10 Insanely Easy Ways to Infuse Technology in Your School Counseling ProgramSafety Glasses Not Required.
Not a New Year’s Resolution
As we start (at the time of posting) a new year – many people will set out to
not meet extreme goals and the same thing you have told yourself each January for the last ten years. Do not make this your New Year’s Resolution. Infusing technology in your school counseling program doesn’t have to be painful – but it does have to be a priority. As the world of education and child development quickly expands, grows and changes – school counselors (and all educators) are professionally called to keep up. Technology can be scary – but it doesn’t have to be with the right attitude .
Through this post – I will share 10 insanely easy ways to start infusing technology within your active school counseling program. This is not starting a fad diet, telling you to stop what you are doing that works or that you have to give up your paper and pencil calendar cold turkey. Each of these tips can be taken and started where ever your comfort level lies on the technology continuum.
Tip #1: Just Start.
Before deciding what you will do – you need to decide THAT you will do it. Make the commitment, set a SMART goal, enlist the whole department or a friend (the buddy system — aka the peer pressure system — works!) and make it happen. Want to know the biggest barrier that school counselors come up against? Excuses. Not your state, not your administration, not your student to counselor ratios – WE are the ones causing stagnation and atrophy. Depending on your experience with technology and some of those other impacting variables (admin, state, ratios…) – you may approach starting and change your approach to fit your environment, but don’t let it impact your dedication and resolve.
Tip #2: Start small.
When we set out to meet a goal – we don’t aim for the moon (that is a dream) without going to astronaut school. While a 90 lb. twelve year old may not be able to bench press 300 lbs today – with focus, direction, support and a little hard work – he can reach that goal. Be that 90 lb. twelve year old. Don’t expect to conquer cyberspace, code the next Amazon.com or even commit to loving Twitter – start with a small goal of getting involved and making a full effort with the time and energy you have. The number one reason people break New Year’s resolutions is they take on too much. Buffer (a Twitter app) recently blogged about why our brains cannot handle resolutions and how to take them from resolution to habit. It is a good read and goes will with this tip. In a nutshell – break down your goals into small, actionable steps that you do regularly and a new habit (good one) is born.
For example, if you wanted to start learning about Twitter – first step is signing up (or maybe a little research about picking a Twitter handle). But after that – just “lurk”, Twitter-speak for just watching others Tweet . Spend 10 minutes each day lurking, determining who the influential people are in the circles you want to follow and learn the lingo. Just like a newborn – you learn a LOT by watching others around you. By doing this 10 minute action – you can take a resolution into a habit which blooms into a tool.
Tip #3: Go for the comfort zone.
Starting with technology is one time I will tell you to go against the old-adage of getting out of your comfort zone…at least in the beginning. Do you use Facebook with your family (visit TCG’s page)? How about Pinterest for all of your recipes (follow my boards!)? Use those tools that you are already comfortable with and use them in a professional setting. Start a school counseling department Facebook Page and start posting updates, reminders, etc. You can gather a bunch of parent resources and start pinning them using a site based account. You don’t have to go from 0 to 100mph on your first attempt. Slowly ease into new areas of growth.
Another great way to stay in your comfort zone is to start something with a team. Your counseling department team can decide to make a better effort of promoting and marketing a departmental “brand”. You could start with something small like all developing the same email signature with school colors, logo, etc. so when anyone emails stakeholders – their emails take on a similar look. When taking one a tech tool with a team – the responsibility and success doesn’t fall to one person. Everyone can brainstorm ideas, solutions and approaches that creates a greater feeling of camaraderie and success. We are always touting the study group system with our students – let’s get our own tech study groups going at work.
Tip #4: Have a growth mindset.
There is a semi-distinct line in the mindset between the millennial generation and younger and those that fall on the wiser end of the age spectrum in terms of fixed vs growth technology mindsets. I have found through personal experience that the wiser folks who didn’t grow up with “modern” technology are hesitant/resistant to explore anything new that has to do with computers, internet, or “The Cloud” (eeek). Part of this comes from the media – they hear of the latest data breach at Target or that their aunt’s identity got stolen and all of a sudden they go all Doomsday Prepper on us. They don’t want to put their name online (but they write their passwords on an insecure note in their purse) and really don’t want to try anything new.
