How do educators work to determine which tools and strategies a student might require in order to ensure a free appropriate public education (FAPE)? When it comes to the selection of technology, there are often numerous options that might be put into place. Educators at the secondary level can use a familiar framework to help analyze the situation and suggest what to implement from a least to most restrictive point of view. In this webinar, Chris Bugaj shares a method of assessing student needs that incorporates tools and strategies that take the least restrictive approach. Access the presentation slides on Google Slides.
- [Ana Maria] Good afternoon everyone, it's 4:00 so we're gonna go ahead and get started. Thank you for joining us for this CTD webinar with Chris Bugaj. Technology Consideration and Assessment for Secondary Students. Chris is an an Assistant Technology Trainer for Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, and the host, writer, and producer of AT TIPSCAST*. And author of AT Eval to Go. Before I pass it onto Chris, we want to take a moment to ask that at the end of the webinar, you fill out our brief survey. At the end of the survey, you can get a certificate for participation for the webinar. Thank you very much and we'll let Chris get started.
- [Chris] Hey, how's it going everybody? So just like Ana Maria said, my name is Chris Bugaj. Ana Maria could you bring up that thing-- yeah, that's it. The way I'm gonna do this presentation, this webinar, is through Google Slides, so what you're going to see here pop up on your screen here in a second is my desktop. And you will see the entire slide deck right there in Google Slides. So if you want to take a moment to either scan that QR code or type into another device that you might have, that URL, or just whip out your phone and take a picture of it, so you have it later. You can kind of follow along with the slide deck on your own with that URL, and if there's anything I need to change or add or make adjustments, I can do that. As a matter of fact, just today I was making updates to this presentation based on stuff that happened last night. So that's one of the reason I like Google Slides, is that I can make changes to it on the fly. So also I should be able to see your comments here as they come up, so feel free to type things in the Adobe Connect Chat window, and I should be able to see them. My thought is that I'll respond to questions as they come, but Ana Maria will kind of, you can help me with that, too, right? If I miss something, we can catch em toward the end.
- [Ana Maria] Sure, no problem.
- [Chris] Alice already asked the first question, does Google Slides work with screen reading software? Yeah, couple, maybe a year or two ago, there were updates that made it work with many different screen readers, so knock on wood, it should work. If not you can always download it as a PDF or as a PowerPoint Presentation as well. Alright, of course, we have knowledge in the room, so if any of you have insights or answers to those questions feel free to type those in to the window as well.
So, like Ana Maria said, my name is Chris and I work for Loudoun County Public Schools as an Assistive Technology Trainer. Loudoun County Public Schools is in Northern Virginia, and I work on the Assistive Technology Team there, been doing this sort of thing for many, many years now. I guess we started the team around 2002, and have been working in that capacity ever since. So I have a lot of experience working with school teams, working with the public school in building programs for students with special needs and assessing what they might need in all the different programs throughout our school district.
Okay, so this presentation is Technology Consideration and Assessment for Secondary Students. I think what you're going to find is that a lot of the considerations and how we look at assessment works across both elementary and secondary, but I specifically put in information here on how it might be different for secondary students as well. A lot of it is universal, but you'll see where we diverge into secondary here in a little bit. And again, feel free to ask questions in the chat window. Okay, here we go, you ready? Everyone got this? Did I vamp enough time so you got to type in the URL if you want? I hope so, okay, we're moving on.
Anytime you start a presentation, I was told that the best way to do it is to frame your learning, so here's what we're gonna talk about today, I hope. We're going to talk about how to determine who has the necessary skills to make decisions about what a student needs to guarantee a free appropriate public education. Who can do these assessments or who can do the assessing that we're talking about. How to assess and document the act of assessing. Meaning, we're going to talk about maybe we should be thinking about assessments in slightly a different way, so we'll talk about that. And we're going to, if we have time, examine a framework for determining which supports to implement. That we might have to save for the next webinar. There's another one next month that may be a followup to this one, but what we're definitely going to do, the other thing we're going to talk about, we're really going to spend some time on is, thinking about assessments in a new way. I don't really have a good description for that picture of the Avengers there other than I really like how the Hulk looks there, I thought it was just a great way to scream out that we're going to be thinking about assessments in a new way.
So, what do I mean by that, thinking about assessments in a new way? Well, depending on who you are and what your roles are, you might have a very different impression of what an assessment is and what consideration is for assistant technology. And that keeps changing. In fact, you'll see here this picture of Bob Dylan on the right, and it's the Times They Are A Changing. Once upon a time, we used to think that assessments were done, and maybe this is still how it's done in your neck of the woods, by some sort of specialist or expert that would come in and maybe say, "This is what you should do, let me give you some advice "on how to handle this situation and give you "a list of recommendations." And the way the tide has been changing is, to move away from that sort of model because, because it's not necessarily building the capacity or giving ownership back to the IEP team to make those decisions. They're relying too heavily on some sort of outside opinion.
