Have you ever wondered when you’d find the time to develop your computer skills? It’s seems that its always too crazy in my office to take the time to teach myself anything about the latest crazes in technology. That’s why the announcement for a summer technology workshop for counsellors on the OSCA list-serv caught my attention. The first Summer Technology Institute for School Counsellors at Villanova University was billed to be a five-day program designed to teach counsellors critical computer skills, allowing them to function comfortably in a computer environment. As I consider myself to be quite computer literate, I contacted Ken Hartman who is the founder and Director of the Summer Institute. Ken has written numerous articles and a number of books on the use of technology in counselling. Via e-mail, Ken let me there would be all levels of user attending and that the program could be adapted to meet any counsellor’s needs. Wondering how this would be possible I registered, packed the van and headed for Philadelphia. I wasn't disappointed.
The Institute did not focus on Guidance software or career databases but instead was designed to teach counsellors useful computer skills. The five days were packed with lectures, demonstrations, discussions and many hours of hands-on experience in the labs under the supportive eyes of Ken and his staff. All participants were provided with a valuable resource manual including many articles explaining computer jargon, information about purchasing computers, and detailed journal articles offering valuable advice from how students can use the internet to research post-secondary options to how we can advocate for our students using technology.
Day One of the Institute dealt with the use of e-mail, chat rooms and video conferencing for the guidance professional. Day Two focussed on building and publishing a web site for a Guidance department. For myself, just having a number of hours to dedicate to work on web-site design was a bonus. For others, building a simple site, importing graphics, creating web links and posting the site to the World Wide Web were rewarding learning experiences. Day Three gave everyone a hands-on workshop in creating multimedia presentations using Microsoft PowerPoint. We all had fun discovering many of the more advanced features which can be used to make those PowerPoint presentations more dynamic and unique. Day Four focussed on the uses of relational databases for the guidance professional. On our final day, everyone was given the opportunity to show our homework presentations to our peers. It was evident that both novices and advanced users gained much during the week.
I’m constantly reminding my students that "techno-literacy" is a critical skill for the future. They are more likely to trust what I say if I can demonstrate the ideals I preach. I plan to learn more next year by taking part in the proposed advanced workshop. I know I’ll meet more outstanding counsellors from around North America and I’ll reap the benefits of pushing myself to learn more about computer technology. I’d encourage any counsellor looking for positive and supportive exposure to computer technology to consider this workshop. But be quick, next year’s Institute was half filled by the closing day. Check out the information at http://www.institute.villanova.edu/index.htm or contact Ken Hartman yourself at: KHartman@upenn.edu.