Virtual Mentors: Embracing Social Media in Teacher Preparation Programs

Virtual Mentors: Embracing Social Media in Teacher Preparation Programs

Marialice B. F. X. Curran, Regina G. Chatel
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2985-1.ch015
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Social media has the potential to revolutionize teaching, learning, and collaborative partnerships in teacher preparation programs. Traditional mentoring has been conducted in person, via mail, telephone, e-mail, conferences, and typical daily interactions. However, the emergence of social media has led to an exciting development called the iMentor Model, virtual mentoring via social media. Through the iMentor Model, teacher candidates observed 21st century teaching methods that they were not always able to observe locally. The traditional mentor is an advisor, a coach, a facilitator, or a role model. An iMentor demonstrates these qualities as well as embracing multiple social networking platforms in teaching and learning. iMentors model three components of the Saint Joseph College School of Education Conceptual Framework (2010): Rigorous of Mind, Compassionate of Heart, and an Agent of Change in their teaching. This chapter discusses how the use of iMentors brings teacher preparation into the 21st century.
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Learning in the 21st century is mobile, immediate, social, and collaborative in nature; therefore, teacher preparation programs must model this approach in educating teacher candidates. Gerlich, Browning, and Westermann (2010) propose that in light of the ubiquitous nature of social media among college students, it requires the ability to apply social media in college courses to enhance the learning experience and engage students in a unique form of learning. This chapter presents data and analyses of teacher candidate and virtual mentor relationships and the effects of these relationships on teacher candidate knowledge of content pedagogy.

Social media provides a unique format for content delivery and way of learning which can be further applied to mentoring of students or in our case, teacher candidates. Kirk and Oliver (2003) state that the emergences of social media and mobile technology have had a profound impact on traditional mentoring that has led to virtual mentoring. Virtual mentoring has many benefits not seen with traditional face-to-face mentoring. Traditional mentoring is synchronous; time and location specific; can be expensive if requiring release time, and confidential in that it is not recorded. On the other hand, virtual mentoring is asynchronous; more flexible concerning release time; social and the collaborative in nature, connecting teacher candidates with iMentors and their students. Further, it provides an opportunity to share classrooms across the country and around the world. As a result, teacher candidates will learn to take responsibility and control of learning through greater engagement over time and ultimately create more ownership and interest in learning (Blackman, 2010; Blankenship, 2010; Dorner & Karpati, 2010; Kirk & Olinger, 2003).

Additionally, one must consider the characteristics of Generation Y students or Millennials, as they are frequently called, since these are our teacher candidates. Research (Coates, 2007, Jamison, 2009; Keeter & Taylor, 2009; Tadros, 2011) state that these students are tech-savvy and prefer to communicate via social media; are achievement-oriented but want learning to be entertaining and interactive; team-oriented wanting to be included, and involve others; and, lastly, attention-craving needing timely feedback, guidance and reassurance. In addition, these students want freedom and choice in learning that requires personalization of education; they feel the need to question rather than accept the status quo; and they are innovators. The Generation Y student views social media not only as a way to participate in class, but as an indispensable part of preparation for a career (Blankenship, 2010). However, Tadros (2011) cautions us to remember that not all Millennials are tech-savvy even though they use email, text, or play video games.

Not all students have computers or access to computers underscoring the reality of the digital divide. In addition, not all faculty are tech-savvy either which reveals another type of divide. The cutting-edge Millennials are ready to apply their technology knowledge to learn but the faculty may still be in the 20th Century! Finally, as teachers, higher education faculty may fear a loss of control. After all, they are the paid experts and as such should be delivering the content. Even in light of these challenges, higher education must model best practices in teaching and learning. And, the workplace has advanced in becoming globally intertwined but schools have for the most part remained unchanged. The technological knowledge, personal goals, and characteristics of today’s teacher candidates make them perfectly suited for virtual mentoring relationships (Dorner & Karpati, 2010; Nada & Kitsantas, 2012). Although social media is not intended to replace face-to-face interactions, its power lies in its potential in developing social consciousness (Blankenship, 2010).

Twitter, Skype, and blogging were integrated into one face-to-face course, EDUC 555 Continuous Inquiry: Science and Social Studies in an Elementary Classroom (see Figure 1), to further authentic, technologically facilitated learning and mentoring.

Figure 1.

Teacher candidates using mobile devices in class


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