The Mentoring Island is an online, immersive virtual environment developed by BreakThru that allows project participants to interact with one another in a safe, low-risk setting. Participants can talk to one another to discuss homework assignments, get help with specific subjects, complete BreakThru modules with assigned mentors, or simply socialize with their BreakThru peers. The island enables students to succeed better in their real classrooms by practicing both technical and social skills together with other students facing the same challenges.
The Mentoring Island exists within the Second Life grid, but access to its features is strictly controlled. Only participants in the BreakThru project may access the islands.
In order to gain access, a prospective entrant must be accepted into the BreakThru project according to strict application criteria. Furthermore, all staff, mentors and peers over the age of 18 must pass a criminal background check before taking part in the project.
Once the application process is completed, a BreakThru staff member will create an account for the new user based on information provided in the application. Participants are discouraged from creating their own accounts in order to maintain control over naming protocols and ensure that avatars are not allowed access to the project which do not adhere to the BreakThru behavioral code.
Participants over the ages of 18 have access to the standard Mentoring Island, while participants who are minors have access to the an identical island exclusive to them. BreakThru staff and mentors lead and participate in activities on both islands, but students above and below the age of majority are segregated to ensure compliance with the behavioral code.
Participants in the project may log into the island at any time they wish. BreakThru staff will be present during specific hours to be determined based on participant needs, and available via email at all times.
In addition, each participant will be paired up with a BreakThru mentor, and develop an individual schedule for meeting with their mentor on the island each week.
BreakThru maintains a strict policy against content deemed objectionable for students that applies to both the Mentoring Island and all communications via social media. Staff, mentors and participants in violation of this code will be locked out of the islands and counseled on proper usage before being allowed reentry. To facilitate this, all participant accounts will be created by BreakThru staff and assigned to individual participants, and BreakThru reserves the right to access any participant account and make changes to avatars or created content at any time.
BreakThru leverages numerous social media vectors to connect students and mentors from across participating schools, and the integrity of our social networks is a major concern. Like our mentoring islands, all mentors and staff who participate in the BreakThru social networks will be required to pass a thorough background screening. In addition, the number of users with posting privileges is tightly controlled.
The BreakThru Facebook group is tightly moderated, and accessible only to participants in the project. Invites must be requested by participants and will be sent out by BreakThru staff. News articles, such as copies of the blog postings, will be posted to the Facebook group. However, posting privileges are restricted only to BreakThru staff. In addition, Facebook automatically moderates who can contact users who are minors based upon the age provided in their account details. Only messages that originate from friends, or friends of friends are delivered to these users. All other messages, such as from unknown adults, are automatically filtered and receive a bounce-back reply.
BreakThru’s Twitter feed is updated regularly with information that may be of interest to students and parents, such as event timing and special announcements. Only select BreakThru staff have access to the feed and the ability to send out announcements via Twitter. Our office policies prevent staff from accessing private feeds during the workday or using official feeds for any purpose other than BreakThru, preventing any risk of cross-pollinati.
BreakThru will collect contact information from all participants. Mentor emails will be provided to students, but student information will never be disseminated by BreakThru staff. While we encourage students to email back and forth with their mentors frequently, some participants may choose to limit contact to the mentoring island, social media groups or some combination thereof. It is up to the individual student and his/her guardians to determine whether email communications are appropriate for them.