Learn how digital tools can help with communication logs
A daily communication log that summarizes a student’s activities and behaviors can help educators reinforce positive behaviors across settings and give parents a snapshot of what’s happening during the school day.
Filling out and sharing these daily logs, however, can be time-consuming for staff. A teacher in a self-contained classroom, for example, could have 10 students with plans requiring the completion of 10 different communication logs each day.
Below are six ways to help streamline the process and improve the flow of information between school and home.
1. Showcase student work through digital portfolios
Seesaw is among the tools to help educators share classroom activities and student work digitally with parents, says Ann Baum, instructional technology director for Gettysburg Area School District in Pennsylvania. Baum helped implement Seesaw at her former state intermediate unit in a special education learning center.
Seesaw functions as a private social media page. Staff and students can upload pictures, drawings, videos or audio from class activities, and parents can like or comment on the posts. Parents and teachers can also communicate through a private messaging area.
For parents with children who have multiple disabilities or difficulty communicating, the daily posts are a welcome glimpse into their children’s school days, Baum says. “An unintended effect was that principals were seeing weekly updates and becoming more engaged and connected to what was happening in these classrooms, too,” she adds.
One useful feature in the premium version is the ability to customize skills and tag activities that address specific skills the students are working on, Baum says.
2. Create and share digital forms with teachers
Using Google Forms and Google Sheets is a quick way to gather information from teachers and share it with parents, says Meghan Blackburn, instructional assistive technology facilitator for Lexington County School District One in South Carolina and a previous FETC presenter. Blackburn has a large caseload of students who spend most of their days in general education classrooms. She uses Google Forms to gather data on student behavior from teachers and share it with parents. “It allows me to give the parent feedback about what happened that day, and it’s not coming secondhand from me,” she says.
Using Google Forms also removes the extra step of entering data from paper logs, Blackburn adds. She has the forms set up to save the results automatically in a spreadsheet.
3. Record messages for parents
Many augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices allow users to record messages. “You can record a message to go home to the parents or have the student use his AAC device in class to record a note,” says Mia Laudato, technology specialist at FDLRS Action Resource Center in Florida and a past FETC presenter. Encourage parents to send messages to teachers about what happened with students after school, she says.
4. Prompt students to complete digital journals
Have students complete sentence starters about their day in a shared Google Doc for their parents, Blackburn says. Parents can then use those starters when speaking with their children about the day’s events, she explains.
5. Allow students to use digital forms for self-monitoring
Teaching students how to use forms to track their behavior and feelings during the day builds ownership and self-awareness, Blackburn says. One of her students used a Google Form to track his anxiety, which helped him identify what was triggering his behavior and what he could do to address it. “Otherwise, he was forgetting what really happened by the time we would meet,” Blackburn says. She created a shortcut to the form on the student’s iPad, so he could simply click on the icon to open a new form.
6. Provide discrete reinforcement
A clipboard at the front of the classroom or a paper chart on a desk can sometimes have a negative effect on student progress. “Especially for those students with intensive behavioral needs … they might never leave the red zone on the clipboard, so they give up trying to,” Laudato says.
Instead, a tool such as ClassDojo can be set up to privately share progress with the student and parent. “You can individualize behaviors for each student,” Laudato says. “Parents and teachers love it, and it supports immediacy because parents can get notified instantly and see whether their child is meeting their goals.”
She adds, however, that ClassDojo allows a teacher to take away points for behavior, which is not positive reinforcement.
Jennifer Herseim is an editor for LRP Media Group and program chair for Inclusion and Special Education at DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference.
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