A School Psychologist's resource for all things tech.

Posts tagged ‘productivity’

Annotate like a Pro

iAnnotate PDFAnnotate like a Pro with iAnnotate PDF.  This is another of my favorite apps that is currently on-sale (only until February 4th so quickly read on!). I receive documents in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Intervention plans, data graphs, new forms, etc., and they  all usually require my thoughts and/or interpretations but they don’t always come in a form that is easy to comment on, add my thoughts, or review*.  iAnnotate is great because regardless of the form it comes in, you can seamlessly convert the file  into a “PDF” document you can annotate using Apple’s “open in..” function. Below are some of the pros and cons I see in the app for School Psychologists to use but the website has great information.

Price: $9.99 $4.99

Pros:

  • Wide variety of annotation tools to use to make comments (pencil, marker, color, stamps, text boxes, notes, highlighters, image stamp, just to name a few)
  • Access to variety of cloud based platforms such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, SkyDrive, WebDAV
  • Share your comments in a variety of forms such as a “annotated (annotations can be viewed and modified) “flattened” (receiver sees comments but can’t edit them), summary of annotations, or original
  • For updated iPads, you can AirDrop files to other AirDrop users (iPad or Mac computer)
  • Work on multiple documents all at once, because we all over multitask. Up to 8 tabs open at a time!
  • Great for recording a student while completing a running record. Recording audio is built in and then annotate as the student reads. Paperless work in action.

Cons:

  • There are LOTS of features and I probably don’t use half of them on a regular basis. It would be nice to have a version that was 1/2 as powerful and 1/2 the price.
  • It isn’t always clear how to save a document or if it is automatically saving.  I’m just not that trusting.
  • I know I can edit and customize the toolbars but I’m not sure why the share button isn’t automatically on the main bar, without a customized bar I have to go digging.

Uses for Students:

  • On lecture notes, outlines, slides students can write comments or highlight key points that were important to them as they participated in the lecture.
  • Built in text-to-speech so  students can select text in the file to be read out loud.
  • Along the lines of running records, students could record themselves reading, listen to the recording, and then make comments on their own reading afterwards.
  • Due to the “heft” of this app, I’d recommend using it with older students (upper Elementary, MS, HS, College, etc.) because younger students may find it overwhelming and not user friendly.

 

* I think we can all agree that Word's "comment" function isn't all that user friendly!
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Doodle – Find a Common Time to Meet

Doodle LogoYou mean Google, right? Nope. I meant to say Doodle. Have you ever had a hard time find a common meeting time for the entire IEP team? Wow! Me too! Doodle has been a great solution for me and it can be a great solution for you.  First of all Doodle is FREE.  So that is a plus. Also it is easy to use.

Anyone, without setting up an account (you can set up an account but it isn’t required), can start a doodle. The person coordinating the meeting would go in to doodle and choose all of the available dates and times. Usually the person setting up the doodle knows about special times for the general ed teacher, lunch schedules, staff meeting dates and times, etc.  Offering options that aren’t going to be available for required team members, such as the general ed teacher, are counter productive.  Once all of the dates are identified and inputted then a URL is created.  The URL can be emailed out to the entire team and each individual uses the link to go in and view available times.  Based on schedules and current availability team members can indicate their availability just by clicking a checkbox.  Once everyone has weighed in on their availability the coordinator can go back in to the doodle and easily see what dates are available for everyone – hopefully you can find at least one time available for everyone. Depending on a variety of factors some parents are included in the initial weigh-in on dates or other times the teacher contacts the parents with the couple of options that are available for everyone.

Doodle Example

Photo Caption: Photo from Doodle.com

You can’t quite avoid those times when two meetings are scheduled simultaneously for the same date and time but Doodle helps alleviate the flood of  “Reply All” emails that can inundate you when teams are attempting to schedule meetings for the whole team. Happy Scheduling!

P.S. Once you’re at the meeting use any or all of your ToDo list, notetaking, or project management apps to keep you organized and on-top of it all.

Envious of my Evernote?

If you could see my evernote setup, I’m sure you would be! Evernote is awesome and while I think I use quite a few of its features I know there are many more that I have yet to discover. There is no way I could cover all of the features in Evernote because there are just too many so this is an introduction and I’ll go into more depth in future posts.

If you haven’t yet heard about Evernote or you’ve heard about but you’re not sure what it is, I’ll tell you or you can watch this video (its more entertaining).

Evernote is a service which allows you to take notes and organize those in to notebooks. Because it is a service you have to sign-up but its free so no worries there. Once you’re signed up and you’ve started creating notes then whenever you log-in to evernote.com or use an Evernote app all of your notes will be synched wirelessly! Previously before I started using my iPad every day I had a multisubject spiral bound notebook with each “subject” set aside for each of my buildings and now Evernote is the equivalent to my spiral bound notebook AND my resource binder.

