ERIC Identifier: ED347480
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Casey, John A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Counseling Using Technology with At-Risk Youth. ERIC Digest.
Counselors and related human service professionals are increasingly utilizing
computer technology in their counseling with at-risk youth. While early use of
computers for testing, administration, career, and personal counseling relied
primarily upon counseling-specific software, more recent adaptations of
noncounseling software for counseling purposes are leading toward successful
interventions with at-risk populations.
WHO IS "AT-RISK?"
The literature presents a range of
definitions for "at-risk" youth. Some authors identify risk factors with
predictive validity for such unwanted behaviors as truancy, dropping out of
school, or criminal activity. Others contend that all youth are potentially at
risk of not achieving their potential. The label is often assigned to both
gifted and remedial learners who do not fit the mainstream school population.
The computer strategies discussed in this document usually have applications to
all of these populations.
ADAPTING SOFTWARE FOR PERSONAL COUNSELING
counseling process has been described as having at least six stages: (a)
relationship building, (b) needs assessment, (c) goal setting, (d) intervention,
(e) transfer and maintenance of newly acquired skills, and (f) termination with
evaluation. Counselors report promising use of technology in three of these
domains: relationship building, needs assessment, and intervention.
Counselors and related professionals
have noted the attraction of home entertainment software, e.g., Nintendo video
games, to numerous at-risk youth. These professionals have infused video games
into the relationship-building stage of the counseling process through several
Lancaster, Texas, children resistive to counseling have found "The Print Shop" a
vehicle for developing rapport and expressing their feelings (Henderson, 1989).
Long Beach, California, reluctant learning disabled clients become engaged with
the counselor through games of familiarity and attainable success (e.g., "Wheel
of Fortune," "MacConcentration").
Guerneville, California, students and counselors speaking different languages
find common enthusiasm with nonverbal computer games through the counselor
(e.g., "Brickles," "Hot Air Balloon").
Counselors are reporting sporadic yet
promising uses of computer software for assessing client need. One example:
Stratford, Connecticut, with boys ages 10-17, Margolies (1991) reports we can
observe much about the child: their level of dependency on the therapist, fears,
blocking points, approach to and length of play, ability to appreciate or
elaborate on fantasy, sense of humor. Other games or drawing programs are used
as projective tools.--"
A variety of interventions are being
implemented by counselors with at-risk youth.
Rohnert Park, California, ninth graders identified as having the "highest risk"
of dropping out are paired with graduate counseling students who together write
poetry on word processors, create art on "Kid Pix," or evaluate a variety of low
cost shareware games. They subsequently visit a nearby elementary school where
the older student tutors a first grader on easy but motivating learning games
(Casey & Ramsammy, 1992).
West Anchorage, Alaska, at-risk ninth graders are trained as computer resource
tutors for other teachers, students, and staff (Orloff, 1991).
Palo Alto, California, a counselor reports empowerment through both "playful"
software such as "Jam Session" (where students can play like MTV musicians) and
more serious software such as spell and grammar checkers on word processing
documents (Orloff, 1991).
PREVENTION THROUGH GROUPS, CLASSROOM GUIDANCE AND CONSULTATION
Professionals are discovering that software can
be adapted for prevention through groups, classroom guidance, and consultation
with teachers on curriculum and classroom management.
an overhead projection of the computer screen, students develop cooperative
learning, positive interdependence, group problem solving and social skills by
playing, as a group, such software as "Oregon Trail" or "Carmen Sandiego."
Greenwood, Mississippi, kindergarten use of technology "encourages students to
become their own problem solvers,...thinking and discovering answers on their
own" (Goal, 1992).
Peach Springs, Arizona, dropout rates among Hualapai Indians have plummeted with
the infusion of videodiscs, interactive video, and satellite communication into
the curriculum without counselors.
numerous locations, counselors are consulting with teachers to develop
intergenerational communication between at-risk youth and senior citizens,
through both live computer activities and electronic mail (Henderson, 1989).
