School Counseling Kiosk
A How To/Why To Guide
Say Goodbye To Your Old Sign In Sheet!
Yeah, we all have had that sign in sheet. The clipboard or binder where kids sign in to see you so that you can call them down. Nice, if I'd remember to check it once in a while. Of course there is no semblance of confidentiality. Every kid who signs in sees the name above theirs and the check mark for "personal" or "academic". There is always the jokester who signs in "Seymour Butts" so all the kids can have a chuckle. Well, say goodbye to all that paper nonsense and create your own kiosk! Receive notifications at your desk that a student has signed in to see you! Collect data for your admin of the number of students who stop by the counseling office. Stop being 1971 and become 2017!
What do I need?
- ***CHEAP*** tablet!
- kiosk stand or cable to lock kiosk to a desk
- G Suite for Education account
So, first you need a cheap tablet. Our kiosk is in it's 4th year on the same cheap ASUS tablet that cost less than $100. We only spent close to $100 because we opted for a bigger tablet...10 inches. We felt that screen size was most important because we want it to be easy for kids to see and log into. Nothing fancy needed, just a very basic android tablet. Maybe someone even has an old one laying around. Next, unless you want this thing to walk off, shop for some type of stand or lock. We have a stand that was supposed to be universal. Unfortunately, it was really an IPAD stand and we needed to modify it a bit to get the plug to fit into our tablet. The "men", our principal and ap, took right to the task and used tin snips to rig it a bit. I think the stand cost about $60. This is a free standing piece so it doesn't take up any desk space. There are some cheaper ones on Amazon that will lock onto a desk or table. So, regarding cost, that is about it. Total of about $150 to get us into business and to stay in business for 4 years now.
Probably the trickiest thing was the setup. This was of course made super tricky by the fact that I didn't want to spend a dime. You know, $10 at the app store is somehow like $1000 of real money! Still, totally doable. I'm providing you the "cheatsheet" so you don't have to research by yourself!
- Set up tablet with G Suite account. I've had our tech guy set up a special generic guidance gmail for this.
- Download from google play store "Sandbox" by Float . This is actually a web browser that you force students to use.
- Use an app locker (my tablet had one built in) to lock all apps with a password except for Sandbox. This prevents students from playing around on the tablet. They can only access that one app called Sandbox. In spite of the fact that it is a web browser, it opens automatically to one webpage and doesn't have any way of getting to a different web page. If your tablet doesn't come with an app locker (mine is conveniently called "App Locker") go to your google play store and search for one. They are free and easy to use. Just don't forget the password!
- Set up Sandbox - the directions here aren't great so there is definitely some trial and error. When you open up Sandbox, it opens to the page of directions. Up at the top, next to the address bar there are three little dots. Click them and then select settings. I'm sure you found them easy enough which means that students will find them even more easily! So, first things first, near the bottom of the screen you will see "Passcode". Select the check box for that. You will be prompted to enter create a password. Type it in, hit next (or return) and type it again on the next line. Then hit "update" on the box on the screen. Now you have locked the students out of the settings. Next I suggest unchecking the following: edit url, swipe between pages, navigation bar, page sharing, allow downloads and allow auto fill. Make sure that your "idle time" is set to never. Select Reset on Exit and feel free to create a restricted message (message students get if they try to do something nefarious in the app).
- Create a google form. I've created a sample for you to copy, edit and use. Once the form is created go back to Sandbox settings and go to "Start Page". Put the URL for your google form in the start page. Now every time Sandbox opens up, it goes right to your google form for students to sign into the office. In your google form settings, you can set up notifications to come to your email every time a student signs in. I personally would go out of my mind if I set this up so instead, I set up the spreadsheet for the form to load automatically when I start up my chrome browser on my laptop. My colleague and I access this the same way and use the strikeout feature to "cross out" the student names once we have actually seen them and attended to their needs.
- Whitelist - Still in Sandbox setting, click "Whitelist" and type in "google.com". A whitelist is the opposite of a blacklist. So, in this case, a blacklist would be a list of forbidden sites. A whitelist is a list of allowed sites. In other words, you've indicated that all of google.com is allowed but nothing else is. Keeping in mind, the students can't get to the address bar to type anything else in anyway but you need the google.com whitelisted so that your form will submit.
Troubleshooting and tips
Problems that we have had have been VERY limited.
- I can't find the key. Our kiosk stand is locked and has two keys. When I forget my keys at home (like today!), the secretary hands me her key!
- I can't remember the password. Not a big issue for me, but pretty sure my colleague doesn't remember what it is.
- The power cord comes loose. Better known as, "the little buggers unplugged it". Said in gentle terms here but often harsher terms behind closed doors. So, that's when the reset comes in. The power cord is loose and the tablet drains. Next day, it just won't turn on. Now I need to charge it for a while and maybe even reset the whole thing. Okay, that's what happened this Christmas break. I needed to set it up again and thought I'd better get it down in writing so that I have a resource for next time! Thus this page of instruction.
- Kids type in "Seymour Butts". Yup, that one is still going to happen. Live with it.
- Once you remove the url bar from Sandbox it's hard to find those settings. Just hold a finger down near the top of your screen on the top section of your google form. Long hold for several seconds and you should see the settings option pop up. You can, of course, only access it further with your password.
What have we learned?
Tech does fail. Get over it. Pull out the legal pad for the afternoon and get it running again. The truth is, it only takes a little time to get it running because it fails so infrequently that I can't remember what I did to reset it the time before! The payout is great. Here are a couple of key rewards that we see everyday.
- You have a timestamp of when kids sign in. Invaluable when they claim that they signed in hours or days ago and you can say, "um, actually, you signed in 25 min ago".
- Data, data, data....use it how you choose
- Desktop access to who is signing in. No need to get up and check the sign in sheet.
- Notifications available for your email so you don't have to physically look at the form.
- Convenience....We have added the form to our webpage so that students can access it from class rather than need to visit the guidance office to sign in for an appointment. In addition, our tech guy put the form on the desktop of all students so that when they sign in to a school computer, it is there for them.
- Less wasted time. They sign in and leave. Return to class, no hanging out.
- We are cool. I mean really, we have a kiosk. How cool can you get!?!?!?
Lakeland School Counseling Office
Location: 1355 Lakeland Drive, Jermyn, PA, United States