Decide what technology to use.
Email coupled with electronic distribution lists, message boards, web-based forums, and chat rooms are all possibilities for supporting peer and mentor interactions. Chat and other synchronous methods require that participants be on the same schedule; this condition is too restricting for most programs. In addition, these systems are not accessible to all students, in particular to those who are very slow typists. Web-based forums are a possibility, but they require that students and mentors regularly enter the message system to participate, thus all participants must have both the motivation and the discipline to regularly access the system, and this is not true of all teens.
DO-IT has been successful with using electronic mail and distribution lists to maintain its electronic mentoring community. This text-based asynchronous approach is fully accessible to everyone and results in messages appearing in participant email inboxes. As long as they regularly access their email, it is difficult for students and mentors to ignore the conversations that occur. Guidance to participants regarding how to manage email correspondence (e.g., using folders, deleting old messages) is provided as part of participant training.
If you are interested in setting up a distribution list ask your Internet service provider if it has the capability to do this. Also explore web-based options such as those provided by topica and yahoo. All of these options forward to all members of a list any email messages sent to the list address. Assign the participants to distribution list(s) that are closed; in other words, individuals cannot become part of the community without going through the application process managed by the administrator.
Select only universally-designed technology to use for communication in your community. This means that it is fully accessible to all potential participants, including those who have disabilities. Make sure that a person who is deaf or who has a speech impairment can participate in all communications. Technology you choose should also be fully accessible to individuals who are blind and using text-to-speech adaptive technology as part of their computer system. Consult DO-IT's website on Accessible Technology for more information about accessible technology.