And so the reason I added this slide in, maybe think about assessments in a different way, is that, just recently, back in January, there was the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference, ATIA, and there were many discussions, maybe one of the hot topics of that particular conference was, how do you do assessments and how do we look at assistantive technology as a field? How do we help students determine what they need? And the overriding answer from everybody was, we have to shift how we're thinking to build capacity within the teachers and the educators working with the students more readily than some sort of outside source. And the way to do that, to build capacity, is removing ourselves as maybe some sort of expert or specialist and start spending more time coaching people to make decisions on their own. Make decisions how we would have thought to make decisions, give them a framework for how to make decisions, not do it for them. There was a great quote at ATIA by Denise Decost, she was saying, at one of the events at ATIA was an Ed Camp, and she said that, "Assistive Technology providers "need to evolve or they will dissolve." Meaning we need to change how we're thinking of how we're helping kids come up with what they need and helping teams come up with what they need to shifting into more towards, how we do we coach people so they can come up with themselves what they need. That's going to be an overriding theme for the next 45 minutes of this presentation. So in order to get, yes, build communities in practice.
So in order to get us on the same page, and because I didn't know who was going to be participating the webinar, I'm gonna just cover some basics. And those of you that know this stuff already, it might be looking at it through a different lens here in a minute. So you may or may not know that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act mandates that we need to think of students, we need to think of them in terms of the free appropriate public education. The IEP team determines what a student needs to guarantee a free appropriate pubic education for a student with a disability. That's what an IEP team needs to do. It also says that we need to consider the Assistive Technology needs of a student every time we have an IEP meeting.
So what does that mean? The Assistive Technology needs of a student. The law goes on to define Assistive Technology, and it defines it in two ways. The definition of assistive technology is broken down into two parts. The part one is device, and part two is service. So an Assistive Technology device is any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability, or student with a disability. Let me ask you, everybody, since I have all of you here in the webinar. What do you think is the most important word in this definition? Go ahead and type your answer in. What do you think is the most important word in that definition. Patty says "any." Multiple people are typing any, any. Sarah says child, right, that too, Sarah. Functional, right? I'm guessing many people put any, in relation to what I'm mentioning here, because any is bolded and larger on the screen. I sort of agree, that oftentimes when you talk to someone who doesn't know what assistive technology is, who hasn't necessarily studied the law, they think assistive technology meant something you plug in or something with batteries, right? When really, it could be any, any item. So from that regard, any might be, when you're looking at it from that perspective, anything could be Assistive Technology depending on how it's used.
And that leads me to the next point is, who determines what a student needs? Excellent, I love how the conversation's happening in the chat, please keep that up. So let me ask you, who determines what a student needs? Elise says the IEP team, interesting. Patty says the whole team. Other people are typing. That includes the family and hopefully the student, absolutely, Kara. Including the parents, yep, okay, so everyone seems to be on the same page. That is the IEP team, that's who, right? So who determines what a student needs? The IEP team does, right? But maybe, in some places, what's happening is that the person may be doing the assessing is driving what the student needs. Like, the IEP team might make a request, to have the student assessed for Assistive Technology and someone would come out and do some sort of observation, write something up, and what was listed on that report that was generated would be, "Well, I guess this is what the student needs," That's what this expert said they needed, that's what the person who has Assistive Technology in their job title said they needed, so I guess that's what we should do. As opposed to really thinking of the IEP team as the experts, and that becoming, any sort of suggestion that were made by somebody, just becoming options that the IEP team considers.
One of the most important aspects of that IEP team is understanding that everyone on the IEP team has some sort of knowledge. If anything could be an Assistive Technology Device, and anything you do to help put that thing in place as an Assistive Technology Service, then everyone at the IEP team has some knowledge of Assistive Technology. It's just not often thought of that way. Many times, people on an IEP team will say, members of the IEP team will say, "We gotta call the Assistive Technology person in for that." As opposed to thinking of it as, "Well, I have some knowledge of Assistive Technology." Look at that chart over there on the right. You'll notice how there's like a one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, around the side of that spiderweb, and there's a red blob in the middle. That kind of indicates, you have more knowledge of nine than you have of eight, and you don't have much knowledge at all of number two, but the idea there is that, that little plot, that graph, kind of is your, is every member of the IEP team's knowledge bank on different aspects of Assistive Technology. So, picture number nine there at the top being Augmentative Communication, and number two over on the left being some sort of, I don't know, vision equipment.
For me, maybe I know a whole heck of a lot about number nine and not so much about number two. But someone else, might know a whole heck of a lot about number two, and not so much about number nine, right? So just owning that, that we all have different skills and that we can increase our knowledge in those different areas. If we don't know, we can always go out and find more information is the first step in consideration of Assistive Technology and really assessing what a student needs. Recognizing the people on the IEP team have these different skills and that they can use those skills to make determinations on what a student needs. The idea that the process of determining what a student needs to guarantee a free and appropriate public education is the responsibility of the IEP team. Said that before.