For example, my parents (sorry mom and dad). Each time I am home I go through the motions of updating their laptops, solving this tech issue or showing them the next cool thing (streaming DirectTV away from home anyone?). I cannot help them because I was trained in updating computers, fixing their wifi router or setting up their surround sound – I can help because I taught myself and know where to get information that I don’t have. This last sentence is key. Most young teens and millennials are not tech experts – but we do two things well. We are not afraid to try new things and we won’t let a hiccup stop us. We will search Google, help forums, ask friends, call support, and create solutions if we cannot find one. A true growth mindset. However, those with a fixed tech mindset will freeze as soon as something happens. Their email stops working, printer gets disconnected or internet crashes. When you are infusing technology in your school counseling program – ensure you have a growth mindset and commit to not giving up when you come up against a road block.
Further Reading: Growth vs Fixed Mindset (Source: QED Foundation)
Tip #5: Create a Support Network.
Those donuts you have been buying your IT department every now and then…that coffee you bring to your computer science teacher every other month — this is where it starts to pay off. I cannot tell you how many things I have had tweaked, changed, upgraded or opened for me because of my relationships with those who can do. Instead of a computer taking days to get fixed, I can make a call to IT and it is usually done the same day (if not in the hour). I need a website unblocked or a device added to our network – same gig. By creating relationships (which should be genuine too by the way) with those who are experts in the area you are working on – you can get quick help and support when something doesn’t go the way you planned. This takes nurturing, but I promise it is worth it in the end. So next time you are in your central office or down the hall – bring some goodies (plate of cookies works well) or a box of coffee for the crew and introduce yourself. Leave a business card – tell them how appreciative you are of what they do – make them feel valuable. I promise – without those guys/gals – schools as we know them would grind to a halt. Then – next time you are stuck – ask for help. Get ready to be surprised with how different the level of support is after developing this relationship.
Further Reading/Watching: How To Get The IT Department To Do Their Actual Job (Source: Videojug — humor)
Tip #6: Build a website (not that hard).
Ok – get your heart rate back under control. We are not talking about any coding or knowledge needed of webdesign. With today’s FREE tools – anyone (my grandma!) can create their own website. I don’t care what you make it for – your school counseling department, a school counseling blog, your professional portfolio or a bunch of recipes you want to share with your knitting group. The end product is good – but the process of getting there is better when you are learning about technology. Would you learn how to drive if you just thought about getting behind the wheel? What about only doing those few hours of driver’s training? Probably not. You learned by practice and practice and practice. This concept applies here. By practicing your website development – you see what a website is composed of, different ways you can use it and you make it personal. You aren’t watching someone else do it – you ARE doing it.
To get started – check out a few of the free and easy tools to create websites out there: Weebly, Wix and WordPress.com are all great places to start. Weebly and Wix provide you with pretty dead simple, drag and drop webdesign tools (my professional portfolio is hosted on Wix). These are your Green runs (“Easy Way Down”) on the ski hill. WordPress.com (the free version) offers more customization but a little more complex approach. This would likely be for you interested in a Blue run on the ski slopes.This blog is built on WordPress (not the free version and very customized), but you can get an idea of what you can do – more reading and examples at the bottom in Further Reading.
When you start your website – play, explore, break things. Nothing is off-limits (well…). Go back to being a child – when everything is new and there are no rules. Through this approach – I have taught myself guitar, gourmet cooking, graphic design, light webcoding, and much of everything else I know. I know you can too
Further Reading: 43 Great Websites Built On WordPress (Source: Creative Bloq)
Tip #7: Know where to look.
Keeping up with technology is hard. It changes all the time. However, there are a few awesome places I like to go for 1: what exciting new technology is out there and 2: how are school counselors using it.
