Has anyone had any experience setting up a teacher/student mentor program using social media tools?  What works and what problems did you have?  We are looking to find ways to help kids form more connections to their school and to caring adults.  Our focus may be the transition from middle school to high school.  Thanks for any advice!

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Great idea!

My experience has been more in an academic, rather than a social, setting, but it might spark something. I work with an environmental science high school class, where student groups are paired with scientists and other teachers as mentors. The program has been in existence for several years, but this year, we had students complete all their work on wikis, so their mentors could actively participate in their learning daily. The results were great -- mentors and students formed stronger bonds, and students' work was much improved since mentors were able to constantly give feedback.

However, we did have some problems with mentor teachers. They were more reluctant to go onto the wiki, mostly because they were uncomfortable with the technology. It will probably take another year and more in-depth training to get them comfortable.

In your case, though, it sounds like there's less of a focus on academic connections, and more of a focus on social interactions. I think creating a closed social network, through a site like Edmodo, might offer a good solution. Students and teachers can interact, just as "friends" would on Facebook. They can also create and post videos, blogs, or other multi-media projects.

One elementary school district in California, Saugus USD, set up a similar site and saw some remarkable results -- kids were more connected, started completing extra school projects, and test scores rose. I recently wrote a blog post about social networking in education that might give you some ideas.
Thanks Katy,
Can students also post on Edmodo? That might be a way to go. I think I might face the same problem with reluctant mentors that don't feel comfortable with the technology but we could turn it around and have the students mentor the mentors! We have a lot of kids that we lose in 8th grade and some we never "get" in the first place. I'm looking for a way to keep them connected somehow so they have a better chance transitioning to high school.

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