But we don't often think of that as consideration, but it really is consideration. And it really is maybe assessing what a student needs. The IEP team does that, it's their responsibility. Sometimes the IEP team needs to go through a framework for, not sometimes, they should always do this, go through a framework with how to consider Assistive Technology, how to consider what a student needs to guarantee a free, appropriate, public education. Now people well-schooled in Assistive Technology have seen this framework before, it's by Joy Zabala, the SET framework. But many IEP teams haven't. They don't think of it necessarily in terms that maybe someone who has been working in Assistive Technology does. So I guess they, from a coaching perspective, maybe this is something we should be trying to tell IEP teams a little bit more about and give them the guidance on how to perform the consideration and assessment.
So what is the SET standard really quickly? First, it's thinking about the student, and all that aspects that make up the student. Maybe including the type of disability, the emotional components of the student, all of the student's ability in what they can functionally and capably do. The Environment is obviously where the student is located. But not just the physical location, but the stuff that's in that location. So the tools and technology that's available in that environment and that can be placed in that environment. And then, the Tasks that we're asking the student to do. What exactly are they going to do when they're in that environment? And you look at those three aspects to determine what Tools a student needs to help in that environment and to help with those tasks. And this is exactly the process that an IEP team can go through to determine what a student needs to guarantee a free, appropriate, public education.
So what is the steps, how does it flow? Well, when you're considering Assistive Technology, let's talk about the student and figure out what the goals are, what exactly do we want the student to be able to do? And then, examine where and how the student is working on those goals. Again, that's getting to that environment part. And the how is the task we're asking them to do. And then, identify barriers that might be impeding those goals, and if there's not any barriers, then great, maybe we don't need to put anything else in place. But if the barriers exist, we have to examine what those are, and then come up with a list of options for how to reconcile those barriers. It's important to think of it as options because the next step is then to decide which of those options you're going to put in place. You gotta make a list, and then you say, "Okay, which ones are we going to put in place, "and which ones are we going to put in place first, "and which ones are we going to do later?" Then you gotta document those decisions, which you're going to put in place. Then you implement them. And then you collect data on how the student is doing, notice specifically it says, you're collecting data on the goals. You're collective evidence on the goals. Not necessarily all that other stuff, you just wanna see how the student is performing on those goals. And then you reflect, reassess and adjust, and do the whole thing again as students meet their goals. That's really the heart of the consideration process. And again, so many people think of assessing and considering as two different things, but I think maybe it's time to think of those as two versions of the same process. Just everyone's considering, and assessing at the same time.
So, when, when do you have this conversation, and how do you document this, at the IEP team meeting? Well, once upon a time, and maybe in your neck of the woods it's still done this way, so once upon a time or maybe again, like I said, it's still done this way in your neck of the woods, there's a part of the IEP that says, because the IDEA dictates that you need to consider Assistive Technology, many IEP forms say we're going to, we have a spot on the form that says, "Have we considered Assistive Technology?" And then somewhere later on the form, on the IEP, maybe four or five pages later, after you talk about the goals and present level, that's when you talk about the accommodations. What we've been doing in Loudoun County Public Schools for the last number of years is having that conversation all at once.
Meaning, when you're talking about what the student needs, to guarantee a free, appropriate, public education, then you are talking about the accommodations and you're talking about Assistive Technology, you're doing that all at the same time. Assistive Technology and Accommodations are largely the same thing. You'll notice this Venn Diagram is very intentionally that there is, slivers off to the sides where maybe something that's Assistive Technology isn't an Accommodation, for instance, a kid just really likes listening to podcasts all the time, maybe they don't really need that for a free and public education, they just really like listening to podcasts and because they have a reading disability, the podcasts really help them, but it's not really necessary, that would still be considered Assistive Technology, it wouldn't be documented as an Accommodation. And there could be Accommodations that aren't Assistive Technology as well. But largely, if you're talking about what a student needs to guarantee that free, appropriate, public education, Assistive Technology and Accommodations, they could go on the same page, the goal is the same thing.
Okay, so largely the IEP team can do this themselves, but sometimes IEP teams need help figuring out what to do. Maybe when you think of your little scatterplot diagram of knowledge, the skills aren't there and you need help. Who are they going to call? Who is an IEP team going to call when they need help? Well, I think it's pretty obvious who they're gonna call, Batman, right? When in doubt, call Batman. No, no, you don't call Batman. Batman is a fictional character, you can't call them. But I guess the analogy that I'm getting here, you can't call him. I guess the analogy I'm getting at here is that this is often what people think of, is that they need to call in some kind of superhero that has some sort of knowledge on Assistive Technology to save the day and explain how to do something. As opposed to, thinking of it as, no I just need support, give me some advice, and we'll take it from there. Thanks, Batman, you don't need to solve all the crimes, the police can do it themselves. Just maybe give us some advice on how to better solve the crimes. Does that make sense? Again they might call you and depending on your role, you can be a support, whoever you are. You, who are participating in this webinar, you might be a parent, you might be someone who has the name Assistive Technology in your job title, you might be a General Education teacher. Anyone can provide support.
