Mentor in a box

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Thomas Smith, program director for engineering professional development, demonstrated use of tools such as adobe connect, our version is umconnect, for mentoring learners on the spot in the field. Other mechanisms included devices like blue tooth for coaching the practitioner in the field, use of i phones and the like. His presentation made me think of an example I heard recently when doing training in Illinois. A social worker acting as case manager for a teen parent was in the dugout waiting for her next at bat in a softball game. She received a text from a teen parent asking whether she should take her child to the emergency room as she thought she might have measles. The social worker could have said "make up your own mind" or " contact me during office hours, not when I am on private time during a softball game". Instead, she texted back "take a picture of your child with your i phone and send it to me". The teen did so. The social worker then accessed a public health site and got a picture of what measles look like. She forwarded the picture to the teen. The teen texted back that the child in the picture was white, her child was black, and she could not tell exactly if the marks were similar. I don't know the outcome of what decision the teen made, but I was impressed with the process of mentoring on the spot and teaching the teen on line problem solving skills for making an important decision. And she still got her at bat! Others have described keeping in touch with teens on the run through facebook. I have been providing consultation through umconnect with social workers about their practice. When I had the opportunity to come in person to meet with the social workers and the specific clients we had been consulting about, I was surprised, more than I should have been, to see how the actual practice with clients looked different than I had imagined from only talking to the workers. I was able to do some joint interviews and model some alternative techniques. It did however suggest that if the clients were up for it, we might have done this earlier with umconnect such that the social worker, client and I could all be hooked up from a distance. We might have also used the blue tooth mechanism for on the spot coaching that might have been different from my interrupting to try something different. The point of all this is that we have opportunities for coaching practitioners and students who are dealing with difficult challenges on the spot and not always through second hand accounts.

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