Follow the school counselor hashtag (this is a hashtag -> #) as tons of school counselors are highly active and interested in using and sharing technology. My favorite school counselor hashtag is #scchat (school counselor chat). Hash tags are like search terms – they categorize things like Tweets, Pins, or Instagram shots and make them searchable. When you want to find something related to school counseling on Twitter (or any other major social media network) – just search #scchat and Tweets related to that topic will appear.
Further Reading: The Beginner’s Guide to the Hashtag (Source: Mashable)
I don’t use Facebook to connect with my personal friends – I use it strictly for professional purposes. It is rich with professional growth opportunities. The places to look include Facebook Pages of your favorite bloggers and each grade level’s school counseling group (I joined all 3 because there are things I can use in HS that come up in ES):
SCOPE & SchoolCounselor.com:
Good friend, fellow blogger and my inspiration – Dr. Erin Mason is a prime example of someone with a Growth Mindset. She is a professor in Chicago, but also runs SCOPE – School Counselor Online Professional Exchange. This a wonderful resource for anyone at any tech level but especially you new into the game. Take some time and explore the website, resources and tips. It is educational for all.
Similarly – when I grow up I want to be Dr. Russ Sabella. Russ is a professor in Florida and a Google Guru. He runs SchoolCounselor.com and speaks around the country. His blog on the site provides tons of tips plus you can download handouts, check out interview tips and more. Highly suggest checking his site out.
Believe it or not – Pinterest is not just for pinning your favorite brownie recipe. Educators and other tech folks are active pinning new tools and tips. Check out my boards for some tech focused Pins. Use the search tool to your advantage and start following some of the same bloggers or people you find interesting on Twitter. Many also use Pinterest.
YouTube:If you are a step by step person – YouTube is a wonderful resource . Make sure you search for what you need help with there – many times someone (not always a school counselor) has created a video showing you exactly how to do what you are trying to.
YouTube is also a wonderful tool to start to implement. I record all of my parent meetings (took buying a tripod and video camera, but SO worth it) and upload them to YouTube for parents who cannot come. They really appreciate it. Check out how to get started and put the “You In YouTube” with this video blog on my YouTube channel.
Tip #8: Tie it to data.
“Data inspired” is the new “data driven” . The ASCA National Model calls for school counselors to collect and analyze data. I don’t know about you but I hate tally sheets and processing manual surveys or pre/post tests. Technology gives us a huge hand with this task.
A few great tools that you can collect and analyze data with include but is by far not limited to: Google Forms and Sheets, Kahoot!, TypeForm, SurveyMonkey, EzAnalyze TimeTracker, MS Excel and more. These are super tech tools to also get started with and pay dividends in providing your program with the essential data to move forward and grow.
Tip #9: Enlist students to help.
Do you actually want students to use your tools? Enlist the help of influential students to develop and market the tool to their peers. Students can help you brainstorm ideas that other students would find useful, create the best ideas for getting the information out to students and be active participants in your new tech platform. Starting a department Twitter account? Ask students what type of information they want to get, to develop a hashtag for you and to get their friends to follow you to start building steam. They will likely tell you even more tools that may have better reach.
Try this: start a marketing club at the middle or high school levels. Lots of students want to go into business and marketing and this is a great exposure to the line of thought plus a huge insight into your student body.
Tip #10: Watch it grow and evaluate.
Using the workout routine example – going and working out for 5 days straight and expecting major change is not realistic. Growth and development takes time. Give your tech infusion time to develop and take root. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. For results to be fully realized – give it six months to a full year.
Finally – evaluate your use. How successful or unsuccessful were you? What would you change? Would you do it again? How would you do it differently? All of these questions help you make your next steps. Infusion and using technology in your school counseling program is not a one off shot – it is a process of growth and design. You will likely get hooked and looking for the next way you can use technology as a school counselor – then you rinse, wash and repeat.
No matter what – don’t give yourself an out. Follow Yoda’s advice “Do or do not. There is no try.”
How are you taking on the challenge?
Let me know what you are doing to infuse technology in your school counseling program. Leave a comment below or connect on social media. Need some help? I provide consulting services and am happy to help you make this journey. I can be a part of your support network. Check out my consulting page for more info.