Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Three Tech Tools to Move Your Counseling Forward

By: Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

It’s never easy keeping up with the latest developments in technology.  Before you know it, the state-of-the-art gizmo you just bought has been replaced with something more sleek, and your kids or neighbors are gently chiding you for having a piece of technology that debuted with the dinosaurs.

School counselors usually get a little more slack for using ancient tech.  It’s true that most people don’t know what we do, but they do understand it has to do with people, not machines, so it’s OK if our page on the school’s Web site is still wishing everyone a great summer.  Still, there’s something to be said for being able to make a technology connection with our students.  If you’re wondering what’s out there that can help you bridge the divide, take a look at these three somewhat new, very cool, counseling technology enhancements:

Remind 101  I continue to be amazed when my students tell me they don’t use e-mail because it’s too old school.  I know the trend is towards short messages, and I get that the Gettysburg Address is only 272 words long, but is it really possible to explain how to do a college visit in 140 characters?

Enter Remind 101. This free Web site allows you to send text messages to students and parents, and the service is free (the text may not be, depending on your phone plan). You can create different groups of students to text (all juniors, students in AP classes), and you never see their phone numbers—just like they don’t ever see yours. This allows you to text them with a quick message and a link to the article that talks about college visits in detail—and that’s a winning combination.

Podomatic  This most visual of generations finds it hard to focus when you talk about test prep in their English class, but put the same presentation on a podcast, and their ACT scores will hit 37.  Podomatic has two levels of service, and the basic account is free.  It comes with all the tools you need to give your counseling office a Web presence, but you might want to have a fundraiser to upgrade to the Pro Account—and either way, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have the president of the Tech Club walk you through your first couple of podcasts.

Scholly  We all knew the day would come when students would ask if they could search for scholarships on their smart phones. To those of us who used to search through remarkably large scholarship books, this is a sacrilege—if kids want money for college so badly, they ought to work hard to get it, doggone it.

Thankfully, Christopher Grey didn’t see it that way, so he’s developed Scholly, a smart phone app where students can look for scholarships by all kinds of metrics—state, GPA, major, and more.  The database is perpetually updated, and the site includes sample essays students can use to write scholarship essays.  The good news is that these essays are good enough for students to learn how to write their own, but not quite so good that students would use them on an application—and that’s a perfect mix.

Scholly isn’t free- it’s 99 cents on the App store—but it’s worth it, since you get to see the graphic of the a cute dog in a mortarboard, and because Chris is a Drexel student who found $1.3 million in scholarships for his  own education—so he knows what he’s doing.  Find out more at

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