In fact I thought we might look at it in this way. Take a look at these two columns. You have IEP team on the left and Support on the right. The IEP team are just some members of the IEP team, a typical IEP team has, of course, the student involved, especially at the secondary level, the student is always involved at secondary level. The parent, case manager, likely you know who makes up the IEP team. But who can provide support? Who can provide support to that IEP team when they need help assessing what a student needs? Well, it could be any one of these people on the right hand side. Friends, family, educators, I don't know about your neck of the woods, do you have someone called an Accessible Design Coach? Or an Accessible Design Facilitator? That might be an alternative job title, as our roles change from the person who's maybe called the Assistive Technology person now, that might be a way to think of them. Could there be online communities that you could get support from? Or could there be, in some necks of the woods, some sort of outside consultant that you go to?
So let's just, considering these two different columns, who makes up the IEP team and who makes up the support, I thought we might do a quick little activity together. And that is, either, on a separate device, if you have the slide deck on a separate device, if you're displaying it up on the screen, or just with your finger on your laptop that you're viewing this on, go ahead and draw a little line from column A to column B, asking yourself who can provide support to whom. Starting with the student, who can the student get support from? When I say support, who can get they get ideas from to help them, who can they get ideas from to come up with the technology they might need to provide them a free, appropriate, public education? Who can they go to to ask for help to help come up with technology to help them meet their goals? Could they ask their friends? What do you think? Could students ask their friends for advice about technology? As you're typing in there, could students ask family members?
Kara's like a step ahead of me. Students, could students ask educators? Maybe not a teacher they're working with, but another teacher that they know? Could they go to the Accessible Design Facilitator or coach, or the Assistive Technology Person? Could they, especially at the secondary level, be participating in an online community of support? Where they're chatting with people they know online, support group that way? Could they go to some sort of outside consultant? What about a parent, could the parent ask friends? Could you possibly conceive of a parent with a student with autism go to a dinner party and talk to another parent with a student with autism? And compare notes, right? That happens all the time, of course parents could help each other. Could they talk to other family members? Could you have a parent talking to a sister or a brother, or a cousin who maybe works in the educational field, or doesn't, just to get ideas of technology they could put in place. And so on and so forth. Kara kind of hit it, aren't they all interchangeable? Really, if you are drawing these lines, if you were to take your finger and draw a line, this whole page would be a hot mess of lines back and forth, because any one of those people on the left could ask any one of those people on the right for support. Because we all have different knowledge pertaining to how to brainstorm solutions to put in place.
This is another important point. Asking for helping, meaning, considering the needs of a student, and assessing a situation, doesn't necessarily need to be formal. You could just ask for help. And when you ask for help, how do you know you need it? It may be when the data shows that you need it. As an educator, you're collecting data all the time, pertaining to the goals. You look at those goals, you look at that data, usually around progress report time, and you might say to yourself, "Oh my goodness, we're not making progress here. "Maybe it's time to call in someone for help." That's very data driven. It doesn't always happen that way. It could just be that you're feeling stuck, you know the student is not making progress, or the student themselves feels stuck, they're not looking at the data being collected, they just feel like it's not working. That's another way. Parents could just feel like it's not working and that'd be another time to ask for help. Just when you're stuck, you know? Do you really need to write asking for help in the IEP?
This picture here shows a person rock climbing right, and there's someone down at the bottom of the rock kind of holding them up. And the person on the rock's kind of really trusting that that person down at the bottom doesn't let them go and plummet to their death, right? And the word trust there next to the rope. The idea here is that, the majority of the time, things work really well, and educators do what they say they're going to do. Meaning, most IEP meetings, most relationships between parents and special educators are awesome. It's the great team effort, where there's a bond, there's a trust that, look, you didn't get into education to make gobs of money, right? You are care about kids. The parents maybe inherently trust the school district or school teams to do what's best for the kid and have the best interest at heart.
Sometimes that trust gets broken and then you have to write things in no matter what. But usually it works well. I wonder, do you agree with that? Do you notice that most of the time it works well? So often you're called into cases or you're requesting help because something has gone awry. But usually the trust is there on most IEP teams, most times they don't need to get help outside, because IEP teams are completely capable on their own. To some degree, yeah. Okay. The reason I state that trust is that, what could very easily happen, very readily, and what happens very frequently in our neck of the woods, is, a teacher might think, "I need some help coming up with what to do with this kid. "So I could go to the IEP team, "and I could write it down, or I could just go talk "to somebody and brainstorm solutions "with that somebody." In that case it happens very informally, you just talked about what a student needs, we've considered their needs, and maybe assessed the situation by having a discussion. Nothing had to get written down, formally. But occasionally it does.
Educators, you look like rock stars when you anticipate the needs of a student. What I mean by that specifically is, when you have looked at the data, when you looked at your progress notes, or when you have an inkling that a parent has a concern, and you've already gone out and reached out for help, you've consulted with someone else, and then you bring that back to the IEP team and the concern comes up, and you say, "Well you know I already discussed this with "our occupational therapist. "I already discussed this with our speech therapist. "I already discussed this with our Accessibility Design "Facilitator, I've already discussed this with "the Augmented Communication Person "that works in our school," whoever you've discussed it with. "And this is why I'm sort of thinking we should consider "these accommodations," and you present that to the IEP team, that is so much better than, "Oh I didn't know that was a concern. "I guess we should write down that we're gonna go "talk to somebody and we'll try to figure that out." You know what I mean? When you anticipate those concerns, when your data has shown that you need help and you go do something about it, everybody wins, you've helped that student a lot faster than waiting for the IEP to meet and the concern to arise. And yes, sometimes you need to document the request, I hear you, Patty, I totally do.
