A School Psychologist's resource for all things tech.

School Psycholog Tools App for iPad and iPhone

School Psychology Tools App

I’ve now written several times about the School Psychology Tools app as updates have come out. A new update was released last week and provided some functionality I’ve been asking for. Woohoo! Ask and you shall receive, right?  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has asked, but it makes me feel good nevertheless.

Entered students/clients can now be archived when they age out, move, exit interventions, etc. This helps me immensely in cleaning up my student list within the app so I do not have to scan through a massive amount of students to find the student I need.

Actually archiving the students didn’t immediately stand out to me but consistent with previously provided developer support, within an hour I had a response to my question.

First touch the “edit” button in the top right corner.
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Then select the students you want to archive by touching the circle to the left of the picture/name (makes it turn to a red check mark). Once you select one or all the students to archive, touch the “archive” button at the bottom center.

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If  at some point you want to see the archived students touch the “select” button (bottom left) and choose “inactive” to view all of your inactive students.

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The new features are definitely easy to use, once you know how to use them. These are great added features and I can now remove it from my wish list but I still have one big wish for this app. I would return to using this app for every observation if I could take notes while the observation was running, similar to the BehaviorLens app, rather than pausing the observation and then opening the notes section. I’m certainly not saying that the BehaviorLens app is a better app since it also has several notable weaknesses and both have strengths that make my work easier than before I had the apps.

Is there anything else you wish was an option with the School Psychology Tools app or any great parts of it that I’ve overlooked?

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Game changing books

Are you wondering to yourself after reading the title how this post about game changing books relates to technology?  Bear with me, I promise I’ll get there. (If you want to just skip to the tech part of this post, scroll to the bottom)

So as I’ve gotten older and wiser *wink wink*, I’ve started reading books not directly related to school psychology or education but rather books which help me learn and develop leadership skills.  Some of these books been good and kind of interesting but others have been game changing for me and I just have to share them with you in a fairly random order.

  1. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck
  2. “Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else” by Geoff Colvin
  3. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work” by Shawn Achor
  4. “Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnson  (RSA makes those cool whiteboard videos and there is a great short synopsis of this book on YouTube)
  5. “7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen Covey

What I’ve Learned:

Here are some key things I’ve learned from all of these books but they aren’t listed in any particular order of importance.

  • Many great ideas and philosophies can be viewed through many different lenses or frameworks but not matter how you think about them, they’re just tried and true principles.  Many times while reading the above books I’d think, oh yea, that’s the same concept presented in another book, it must be applicable in multiple situations. Surprise, surprise!
  • Having a growth mindset is of critical importance  to feeling happy and successful in your life.  Believing that you can learn new things or get better at something is beneficial in all aspects of your life, not just in work.  Surprisingly, those who believe they can develop skills do so and there are a very few people are born with “God given talent”, but rather individuals that we believe have talent, actually have developed their skills with deliberate practice.  Their deliberate practice was made more successful by beginning with a goal, having a plan and executing it.
  • You have a choice.  You have a choice to believe that you can learn new things. You have a choice to acknowledge and accept what you have influence over, including having a choice over whether you’re happy or not. You have a choice about what is important and unimportant in your life and thus you have the ability to choose to spend more time on the important aspects and less on the unimportant aspects.
  • Great ideas and innovation rarely come from one person but rather a group of people.  Groups can be very powerful.  The groups of people who often achieve the most innovation or develop creative solutions are rarely homogenous.   “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities” – Stephen Covey.  Diverse backgrounds and divergent opinions can create unique solutions that no one has yet to consider.

You may have noticed that none of what I’ve learned really pertains to other people and how to “lead” others which might make you wonder, “how are these books related to leadership?”  You’re right, they don’t have anything to do with leading others, I can only hope to influence others by my own actions.  During the last few weeks of summer and first few weeks of school I’ve been focused on Covey’s first three habits which are “Private Victories” (until I post this blog and they’ll be more public).  I do have to say though, I’m feeling good about what I’m doing, the choices I’m making and I’m happy.

Technology Application:

Kindle AppSince I have multiple personal devices, (iPad and iPhone) and an active lifestyle (what Mom doesn’t have an “active lifestyle”?), I HAVE to be able to “read” through the use of multiple devices.  I like Kindle books and I’ve purchased all of the above books on Kindle.  Through Kindle’s Whisper Sync I can have the book on my computer, iPhone or iPad and I can have them all sync to the most recent location I gotten to regardless of which device I used.  This is great so that I don’t have to flip through pages and pages trying to find what I last read (sometimes I don’t remember).

