A School Psychologist's resource for all things tech.

Archive for March, 2013

Consultation

Technology and school psychology are not only connected by how we as school psychologists consume or utilize tech, even though that seems like all we have time form. Isn’t one of our greatest strengths as school psychologists consulting with teachers, staff, and parents and problem-solving with the purpose of helping students overcome barriers to their learning? As school psychologists we need to be familiar with tools and resources available to students, teachers, staff and parents so we can be actively engaged in all aspects of the consultation and problem-solving processes. We don’t have to be experts in every little piece of technology but we should be aware of categories of tools and supports. We also should be thinking about tools and resources we hear about that are innovative and exciting for all students and how they could be especially useful for students who are struggling. We can also be thinking about how a tool could be tweaked to be accessible to some students.

Here is an example of what I’m think of. Our district is not a Google App district but many districts around us are and there are many many districts across the country that are Google App schools and districts. Usually there is lots of excitement surrounding new technology and many pieces of technology are great for all students and support universal design for learning and in the initial phases it is difficult to think about how new technology would impact, positively or negatively, smaller groups of students. When teachers and teams get comfortable with the new technology questions start to come up about how to make sure the technology is accessible to each and every student. This post by Richard Byrne on his blog Free Technology for Teachers provides guides to accessibility features to google apps for blind or low-vision students. Knowing about features and supports like this will help you to continue the great consultation work you do every day. I’ll continue to discuss and share resources such as these that will be helpful when consulting with teachers, parents and administrators. What sites do you regularly pull from as resources for technology?

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School Psych Tools – New and Improved

A while ago I wrote an initial review on the app School Psych Tools which is an app specifically created for School Psychologists. I know! How often does that happen?! As with any app there are pros and cons but what distinguishes a good app from a great app is when the developers respond to feedback and actively work to improve their app. This is the case for School Psych Tools.  I’m not going to go in to the previous “Pros” I described in my first post but I will review changes made that were “Cons” previously

Cons – Now Pros:

Previously the app was for iPhone and the background was grainy when you ran the app on your iPad.  This is no longer the case. The app is a universal app meaning it is optimized for both iPhone and iPad. The graphics are great on both devices. No complaints.

Previously you could only view the app in portrait mode which wasn’t helpful if you preferred typing in landscape mode but this has been corrected for the iPhone and iPad.  Type in landscape mode to your hearts content. If you want to get really fancy undock and split the keyboard for when you don’t have a table to sit and type when you’re observing.

When using the age calculator, you’re now able to change the date of birth date and the testing date and you’re not limited to only using the age calculator on the date you are testing.  This is a great feature for me especially when I have too much to do and too little time. Anyone else feel that way?

Features to Be Desired:

Here is where my lack of technical expertise comes in to play and limits my ability to understand if the app is doing what it says it is supposed to do.  Password protection.  As I discussed in my first School Psych Tools post, I strongly encourage you to password protect your whole mobile device but when individual apps are password protected I perceive my sensitive information is even more protected.  The School Psych Tools Manual indicates that by following their password protection steps that an additional level of data encryption is applied. You do not have to enter a password every time you open the app and the manual suggests that this is what the user would want.  I “feel” better when apps ask me to put in a passcode when it opens, whether the app is actually more secure or not, I don’t know.

The observation features and settings in the School Psych Tools app are some of the best I’ve seen in the observation apps and services available for individuals completing in-school student observations.  Here is my “wish list”

  • Add narrative information to an observation without pausing the active observation. A format such as split screen would be a good option.  
  • When you can add narrative notes to the observation while it is running the added notes should be time stamped.

Another welcomed feature would be the ability to make students “inactive” after they have left your building for whatever reason.  This would also be helpful for a case when the student is doing so well that they are no longer receiving intervention supports.  The app developers have shared that this feature is in the works so this will be a great and useful addition in the future.  As I mentioned in my initial post on the pros and cons of School Psych Tools, the developers of the app are responsive and open to feedback. They’ve proven that they listen and make the tool better. Who wouldn’t want to buy a tool that continues to get better and the improvements are free?

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