The School Counselor’s Website:
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
More than just a delivery system for information,
today's websites are online tools and systems which
can help us to collaborate, communicate, process
data, and even deliver interventions. An effective
website can help the school counselor to better
connect with students, teachers, community members,
and other stake holders at anytime and from
The technical side of a building a website has all
but become a non-issue due to the powerful and
user-friendly software and web-based services now
available to all of us. Indeed, the hard part is
getting the ideas right -- making sure that the
words and pictures on your website represent the
best of what your counseling program offers. In
addition to providing information, creating a
counseling website may also help you to provide
students and others with important tools. For
instance, one online GPA Calculator provided by the
University of Maryland (http://www.sis.umd.edu/gpacalc/java.html)
allows a student to calculate a list of
possibilities for reaching their desired GPA given
their current GPA and number of credits.
Another site (http://cyberguidance.net)
allows secondary students to request a copy of
various scholarships by completing an online form.
This same site which was created by Mr. Bob Turba,
counselor at Stanton College Preparatory School
located in Duval County, Jacksonville, Florida, has
many other tools and ideas for infusing technology
into your school counseling program (Sabella, 2003).
Where Do I Start?
constructing your website, you should definitely
spend some time planning. Before you even touch a
computer, ask yourself the following questions:
What is your school's acceptable use policy?
Your site must follow the guidelines set forth by
your school district. An acceptable use policy (AUP)
governs the responsibilities of the school
administration, students, teachers and parents
regarding software, the use of the Internet and
adherence to copyright laws. For instance, your
school may have a policy which stipulates that
information that is part of any official school
business can only be posted on the school’s
official website. Other schools or districts may
allow you to build a website outside of the school’s
servers and simply link to it from the school’s
Who will help create the site? Even the best
of webmasters have an advisory group to assist in
making important decisions concerning their site.
For those who are just getting started, it is highly
advisable to delegate webauthoring responsibilities
among an established team or committee. Members of
your web development team can write content and
assemble photos for the various sections of the
site. Luckily, many schools have computer courses
and labs where, as part of their assignment,
students can help design and maintain various parts
of your site. You might also include talented
parents and nearby college students who would like
to provide a community service. In this instance,
you might take the role of editor: the person who
guides others into developing appropriate and
fitting material, makes any needed changes, and
integrates the material with the total body of
information in a way that is logical and easy to
follow. If possible, avoid having to be the one who
actually becomes the “webmaster.”
How much time will I need to effectively maintain
my site? Develop a schedule for site updates.
Perhaps twice per month, you might allow yourself a
couple of hours to make pertinent changes. To the
contrary, you can spend too much time by making
minor changes more frequently. Keep a file of any
edits that need to be made (by you, or hopefully,
others), and then make them all at once during your
What will the site's directory structure look
like? Outline the various sections of your
website and what would most appropriately be placed
within those sections (i.e., content, writing style,
length, etc.). Many people find it most efficient to
develop this scheme in the form of a flowchart
although a simple outline works well too. Even if
you have little or no content for a section (e.g.,
News and Events), it will be easier to proceed and
create the section if you anticipate future content.
You might review already established school
counseling websites (see a list at the end) to get
some good ideas while you are in the planning
Master of Your Domain (Name)
will consumers type into the address bar of their
web browser to get to your site? That is, what will
be you domain name? There are three basic
options here to think about:
School as Webhost
When you use your school's server to put your
website up, the school becomes your webhost. In this
case, the school counseling website address is a
variation of the school’s main address. For example,
the address for Jefferson County Schools in
Dandridge, TN is
The address for the school counseling part of the
Some counselors who are allowed to host their
website on external servers are using free web-based
services. For example:
is a free and easy way to create and share webpages.
