Student Connections

Incorporating Tech Into Report Recommendations

By Dan Florell

Volume 44 Issue 2,

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By Dan Florell

All of the various measures, tests, and observations have finally been integrated into the assessment report. The summary is a magnificent review of the findings. The only part left is writing the recommendations.

Recommendations serve as the vital link between the findings of the assessment and interventions. School psychologists have to consider the time it will take to intervene effectively and whether schools and parents have the resources available to implement an intervention. It is even more problematic when the intervention requires parents and the school to coordinate intervention efforts.

While these problems are common, they are not insurmountable. One example of a common issue that affects many students is having trouble turning in homework in a timely manner. Any intervention for this problem requires coordination between home and school. The Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills Intervention (HOPS) manual for schools and parents is one example of an intervention system that is quite successful in managing this type of coordination. However, this system and others still rely on paper and pencil methods. This creates obstacles for a successful intervention that technology could greatly reduce.

According to the Pew Research Center, almost three quarters of adolescents have a smartphone. This is technology that even the most absentminded student has a high motivation to keep at all times. Rather than relying on a student to bring pieces of paper back and forth between home and school, it would be much easier to simply take a picture of the required documents. This gives a student a back-up copy of assignments that could easily be printed when she gets home.

Parents could make sure that their child takes pictures of her completed assignments before she goes back to school. This will give the parents some piece of mind that the battle they had to wage with their daughter to finish her homework has been documented before it gets lost on the way to school.

The smartphone camera opens up a range of possibilities in supplementing traditional interventions. Another example would be to allow a student to take pictures of class notes, particularly if there is a fine motor delay or writing fluency issue. This allows the student to keep up with the class with minimal intrusion on the teacher's time.

By far the most powerful function of smartphones is the use of apps. There are now roughly 1.5 million Apple apps and 1.6 million Android apps available. This means that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of apps that could be incorporated into report recommendations for interventions. The question becomes how to find these apps and have a reasonable amount of confidence that the apps are appropriate for students.

One avenue school psychologists can use to find useful education apps and websites is Common Sense Media, an organization that provides parents and teachers ratings of appropriateness and utility for various apps and other social media. It provides a weekly e-mail that highlights the most recent reviews. In just one example of the resources provided, the site released 22 great homework help websites which could be incorporated into report recommendations as something parents can do at home to help their child.

Another avenue school psychologists can use to come up with ideas for incorporating technology into their recommendations is THE Journal. THE Journal has content that focuses on using technology in education. There is a special section on children with special needs that highlights various efforts that school districts across the country are making to enhance special education services with technology.

While there is a lot of potential in including technology into report recommendations, there are a couple of caveats to consider. One is being sensitive to a family's ability to access particular technology. It is fruitless to recommend education apps if a family cannot afford a smartphone. Another is being aware of a school's policies regarding the use of smartphones or other technologies. If a school has banned smartphones, then taking pictures of class notes won't be possible.

Despite these caveats, the use of technology in schools has become ubiquitous. There is a great acceptance on the part of students and teachers of using technology during the learning process. School psychologists’ report recommendations should mirror this trend and start offering some options for parents and teachers to use various technologies to address a student's weaknesses. Take a moment the next time you write a report and see if you can incorporate a recommendation that incorporates the use of technology.

Dan Florell, PhD, NCSP, an assistant professor in the school psychology program at Eastern Kentucky University and a contributing editor for Communiqué