So, let's get to that. When do you need to document? Maybe when you need the options written in a specific format. When you need some sort of date associated with, like I need an assessment to take place, I need assessing to take place by a certain date, and I need that assessment, the IEP team to meet by a certain date to consider what resulted from that assessment. And then of course, if things are contentious, it protects both the parents and the student and the school to write it down, right? So go ahead and document the request. But, when I say document the request, this is again maybe a shift in thinking. How do you document a request? Well, traditionally, I think what maybe a lot of places do, and tell me if this is how you do it in your neck of the woods, is that you write something in the IEP that is a noun, meaning, you write something specific like, "We'll do an AT assessment," or, "An AT consultation will take place," or, "An AT collaboration will take place," or, probably most frequently, "an AT evaluation will take place." Is that what most people write? I'm curious. Do they write a specific noun, right? As opposed to an entire description, meaning, let me just say, here's what typically happens.
Here's what could happen. When someone writes AT evaluation on an IEP, the IEP team is requesting an AT evaluation. That might mean something very different to the different people at the table. A parent might have this idea of what an AT evaluation is. And the school district might have an idea what an AT evaluation is, and the person doing the AT evaluation might have a very different idea of what an AT evaluation is. Because it's this noun that maybe is not defined anywhere, maybe everyone has a different idea of what that is, and then when the results of that assessment come back, people are all, "Wait, that's not what I thought "was going to happen, I thought this was what was gonna be." I see that happening more and more, that there's confusion about what that is, and what's going to happen. And so to stop all of that, there is nothing in the law, there's nothing written anywhere that says it has to be written as a noun. "We're going to do an AT assessment. "We're going to do an evaluation."
Instead, you might think of it as a statement. Let me go back here to this slide. You might think of it as how you write, you might think of it as a description as opposed to, a paragraph rather than a one-word thing that you're writing somewhere on the IEP. So if you're gonna write a paragraph description of the event that's going to happen, you're going to describe what the act of assessing looks like, then these might be what you put in that documentation. You might say, okay, why are we asking for help? What's the statement of the problem, and put the specific goals that we're asking the person who we're getting help from to look at. If the student is having difficulty with reading, let's specifically put that in the request so that the person who we're asking help from to come up with ideas then can know to look at reading. We're going to state in that statement who we're asking the help from. Is it a speech therapist, who has knowledge with AAC? Is it a vision therapist? Is it an occupational therapist? Is it, who is going to be doing the helping? What's the helping going to look like specifically? And then how is it going to be documented that the help actually took place? When I say help I mean the act of assessing. And then, when is it all going to be completed by? What date will this be done by? And then maybe, what's going to happen after that act of assessing is complete? Is the IEP team going to meet again to discuss what happened during that act of assessing? You could say discuss the results of the assessing.
And so here are two sample statements that might be written on the IEP. The case manager will meet with an accessible design coach or facilitator, or maybe it's a speech-language pathologist, or maybe it's an occupational therapist, whatever. The case manager's gonna meet with somebody knowledgeable with reading, because this student has difficulty, has a goal of reading, has a goal related to reading. And then they're going to review the IEP goals and they're going to come up with a list of potential options and they're going to do that within 30 days.
Alternatively, or as another example, within 30 days, an accessible design coach or speech-language pathologist, or someone who knows about communication is going to review the IEP goals pertaining to communication, they're going to observe the actual student, notice how in the first description there wasn't an observation but in the second description there is one, you're specifically stating whether an observation is going to happen or not. Whether an interview or discussion is going to happen, who are the stakeholders, meaning all the people working with that student, including the parent, maybe the student, especially at the secondary level. And then, they're going to provide a list of options that the IEP team can then go back and consider. So, by making it as a statement as opposed to one noun, it clarifies that everybody is on the same page. This is exactly the action that's going to take place, this is exactly how we're going to get help.
Okay, so where does this notion of assessment come from? So, you'll note that I've sort of been using the term evaluation and assessment interchangeably, but maybe they're not, right? I've been leaning towards not even calling it an assessment, but saying it's the act of assessing, again getting away from that noun and using more of a verb. But the idea of doing an assessment, this action of someone coming in and like I said, like Batman, coming in and doing an assessment of the situation. Really it maybe comes from the idea that the definition of assistive technology specifically states that, the service, part of the definition of assistive technology service is the evaluation of the needs, including a functional evaluation, right? So a lot of people then, have specifically written evaluation, that term, into the IEP. But when you look at what the term evaluation means, when you look at the definition of evaluation, it says, the making of a judgment about the number, about the amount, number or value or something. Semicolon, assessment. So what's the difference between evaluation and assessment? Well, the WATI, Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative, sort of delineates these two, and says that the term evaluation really relates more to eligibility. Does this student qualify to get services or not? And that has nothing to do with assistive technology. It has nothing to do with determining what technology a student needs to get a free, appropriate, public education. The term assessment is all about determining what a student needs, it's sort of analyzing a situation.
