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Digital Data Collection in Special Education

By Lisa Kathman

Digital Data Collection in Special Education

 

If you work in special education, you have likely done at least one or more of these things when it comes to data collection:

✔️ Lost your data

✔️ Written the data in an inconvenient spot (e.g. the back of a utility bill or on a gum wrapper)

✔️ Used marked up data sheets with old goals on them (two months after the IEP was updated…)

✔️ Took illegible data that you couldn’t decipher at the end of the day (chickenscratch, anyone?! Guilty!)

✔️ Forgot to take data on a goal (oopsie!)

✔️ Only wrote down the activity and nothing else

✔️ Didn’t have your data handy when you really needed it

✔️ Collected data that you never looked at again

Most of the above issues are directly related to paper data collection. It’s totally understandable! Besides the fact that paper data sheets are customizable and free, paper is FAMILIAR! It’s how you’ve always done it.

But it’s not the only or necessarily the best way. We live in a world of technology, and the whole point of technology is to enhance our lives and make existing processes easier. 

So let’s talk about why you may want to embrace technology when it comes to data collection.

I tried digital data collection for the first time a few years ago, and I can honestly say I will never go back to my paper ways. Not only does digital data collection allow me to take super comprehensive data, but I am also able to teach my students about the power of data. Together, we can pull up previous sessions to review progress, set goals for the current session, and note important cues/strategies that we didn’t want to forget for our next session together.

So why isn’t everyone doing it?

I saw this quote once that said, “Most people will choose a familiar misery over a foreign happiness.” My mind immediately went to digital data collection. There is power in familiarity. People get anxious about the unknown and can write off a solution before even giving it a try. So step one: breathe in an open mindset, breathe out overthinking about it.

Here’s why. The way we’ve organized the digital data feature in Kit will help you collect the best data ever, easier than ever. Some of our favorite tools include:

  1. Medicaid Billing: If you are a Medicaid provider, the redundancy of taking data for yourself and then retyping it into your Medicaid software is not only annoying but super time consuming. We polled the SLPs in our district, and on average, it took them 30-60 minutes to complete billing each day. Now? All you have to do is collect your data in Kit, and copy your data to your device’s clipboard. Voila – my note can be pasted into my Medicaid billing system – cutting my Medicaid billing time down to about 5 minutes per day.
  1. Lesson Planning: With digital data collection comes digital lesson planning. A digital lesson planner is better than paper for many reasons. It’s much easier to type, move things around and personalize your instruction according to your preferences and student needs. You don’t have empty sections or pages going unused. Digital plans are easy to share – with a sub, your instructional assistant, or your administrator. And you can easily add in links to resources, materials or important websites you want to reference during your instruction.
  1. Auto-average: Every second of every work day counts. And if, at the end of the day, you don’t have to calculate your percentages for every student you worked with that day…saWEET! 
  1. Visuals: Everyone loves to see data represented as more than just a number on paper…parents, teachers, principals, and even students! Visual representation of progress is really a powerful tool to have available at your fingertips, and really comes in handy at the time of a parent-teacher conference or annual IEP review.
  1. Collaboration: Once you have the data, you may need to share it with others! Kit makes it easy to collaborate with teammates so everyone is on the same page and can contribute to the student’s success.
  1. Variety of Data: One of the reasons I can take such comprehensive notes is the variety of ways I can take data. Besides quantitative data (accuracy, frequency, tally, etc.), I can also write student specific notes (to document general subjective information related to absences or session performance), group notes (perfect for session reflection and lesson planning), and/or goal notes (great to note things like the level in the skill hierarchy we’re working at or successful/non-successful supports so I don’t repeat my mistakes from week to week). Plus, I type WAY faster than I handwrite, so this data is always well populated (and legible!).
  1. Accessibility: Think about a time you have been at one school and needed information you left at another school. Or maybe you were asked a question in a parent-teacher conference or IEP meeting that you knew you had the information you needed in a file in your classroom. It is the worst feeling ever to not have data when you need it! 

As you consider using a digital data platform for routine data collection, keep in mind that not all digital data platforms are created equally. Just because you access it on a computer doesn’t mean that it is software that has improved functionality as compared to your paper ways.

Want a preview of what digital data collection looks like in Kit? Check out this quick video to see it in action!

We can’t wait for you to try it!

Lisa Kathman
Lisa has been a speech-language pathologist since 1997. As an SLP, Lisa has worked exclusively with pediatrics in home health, clinics and in schools. She was formerly the lead SLP in the largest school district in Arizona, and is passionate about mentoring other SLPs, graduate students and clinical fellows. Lisa is the co-founder of SLP Toolkit (www.slptoolkit.com) and Bright Ideas Media (www.bethebrightest.com), an ASHA approved continuing education provider. Lisa currently serves as a member of the ASHA Continuing Education Board.

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