Wednesday February 14, 2001 From 3:30 - 4:30 in K9509, SFU
Kevin O'Neill, Faculty of Education, SFU
Linking communities of practice through on-line mentoring
Abstract: Knowledgeable adults working and learning outside the school system have a lot to contribute to the education of our children. For many years, teachers have invited parents and community volunteers into their classrooms from time to time for activities like science fair judging or career day. But during such rare visitations, even very knowledgeable adults cannot have much influence over the subjects that students can study deeply, or the understandings they can construct of these subjects.
The Internet now makes possible much deeper and more routine influences between schools and adult work environments in which learning has a high priority. In recent years, my colleagues and I have had considerable success in our efforts to engage hundreds of K-12 students and knowledgeable adult volunteers from around the continent in long-term, curriculum-based on-line relationships. In these "telementoring" relationships, adults guide students' and teachers' work on ambitious academic tasks that they would be unable to attempt alone. For adult volunteers, the relationships also provide valuable opportunities for learning and growth.
In this session, I will offer a retrospective of several years of my own research with teachers, volunteer scientists, and students in middle and high schools. I will also discuss plans for a new project that will involve students, teachers and community volunteers in first-hand investigations of historical themes surrounding the Canadian Pacific Railway and the settlement of western Canada.