide. We informally assess their current skill, and help them learn the next skills. We provide them with tips & tricks for supporting VC in their school. We share strategies that have worked for us.
  • Broker. The broker levels of this model and article focus on “getting ahead” and advancing professionally. I don’t think this applies to this situation. Do you agree?

Application to Videoconferencing: Involvement

The article suggests that there are several levels of involvement and that some are easier for many people than others. How many videoconference coordinators do you support? I have 70 schools, so about 100 coordinators. Some schools have two teachers/educators sharing the responsibility, and I would include district technology coordinators in the list as well. How about you?

  • Levels 1 & 2. It takes time to give advice, provide guidance, and lead a friendly ear. Do you ever listen to your coordinators share their challenges in their school? I think this is an important role. It may not require much of an emotional investment to show concern and help a person through challenges and problems.
  • Levels 3 &4. At this level, the article has the educational advisor in mind and includes activities such as sharing information, monitoring progress, advising to gain tenure, etc. This type of formal commitment isn’t applicable to the situation of supporting videoconference coordinators. Still, it is important to share information and monitor the progress of our schools in implementing VC, and provide assistance where problems arise.
  • Levels 5 & 6. At this level, mentors use their networks and “reputation to support their proteges for advancement” and share power and influence. A higher level of trust is required and both parties share thoughts, understandings, and dreams. At this level, a mentor can only interact with a few at a time. As I think about my own videoconference coordinators, I can think of only a few where we talk often enough to approach this level. They call me to report on progress, to vent, and I nudge them to the next level of supporting VC, passing off more and more responsibility for test calls, scheduling etc. This could be stretched to mean advancement, but not strictly as the article describes.

Your Turn
So, now that we’ve both learned a bit more about what mentoring really means, think about your videoconference coordinators (or your teachers if you are supporting VC in your school). At what level are you coaching/mentoring them? Did some new ideas pop into your head of how you could support them? Please comment!