Most of us school-based speech-language pathologists don't look forward to this season of assessment and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
In a word, it's stressful.
The time pressure, bureaucratic and communicative red tape, report writing, and stringent accountability do not inspire us to think, "Cool."
However, mobile technologies give us new ways of looking at diagnostic and educational planning processes that are, in fact, cool—and can make our jobs easier. Let's look at five ways to infuse simple technologies into assessment and IEP development.
Gauging students' performance in the classroom is a key element of a speech and language evaluation, and mobile devices, such as iPads and iPod touches, can help with this. You can type observational notes on your tablet computer using applications like Apple's Notes, which comes free with all iDevices (iOS), and Evernote, widely regarded as the best free note-taking app for iOS and Android. You can easily e-mail the notes to yourself or upload them to your Web-based Evernote account for inclusion in your evaluation report. In Evernote, you can set up "notebooks" for particular students, classrooms, or schools. Clinicians should be careful to passcode-lock their devices and use only student initials in information transmitted via Web channels.
Simple Video and Audio Recording
Audio and video recording helps capture those fleeting moments and nuances important to assessment of performance on articulation, fluency, social pragmatics, written language, and narrative tasks. You once had to use dedicated audio and video recording devices, but now SLPs can record with their smart phones, tablets, or laptop computers. Widely used recording tools include Voice Recorder (free for Android) and Voice Memos (built-in for iPhone and iPod Touch, and available for iPad for $.99 via download at iTunes). Also, today's laptop computers typically come with webcams and recording software, such as PhotoBooth for Mac.
Though assessment is ongoing, when spring hits, SLPs feel the crunch of completing assessments for IEP eligibility and re-evaluation under strict timelines. Creative play apps to the rescue! These apps motivate students while providing the SLP with a further snapshot of students' skills. Through child-centered interaction, the apps supply information about play skills, sequencing, executive functioning, social pragmatics, narrative, and use of self-talk. For example, My Playhome by Shimon Young (iOS, $2.99; lite version is free) is a "play house" app in which children interact with various rooms, providing a context for sequencing and role-play. House of Learning (Smarty Ears, $6.99) features 12 scenes in which kids position a large array of objects and people. This open-ended app provides a window into students' semantic abilities, sentence formulation, attention spans, organizational skills, and ability to accept scaffolding.
IEP season is packed with meetings, which can take endless phone calls and e-mails to set up. Save yourself some time and frustration. Next time you have to schedule an evaluation or IEP meeting, try Doodle Scheduler. This free Web app connects to a free Android mobile app and is also available for free via mobile iOS when you navigate to your Safari browser. The iOS mobile app version—designed for iPhone but usable with iPad—costs $2.99. Using Doodle Scheduler, you can create scheduling "polls" through which participants indicate their available dates and times. Doodle is simple to use—just e-mail participants the link to the poll. After they respond, the program will show you the best time for your meeting.
Common Core Standards and Goals
As more districts participate in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, SLPs are working
to align IEP goals with the standards—particularly speaking and listening aspects (see p. 10). Enter
the Common Core State Standards app (free for iOS, and Android), which seeks to ease what can seem like an overwhelming task. This app provides language arts standards by grade, along with a rationale for each standard. For example, for first grade, the app suggests that students, "Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details..."
Try some of these tips for a lower-stress, more rewarding IEP season.