Audible AppA great NEW feature I recently discovered is that for only a few dollars more I can also purchase the audiobook through Amazon/Audible.  Previously you had to pay full price for both the Kindle and Audiobook  and that bothered me so much that I never bought both versions, just one or another.  With the Audible Audio version for a few dollars more there is Whispersync for Voice .  This allows you to read your book on Kindle app (iPhone, iPad, etc.) and then immediately pick up in the same place on the audio book.  Once you listen for a while on your audio version and switch back to your Kindle it is automatically in the furthest point.  HOW AWESOME!!!  What is extra awesome is that any notes that you make on the Kindle version can be seen in Audible and you’re also able to make notes in Audible and the notes are viewable in the Kindle App.  It just all syncs the way that I always wished that it would.  AMAZING!

Paperless Date Tracking

During an impromptu #schoolpsych twitter chat about paperless tools  (you can find my “archive” of the chat on Storify) we were talking about how I use excel to track due dates for IEP and Re-eval dates.  Even though I trust all of my colleagues 100% to be on top of their caseloads and know when IEPs and re-evals are due, sometimes life happens so I’ve put together a spreadsheet that helps provide me peace of mind and a backup.  Since I also don’t trust my own calculations of when IEPs are due I use excel’s formulas to calculate the dates for me.  I’m always try to work smarter, not harder.  I’m able to get excel lists of all students in each of building with IEPs and I use that list to calculate the due dates for the year.

If you’re working in your own sheet here is an example of how to write the formula.  Let’s say the student’s date of birth is in column B, annual IEP date is in column C and the date for their most recent evaluation is in column D.

Calculate Annual Date

In an empty cell/column  type this formula: =sum(C2+365) which will result in the next date for the student’s annual IEP.

Calculate 3 year Re-evaluation Date

In the next empty cell/column, type this formula for the student’s 3 year re-evaluation: =sum(D2+1095).

Calculate 8th Birthday for Early Childhood Re-evaluations

In another empty cell/column type this formula to make sure you don’t miss a re-evaluation of an early childhood developmental disability certification (ECDD) before they turn 8 years old: =sum(B2+2920)

After I copy these formulas all the way through the sheet I make the dates red for the evaluations that are due during the school year for easy reference. I also check to see if a child with an ECDD certification will turn 8 during the school year so our team can start planning our evaluation well before their birthday (parents don’t want a last minute meeting on their child’s actual birth date, they want to be delivering treats to their child’s classroom).  I typically check my eval list on a monthly basis to make sure we’re not overlooking any required re-evals.

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For those of my blog followers who are using google I created an example sheet you can tweak for yourself, Google Sheet IEP Date Tracking Template.

excel_k007-20111103115659-00003 I also have an excel template that everyone is welcome to tweak for their own use. CaseloadExample

If anyone has any trouble with either form, let me know and I’ll help troubleshoot but if anyone has any improvements, pass them along.  Happy tracking and compliance!

BehaviorLENS

BehaviorLENS appBehaviorLENS is an iOS app for school psychologists, social workers, behavior specialists, teacher consultants, etc., really anyone who observes behavior.  I took the leap and purchased BehaviorLENS ($29.99) to see if any of the cons I noted with SchoolPsychTools were addressed in this app.  The quick response is…some but not all which is pretty typical because I doubt we’ll ever have the perfect solution.  My review includes mostly information about the interval recording, frequency count, and duration options and not the ABC observation because I have yet to use it. So even though I don’t discuss does not mean that I don’t like or that it is great and no areas to improve upon, just a lack of information to share.

Strengths

  • One feature I really like in BehaviorLENS is the ability to note behaviors as they happen and have a time stamp added to note.  While this doesn’t lead to a structured observation it does allow you to add notes about other behaviors, classroom events and such while completing a structured observation such as an interval recording method.  This also allows you to see how some things unfold during the observation.
  • The pre-loaded lists of behaviors is outstanding, I can’t complain at all about how much is already included which is less work to set up. Also, the pre-sets of certain behaviors being “not engaged or “engaged” and “not disruptive” and “disruptive” are helpful as well.
  • The ability to combine reports is great although there is one trick I figured out.  You must run a report for a single observation and then run a second report where you can choose all of the observation sessions available. If you don’t first run one report, the option to add other observation sessions is not available.  Weird, but a pretty easy work around.
  • Reports are broken down in multiple ways. For example a report provides the percentage of intervals on-task versus off-task but then also another report of the percentage of intervals of all the on-task behaviors (ex. listening to discussion, interacting with teacher, transitioning, seatwork, etc.)

