Category Archives: trends

e-apprenticeship

Thanks to Allen Beliveau from my PIDP 3240 course  for posting the paper by Bradley D. Hartwig from SFU Faculty of Education “e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional Practice”.  Published in 2007 the paper looked at the views of apprentices towards learning their trade online rather than at a traditional vocational institution.  It also looked at the history of the BC apprenticeship system and apprenticeships in general.

One of the problems of the present system is that many apprentices must travel to attend school.  This entails added expenses at the same time you are not working and earning a wage.  In some cases EI will pay you but this is still a reduction in income.  In an e-apprenticeship the apprentice would learn their theory online while doing their practical work in their workplace.  Since there is a 30% non-completion rate for BC apprentices it is simple economics to remove any barriers we can to make sure apprentices successfully become journeypersons.

One disadvantage of this approach is that many employers look upon apprentices as a source of cheap labour.  Many can spend their whole apprenticeship doing a limited variety of the trade related tasks.  Government and institutions would have to spend a large amount of money to develop a comprehensive curriculum and the learning tools to support it.  There would have to be follow up process to make sure that the apprentice was getting the proper coaching and mentoring that similar institutional classes provide.  One advantage of this system is I have heard apprentices returning from school complain about how school failed to replicate the real world conditions of the work place.

Another advantage of an e-apprenticeship is that you can quickly incorporate new technologies and procedures into the curriculum.  In this day and age change is occurring at an ever increasing rate.  A disadvantage of an e-apprenticeship system is that many small and medium sized businesses can not give their apprentices the wild range of training that the curriculum might require.  The government and training institutions would have to insure equality of opportunity for all apprentices right across the province.

The amount of labour and coaching required by online learners is another disadvantage of online learning.  According to Palloff and Pratt (1999) an online course would take 18 hours of instructor time compared to 6.5 to 7.5 hours for a face-to-face lecture course.  There would also be a learning curve in both learner and instructor learning as to how to best utilize the software and learning modules.  This would also require an IT support team as students and instructors ran into computer problems.

One advantage of having the employer take responsibility for the practical training of an apprentice is that it involves them to take more of an interest and ownership over the development of their apprentices.  Journeypersons would have to take on a more meaningful mentorship role.  However one of the main concerns of the apprentices surveyed was that they would miss the camaraderie and connections they get in a classroom.  Also they said they would miss the peer to peer learning and teaching that takes place.  This could be overcome by having gatherings of local apprentices from various trades coming together to learn material common to all trades.  This would also get apprentices out of their trade silos and get new perspectives.

Returning to in-house training of apprentices hearkens back to the days of the medieval guilds.  In some ways going forward is going backwards, but it must be done carefully at this time and involve all stakeholders.  The paper talked about some pilot projects that were using e-apprenticeship and I believe this is the way to proceed.  Since the BC government is investing over $30 million in a new Trades Education facility at Camosun College, e-apprenticeship isn’t on the top of their agenda.

How do you teach this type of welding

Telementoring

Telementoring

The rise of the Internet and the popularity of Social Networking Sites (SNS) such as Facebook and Twitter illustrate how humans now have established a new place for engaging with others and forming communities – on the Internet.  For many of us the relationships that we have developed online carry as much importance for us as the physical relationships we have in our lives. New technologies such as smart phones, texting, instant messaging, and video conferencing give us instant access to the Internet and allow us to instantly communicate with people across the globe. All around us we see people, especially young people, interacting with their cell phones while ignoring the world around them. As educators one question we should be asking ourselves is how can we take advantage of this phenomenon in order to reach our students and enhance their learning experience?

Mentoring is a concept that goes back to ancient Greece, “Odysseus, leaving for battle asked his female friend, the goddess of wisdom Athena, to take on the male form of Mentor to watch and guide his son Telemachus while he was away” Hansman, C. A. Mentoring: From Athena to the 21st Century (2002). Traditionally an older, more experienced person would take a younger person under their wing and guide them in their career or through their education. It is a concept that is employed in the work place, educational institutes and many other organizations. One of the drawbacks of the traditional mentoring relationship was the demands it put on the mentors time and the constraints of geographical location. Telementoring is a modern day solution to the problem.

Telementoring serves the same function as the traditional forms of mentoring but instead of face to face meetings or physical work relationships it relies on the Internet to connect mentors and protégés. This allows for wider possibilities for interaction as time and place are no longer barriers. Telementoring uses email, instant messaging and video conferencing to develop the mentor/protégé relationship. In the early years of telementoring the primary means of communication was through email. Text based and asynchronus it allows communication to occur at any time. Once restricted by access to a computer modern day smart phones allow mentor and protégés to keep in touch with one another almost instantly through both texting and email.

Telementoring is also well suited to the modern day work place. With the rise of the global economy, workplaces are now located around the world. With the rise of telecommuting, workers are dispersed and isolated, traditional mentoring relationships are harder to initiate and maintain. Telementoring allows protégés to access a wider pool of potential mentors. It also allows for people of different cultures to relate and learn from one another. This is becoming increasingly important for a country like Canada that is becoming more multicultural and more ethnically diverse.

One of the drawbacks of telementoring is that mentoring is a very interpersonal relationship and text based communication lacks the intonation and body language clues that we gain in face to face meetings. Advances in computer technology and the ability of the internet to stream content has made video conferencing which allows real time conferencing for mentors and protégés and so a they can develop a more personal relationship. But technology is only as good as the people who use it. One of the ways to insure success for a telementoring program is mentor training, “the training of mentors is vital to the success of a mentoring program” Nichols, R. J., & Amick, B. T. (1995). The case for instructional mentoring. That is why I was excited to read “The Telementor’s Guidebook” by O’Neill, D. K. (2000).

This guidebook originated with the author’s work at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois as part of project called Learning Through Collaborative Visualization (CoVis) and continued in collaboration with the CSILE/Knowledge-Building team at the University of Toronto.

The main research for the guidebook is a series of interviews with 13 volunteer mentors who were involved with mentoring high school science students. Their primary goal was to assist the students with an in-depth, extensive science investigation over a period of time. This is sometimes referred to as Project-Based Telementoring.

I chose this publication because I found it one of the few resources that gives practical advice drawn from real life mentoring experiences. Although it is somewhat limited in its scope as it studies  to the mentoring experiences of high school science students, I feel that the lessons that the author presents can be useful in any mentoring experience. It is also written in a way that it is accessible to the non-academic community.  Drawing on real life experiences the guidebook stresses the importance of establishing a good rapport between mentor and protégé, the importance of early and timely involvement, that one strategy does not fit every mentoring relationship, and discusses how much help a mentor should give a protégé.

The rapid advancement in technologies, the dramatic changes in the workplace, and educator’s increasing familiarity with technology will see an increase in the use of telementoring and e-mentoring.  This will necessitate the need for further study and education of mentors in this process to assure successful mentoring relationships.  This guidebook is a step in that direction.

References

Mott, V. W., & Ellinger, A. D. (2002). Critical perspectives on mentoring: Trends and issues. C. A. Hansman (Ed.). ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Center on Education and Training for Employment, College of Education, the Ohio State University. http://calpro-online.org/eric/docs/mott/mentoring4.pdf

Nichols, Richard J. and Amick, Beverley T., “The Case for Instructional Mentoring” (1995). To Improve the Academy. Paper 339. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/podimproveacad/339

O’Neill, D. K. (2000). The telementor’s guidebook. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto http://www.sfu.ca/~koneill/TMG.pdf

ementoring