Using Technology to Boost Your Counseling Program
This post was written by Elementary School Counselor, Allison Weaver. Here is what she has to say: "Hello! I am Allison from www.edusisters.com, a twin sister team, who's blog specializes in education, library, technology and counseling! I am beginning my 8th year as an elementary school counselor, and I enjoy sharing my journey with other motivated counselors! I love incorporating technology and creativity into my counseling program, and I am always looking for new and innovative ideas."
More and more often, I find myself saying “How did I ever do this without the internet?” For instance, when I am driving to a new vacation spot, wondering where the next gas station or restaurant is, ordering a pizza, learning a new home improvement project on youtube, etc… However, there is nowhere I find myself saying this more than in my job as a school counselor. Technology has totally changed the way I teach classroom lessons, run counseling groups, conduct individual counseling sessions, track data, stay connected with other counselors, and gather new resources. These are some of the ways I use technology daily to boost my counseling program.
Using Technology To Connect with Other Counselors, Stay Current, and Gather Resources:
Pinterest: Not only does Pinterest allow you to find and store ideas from all over the internet, but it also allows you to follow fellow counselors and leaders in education. I suggest creating boards for all topics that will assist you such as: general school counseling ideas, individual and small group counseling, classroom guidance lessons, videos on counseling related topics, play and art therapy, technology, education, careers, and more.
School Counseling Blogs: There are many blogs that have great ideas and resources on all topics. Blogs have given me a lot of ideas for teaching classroom guidance lessons, and other whole school initiatives such as career cafe, and minute meetings.
Of course, social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are an endless feed of new information and creative ideas.
Technology can also be used in numerous ways to engage students and streamline data collection:
Google Forms is a perfect tool for data collection. It allows you to create surveys and export all of the data straight to a spreadsheet. I use this tool for many different things. At the beginning of every year I make a needs assessment form for students in grades 3rd-5th. The assessment includes the student’s name, grade, and homeroom teacher. I ask students scaling questions to learn how things are going at home, school, and with friends; this lets me know which students may need me to check in with them for individual counseling. I then list topics of friendship, anger management, study skills, family changes, leadership, self esteem, and anxiety, have students select a topic (if any) that they feel they could benefit from receiving extra help, and build my small groups with this data.
It is also a good idea to include some short answer questions that allow students to tell you about themselves, things they like to do, and topics they would like you to teach in the classroom.
Throughout the year, I give students informal pre and post assessments on topics I teach in guidance class to see if the lessons are being effective, and I send students another survey mid-year and again at the end of the year to see if students’ answers have changed. Forms are perfect for gathering pre and post data on your small groups counseling sessions as well.
I also use google forms to track the students I see in counseling. I create a form and put the link on my computer’s home screen so it is easy to access everyday. The form includes the student’s name, grade, homeroom teacher, and has a drop down box to select the topic of concern the student is having: friendship, home, personal, behavior, school work, anger, grief, etc. It also has a section to type notes and follow up activity like parent contact, CPS report, counseling referral, or follow up counseling. Taking a couple minutes at the end of the session or at the end of the day to complete these forms saves so much time in the long run. All the data is automatically placed into a spreadsheet that can be sorted by name, grade, or counseling concern. My experience is at the elementary level, but I also see numerous uses at the middle and high school level for counseling referral forms, interest surveys, college and career data collection, scheduling, and more.
iPad Apps for School Counselors:
Elementary students love using the iPads, and there are many apps that are perfect for the classroom and counseling sessions. The following are some of my favorites apps:
- Breathe2Relax is a stress management app that helps students take deep breaths. It allows students to pick calming backgrounds and music and is perfect for relaxing frustrated or anxious students.
- Scribble Press is a digital storytelling app that has many uses in school counseling. They have some great templates for students to create stories that give students the opportunity to share information about themselves. Students can create personalized books about their lives, friends, parents, future, and much more. It is 2.99 but well worth it!
- Professor Garfield Cyberbullying and Professor Garfield Online Safety are both free and perfect for use in the classroom! They begin with a creative comic strip related to the topic that students can read, and then there are questions that follow to check for understanding.
- Focus on the Go is a great app to use in the classroom and would be good to suggest for parents. They offer a parent resource library that includes printable activities and resources as well as videos that provide skills from the FOCUS Family Resilience Training Program. There are games aimed at helping students learn about ways to calm down when angry and a comic creator where students can create different scenarios and solutions.
- Touch and Learn Emotions is an app that has children pick the picture that matches the given feeling. Kids will listen for a feeling word and then choose the correct picture from 4 pictures. I really like that the pictures show real kids’ faces rather than cartoons. This helps students learn real facial cues. It is 1.99.
- Brainventures is a growth mindset app that helps students learn that they can grow their brain by being healthy and taking on new challenges!
I encourage you to try a new app during your counseling sessions! They will engage your kids right away! Also, pass them on to your parents so that they can use them with their kids at home.
Hopefully I have shared an idea that will save you time in your busy schedule and help to make your counseling sessions more fun and effective for your students.