As the digital age continues to progress, the educational landscape has observed a significant increase in the use of technology to support students of all abilities. In particular, the special education field is observing a surge in implementing specialized software to inform and enhance teaching and data management. Technological advances offer opportunities for educators to provide tailored support for their students with autism, IDD, and other special needs. But how do you know you are using the right tools for the best possible staff and student outcomes? Let’s test your tech stack!
What tools are you using?
Consider which tool(s) you are currently using for data management in your special education classroom. Are they working for you and your student's needs?
Some of the most frequently used tools include:
Paper and pen-based methods. While digitization has rapidly taken off, some classrooms continue to track and monitor student data via paper and pen. Paper and pen data can be more time-consuming and sometimes difficult to monitor progress or keep compliant.
Spreadsheets. Excel or google sheets are another common methods for data management. These offer more opportunities for closely analyzing data and monitoring progress, though they tend to be disconnected from other classroom solutions such as IEP software.
Online software/applications. Different software solutions may offer various tools. However, generally, these applications tend to be more efficient and offer the ability to monitor and analyze each student’s performance with customizable reports, graphs, and other valuable insights.
How do you know you’re using the right solutions?
Our teaching and data management methods must change as we evolve and endure changing learning environments. Sometimes this is within our control, as we observe our current practices aren’t a good fit for the changing times. However, as we observed during the pandemic, our teaching practices and software solutions sometimes evolve outside our control through necessity.
How do you know if you’re using the right solutions? Consider the following questions.
Are your solutions disjointed or integrated?
Are you using multiple systems for different things? For example, are you recording paper and pen data but using a software program for developing your IEPs? Or are you recording paper data, then adding that data to an online spreadsheet at the end of the week? If your solutions are disjointed, you’re likely adding unnecessary work. Educators are already swamped with endless tasks. Efficiency in technology solutions is vital, not only for improved outcomes but also for educators’ job satisfaction.
Are your students and staff excelling?
With the current technology in your classroom, are your students progressing? Consider whether you can quickly observe and change teaching procedures and goals when progress is stagnant. Additionally, are teachers and paraprofessionals satisfied? Consider whether your tech solutions enhance efficiency, making teachers' jobs easier or more challenging. Consider also levels of burnout and turnover as staff tend to be less susceptible to burnout when proper supports are in place in their classrooms.
Does each method support the next for the best possible outcomes?
Can you seamlessly move from assessment to goal planning and IEP development to data collection and progress monitoring? Consider whether your tech stack allows this seamless transition from each crucial step in the process for your special education students. With an integrated solution, you can more rapidly get students the support they need to begin making more rapid gains.
Do your tech solutions support each student’s journey from kindergarten through adulthood?
Consider whether your solutions are tailored to fit each learner’s needs and provide adequate information at each step along their educational journey.
Are your solutions data-driven?
Evaluate whether your technology solutions allow you to analyze data and use that information to inform and modify your individualized instruction. Do your assessment procedures inform your IEP development? Does the creation of your IEPs inform the choices you make in assistive technology and individualized instruction?
Choose solutions for the best possible outcomes
Sometimes we get stuck in processes that may be less effective but are comfortable for the time being. This can often be the case for educators just trying to get through a hectic school year. However, it’s essential to consider whether your solutions are genuinely producing the best possible outcomes. If you feel your classroom technologies are working adequately for your team right now, also consider whether potential changes in the future may affect that. Don’t settle for solutions that are “okay” or “good enough.” Be proactive in choosing the best solutions for your staff and students.
Are you using the right tools for the best possible staff and student outcomes? Take our survey to find out if you are using the best special education technology solutions for your classroom’s needs!