So for that reason, I know, in our neck of the woods, we have stopped calling them evaluations and started to call them assessments. We started to call, really think of it as assessing a situation rather than doing any sort of evaluation. The Quality Indicators of Assistive Technology, outlines seven principles for how to conduct assessments. They say to have clear procedures, so you know what's going to happen. Again, trying to eliminate that confusion of what one person thinks is going to happen versus what another person thinks is going to happen. Someone who's knowledgeable should be giving some advice. Again, maybe we're all knowledgeable, but some people have different knowledge, skills in different areas, it should be conducted where the student is demonstrating a difficulty in that goal. Notice the big S in assessment there, it's conducted in customary education environments, meaning you might have to observe the student in multiple places. We're going to talk about specifically in a secondary level here in a second. Done within a reasonable amount of time. Based on observable data, meaning, it's not just your impression. "I don't know, he seems to be doing good with that device." No, let's look at some actual data on how well he's writing. How many paragraphs did he write? How many sentences did he write? How many words are misspelled? How many communication attempts did he have and how many words did he actually say? How many times did he actually push the buttons on the communication device? In those examples. And then provide recommendations. I would maybe, question that word a little bit, recommendations. We'll talk about that in a second, about how many it's, again, the term recommendation is thinking, "Well maybe I'm sort of the expert "and this is me suggesting what to do," as opposed to, "Hey, I'm just brainstorming with you, "and here's a couple options for you to provide, "here's a couple options for you to consider." And then, re-assess when it's all done. Go back and go through, when necessary, student needs change, so go through that process, re-assessing when necessary.
Okay, so specifically at the secondary level, and again, this might vary depending on how you're writing that paragraph on that act of assessing, how you're documenting that request in the IEP. So here's what you might do. You might review the relevant documentation, so look at the IEP, look at any other assessments that were done. Specifically look at the progress notes, because the IEP itself might be close to a year old in some cases. So looking at progress notes really helps give you an idea of what's been happening, hopefully, if they're written well. Maybe then have a discussion with the people that work with the student. And at the secondary level, definitely the student. Have some sort of interaction with the student. I say here, the next thing is maybe try some stuff with the student. Not trial stuff. Again, I have slides on that in a little bit here, but specifically, look I just want to come up with some things that might work with you. Not necessarily go through the whole process of I'm gonna trial this for 30 days or trial that, I just want to come up with some ideas. And then observe, right?
And again, I'll ask you, what do you think? Depending on the need, do you feel like you need to observe at the secondary level all the time? The person that's doing the act of assessing, do they need to observe the student in the environment all the time, or could they just get enough information from talking with the student, working with educators, talking with the educators that work with the student, talking with the parents? Do you think an observation is always absolutely necessary? What do you think? And as you type in your answers, I'll just say, there have been times when I've observed and I'm thinking, "Eh, eh, yeah I get it, "this kid's sitting listening to lectures all day." I could have also talked to the teacher and talked to the student and just said, "Tell me about your social studies class." "Well, she lectures all day." Did I need to spend 30 minutes watching that lecture to know that's how the primary form of content delivery is happening? Dina says, "Why not trial AT?" We'll get to that, I promise. Patty says, "The environment is important." I get you, I do. Just, at the secondary level, for a student who has, say, reading difficulties, do you shadow them all day to see how bad their reading is, or how the instruction is happening, or can you glean that information by having a conversation with the student? I'm just asking you to think of that. "Do I need to observe all the time?" Maybe you do, maybe you do, maybe that's your answer. But I'm starting to question if an observation needs to take place all the time, or if I can get the information about the environment in other ways. I hope that, and again, down there at the bottom, remember the SET framework, that's really what you're looking at when you're conducting the assessment. Information about the student, information about the environment, and then the information about the task that we're asking the student to do.
Okay, about that trialing thing, right? Deena or Dina, what you brought up is this, I said I added stuff today based on stuff that happened yesterday. Well last night, there was AT chat that happens on Twitter. And the AT Makers, Bill, wrote this tweet, he said, "I would bet that 30 to 50% of the effort spent in AT "is wasted on funding trials and wasted time." and Joy Zabala commented today on that particular tweet, saying, "And collecting more assessment data "when we already have enough to make good "collaborative decision if we just listen to each other." And this is getting at the idea that, we'll just talk about trialing real quick. Let's say we're considering a communication device for a student. How do you determine which communication device you're going to put in place first? Which one are you going to trial first? If you're going to, if you're going to trial one first, why not just try it and, let me put it a different way, I'm not explaining it well. The IEP is meant to be an ongoing, fluid document, that can be adjusted at any time.
