A School Psychologist's resource for all things tech.

Archive for October, 2012

Confidentiality, Privacy, Technology

I recently presented at the Michigan Association of School Psychologist’s fall conference about technology for School Psychologists. There were a few key points that I made during our conversation that need to be made early on in this blog and  I’ll probably have to made a “disclaimer” page too just so new visitors to the blog will have a frame of reference.

  1. The iPad I use is my personal iPad.  I view it has my personal notebook and the notes contained within it, my personal notes.  Items I choose to make a part of a student’s educational record are either included in my reports or printed off and placed in a student’s file. As school mental health professionals I think we can all understand my view of this being a personal notebook. I of-course still question whether many items are worth writing down.
  2. While the protections of information are not perfect on an iPad or any other mobile device I do believe it is better than what I was using before.  I never carried around a spiral bound notebook with a lock on it and there was not anything keeping me from leaving my notebook in a room, building, office, etc.  I read somewhere, and I wish I could remember where because I’d like to give them credit, but to expect iron clad protection is really unreasonable because we certainly did not have iron clad protection before technology. If someone wants to access confidential information badly enough, they’ll find a way regardless if the information in stored on a mobile device or written down on a piece of paper.
  3. I don’t have all the answers about level of confidentiality for different services.  There aren’t any best practices currently.  When considering a new piece of technology whether it be service, app, hardware, software, make an informed decision and use NASP’s Principles for Professional Ethics to think through your decision.  When we make choices without utilizing NASP’s ethics principles we leave ourselves open to trouble.
  4. When you choose to use a tool do everything in your power to protect information.  The easiest way to do this to have strong passwords.  Have a hierarchy of passwords based the type of information you’re storing and protecting. Check the strength of your password using a tool such as Password Meter.  Also get in the habit of changing and rotating passwords on a regular basis such as every three months.  Obviously its hard to remember all your passwords if you’re regularly changing them and you’re using really strong passwords so find a system either low-tech or high-tech to keep track of your passwords.
  5. Finally, consult your employers policies.  We know that often policies and procedures don’t always match laws, regulations, and ethical guidelines, so do your best to reconcile differences and maybe take advantage of an opportunity to advocate for students or your role as a mental health provider.

I hope this information doesn’t scare you off or keep you from considering whether a tool is a good fit for you in your role.  I’m trying my best to understand more and more which tools and services are meeting the high standards we must uphold.  Keep checking back and I hope to have more information as this rapidly developing area of technology evolves.

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What should I review?

I’m definitely new in this journey of sharing my opinions about tech for school psychologists but I do have a list of apps I’m working on reviewing.  In case I’ve missed something, which is entirely possible, I’d like to know if there are apps you’ve heard about or sceen but haven’t purchased or tried that you’d like me to do the leg work on.  Fill out this contact form and/or leave a comment about an app you’d like me to look at it and I’ll add it to my to-do list.  

Psych Tools – An App made for School Psychs

I have been using Psych Tools regularly since I started using my iPad at school.   Despite the app being focused on support school psychologists, one of the reasons it tops my list and is the first one I want to share is the great support behind the app. After using the app for a while I submitted feedback to the app developer and we engaged in a dialogue about what I liked and didn’t like about the app. Many of my suggestions were ones they were working on but others were features they hadn’t yet thought about.  This back and forth is certainly the type of responsiveness I hope every app developer will have, but I know it isn’t reality. So because of their responsiveness, the app is one of my favorites.

Pros:

Simply stated, it’s an app made for School Psychologists.  This fact alone makes this app better than others apps to support our day-to-day work.  Features include multiple observation methods (event recording, duration recording, interval recording, and ABC recording), observation reports, student list, evaluation time-line/to-do list, stopwatch, age calculator, and normal distribution chart.  The observation tools come pre-loaded with several standard behaviors but additional behaviors can easily be added.  If you have a standard template for completing observations you’re able to set-up your own observation templates.  Knowing what observation tool to use for your observation takes a little getting used to but after several observation sessions you’ll have no problem knowing how to setup the observation in the app to meet your observation needs.  A great feature for the app is the ability to create reports from single or multiple observations for an individual student.  While the reports are basic you are able to print (if you have the capability) or email the report to yourself to be inserted in to your report. As for the evaluation tracking and task lists, if you’re like me, you might not always remember to create your evaluation task list on the day the consent to evaluate is signed.  The app calculates the evaluation due date based on when the “Obtain Consent” item is completed but you are able to manually change the due date for the “Complete Evaluation” task.  There are task lists already created for evaluations and re-evaluations but you’re able to modify these lists to add additional items specific to the student or to all of your comprehensive evaluations and save your “regular” tasks to your own evaluation template. To-do lists are also available for Interventions.

Cons:

The app is not individually password protected.  You can always password protect you’re entire iPad/iPhone but you can’t password protect this specific app.  The app is actually an iPhone app but you’re able to load and view it on an iPad however images get slightly distorted between the two platforms.  You also are not able to switch between portrait and landscape. The age calculator is great if you’re using it on the day you want to calculate from however if you want to calculate a student’s age several days after you completed the evaluation you’re not able to change your target day, it is set to the current date (see PAR toolkit for app that allows you to change the target date). While there are several observation options in order to add narrative information you must pause the observation and add a note.  An improvement suggestion has been made to split the screen in order to record narrative notes while still gathering duration or frequency behavior data.  I’d also like to see a feature where you can make a student inactive after they have left your building or cases when the student is doing so well you’re not long supporting the student. I have provided suggestions to resolve these “cons” to the app developers and they have been very receptive and indicated that many of my suggestions were already on their list of things to work on.  With app developers as responsive as they are, this app will only get better.

If you’ve been using Psych Tools, what do you like about it?  What features do you wish it had?  Are there creative ways you’ve found to use that app to overcome some the apps weaknesses?

Introduction

Hi everyone! Welcome to my new blog! I’ve been stewing about this blog for quite a while.  For so long I did not think I had enough to say or enough to share. I also did not think that others would find the information valuable.  With the support from friends and family I’ve decided to take the leap.  I hope you’ll find the information here helpful and I look forward to learning with you as we embark on this journey together.  Welcome!

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