Graph 1Graph 2

  • Reports are easy to email to myself to include in my psychoeducational reports. I usually end up copying just the graphs from the BehaviorLENS report and adding them to my own reports, not using the whole report.
  • Password protected. Always good.
  • While their support on their website isn’t stellar when I sent an email asking about running multiple observation reports they did get back to me and were helpful.  It is always nice to have helpful support personnel.
  • Good video tutorials on their website.

Weaknesses – Reports

  • My biggest disappointment overall is when you create a report Duration Chart rom duration observation the total time for each behavior is not provided.  A graph with some approximation is provided but this lack of information forced me to write in my report, “on-task approximately 15 minutes”.  Not ok.
  • Surprisingly, even though I’m very happy to be able to add notes while the observation is in progress with time stamps, the time displayed is only the hour and minutes, not seconds.  This makes it difficult when I’m going back in my notes to remember if two notes happened 5 seconds apart or 59 seconds apart, if the notes happen to take place at 2:15.01 and the next at 2:15.59, currently both are noted as 2:15.
  • When you run the Duration observation report you’re only provided with duration data, not frequency data even though the instances of behaviors is actually counted in the app. Seems weird and an easy fix to add the instances to the report.

Weaknesses – Functionality

  • As I stated above, one of the strengths is the amount of pre-loaded behaviors to choose from. The down side to this is that there are so many to choose from. A “favorites” list or a list of focus behaviors for that particular student might be helpful.
  • Within the Duration observation section, it is great that you can choose 1-4 behaviors to focus on during the observation but I’m so surprised that the GREAT behavior lists from the interval recording method isn’t included so instead you write your own.  Pros and cons to this.
  • The recording button within the Duration observation method doesn’t change much and makes it hard to quickly determine if you’re recording or not.  I’ve had mini heart attacks when I look and think that I haven’t been recording a behavior when I have been.
  • A requirement to choose the activity at the start of the observation would be helpful because sometimes I forget to “change the activity” at the start of the observation.

Overall, BehaviorLENS is a good observation tool.  What I’m most excited about is the ability to add notes while I’m observing and not having to switch between an observation app and note taking app to make notes during the observation.

Any pros or cons that you’ve found when using BehaviorLENS?

KustomNote a.k.a Awesome

You might be thinking that my spelling has gone to pot while I’ve been on vacation, right? Custom is spelled with a ‘c’ not a ‘k’! You may have noticed that many of the Web2.0 tools have “unique” spellings and KustomNote is no different. So what does this have to do with school psychology or education? Well, following several days of training at the end of the school year about the 7 Habits of Effective People and The Leader In Me I’ve been focusing on some “big rocks” in my life and while sharing tech resources is very important to me it hasn’t been my highest priority. Although as I’ve been learning and practicing the 7 Habits in my own life I’ve found a great tool which not only helps me with my “big rocks” but also will be helpful at the beginning of the school year!

As I shared before, I LOVE Evernote but I’ve often wished it had note templates, especially for meetings that have similar formats such as problem-solving/IST/student study team meetings and while you can set up a notebook of “template” notes, you then have to copy the note and such. It just isn’t as easy as I’d like it to be until I found KustomNote. I’ve been using Kustomnote to complete my weekly compass and I see lots of potential for uses during my school psych work day also. For example, one of my building uses a student profile form with strengths, weakness, current interventions and recommendations to guide our team meetings. Previously I had to type those headings out in Evernote every time we had a team meeting . Now, I have a student profile template and can fill in the fields as we go through the meeting. When I’m finished taking notes, my KustomNote is automatically saved into my Evernote notebook for easy future references.

Here is what my Student Profile note looks like while being created through the KustomNote app

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So here are some of the strengths and weaknesses of Kustomnote
Strengths:

  • Great integration with Evernote
  • Easy interface to create your own templates
  • Database of templates shared by other for you to use and modify for your own needs (working smarter not harder)
  • Colors and note backgrounds are a welcome change for Evernote’s standard theme

Weakness:

  • Have to create the note either in the KustomNote app or through their website OR modify one of the other notes you’ve already created with KustomNote but that’s the same thing as having a “template” notebook in Evernote. A welcome change would be to be able to create a new note within Evernote just pulling in your KustomNote template
  • Limited formatting of the layout of your custom note. You’re only able to have one column in your note so you’re unable to have for example, a 4 quadrant note and have things side by side.
  • When editing an already created KustomNote that is now in Evernote, sometimes the formatting gets messed up and doesn’t follow the style of formatting of the original note. I often edit a note more than once so I need it to easily keep the same formatting and not get all jumbled up when I edit it multiple times.

All in all, while KustomNote has some weaknesses, it has enough benefits to me to keep using it for the foreseeable future or at least until I learn about a better solution.  

