Mentors - Frequently Asked Questions
For those who are new to PlantingScience, we have created a set of instructions to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding using the website. If you cannot find the answer to your question on this page, you can submit a ticket to the PlantingScience team, and we will respond as quickly as possible.
How do I set my profile to "Available"?
Please be sure to set your profile to "Available" if you plan to mentor for the current session. If, however, you would prefer NOT to mentor until another session, please be sure to mark your profile as "Unavailable." We cannot guarantee that you will not get invitations, but it should reduce the number of invitations prior to and during the current session.
How does mentor matching work?
Liaisons and teachers are reviewing your profile to determine whether you would be a good fit for the classroom's investigation themes and goals. Be sure to complete your profile, mark it as available, and make sure that you select enough investigation themes that you would be comfortable to mentor. This would increase the likelihood of being selected as a mentor.
How do I see invitations and accept or decline them?
Teachers and liaisons will invite mentors to join their classroom's group, and mentors should receive an invitation via email to join the group.
Mentors should review the group overview to determine whether s/he would be a good fit for one of the teams in the classroom; there, mentors will have the option to accept or decline the invitation.
Upon accepting this invitation, mentors have agreed to be added to a project team within that group to mentor a team of students. Teachers or liaisons will then add mentors to project teams. Mentors should receive an email once they have been added to a project team.
Once you have accepted an invitation to a group, you will be added to a project by the teacher or the liaison for the classroom.
I haven't been invited to mentor yet. What can I do to expedite this process?
Increasing your capacity can also help boost your placement in a list of suggested mentors that teachers receive. Mentors can adjust their capacity - or total number of teams you're willing to mentor during a session - through the profile:
Remember to review your invitations and respond to them within 3 days!
What are "Investigation Themes"? Do I need to know anything about them?
Teachers who participate in PlantingScience select an Investigation Theme for his/her class to follow. The topics range from agronomy to photosynthesis to genetics and more. Please take a few moments to review the Teacher's Guides or Mentor Tip Sheets for these themes to get a sense for what students will be doing in the classrooms. You can then update your profile to indicate for which theme(s) you are willing to mentor.
MENTORING DURING THE SESSION
My team hasn't posted in a few days or more. What do I do?
Post something anyway! Maybe you've had a spectacular (or horrible) week in the lab/field, and this is the place and time to let students know about it. Here's an example of a simple "just checking in" post:
How do I communicate with my student teams?
Your students are excited to communicate with you! This platform allows you and your students to keep track of conversations by allowing users to comment directly on specific posts:
I've been asked to video conference with a class - what do I do?
Whether a teacher requests 1 or 2 video conference calls, talking "face-to-face" provides an excellent opportunity for students and mentors. Video conferences are really helpful for a number of reasons. One is simply that the students get to see you! Posting on the PlantingScience platform is an excellent way to introduce students to scientists, but when students talk with you directly while they can see you, there's more of a connection. The students will immediately see you as a person, rather than just a scientist. They get to know your humor and personality, and that can make all the difference to students. Especially those who are interested in pursuing science as a career. It can also encourage students to put more effort into their project, because they know you now and what you expect from them. Talking directly in real time also gives the students the opportunity to explain their projects more clearly than they may be able to in writing at the beginning of the challenge. Similarly, it gives you the opportunity to explain more complex topics to the students that may help them through their project.
The teacher with whom you are working will likely decide what platform to use (e.g. Google Hangout, Skype, Zoom, etc.) and set up a time during their class for a call. You must go through the teacher for all video conferencing. DO NOT video conference with the students directly.
Before starting your video conference, consider the purpose of the video conference (again, the teacher will likely give you a heads up on this): What questions do you have to ask them? Maybe you could even ask to see their experimental setup! Don't worry if you don't get to all your topics; it's just good to have in case the conversation lulls. Also, frequently, the teachers will have already asked the students to make outlines with questions for you as well!
Logistics and Setup - Do you have a good internet connection?
- Make sure the area you're in has a good internet connection. The point of a video conference is for the students to see you! So, if your wifi connection is bad and you have to turn off the camera, it's a little less fun for the students.
- To ensure your students get the most out of your video call, make sure your lighting is good. Sitting at a table with a window behind you hides your face in the shadow, and then the students won't be able to see you. Sit with the window or light in front of you so that it's shining on your beautiful face!
- Also, be aware of your surroundings when video conferencing. Don't start a conference when you're in a loud, crowded public area. That can be distracting for the students.
- Similarly, don't eat while in a video conference. It's distracting, and you shouldn't talk with your mouth full. Also, be aware of anything that might be behind you like books or art. Make sure nothing is obscene or controversial.
- When in the video conference, be careful of what you say. DO NOT curse or talk about anything too controversial. If the students start questions that are too personal, do not feel obligated to answer them. Simply steer students back into talking about the topics on your outline or ask them a question about their project instead.
- Most importantly, BE YOURSELF! For the majority of students, this will be the FIRST time they speak with a real, live scientist! Many students are surprised that scientists are not what they appear to be on T.V., so just seeing and hearing you might motivate a new crop of plant scientists!
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Finally, to end your video conference, be sure to thank the students for being on task and being great scientists in training! Tell them what they've done well and give them something to work on for your next meeting. Making a goal for your next video conference is really important because you want to make sure the students are working towards finishing their experiment.
ACCESSING THE WEBSITE
How do I submit tickets with questions about the website?
Click on the "?" in the upper right corner of just about any page and follow the prompts to submit your question (see image below). Be sure to include screenshots of error messages with a description of what you were trying to do. Tickets can be used to report bugs or ask for support using the platform.
How do I contact PlantingScience staff?