Also see Google Apps for Educators (http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/index.html)
complements school websites by allowing educators to
post school information on the world-wide-web
without worrying about HTML or FTP because there is
no programming required! And best of all,
SchoolNotes.com is a free community service!
is easily customized to suit any teacher's
individual needs - extra pages can be added and
renamed accordingly. Graphics can be changed as
desired by uploading your own or selecting from our
extensive graphics library.
addition to being free, other advantages of these
services include that they are quite easy to use,
come with many “themes,” and many support multiple
log-ins (i.e., more than one person can work on the
site at the same time).
counselors are finding that a simple blog does the
trick for their purpose. Creating a blog is simple
and free. It only takes a few minutes by entering
your name, e-mail address and a few other pieces of
(usually personal) information. You select "the
look" (template) for your blog from a set of
standard options, click a few buttons, and you are
ready to go. Once the blog is set up, you can post
text, links, audio, video, and more within minutes.
From your computer or cell phone, you can say or
show anything and everything. With a bit of
know-how, you can even syndicate to other blogs and
web sites. Syndication is a process by which the
latest content from a blog, or from any other web
page, can be made available for re-publication in
another website or in some other application. And
millions of people (including children) are doing it
(Sabella and Stanley, 2008).
compared to dynamic web sites, blogs feature several
unique characteristics (Brain, 2009) such as:
A typical blog has a main page and nothing else. On
the main page, there is a set of entries. Each entry
is a little text blurb that may contain embedded
links out to other sites, news stories, etc. When
the author adds a new entry, it goes at the top,
pushing all the older entries down. This blog also
has a right sidebar that contains additional
permanent links to other sites and stories. The
author might update the sidebar weekly or monthly.
A blog is normally a single page of entries. There
may be archives of older entries, but the "main
page" displays all the recent content.
A blog is organized in reverse-chronological order,
from most recent entry to least recent.
A blog is normally public, the whole world can see
it, although it can be set to private.
The entries in a blog usually come from a single
author although can be set up for a writing team.
The entries in a blog are usually
stream-of-consciousness. There is no particular
order to them. For example, the blogger sees a good
link, he or she can throw it in his or her blog. The
tools that most bloggers use make it incredibly easy
to add entries to a blog any time they feel like it.
technology that allows individuals to write one's
own blog is so relatively simple and inexpensive
that it is no surprise that blogs have proliferated
the Web as fast as they have. Any educator or person
can create a basic blog for free, and most of these
toolsets have additional features available for a
price. Here are just a few of the services available
that would be most appropriate for educators seeking
more effective collaboration:
Blogger is a free, automated weblog
publishing platform in one easy to use website.
TypePad is similar to blogger, another
blogging service although this one has a minimal
LiveJournal is free although users can choose
to upgrade their accounts for extra features.
Moveable Type is another popular web
Posterous. This website lets you post things
online fast using email.
WordPress. Here you can start a blog in
seconds without any technical knowledge.
Some school counselors have both a website a blog.
The website contains categorized sections of
information, tools, and resources and also has a
link to a blog which is used for more casual
announcements and fleeting pieces of information.
Yet other counselors are purchasing more
sophisticated packages that include your own domain
name (e.g., russellsabella.com or
schoolcounselor.com) and easy “drag and drop” web
site building tools (e.g., easyCGI;
With these services, if you can use Microsoft Word,
you can build a website – the types of buttons and
procedures are the same. And, the prices have never
been lower. For example, for $10 a year, you can
sign up for a Google Apps account which comes with
your own registered domain name, website builder,
and a host of other productivity tools including
calendar, email, RSS reader, spreadsheet, multimedia
presentation, and more (see
There are literally hundreds of these type web
hosting services for little money. Visit
http://webhostinggeeks.com/ for a list of
professional web hosting services under $10 a month;
all webhosting plans include at least one free
domain name registration and 30 day money back
wonder, “What is the difference between a free web
host and a low cost web host? The main differences
are that low cost webhosts (a) allow you to register
your own domain name as part of the account
purchase; (b) provide free and low cost addin
modules such as polls, email list managers,
database, blogging tools, shopping carts, etc.; and
(c) they usually provide a minimal level of phone
and email support.
What Should I Put on My Site?
The first and most important task is to consider
your website audience. Who will be accessing it?
