Saturday, April 30, 2016

May Awareness Activities for School Counselors

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mental Health Awareness Month

This year's theme is "Life With a Mental Illness". Encourage your students suffering with mental health issues to visit the Mental Health America website for resources and support. 

National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week 

Anxiety is the most common mental health issue among teens, but it is under diagnosed.  Left untreated, it can severely diminish productivity and a person's lifestyle.  Educating students and parents about anxiety is a great way to get students and parents thinking about the difference between normal and overwhelming anxiety.  Also, I have included resources for school counselors as we need to be able to identify when students are exhibiting fears that are impacting his or her ability to function in school. 


What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder? 

Anxiety and Depression Association of America 

Anxiety Fact sheet for Adolescents and Teens

Worry Wise Kids Accommodations for Anxious Students 

Students and Anxiety: The Role of the School Counselor 

Resources and Training for School Counselors 

Top Anxiety Blogs 

Global Youth Traffic Safety Month

The goal of this month long campaign, sponsored by NOYS,  is to raise awareness about youth safety issues during spring & summer events like prom, graduation, and summer driving.  According to researchers, May through July are the deadliest months for traffic accidents by teens.  

NOYS Twitter Chat 
May 2nd @ 1pm EST

Teen Driving Summit - October 17, 2016

NOYS Action Guide 

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

Many teens still think that teen pregnancy cannot happen to them so the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month helps them think before they get in the moment.

Stay Teen 

Get Involved - if you only have 5 minutes you can get involved in preventing teen pregnancy.

Adolescent Development 


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Creating A Virtual Counseling Office

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Since I have transitioned from a regular office based school counselor to a virtual learning support/counselor, I find it necessary to be more accessible to my parents, teachers, and students because I am not always in my office or accessible by telephone.  Although being available after office hours is important, I quickly discovered there must be a balance between accessibility and the permission for others to takeover my life!!  So to maintain my life-work balance, I decided I need to set up my own virtual counseling office.  The purpose of setting up this online office is to meet the demands of our 24/7 society, to provide easy access to important information, and provide flexibility for families who cannot meet within the parameters of the brick and mortar school building. As I am in the planning stages of working on my own office, I wanted to share how you can set up virtual hours whether you are in an office for eight hours a day or online.

You can make this possible without killing yourself!

Why Set Up a Virtual Counseling Office?

Having your own extended office hours can be beneficial for several reasons:

1.  It accommodates parents/families who are not able to reach you during the day.
2.  It allows you to answer "urgent" questions after school that cannot wait until the next day (college application, financial aid, or personal issues).
3.  It eliminates the need for appointments and waiting lines.
4.  It allows students and parents to spend quality time with you without being rushed out the door.

So, how do you establish your own virtual office?
Create an office in the clouds

Step 1

Consider Adding a Virtual Assistant

Some of you may have an real office assistant, but that person may be split among many counselors, shared by other departments, or may be non-existent. Of course, that person is not going to be available after school so you may want to look into adding a virtual assistant to help you expand your hours. Disclaimer:  I can't afford this and this is not going to happen, but I thought I would mention it as it is a viable option.  Having a "virtual assistant" can assist you with after hour parent/student calls or requests and can give your families an immediate response (whether a prerecorded message or email).

So, exactly what is a virtual assistant?  According to She Knows, a virtual assistant is typically a person who works remotely with clients and performs the following tasks: creating and uploading newsletters, responding to emails, running the office calendar, compiling data, preparing presentations, and much more.  The downside of having a person as a virtual assistant is that it is going to cost you!  So, for the purpose of this blog, I will focus on low cost or no cost virtual assistant a little later (so keep reading).

How Can School Counselors Use a Virtual Assistant?

If you decide to use a shared (with another school) or low cost virtual assistant for your department, consider the services or benefits gained.  Some of these services include:

1.  Preparing and emailing electronic newsletters, automatic responses to emails, and managing subscriptions.
2.  Preparing, promoting,  and managing webinars.
3.  Maintaining and updating social media.
4.  Dictating letters and memos.
5.  Maintaining and updating your webpage.

Hi! I am Connie your Virtual Assistant!!
If you are like me and cannot afford a "real" virtual assistant, you may be interested in the no cost option, like a Robotic Personal Assistant. One free to low cost option is the High Rise virtual assistant which allows you to collaborate, swap files, and share contacts with colleagues. Of course, Microsoft and Google have some tools that allow you to create automatic responses to emails that can be quite effective. Check out Jeff Ream's (aka the Counseling Geek) video on how to set up canned responses for Google Mail.

Step 2 

Find Your Tools 

Again, some free/low cost options include:

1.  Google Voice
Google Voice allows you to route or record incoming calls to your cell phone so you never miss a call (this is important to me, but may be not be something you want to do after working eight hours a day).
2.  Cloud based storage (Google Docs, Drop Box, or Zoho Office)
These cloud based storage sites allow you to access and share documents whether at school, home, or out of town.
3.  Mail Chimp
Mail Chimp allows you to send automated messages, events, and newsletters to parents and students.  If you want a great tutorial on how to use Mail Chimp, check out Jeff Ream's article called, Building a Better Series: Setting Up an RSS Driven Email List with Mail Chimp.

Step 3 

Set up your Office Hours

One way to set up your office hours is to use a public calendar which is posted on your webpage and can be made public to your families and students.  One such calendar is Google Calendar.
Add caption
Google Calendar easily allows you to share your calendar with students and families with the times that you have open for appointments. Google will send an alert to your phone when an appointment or event is pending so
you don't miss it.