So the IEP itself could be the trial, using data from our observation and our assessment and our interviews, the act of assessing, we've determined these lists of options, and the IEP team says, of these list of options, this is the one we want to try first. They document that as an accommodation, and then they go off and try it. And at any time if it's not working, you can come back and adjust, right? And say, "Yeah, that's not working, "let's try something else." As opposed to, this is how I think of trialing it, is, "Well, before we come up with that list of options, "I'm going to try this for a number of days, "and then try something else for the next couple of days, "and then try something else for the next couple of days." And all of that has serious questions involved. Like, how many days did you try it? How did you know that, you said 30 days, why not 31 days? Did you have some sort of research-based method for choosing 30 days? Why did you pick that one to try first? What was your reason for trying this one first as opposed to this other option first? Okay, let's see your data shows from that 30 day trial that it's working. Do you stop it, because you really like this idea of trialing things and try something else? So, I don't know, I think there's some flaws in the idea of trialing it, as opposed to, hey, let's just trust the IEP team to make a decision, and we can always go back and change that decision if necessary.
Okay. When I was first starting out, again there might be people who are participating in this webinar who are just starting out in the field and this is their first time really thinking about assessments. A great way to break down and collect notes is to make a little chart like this, student, environment, tasks, and tools. And you can write your different observations in the different boxes to determine that last tools section. And different note-taking apps will allow you to do that. This is just one, back in the day when I started, we didn't have iPads, you know. So we wrote it on pieces of paper, and we folded it into quadrants like this right? But of course you could do that with any number of note-taking apps, in Google Docs or whatever. Microsoft Word or whatever.
When you're conducting your act of assessing, these are some of the professionals you might interview, case managers, general educators, everyone related to working with that student, right? To get information from them. And you know who else you might interview? Anyone, take a guess, who else you might interview? People are typing, the student, right Miriam. Right, the student, definitely. And, anyone? Yes, definitely the student, especially at the secondary level, but I was thinking more the parents, yes, Sandy, the parents, right, right. The parents spend the most time with the student. They spend more time with the student than the educators do. So talk to the parents, find out what their concerns are, find out how things work at home to help address the problem. So, yep, we said student and parents, right. Excellent, you guys got this. Alright so what does assessment documentation look like here in the last 10 minutes of the webinar? You have gone out, you've done the assessment, you've done the act of assessing, how do you document what you saw? Well, again, maybe you would write a statement of what the problem was, you might talk about how that problem was attempted to be addressed before you were involved, the person doing the helping. Then you document the cold hard facts of what you saw. Again, not, "I think he did well," but here's specifically what I saw.
Then you list out a bunch of options for the team to consider, and then you put maybe in place some, well, look here's some tutorials and some research that'll help you make a determination of what to to put in place. I want to harp on this just for a second. The difference between opinions and facts. I see this in way too many reports, progress notes, IEPs, other reports that I've read from assessments that have been done, evaluations, a lot of opinions go in there, not as many facts. I challenge you when you are documenting any sort of assessment that you're doing to write it fact-based. This is what I actually saw happen, not this is what I think I saw happen. I know that's subtle, it might be a subtle nuance, but I think it's important to stick to what you saw, "Just the facts, ma'am," right?
Okay, now, that last part. The listing of options versus recommendations. Why I might use the term options versus recommendations or considerations versus recommendations. The idea of titling what you're suggesting as recommendations sort of indicates that, when you call it a recommendation, that I've decided this is what I think you need, and so by going against my recommendation, it's disagreeing with me. You have to choose whether you agree with me or disagree with me. But when I present it as options, well, you could go with this one or you could go with this one, there's no contention there, there's no fight, it's just, "Okay, well let me weigh out the pros and cons." So we've been leaning heavily toward calling them considerations or options and getting away from the term of recommendations. "The Campus may consider X, Y, Z," I like that, Patty. And that's in fact how we write it as well. "Consider the following," right? Also, it's not, "We need help! "Please tell us what to do!" From the IEP team perspective, it's not, "Oh please tell us what to do!" It's, "Alright, we own this, give us some options, "and we'll decide what to do." When you're doing the assessment, the IEP team including the student determines if an option is needed. So again, you're guiding not prescribing. Have I hit this nail hard enough with my hammer? I hope so.
Just as a practical example of that, this is a situation that just happened this school year. We had a student that was, at a secondary level, was using an augmentative communication device, came into our school using TouchChat. And the school wasn't sure that was the right tool, the parents weren't sure that was the right tool, but he had been using it for the last couple of years and so they said, "We need help. "We need help coming up with options "what to do with this student." and the school, at the secondary level, had not seen a student using TouchChat before, so they needed some training involved with that particular application. So they called me in and they said, "Chris, we need some help to determine "which direction to go." Met with the parents, met with the educators, separately and then together, and analyzed the situation. And then the write-up afterwords was this. Over on the left-hand side, you'll see the TouchChat considerations. And there's a list of pros, and there's a list of cons. Specific to this student.
And over on the right is, okay, there's another application called LAMP: Words for Life, and there are many other students in our school district that use that, it's another thing that exists in the world for you to consider, here's some pros to that, and here's some cons to that particular application. And there might be more that I've listed here, but this is enough to get the discussion flowing, and for people to do some research on their own. And then they met as a team, parents and educators, as an IEP team, and they decided which one of these to go with by looking at the options. As opposed to what may have happened a number of years ago, is, "Oh, you should definitely use this application "because that one's no good." Or, "Yeah, he should definitely stick with that one "and not even consider something else." Again, putting the onus back on the IEP team.
