Cyber Mentors: A Proposal for CED Proactive Support of Professional Preparation and Educational Excellence


Harold Johnson

Kent State University

July 12, 1998

CED Board Meeting - San Antonio, TX


The problem of deafness is not a lack of hearing, but an abundance of interpersonal and informational isolation. Surprisingly, such isolation is not limited to deaf/hard-of-hearing (d/hh) students, it is also experienced by many parents, teachers, school administrators and Deaf/hard-of-hearing adults. The "low incidence" nature of deafness, the decentralization of educational services and pervasive cultural pressures all combine to reduce opportunities for interpersonal interactions and informational exchanges. As a result, the knowledge, experiences, ideas and questions of d/hh students, their parents, teachers, school administrators and Deaf/hard-of-hearing adults represent an "untapped" wealth for the field of Deaf Education.


Each year hundreds of individuals begin the undergraduate or graduate process to become a teacher of d/hh students. Each year these individuals spend countless hours studying, observing, rehearsing and being tested upon the knowledge and skills that they will need be begin their professional careers. And each year, colleges and universities are criticized concerning some aspect of their graduates' preparation. One such criticism is the graduates' lack of grounding in the day-to-day realities of teaching d/hh students. Another is that their expectations for student success are too low. While the validity of such criticisms can be debated, Deaf Education Teacher Preparation Programs are faced with a dilemma, i.e., how can they "link" their students to the realities of "today", while inspiring their students to seek the potentials of "tomorrow"? Fortunately, the CED organizational structure and the U.S. technological infrastructure offer a "doable" solution to both the dilemma of education and the isolation of deafness.


Individuals in preparation to become teachers of d/hh students would be offered the opportunity to participate in a "Cyber Mentor" Program. Within this Program, each "teacher-in-training" would be matched with one or more "Cyber Mentors" (i.e., d/hh student, parent, teacher, school administrator and/or Deaf/hard-of-hearing adult). Once "matched", the "teacher-in-training" would use weekly e-mail messages with their "Cyber Mentors" to:

      1. Share/discuss the information they are learning;
      2. Serve as information "gophers" for their "Cyber Mentors"; and
      3. Gather/record the ideas, experiences, information, resources and suggestions of their "Cyber Mentors".

Cyber Mentors, in turn, would:

      1. Share the knowledge and resources that they have gained regarding deafness, Deaf Education and Deaf culture;
      2. Identify additional information and/or resources that they would like their "teacher-in-training" to gather form them; and
      3. Serve to "ground" their "teacher-in-training" learning in both the day-to-day realities and potential of Deaf Education.

Each month, each "teacher-in-training" would be asked to submit the "best" of what they learned, shared and/or gathered by submitting a message to the CED Web site. At the end of the year, a panel would be convened to review these submissions and identify those individuals who had submitted the "best" information to the CED Web site. The identified individuals would then be officially noted as "CED Scholars" and given a $500 to $1,000 scholarship. The resulting list of "CED Scholars" and their Teacher Preparation Programs would then be posted on the CED Web site, with hyper links to the "best" of their works.


The proposed Cyber Mentor Project would serve to reduce isolation, increase recognition, enhance teacher preparation and improve Deaf Education. This would be accomplished by:

      1. Isolation: Establishing an "electronic community" composed of d/hh students, parents, teachers, school administrators, Deaf/hard-of-hearing adults, college/university students and faulty;
      2. Recognition: Systematically gather, share and recognize the expertise of "Cyber Mentors";
      3. Enhancement: Consistently infuse both the realities and potentials of d/hh students into Deaf Education Teacher Preparation Programs; and
      4. Improve: Establishing a growing data base of both "best practices" and "best information" for the field of Deaf Education.

Action Plan & Time Line:

July, 1998:

      1. CED Board accept the "Cyber Project" as its major "proactive" effort;
      2. Each CED member organizations agree to:
      1. actively promote and support the Project through their publication and organizational infrastructure;
      2. identify one individual to serve as their "Project Liaison";
      3. identify potential funding sources for the Project; and
      4. write letters of support for Project funding efforts.
      1. Harold Johnson is appointed as the "Director" for the Project; and
      2. Project Director begins search for external funds to support Project activities.

September, 1998:

      1. Each CED member organization identifies one individual to serve as their Project "Liaison";
      2. Project Director establishes a listserv to facilitate communication between Project Liaisons;

October, 1998:

      1. Project Director and Liaisons establish a plan for identifying potential "Cyber Mentors", "teachers-in-training", "matching", submission of messages to the CED Web site, evaluation and award of "CED Scholar" titles and scholarships; and
      2. Project Director submits first external funding effort.

November, 1998:

      1. Project is formally announced and participant applications accepted;

December, 1998:

      1. Project "matches" are made;
      2. Project status report submitted to the CED Board

January, 1999:

1. Formal onset of Project

February-November, 1999:

      1. Project in place;
      2. "Teacher-in-Training" submission of monthly messages to the CED Web site;

December, 1999:

      1. Convene Panel to evaluate Web submissions, identify "CED Scholars", (pending the availability of funds) award scholarships and post results to the CED Web site.
      2. Project status report submitted to the CED Board