Friday, August 15, 2008

5 Ways to Use Web 2.0 Technologies for Mentoring

by Jim Neusom
Founder, BDPA Nevada Chapter
Owner, City Lights Software

Greetings Family,

It's your friendly neighborhood "Digital Drummer"

I receive hundreds of emails daily, and believe me when I say...I read them all! I may not always reply, but truly I love hearing from my friends and supporters.

Jessye Bemley, a student at North Carolina A&T State University, sent me an email that I thought many of you working in the community, and trying to build grass-roots networks might appreciate.

Jessye asked...How can Web 2.0 technologies be used for mentoring?

First for discussion sake, let's define Web 2.0. For those that are not up on the latest tech jargon, Web 2.0 is essentially the combination of Rich Media applications across mutable web platforms.

Let me explain, social networks such as MySpace or FaceBook are not new. What's new, is how simply they integrate Rich Media such as pictures, videos, music, and widgets (think slide shows) into an online presentation based primarily on social interaction.

The end result of any individual profile, is to enhance personal creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users/friends. Mentally compare a personal website of the 90's with even the most basic social networking profile today....and you have Web 2.0.

Secondly, a Mentor is defined by Webster's dictionary as a trusted counselor or guide. Mentors provide their expertise to less experienced individuals in order to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks.

Now the most overused term in social networking (Web 20) is "Friend". When you find a friend that is willing to help you with your goals (be they business, education or whatever), you have found a "Mentor".

So functionally speaking How can Web 2.0 technologies be used for mentoring? Let's take the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) youth programs hosted by BDPA as an example.

The BDPA is one of the nation's largest and oldest Black professional tech organizations. With tens of thousands of members, in chapters located in every urban center, they maintain a major online presence. So how does the BDPA use Web 2.0 technology?

  1. Contacts/Introductions

    The BDPA provides mutable sites where students and potential mentors can meet and connect. For example run a search in Yahoogroups, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other site and you will find the BDPA. Within these sites, students can search out others with similar interest and objectives, who might be willing to help them with their STEM project.

  2. Personal Interaction

    At every step of the STEM program, the BDPA provides on and off line volunteers to guide students through the process. These students are able to speak directly to these volunteers and team members (think Friend) utilizing Web 2.0 tools such as chats, forums, IM's, and yes even land line phones.

    They can use Web 2.0 tools like, bulletins and graphics to keep their team updated and motivated. Social networking sites create a primary location for team information to be shared and commented on.

  3. Resources

    Mentors and STEM alumni have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Utilizing bulletins boards, forums, and Blogs, members have access to links, white papers, templates, and info specifically targeted to their STEM project.

    This info never goes away. You can look back through years of discussions and advice on STEM subjects given by experts in their field. More in likely, your questions has been asked before...and someone posted a answer.

  4. Promotion and team building

    Mentorship, like Web 2.0 is not a linier or static concept. Mentorship is a personal, every changing life experience. As such, there will be many off line contacts and events that can be promoted and celebrated within the social networking site.

    Success breads success. Through videos, and webcasts STEM members can highlight their accomplishments and tell the world their story. Many curious visitors will read their profile and be motivated to join or help.

  5. Mentorship

    Now even though in this discussion I use the term "Friend" lightly, never forget that being a Mentor is serious business. It is not a relationship to be entered into by just clicking a mouse.

    Being a mentor is not for the faint of heart. The responsibility requires knowledge, solid communication skills, and a great deal of patience. At the same time, being a mentor can be extremely rewarding, as there is a great deal of satisfaction in watching your former charges grow.

    Before choosing a Mentor, do your homework. Make sure they are not just text on a screen. You can normally determine this by watching their interactions with others, reading their posts and opinions, and using common sense. Mentorship is ideally a long term and personal relationship.

Remember, We Must Share The Knowledge (Network)... To Share The Dollars!!!

Jim Neusom

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