Final Report: School Counselor App

Mobile App Design:

Here are 2 versions of the mobile app:

Elementary Version:

SC page2

High School Version:

High School Example (4 counselors)

Problem of Practice:

The American School Counselor Association recommends that school counselors have a caseload of 250 students. Currently, school counselors average over 400 students and in California most school counselors have 1000 students.

The services a school counselor provides is not clearly understood by stakeholders.  A lot of misconceptions can occur and result in added duties or higher caseloads. As a result, counselors are not being utilized in the most effective way to benefit all students.

Solution:

A mobile app that would put a school counseling program all into one place to showcase the extraordinary services available to stakeholders .

Features:

  • Creates easy access for more efficient communication between students, parents, staff, and stakeholders.
  • Improves productivity by streamlining tasks and reducing time spent on redundant tasks.
  • Organizes information visually for easier interpretation and access between counselor and student or parents.

The Design Thinking Process

Empathize:

The Empathize mode is where we had to truly understand the people we were designing for and it really struck me that I needed to uncover what people may or may not be aware of.  In my project, I started out researching successful implementation of school counselors achieving RAMP.  I was even given access by the American School Counselor Association to survey this group of school counselors. (appendix A)  What stood out was that some were forced to apply for RAMP and this caused dissonance in me.  I didn’t want to force school counselors to have a comprehensive program, I wanted them to believe in it.

I was pretty confident at this point that I had come up with an actionable problem statement.  My course assignment was due but I knew I had to dig deeper.  The d. bootcamp bootleg document had a Journey Map Method (p16). I used this timeline technique to present the history of school counseling. (appendix B) This research revealed insights that I was able to articulate in a blog post.  I was shocked, the post had over 60 views when I sent it out on my Twitter PLN.  I knew then that I had struck a nerve with the school counseling community.

Empathy quotes.001

 Define:

In the Define mode there was a deeper issue that needed to be addressed.  This took my project in a new direction. I again, thought I had a preconceived solution to my problem.  Looking back, I needed to let the process take its course instead of being so impatient and thinking I had a solution. In the define mode I did a technique called the 5 Whys. You keep asking why to help you further get to the root of the problem.

By asking, why would a defined role make it more valuable to students and your principal?

I found that the school counselor would be utilized in the most effective way for both students and his/her principal.  By not defining the role, added duties would take time away and ultimately make the counselor less effective.  The counselor that doesn’t seem effective to the principal then could be eliminated in budget cuts. This is how I came up with the actionable problem statement.

Ideate:

I did many of the brainstorming activities which really took me to the next level in my solution which was to create a school counseling center mobile app.

In my Part 3 Reflection I wrote, “I can clearly see through my journal writings how I slowly developed a clear solution to my Problem of Practice.  I had come up with all different solutions and thought that I had found the answer with a physical counseling center. (appendix C)  In Chapter 5: Connecting the Unconnected I came up with this idea after doing the Random Words and Objects technique.  The physical counseling center was great but taking it to the cyber world made it better.  I see in my notes that it came to me when I did the The Dreamer, the Realist, and the Critic technique.  I had all of the pieces right in front of me and then that activity provided the Advisory Hour through Twitter chat.  This lead to me to put the counseling center into a school counseling app. (appendix D)  My idea kept developing as I followed a #sharktankedu chat, through the group discussion board, and through a parent and a principal informal brainstorm.”

Prototype:

Through trial and error I was able to find a way to build my prototype app so I could bring my vision to others. I was able to create my app in PowerPoint and then upload it into a website called concept.ly.  This tool gave users the feel of a real app but it was not coded so it easily could be updated based on user feedback. I put a lot of thought and work into making my idea into something that people could interact with while testing.

Test:

When I had reached the Test mode, I had really evolved as a designer by going through all of the modes. I found a way to connect with school counselors to test my app.  It felt amazing to have produced a product that could help school counselors in their work.

Little did I know that in the TEST phase I would get over 700 views on my prototype blog post (appendix E) and 238 views on the concept.ly app!  (appendix F)  I was also amazed that 15 different countries viewed my blog post. (appendix G)

Iteration:

By utilizing the feedback from the first Test phase, I plan to do the following to improve the prototype:

  • Focus first on the high school level by creating a prototype of a specific high school counseling program. Collaborate with the school counselors to create the prototype.  Test on students and school counselors from that high school.
  • Add voice search to the prototype.
  • Shorten my explanations so that only the most pertinent information is put into videos and blog posts.  From 7 minute videos to 2-3 minutes.
  • Create a more detailed explanation for mobile app developers to see my vision in coding this mobile app.
  • Find a way to raise start-up capital to develop this app. (Innovation Center at MSU, a pitch to ASCA, or writing a grant through the Department of Education)
  • Start to look at actual graphics that could be used for design. (gamification style)
  • Determine if school counselors or the company should customize the app.
  • Begin the design thinking process for the student dashboard feature in the app.

Reflection:

If I had not continued to research the deeper issue during the empathize mode I might have stopped at my first idea or fell short of the real problem.  You truly need to be able to empathize with your user or the rest of the process may fail.

The Design Thinking process really showed me that the define mode is vital to the development of any product.  If you don’t know the “real” problem then your solution will likely fail. By using the Design Thinking Model you have thoughtfully assessed a plan to help the user solve a problem.

In the Ideate mode through brainstorming I learned how to keep branching out ideas no matter how absurd.  By being fully immersed in the Ideate mode your ideas will come to fruition through cycles of brainstorming and ideation.

I realized that I needed to make the prototype fast and cheap so when you test, you can refine the prototype until it goes into the expensive phase of development.

I learned that you can not fall in love with your prototype.  You need to continue to listen to users so you can continue to develop your prototype into a final product.  It is hard to listen to negative feedback that you thought would work.  But this is key to developing a quality product that users will utilize.

I wrote 18 blog posts throughout the course.  Some were required from the course but many were on my own. By getting my ideas out to other people through the group discussion boards, Twitter PLN, professional group board, and even family and friends, it enabled me to evolve the idea through their positive or I was “off the mark” feedback.  Their ideas added to my overall product and it was an amazing process.  Even though I felt vulnerable sharing, it helped me to know what was working and what was wrong.

Looking at the video explanation of my prototype I found through YouTube’s analytics that most people stopped watching halfway through my 7 minute video. (appendix H)  I need to shorten my explanation so that only the most pertinent information is put into the video. This would be similar to the Fiction 55 assignment, where I need to put only what is needed into my videos or blog posts.

After this class, I am going to further pursue development of the school counseling app.  I reached out to a student in our class who has connections with a mobile app developer.  He was going to look at my idea and give me feedback.  To go further I need to create a business plan to procure funding.  I would also like to connect with a school counseling program in a high school, middle school, and elementary school.  I would use each of their programs to create 3 prototypes.  Then I would test the prototype on the school counselors and students.

Finally, I am submitting an application through the Innovation Center at MSU for consideration of my idea. I put my heart and soul into this process and came out enthusiastic, challenged, and changed forever. This class was amazing and maybe a mobile app could be developed as a result.

 Christina

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