What will they be looking for? What kind of specific
format might appeal to them? Many different people
will access your site for many different reasons.
You might want to create a general introduction,
description about you and your program, and
different links for parents, community members,
students, faculty and people from other schools that
will lead them to information of special interest to
them. For instance, consider the following lists of
web content for each (Sabella, 2003):
Most people know the school as a building and a
place they walk into each day. There are many ways
to represent the school building, and especially
your office, on your website: with a photograph;
with a diagram or map; with a drawing by a student
or with a written description of the architecture.
On the site, show your office up-close-and-personal
by using a photo and include students (with
permission) in the picture so the school appears as
a live space.
A profile of you and your background.
Description of comprehensive school counseling
programs with a link to the Executive Summary of the
ASCA National Model™ (http://bit.ly/IyGVD).
Special features of your counseling program (e.g.,
photos and descriptions of peer helper projects).
Use photos and frequently-updated stories to let
people know what students are accomplishing and
performing outside of the academic program.
Introduction to the members of your school
counseling program Advisory Committee.
This year’s guidance and counseling goals and
Accountability data that allows others to recognize
the positive impact your work is having on students
You might publish a “Wish List.” Do you need
magazines for an upcoming small group counseling
unit that calls for a collage? Could you use more
computers? Are you in need of new books for your own
professional development? These are just a few of
the hundreds of items that might be posted on your
Counselor Wish List. If you ask for a few things of
reasonable value you are likely to be successful in
receiving donations. Don’t forget to let people know
how to respond to you, update your list frequently,
and include a list of thank-you’s as well. One quick
way to do this is to start a Wish List at Amazon.com
and link to it. Amazon.con now supports Universal
Wish List which allows you to add products from any
website to your Amazon Wish List with one simple
You could include a text based, or if you want to
get fancy, a streaming video message from your
principal or superintendent that supports your work
and program. One simple way to do this is to upload
your video to YouTube.com and then embed it directly
into your website (see
Clear contact information that makes it simple for
others, especially parents, to communicate with you
and other counselors.
Any honors or awards that you or your program have
received (don’t forget to include any photos).
A list of important dates and events and how to
prepare for them.
A way to collect data either by creating surveys
yourself or using a free or almost free company
Tips for parent involvement in your school which
might include a list of projects and “how to help.”
Various educational “brochures” about parenting
topics (original content or links to other places
where they can get them).
Upcoming parent opportunities for training and
development, perhaps sponsored with the PTA.
School and district resources for parents and
respective contact numbers.
Pertinent aspects of your schedule such as times for
parent conferences. You may even embed an
interactive calendar where parents can request an
appointment (e.g., see
I recommend Google Calendars (http://www.google.com/calendar/)
Tips for community involvement in your school which
might include a list of projects and “how to help.”
Profiles of community members whom have participated
in special guidance and counseling projects (e.g.,
tutoring, mentoring, or activity sponsorship).
Examples of how your work serves the interests of
the community (e.g., school-to-work or career
Information about adult education services.
Various educational “brochures” about student
success topics such as homework help, time
management, conflict resolution, and school
adjustment to name a very few.
Information relevant to school success ranging from
studying, making friends, choosing a college or
career, to calculating your GPA.
Information for alumni to stay in contact.
Interactive guidance units.
Curriculum for use within a teacher-as-advisor
Various educational “brochures” about teaching
topics such as classroom management, discipline
options, working effectively with ADHD children, and
team building to name a few.
Opportunities for teacher consultation. For
instance, you might describe the opportunity of
having you consult with a teacher for approximately
four meetings to discuss ways to enhance student
growth and development known to support academic
How Do I Get My Site to Become Popular?
Although creating a website can be fun, we need to
know that it is serving its purpose, that it is
useful to others and beneficial to the school
counseling program. So how can counselors help
others to make use of their site? Several tips
Make your site valuable. If the information
is useful and valuable, people will stream to your
site to get it. If it is information they need and
want, and if it is not available elsewhere, you can
be assured that your intended audience will be
connecting regularly. On the other hand, if there is
nothing on the site that is not already published
somewhere else, or if the information is old, or if
it is information that no one really needs, then you
cannot expect to see many visitors.