A variety of advantages are associated with
the use of technology in counseling with at-risk youth. As earlier noted, youth
usually have positive associations with video game technology; covert learning
can and does take place without the normal resistance to overt educational
approaches. Moreover, they represent multisensory approaches to learning using
visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning modalities. Individualized learning
can set realistic goals, and encourages retrial of failures without group
Gifford (1991) lists seven attributes that make video games both fun and
effective learning tools:
PLAY (CREATIVITY): Electronic games are not tied to the limitations of space,
time, or gravity in the way that mechanical toys are. Freed from these
constraints, kids can exercise their fantasies without regard to real-world
Computers allow us to move with ease between electronic "microworlds" from one
graphical environment to another. The exhilaration of multimedia world-hopping
contrasts sharply with the static feeling of conventional classrooms.
REPLAY ENCOURAGES RISK TAKING: Computers can provide an instant replay of
students' performances, allowing them to study, edit, or try again in a safe
environment for risk-taking.
Even when kids are struggling to learn a complex computer game, they usually
feel they are in control. When the worst happens, they can always shut the
machine off. The feeling of control is encouraged by the ease with which players
can repeat an activity until it has been mastered.
Kids tend to experience computers as partners in learning. They relish this
nonhierarchical relationship in which the roles of teacher and student are
blurred or altered.
GOALS: Children in the classroom cannot always see the point of learning math,
science, or social studies. When they play electronic games, they are usually
working toward a clear objective--making a rescue, unlocking a door, unearthing
hidden treasure. Compelling goals give game players high levels of motivation.
ABSORPTION: Short attention spans and poor impulse control frequently disappear
with effective computer interventions, supporting the notion changing the
environment, not the child, can support individual success.
As with any emerging counseling tool,
numerous pitfalls exist in applying technology to work with at-risk youth. These
SOFTWARE--rote learning and other overtly educational software are usually met
TOO LONG--older computers, like Apple IIe's, or too many students for one
computer create more problems than they solve.
TRAINING--constrained budgets limit training opportunities, but successful
counselors work in concert with other technology-literate staff.
focus should be on the client first, the technology second. If the client or
counselor loses this priority, problems may be exacerbated by the technology.
Additional ethical, moral, and practical issues associated with technology
and counseling are discussed by Walz, Gazda, and Shertzer (1991).
DISCUSSION AND SUMMARY
Current trends in technological
developments suggest that home entertainment video games and educational
learning software are on convergent paths. Astute educators have identified
these technologies as effective for student motivation and have integrated them
with traditional curricula to reduce at-risk behavior. Counselors who identify
and implement effective uses for technology, including CD-ROM and video
laserdiscs, are likely to maintain their positions during the current
educational restructuring movement.
Additional research on outcome effectiveness, individual differences in
computer motivation, and other aspects of this emerging field are needed. New
adaptations, such as infusion into family therapy and other counseling services,
remain equally unexplored. Nevertheless, early signs of success are encouraging
and challenge the counselor to remain current with new technologies and their
potential for adaptation to counseling with at-risk youth.
Casey, J., & Ramsammy, R. (1992).
MacMentoring: Using technology and counseling with at-risk youth. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 344 179)
Gifford, B. R. (1991, August 7). The learning society: Serious play.
Chronicle of Higher Education, p. 7.
Goal: Engaging young at-risk learners. (1992, May/June). Electronic Learning,
Henderson, H. J. (1989). Counseling with computers: Technology and
techniques. Lancaster, TX: 3S Co.
Margolies, R. (1991). The computer as a social skills agent. T.H.E. Journal,
Orloff, J. H. (Ed.). (1991). Macintosh educational software guide. Cupertino,
CA: Apple Computer, Inc.
Walz, G. R., Gazda, G. M., & Shertzer, B. (1991). Counseling futures. Ann
Arbor, MI: ERIC Counseling and Personnel Services Clearinghouse, The University