Pros:

Evernote is an extension of my brain and it can be an extension of yours too. I keep notes from meetings, observations, consultation sessions, meetings, etc., all in one place. Since I have 4 buildings I have an Evernote “notebook” for each building and I have notes from conversation within the appropriate notebook. The notebooks are fully searchable and tags can be created to help organize your notes. An example may be to tag a note with “intervention plan” if you consulted with a teacher regarding a student’s intervention plan. Then all the times you meet with any teacher in any building regarding an intervention plan you can tag the note with “intervention plan” for increased searchability. More on tags in a future post. Another great feature of the app is the ability to take snapshots or voice memos and attach them to a note. I use this feature during classroom observations to take a picture of the work the student completed during the observation session or an audio memo while I’m doing a running record. The other great part of using it for a running record is that you can then take a picture and have the audio and visual all in one place! I recently utilized the photo attachment capabilities during a file review. Instead of writing down previous attendance, standardized test scores and other information that I summarize in my report, I took snapshots of the information and then I looked back at the note when I wrote my report. Did I mention that Evernote has text recognition for the photographs? So if you jot a note on a sticky note after talking to a teacher about behaviors Billy has been struggling with, when you search “Billy” your handwritten note will come up (as long as your handwriting is pretty legible)

I also use Evernote to organize resources I collect for a variety of job facets such as PBIS resources, RtI resources, academic intervention resources, assistive tech resources, etc. You can create as many notebooks as you want and as many notes as you want. On a day when you may have forgotten your mobile device you don’t have to worry about not being able to see a past note because everything is automatically synchronized to your Evernote web account, accessible from any computer with internet access (and of course your log-in information). Evernote synching has saved me on more than one occasion!

Cons:

An archive feature would be helpful when a student has moved away so you can archive past notes and not have them always readily available. To work around this I recently created a notebook titled “BuildingXArchive” and moved “archived” notes to that folder. I’ve also exported notes out of Evernote that I no longer of critical importance and saved them to my flash drive. Encryption of text is available on the desktop program so if you take a note you want to encrypt you have to log in to the website and then encrypt the portion of the note that needs to be encrypted. For a while the app could be password protect but currently you have to pay for their ” Premium” service to password project you Evernote App. I’m going to continue pestering encouraging them to turn that feature back on without the premium account.

As with everything else, use strong passwords and be thoughtful about how you use Evernote. Are there any Evernote features you’re wondering about or features you use that you want me to talk about? In future posts I’ll touch on how to create notes via email, tags for enhanced searchability and other great features!

End of the Month

Typically in the school setting the end of the month does not mean as much as it does in the business world.  In the special ed world dates like count days, school breaks, etc., are the most important days.  Even though the end of the month is not typically super important for us I do organize some of worked based on months and so the end of the month inspired me to share one of my favorite organization tools, MileTracker.

Since I have 4 buildings and as much as I try to stay put in my building each day, driving between buildings is inevitable. So I regularly log mileage and it is a pain to try to write everything down long-hand or go back through my calendar or notes and recreate a log.  MileTracker is my savior.  Not only does it “learn” the mileages between my regular buildings so I only have to enter it once, it easily exports logs via email so you can copy and paste your mileage in to your district’s required forms.

Pros:

Like I discussed above the biggest pro is that MileTracker saves locations and will remember the mileage between two locations and automatically apply it to the entry when you travel between those same places again.  Also your locations are easily saved in your “Frequent Locations” list so you don’t have to retype the name of the location in every time.  MileTracker exports logs easily at the end of the week, month or end of the year in a CSV format (comma separated value) file which is easily converted in to an Excel file.  If your district/employeer requires you to describe why you’re traveling from one building to another you’re also able to add a description to your entry.  These descriptions can also be saved as you add them in each time.  Activities such as meetings, assessments, consultations, etc. can be in your “Frequent List” and you’ll have them already set-up for quick and easy entry.

While my district has a mileage list for every possible combination of building to building commutes there are times I go to a building that is not listed in the mileage book. I’m easily able to gather mileage by starting from your current location before you leave and ending at your destination.  If you don’t have your mileage list setup or you’re going to a new location you haven’t entered in the past there is no need to look up the mileage when you make the entry.  The app alerts you if an entry does not have a mileage entered.   The number displayed in the red circle on the app icon shows how many entries have empty mileage entries.

The ability to backup your logs using services like Dropbox, SynchDocs, and iCloud is also a plus.  The amount of information you can gather for each entry can be as detailed or a streamlined as you’d like.  You have the ability to turn on and turn off different fields such as reimbursed, notes,files, etc.  Many of these fields are appropriate for business users but it is great to be able to turn off the fields you don’t need.

Cons:

The app does not sync between devices for free. You can purchase an add-on sync features that utilizes Dropbox if you need to be able to sync between devices.  I’ve found that because my iPhone is always with me that having MileTracker on my iPhone works the best and I rarely think, “Oh I need to log my mileage” and then reach for my iPad. I have not purchased the sync option and I don’t feel like I need it.

It’s pretty clear, based on the length of the “pro” section and the “con” section that I’m a fan of MileTracker.  I’m so much of a fan that I purchased one of the company’s other apps to keep track of my daily activities and such but that will be a future blog post.

Do you have any other mileage tracking apps that you like? Any features MileTracker has that yours does not have? Or features your preferred mileage app has that MileTracker doesn’t have?  I certainly did not provide an exhaustive list of all of the features so there may be parts I missed but are important to you.  Post any questions or comments about the app in the comments section below.

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?

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