iTechnology in the Moderate to Severe Special Education Setting

Thursday, February 23, 2017
As a special education teacher, I love using technology in my classroom. Why? Because it allows all of my students to be able to participate in our academic lessons and curriculum, while keeping students engaged and excited. With that said, I was taught that there is a time and a place to use technology. Some students can become obsessed with with technology, losing interest in more concrete and "real" day to day activities. It is important for you to find the technological balance in your classroom. My day is built around a variety of technological activities and tools; however, I also make sure to incorporate a variety of other fine motor and concrete tasks throughout the day. Four of my favorite technological tools in my classroom are: 1) my projector, 2) my document camera, 3) my Apple TV, and 4) my iPad(s). For the purpose of today's blog I will be focusing on the latter two: my Apple TV and my iPads.

Apple TV

Some teachers love their Smartboards, but I love my Apple TV. I primarily use it to project an app, website, picture, or video from my iPad to the big screen. My students and I have so much FUN engaging in academic tasks using the iPad while they are projected on the "big screen" using the Apple TV.  I have had a few students through the years with orthopedic impairments. Instead of those students missing on an activity during our group lesson (because it is too difficult for them to come up to the board or because it takes them too much to come to up to the board), they can participate with their peers at their seat. You can even attach an adaptive switch to the iPad to make it even more accessible for students with motor skills issues. On a side note: I recommend checking with your IT department or technology team before purchasing an Apple TV. I have heard that some teachers say that their network/internet at their district does not do well with the Apple TV. The Apple TV mirrors the activities that are on the iPad, allowing the entire class to see what one person is doing on the iPad, which brings me to my next favorite technological tool: the iPad.


My district is making the switch to 1:1 technology. While our general education students get Acers or Chromebooks, the moderate to severe students, get iPads. I currently have enough iPads in my classroom for each student to have one (yes, we are spoiled). With that said, we have little to no funds to purchase apps so I still use my own personal iPad so that I can purchase apps with my own iCloud account. I have purchased several apps that I LOVE. Some of them are not free, but, in my opinion, they are worth every penny that I paid for them! Today, I will be sharing 5 of my favorite apps. Be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom for a chance to win an iTunes gift card to buy apps for your class!

Here are some of my favorite apps:

1. Splashtop

This is not technically a academic app, but it makes my life so much easier. Splashtop is an app that wirelessly connects your desktop computer or laptop to your iPad, making it possible for you to control your computer from your iPad. I have found this app to be extremely helpful for using Unique Learning System on the iPad. When I access Unique Learning System on the iPad using safari it is very slow and hard to navigate. This is even more true when I connect my iPad to the Apple TV. With Splashtop, I am able to easily access and navigate Unique Learning System using my iPad without lag. This has been wonderful for group lessons!

2. Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App! ($5.99) 

This app is so much FUN! If your students enjoy Mo Willems' other books, then they are sure to enjoy this app. The students have the option to 1) read the story, 2) create the story by selecting one visual answer out of three visual options, or 3) create the story by speaking into the recording mechanism. This app is a perfect way for students with limited communication skills to practice speaking. It is very motivating for shy speakers. My students love hearing the recording of themselves. The app is also wonderful for nonverbal students because it does offer the visual answer options, allowing ALL students to participate in the interactive story.

3. Pixel and Parker ($1.99) 

This is an interactive story combined with a counting gameboard. Students are lead through a story and asked to participate in a variety of activities in hopes of helping Parker find his cat, Pixel. In addition to this app, I also love Tally Tots and Alpa Tots, which are also created by Spinlight Studios.

4. Autism Learning Games: Camp Discover Pro (FREE) 

I stumbled across this app when it was free for a short time. I quickly fell in love with it. This app makes Discrete Trial Training a breeze! Students are lead through a series of trials based on various topics. Each student has a different username. Yes, it is wonderful that the app tracks progress, but what I love most about this app is the preference assessment that the students take at the beginning of each activity. The students are praised for each correct answer based on the results of their preference assessment. Additionally, when the students have completed an activity, they are able to play a game.

5. Verbal Me ($5.99) 

There is a free version of this app, but I LOVE the paid version. This app offers you a variety of communication boards. I use it throughout the day for a variety of academic and non-academic tasks. The "yes" "no" communication board has become a favorite in our classroom.


IEP Data Collection in the Moderate to Severe Special Education Setting

Friday, February 10, 2017

It has taken me three years to come up with a data system that works for me and my students. With that being said, as you read this post, the best advice that I can give you concerning data collection is to find a system that works for YOU. Utilize ideas, data sheets, and methods from various teachers to create a system that is unique and all yours! That is exactly what I have done. I teach a 4th-6th grade, self-contained, moderate to severe, non-categorical special education class. Most of my students are non-writers and require one-on-one assistance to complete tasks, and, yes, I have a data collection that works for my classroom! 

My Data Binder

My data collection system centers on ONE data collection binder. That's right, just ONE binder for all of my students. I have tried having a folder for each student, a binder for each student, and a clipboard for each student. That was just TOO MUCH for me. I have condensed everything into ONE binder, and it words perfect for me! Currently, I only have six students, which makes it possible for me to have a 1 inch binder. Last year I had 11 student, which would have made it essential for me to have a 2 or 3 inch binder. 

Let's take a look at what I put in my data binder.....

1. Keep Calm and Collect Data Binder Cover

Check out my binder cover above! This is a very simple cover, but I printed it on neon paper to make it a bit more exciting. 

