Recently I participated in a lively #Satchat discussion on preparing our pre service teachers for the workforce utilizing social media. At one point in the conversation I used the phrase "digital mentors" in one of my tweets. For some reason it resonated with some of the participants. I think that it's really important that educators from all walks of life have mentors in both the physical and virtual world. In some regards, mentorships in the educational world have taken a bad rap whether it's time constraints, poor support structures, or lack of motivation to help fellow colleagues.
The great thing about technology is that it provides an avenue to do things differently. And in this case, technology allows educators to reach out to and learn from others utilizing tools like Twitter, Voxer, Google Hangout, Periscope, and Blab to name a few. In fact, wouldn't it be great if the digital mentor component was embedded in educator's professional growth plans? What a game-changer this would be! Don't get me wrong, it would take a whole lot of work to get it off the ground running just like a full fledged mentor program in the physical world. But deep down inside I feel that it would benefit so many. Educators often preach about differentiation, so why are we not doing it when comes to mentoring?
I see the benefits of mentoring in the virtual world on a daily basis, particularly on Twitter. I am able to bounce ideas off of people from around the world with a few taps of iPhone. They get back to me in a timely fashion with insight that is second to none. I can also reflect on the work I do by matching it up to what others share in their tweets. Most importantly, I can take what I learn from interacting with people on Twitter and bring it back to my school so that the success of students can be impacted in a positive way.
Don't like Twitter? No big deal. You can apply this digital mentor concept to anything including Google+, Skype, Linkedin, Facebook, or Instagram. Personally I feel that it's no longer an option to be connected with educators in the virtual world. Teachers, leaders, support staff, professors, commissioners, and educational organization members all need to find ways to improve their craft. In my mind successful educators live by the mantra that "status quo is not an option."
Three words should be at the forefront of what educators do on a daily basis: share, reflect, learn. The more we model this way of life, the more likely that it will become contagious and infect our school's culture in ways once thought unimaginable. Students will soon realize that they to can have positive impact with the tools they use in the digital world. Wouldn't it be nice if every classroom had an unofficial "digital mentor" that they could turn to on a periodic basis to learn from and share ideas with? Parents, and community members can also provide support with school wide initiatives or career based learning experiences.
The future is bright when comes to mentoring in the digital world. Coupled with a strong support structure in the physical world, educators could be armed with so many great ideas, strategies, and resources. The impact on students will be so tremendous that they to will ultimately see the potential in all the good that comes from supporting one another with technology.
Over the coming days, weeks, months, and years make a commitment to improving yourself and others by creating opportunities for sharing, supporting and learning in the digital world. It will change who you are for the better and transform learning experiences for students in so many ways.