Another digital calendar you can use is called Schedule Once. Schedule Once has a free and a low cost version available for users.  The great thing about Schedule Once is that it allows you to set up the times that you are available and parents/students can pick several times they would like to see you.  Once the appointment is approved, the parent/student will receive a confirmation email.  Again, check out Jeff Ream's video blog about Schedule Once.

A third scheduling tool is called Doodle.  Doodle allows you to connect your calendar so parents/students can make appointments based on your schedule.  Here is a quick overview of the Doodle calendar.  Also, check out my blog post about Doodle.

Step 4

 Find your Virtual Space

To provide a virtual office, you will need a virtual space and there are some free spaces you can  utilize to conduct a weekly virtual meet and greet with parents and/or students.  You can conduct one on one meetings or include up to 50 people on a virtual meet and greet on a specific topic.  If participants are not able to make it to your meeting, then you can send them a link to the recording.  Some free tools you can use include:

Zoom (my personal new favorite)-will allow you to hold a 45 minute meeting with up to 50 participants. you to invite up to eight people on a video chat for free without logging in or downloading an app.
Free Conference allows you to hold up to a four hour long conversation .

Although not an exhaustive list, these virtual tools can be useful in setting up your initial virtual office.  After deciding how you will set up your office, you have to establish your hours and just do it!  The idea of virtual office hours is very popular in the post secondary world, but yet has to catch on in the majority of high schools (unless your work online).  If you have virtual hours or thinking about virtual hours, please share as I would love to hear how you set up your own virtual office!

Additional Reference
5 Ways to Build Your Virtual Office

Office Mix: A Rising Star!

Power point before Office Mix
For years power point has been my go to source for making presentations; however, there are so many different options that power point seems old school.  By adding some great new tools, power point has vastly improved and has actually become relevant again.

In this post, I want to share the benefits of using power point's new add-in and how it can benefit you when creating presentations. 


Overview of Office Mix 

Here is a short overview of Office Mix and how it works.

Installing the Plug In

Go to the Office Mix site and download the add-in for free.

 Office Mix will appear on the power point tool bar. 

Once Office Mix is downloaded, you can view the introduction to see how it works. 

Here is a brief summary of how to download Office Mix and a short description of how it works.

How to Create a Lesson Using Office Mix

The Office Mix ribbon has several tools you can use to create lessons and presentations.  Below is an image of the ribbon and the different tools.  Some of these tools include: recording tab (this can be used to record a video of you narrating your presentation or lesson); interactive quizzes (to capture your audience knowledge); and screen capture (to capture images from your computer or the internet).

Creating a Presentation

Creating a presentation is simple. Office Mix provides a great overview of how to create your first presentation.  

Also, here is a short video if you need more hand holding (like me).

Adding a Quiz for Understanding

If you want to implement a quiz, Office Mix gives simple directions on how to add one to your presentation.

Here is another video tutorial...

How to Edit a Quiz in Office Mix

How to Make a Movie

Power point allows you to create a movie whether you are using Office Mix or just using power point alone. 

How to View Analytics

You can trace the number of visitors who viewed your presentation by slide, visitors, or exercises. 

 Another video explaining how Office Mix Analytics works.

Other Features of Office Mix 

Some other features you can use in Office Mix include animation, narration, free form inking, adding hyperlinks, working with a collaborator, and embedding videos and hyperlinks.

Some Benefits of Using Office Mix:

1.  Makes your presentations more interactive with your audience.
2.  Office Mix allows you to find out how many people actually view your presentation. 
3. It is easy to use and has a lot of cool tools.
4. Get ideas from Office Mix Gallery to create your own presentation. 

I hope you find this post helpful and that you will think about trying Office Mix yourself!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Blab: A New Counseling Tool!

Saturday, April 2, 2016
Recently, I have been using online video conferencing to meet with colleagues in other states.  Because I have really enjoyed the format, I decided I wanted to expand video conferencing into my counseling profession. While researching video formats, I ran across a new tool called Blab. 
What is Blab?

Blab is the latest trend in video chatting to live audiences which allows you to host your own show. Participants must ask permission to enter your space and as long as one of the three seats is open they can enter. You can allow the same three people to stay or you can choose to rotate the seats.  There are some unique commands that you, as the moderator, can use to communicate with your audience.  

Some of these commands include: 

1.  You can use the chat command to talk to your audience.
2.  You can give feedback to your audience by using the prop feature.    
3.  If there is no room in one of the seats, an audience member can post comments in the sidebar. 
4.  Blab allows you to follow other hosts or guests.
5.  Blab allows you to share your chat with others via Facebook, Twitter, or You Tube. 
6.  There are several tools you can use as a host including denying participants entrance in your chat, co-hosting with another person, kicking out participants, muting callers, locking seats, changing the topic, deleting comments, and even banning participants. 

How to Host a Blab?

Hosting a blab is quite simple.  First, click the purple button called "Start a New Blab". Next, create your title.

After choosing your title, create at least three tabs to draw your audience to your Blab.  

Next, you can add a custom image if you like visuals.

Now you have to decide if you want to make your blab public or unlisted. 

Now, schedule your Blab and you are ready to go!!

Here is a short tutorial on how to use Blab...check it out.

How School Counselors are Using Blab?

One group of school counselors who have embraced Blab are School Counselors of Color.  Currently, they who are hosting a series on "How I Became an International School Counselor".  Check out their recorded series on You Tube.

How Can You Use Blab?

There are all types of opportunities to use Blab as a school counselor.  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Host a training for colleagues;
2.  Present information to other professionals, students, parents, etc.
3.  Conduct a meeting;
4.  Consult with other professionals/colleagues.

So, if you are looking for a new way to communicate with others think about trying Blab!!