In the Beginning
It was Ted
Nellen's Murray Bergtraum students who first introduced me to the idea of
telementors. As one of his scholars explained to me how she had been
corresponding with a professor in Milwaukee and the about the kinds of
things they "talked" about, I thought the experience of using email for
mentoring was a fabulous idea. So, of course, I knew I had to try it with my
Cyber English students.
Who Are Web Pals?
Web pals are
partners in understanding the writing process. An adult mentor is paired
with a high school student and the two correspond through email. A Web Pal
partnership exists for a brief period, generally over the course of several
months, a semester, or in some cases, a school year. Students from Sheboygan
Falls High School have published their work on their web pages. The web pals
engage in conversations about the writing they find there:
- What they like/don't like, in general
- What could make a piece of writing
stronger (in ideas, word choice, organization, conventions, sentence
fluency, voice, and presentation: the
Six+1 Traits of
- How the writing is presented on the web,
whether or not it is easy for the reader to see and follow, is another good
thing to talk about
A suggested Process
The first email from
- Introduce the adult
web pal to the high school student
- Explain about his/her
experience (briefly: remember my students are 9th graders)
- Say something to my
student about his/her web page as a way of breaking the ice and opening
conversation. Perhaps even asking a question would be good.
- Invite a prompt reply.
The first email from my
- Introduce him/her to
the adult web pal
- Give his/her
experience (what other interests, activities, etc. he/she is involved in)
- Respond to the
comment/question about the web page.
- Show a willingness to
continue the correspondence.
From then on, the
direction of the conversation can be about any or all of the following:
- Writing content, using
the language of six traits.
- Writing process,
focusing on revision strategies
Web page design,
construction of, benefits of, problems with
Hypertext: writing on the web,
how hyperlinks change writing for writer and for reader
- Ideas in general (from
poems or whatever source)
Our 2005-06 partners
Cybermentoring is part of
Issues in Composition class at Texas Tech University. Hester has her
students create and use Blogs to chronicle their experiences. They also
summarize what they have learned about student writers in a report at the
end of the semester, attaching actual emails as documentation.
Louann Reid from Colorado State University is
also working with us. Sixteen of her students are trying Web Pals for the
Conversation with Louann
The Ups and Downs
- High school students enjoy their
correspondence with an outside voice, someone they perceive as not
- Extension of audience:
- In CE, I often talk about audience and
how it's potentially anyone. With Web Pals, this extended audience gives
students another point of view on their work, reinforcing the idea that
our teacher is not the one we write for.
- College schedules aren't always
compatible with high school schedules. When the college class is over,
we're still going. It can be an abrupt end to a fun experience.
- Tech problems:
- Email is not always a fool proof means
of communication. Web pals on both ends need to be problem solvers. Spam
filters may snare messages, and assuming that the web pal simply isn't
corresponding will damage the process.
- As of now, participation on the high
school side is voluntary, so it may be hard to make match ups.
- One or the other of the Web Pals may
not "get into" the experience. This can be frustrating for the other
- It may be difficult to connect with
college teachers who are ready and willing to get involved.
- Use local colleges
- Retired teachers
- NCTE list serv
What students have to say
Emily on a
having a second teacher
feeling good about her writing
to take note of:
Nellen's work on telementoring &
My CE9 page for web pals
Self-evaluation assignment for CE9 students