This post is a continuation of Part 1 – Know where to find Apps.  The reason I separated these resources from the others is because these resources are not limited to apps even though I often find information about great app from them.  These resources are a part of my Personal Learning Community (PLC) and they inspire me to be the best educator I can be every single day. If you aren’t a part of these communities I recommend you join them 5 seconds ago.  I’m not joking. Join now. Right now.

Twitter

I promise, Twitter is not just about Charlie Sheen “winning” and the Kardashians. You choose who you want to follow so if you follow Charlie Sheen or the Kardashians then they will cloud up your feed but you can choose to fill your feed with quality people sharing quality information.  If you don’t know who to follow find one person to follow, like me (@everbeke ) and then look at who I follow or who follows me. What’s great about twitter is you can find one person that you think is awesome and then find people that also find people who think their awesome (their followers) and then see who the awesome person thinks are other awesome people (who they follow).  Throughout the week there are many many “chats” that happen using hashtags (#) which can be great conversations to participate in or just to watch and learn from.  Cybraryman (@cybraryman) has a comprehensive list of educational hashtags.  Below are some short videos about the uses of twitter in education

Pinterest

Pinterest is similar to twitter in that you follow/subscribe to people and/or boards and then when people you follow pin or repin those pins will show up in you feed.  Just as with twitter, if you don’t know who to follow or which boards to follow then find someone you like and see who they follow or which boards they follow.  You can start with me. You can either choose to follow all of my boards or choose to follow just a few of my boards such as School Psychology, AT, TechTuesday Inspiration


Scoop.ItScoop.It is a content curation platform.  I’ll admit that I’m not curating any content but I am following some great curators.  While I could log-in to Scoop.It every day and view a feed of the curators I follow but I currently don’t, instead I let Scoop.It send me a daily email.  This is one email, from the hundreds I receive every day that I actually read every time it comes to my inbox. The curators I follow have proven to me that they share great info every day that I do not want to miss. I would recommend following John Evan’s iPad in Education and Heather Peretz’s Tech Tidbits for Teachers SMS

Any other resources you draw upon that you couldn’t imagine life without in your professional life?

As a part of my consultation post, I touched on the fact that as school psychologists we don’t have to know all of the best apps, nor do we have the time to be experts on the best apps but we should know where to find reliable information about apps.  This is the same skill set as knowing where to find resources to share with parents about depression or anxiety, information about  research-based interventions, etc., is applicable to assistive technology resources (low tech to high tech).

I promise I don’t spend hours combing through iTunes finding the latest and greatest apps but I stay tuned in to resources that have proven to me to be reliable sources.  Here are some of the places I find great App information.

Screenshot of Tags from iEar.org. Retrieved 4/1/13

Screenshot of Tags from iEar.org. Retrieved 4/1/13

I Educational App Reviews (iEAR )- www.iear.org

iEAR provides app reviews written by teachers. Imagine that, educational apps reviewed by teachers.  They also have a group of app reviews done by students.  I find the reviews to be honest and thus helpful.  I also find that the do a great job of “tagging” their posts so they have lists of topics, app content areas, grade levels, etc. to help you find what you’re looking for quickly and easily

iTeach Special Education – iDevices in Special Education (Facebook group) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/iTeachSpecialEducation/

iTeach Special Education is a Facebook group so you need to have a Facebook account if you want to subscribe to their group.  This is a group of educators and parents working to integrate iDevices in to their work with special education students.  Great resources and information is shared within this group. I’ve posted questions about apps in this group and on Twitter and received responses back which helped me decide whether I wanted to purchase an app or not.

Screenshot from AppyMall's AppyStores. Retrieved on 4/1/2013

Screenshot from AppyMall’s AppyStores. Retrieved on 4/1/2013

AppyMall – www.appymall.com

Now a word of caution about AppyMall, they promote any and all education apps and sometimes the app they promote are junk. What I do like about AppyMall is that they’ve started putting collections of apps together by professionals such as Speech and Language Pathologists. So while I take each app they discuss with a grain of salt I tend to think the apps they review and promote in their app collections are good sources of information.  Another thing AppyMall does well is the share when apps go on sale. AppyMall also has a facebook group which is a great way to keep up on sales and giveaways that are sometimes only available for hours.

So I found an app I like, now I buy it right?

When I’m considering purchasing an app I usually go a step further an read AppStore reviews but a word of caution about AppStore reviews. For better or worse some app developers pay for reviews.  I’m typically skeptical when an app has 6 or 11 reviews that say about the same thing and are all 4 or 5 stars. I find value in apps that have a range of reviews because it tells me real people reviewed the app and I also know and value that everyone has different opinions and this would apply to apps as well.

Look for a Part 2 post in the coming days for additional places I find information about Apps and resources.

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