Make your site timely. One reason to use the
Internet rather than the printed material is the
ability to reflect last-minute changes. For most
schools, daily or weekly updates of information will
allow the website to provide things that are
available nowhere else. Regular changes will keep
people coming back. Reasonably frequent updates make
a site much more useful to its audience. You can
also include information that automatically gets
updated via feeds and widgets (for instance, see
for a Google search).
Make your site user-friendly. If the material
on the site is easy to find and easy to read, it
will be used more. A clear writing style allows
people to read quickly and to find the ideas they
need. Accurate labels and titles and subheadings
also make it easier for the user to find content for
which he or she is looking. Do not be afraid to
divide an article into short sections with
Help students to be involved. Many schools
find that students are the chief users of the school
website. Students have a big stake in their school.
They are familiar with the new technologies, and
they love to see their own works published on the
Web. The more you call on students to develop and
update different parts of your site, the more they
will encourage use of the Website among their
friends. You may find, as many schools have, that
students are quite willing and prepared to locate
and type the daily and weekly updates of information
that are essential to a well-used site. Also, to get
students using the site early on, consider a contest
of some sort. Provide clues on your site that change
each day; students who collect all the clues might
win a school sweatshirt or other valuable prize.
Help parents and the community to be involved.
Use every means possible to let the parents and
community know your site is up and ready. Send
notices home with students. Put a notice in the
school newspaper and in the local paper. Involve
parents in authoring parts of your site, perhaps a
parenting support section.
Help everyone remember your site. Take every
opportunity to let people know that you have a
Website. Include your site’s URL on your school
stationery and on your business card. Include it in
the school newspaper and at the bottom of all
relevant announcements that go from school to home.
Post it in the front hall, and on the sign in front
of the school. Make a big banner of the URL, and
hang it over your office. This will let everyone in
the school community know that the school counselor
is publishing on the Web.
What are Some Examples of Some Pretty Cool School
School District Guidance & Counseling
Senior High School
Weaver Middle School
Bish Elementary School
Liberty Middle School
Gatos High School
Creek High School
Traditional High School
Marshall (Retrieved October 20, 2009). How blogs
work. Available online:
R. A. (2003). SchoolCounselor.com: A friendly and
practical guide to the World Wide Web. (2nd edition)
Minneapolis, MN: Educational Media Corporation.
R. A. & Stanley, T. (2008). School counseling and
technology: An overview. In Allen, J.M. (Title to be
determined). Austin, TX: ProEd, Inc.
addition to the one already mentioned in this
article, the following online resources should help
in developing your school counseling website:
your web site!
FeedBurner provides custom RSS feeds and management
tools to bloggers, podcasters, and other web-based
site backgrounds & blog backgrounds
translate: Translate text or your website to other
Gadgets For Your Webpage
Micropoll. Create Your Web Poll - Free
Source Web Design is a site to download free web
design templates and share yours with others. We
help make the internet a prettier place.
widgets let you display Twitter updates on your
website or social network page
Russell A. Sabella
currently a Professor of Counseling in the College
of Education, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort
Myers, FL and President of Sabella & Associates.
Russ is author of numerous articles published in
journals, magazines, and newsletters. He is
co-author of two books entitled
Confronting Sexual Harassment: Learning Activities
for Teens (Educational Media; 1995) and
Counseling in the 21st Century: Using Technology to
Improve Practice (American Counseling Association;
2004). He is also author of the popular
SchoolCounselor.com: A Friendly and Practical Guide
to the World Wide Web (2nd edition; Educational
Media; 2003), GuardingKids.com A Practical Guide to
Keeping Kids Out of High-Tech Trouble (2008,
Educational Media Corporation) and well-known for
his Technology Boot Camp for Counselor workshops
conducted throughout the country. Dr. Sabella is
past President (2003-2004) of the of the American
School Counselor Association.
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