2. Class Overview Student Data Sheet

This is my MUST HAVE data sheet. It is double-sided sheet that I switch out each week. This sheet allows me to see ALL of my students' academic IEP goals at once. I type in my student names and goals at the beginning of the year and change it according to the IEPs that occur throughout the year. I then make multiple copies to last me several weeks. I write in the date each week and check off the student goals as I work on them and/or assess them. As you can see in the sample above, I abbreviate the student goals so that they can all fit on ONE page. This sheet is essential because it allows me to see which goals I have worked on and assessed that week.

The back of the sheet contains an area for notes. I make notes about how my students are doing on a specific goal or make a note about what activities are working or not working during daily work or assessments. This side of the sheet also contains a section for my to-do list. This is a place that I can write down ideas as I am working with students on their IEP goals. I think of so many awesome ideas while I am working with my students, but I so often forget them if I do not write them down in that moment. I go back to this list at the end of each day to see what I need to prepare for the following day in order to work on or assess goals. 

3. Dividers 

I have ONE divider for every student in my classroom. I order the dividers based upon our rotation schedule. The student that I see first during the day has the first divider section, while the student that I see last has the last divider section. I simply work my through the binder each day, collecting data as I go. Some days, I complete assessments for one goal, other days I simply work on a goal. Whatever it may be, I note it in my binder so that I can easily go back and read the progress that the student is making. 

4. Individual Student IEP Goals/Benchmarks Data Sheet

The first data sheet that I place in each students' divider is an individual goal and benchmark data sheet. Thankfully, our IEP system produces a data sheet with goals and benchmarks listed for all of our students. This is what I use for my students; however, if your IEP system does not create one for you, I would recommend using this data sheet from the Autism Helper.  It is also essential to have your students' goals and benchmarks listed somewhere in their divider for quick reference. 

5. Page Protector for Each Student 

Each page protector has a cover with the student name, quarter number, and school year. I use a different neon color for each quarter. (You can purchase this neon paper pack from Amazon here: Neenah Astrobrights Color Paper.) This is where I play place papers or other important data sheets that pertains to a student's IEP goals. I remove the page protector at the end of each quarter. I eventually place all of the student weekly data sheets in the page protector as well. Once the quarter ends, the page protector goes into the student's teacher file for me to keep for my records, and I start a new page protector for the new quarter. I got this awesome idea from Stephanie from Mrs. D's Corner. You can check her video out explaining her system here. 

6. Data Sheets

After the page protector, I place several different data sheets from my Keep Calm and Collect Data Pack in the binder. These sheets help me keep essential, basic academic data for my students. They help me see progress on IEP goals and other basic skills. These data sheets are essential for helping me determine which goals I should write in the future. You can use these sheets once a month or quarterly. They allow me to have accurate baseline data on my students at any point in the year. This sheets give me a snapshot of what skills my students have mastered and give me information concerning skills and topics that need to be addressed. They are part of my Keep Calm & Collect Data product, which also includes a variety of matching tasks and flashcards. You can purchase this product here. In addition to these data sheets, there are several other data sheets that I have found beneficial including Handwriting Without Tears data sheets, which are free! You can find them here. Also, I love School Bells N Whistles Pre-K Assessments Kinder Special Ed data pack. You can purchase it here. I recommend taking a look at the various sheets and see what works best for you and your caseload.

Utilizing Google Forms

You may call me old fashioned, but, I, personally, feel more comfortable collecting data on a piece of paper before inputing the information into the computer. I have found that collecting data using a computer or iPad while I am performing assessments is a MAJOR distraction to my students. They are more focused on what I am doing on the computer/iPad than they are on the tasks in front of them. With that said, AFTER I have collected data in my binder, I input the information into Google Forms. I do this anywhere from every other week to once a month. Goole Forms is a HUGE help when collecting IEP goal data and behavior data. The forms allow me to generate charts. They also allow me to ensure that my data is saved in two places. I can also quickly share information with administrators or general education teachers. This has especially been beneficial when addressing behavior issues. You can read all about how to create a Google Form for IEP data collection here. Thank you Gabrielle Dixon of Teaching Special Thinkers for sharing such an amazing idea! 

Organizing Student Goal Work

In addition to my teacher data binder, I want to show you how I organize my student goal work. I use a ten drawer utility cart for my student goal work. Each student has a drawer that contains activities that are specific to their IEP goals. I also have several drawers for essential data collection materials, such as flashcards and velcro/laminated tasks. Right now, I love using the flashcards and manipulatives that I found in the target dollar section. I also have TONS of flashcards from my data collection product (you can purchase it here). This organization system allows me to quickly assess my student work and assess students as needed in the classroom. This system has worked for me. You can buy the ten drawer cart on Amazon. (If you purchase please use my affiliate link:10 Drawer Cart.)

Behavior Data

When it comes to behavior data, there are a variety of data collection methods and sheets that can be used. I will be addressing behavior data collection in a later blog post; however, for MILD behavior concerns, I like to use a daily behavior report card. I send these home to my students' parents. I make a copy of the report and send a copy home. This allows me to have a record for my information and data collection. It also ensures that I am communicating well with parents. I recommend either one of these data sheets. One was created by Traci Bender of The Bender Bunch. You can download it here for FREE. The other sheet was created by Christine Reeves of Autism Classroom News. You can purchase it here. I keep these on clipboards by my desk. I fill them out throughout the day for various students in my class depending on their IEP goals. Be looking for more behavior tracking and data collection tips and tricks in a later post. 

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