One other big thing to consider here, in the last minutes of our webinar, is that so often, the person doing the act of assessing will come up with those options, and those options are related to a tool. Traditionally, if you've been working in AT for awhile, we've been thinking of, "Use the SET framework "to determine the Tool." But what if we flipped that a little bit and we really think about where we can provide support? Maybe especially in our world where we're talking about universal design and considering job titles called Accessible Design Facilitator and Accessible Design Coach. What if we didn't just think about the tools, but what if we made suggestions? What if we provided options for how you could redesign the environment, and redesign the task, to provide more options. For instance, today, I was asked, this is a very practical example from today, Technology Resource teacher asked me today, "Chris, what are some other ways we can provide "those little bouncy band things? "That you put around the bottom of chairs "and kids put their feet on em and they bounce up and down? "So when they're sitting there in their chairs "they can use their feet on those little bouncy "rubber bands so they can get some vestibular stimulation "and they can get some movement in?" And so I provided some other options, tennis balls on two chairs and you can wobble back and forth, or you could use a bungee cord rather than the expensive bungee thing that's made for those chairs. You can use pool noodles to put on the chairs. I provided those options. I gave tools in that situation, but I also said, "Maybe not have them sit? "Maybe they could be moving around the environment? "Maybe the task isn't to sit there at the desk "for 30 minutes at a time, but design the lesson "so they can get up and move." It's providing options in the environment and task, not just the tools.
Documents, we should probably get away from the idea that when you're documenting something, it has to be in a report format. If you're having some sort of informal discussion you can document that in an email saying, "Hey, here's some options that you can bring back "to the IEP team next time you meet, "or you could forward onto the parent "or if you're meeting with the parent, "forward onto the teacher." It doesn't always have to be some official looking report with letterhead on top, it could be something more informal like an email or maybe even a shared Google Doc or Word document. Obviously, in a secure environment. When you're documenting what you write, when you're documenting those options, when you're documenting your observations, you're documenting the act of assessing, often just text only, it's often just this one. When really it could include all of these different modalities, especially if we're trying to model universal design, why wouldn't we include as many different options as possible?
Here's an example of a write-up where there's graphics involved, there's pictures, there's texts, you could have hyperlinks, there's drawings involved, too. You gotta have it all. When you're doing the act of documenting, and if they are going to be considering these items, these options, as accommodations, maybe give them some words to use as accommodations. Well, here's one way you might write it as an accommodation. Just some potential accommodation wording.
And then, I have this particular pet peeve of mine is to get away from the term, is able to. So often when you're reading a present level performance or an IEP or any sort of report, you'll see, "The student is able to write." "The student is able to use his communication device." "The student is able to," instead of just saying, "The student used his communication device." "The student wrote." "The student," whatever the act is. When you put "is able to," it sort of implies that, "Hey I didn't really expect him to be able to do it." And then they did it! Oh, good for them, you weren't presuming that they could do it, you were presuming they couldn't and then they surprised you. So try not to use is able to. Think of it this way, are you able to write in the chat? Or did you just write in the chat? Again, if you're the person, if you're the coach, if you're the one who did the assessing, maybe not go to the IEP meeting. I know we're out of time here, I'm just gonna say, maybe we'll leave off there is that, let the IEP team do the work, empower them with ideas, let them make the final decision. If you go they might look at you as the expert and say, "Well, you just tell us what to do." If you're not there, they can't turn to you and lean on you for that sort of support, they have to make the decision themselves.
So, I guess this'll be the last slide, and then I'll leave it at here. Assessing is an ongoing thing. Think of it like a train, you're constantly, the train is constantly moving, you're constantly assessing what a student needs to guarantee a free, appropriate, public education. Every once in awhile you need to get help, that's sort of like stopping at a train station and asking someone for help and then the train continues to move on, right? That, the act of assessing is an ongoing thing. So this is really part one of this webinar, the second part where we're gonna use assessments, Design Instruction For All is coming up next month.
Are there any questions, I'm willing to stick around longer, I know we're out of time. If people had questions, feel free to put them in the chat. Sorry, I know that was a little bit of a whirlwind, but I hope that helps you rethink about how we're doing the act of assessing rather than an assessment. Patty says, "IEP teams are a must for us, "lots of hours spent there." Patty, if you can get away from that and empower the IEP team to do it themselves by presenting options, you can spend more time on the training elements. And spend more time redesigning those environments and those tasks, you know? I hope that gives you, thank you everybody, for all your thank yous. I hope this gives you some specific things you can do, at least stuff to think about, about how you might go back and re-look at how you're doing the act of assessing. Yes, Brenda, right, it's assessing not an assessment, it's not a one-time thing. Good, Patty, good, Jennifer, good.
Again, any questions, feel free, you have my information in that first slide. Please fill out the evaluation survey. Keep an eye out for the next presentation where we're gonna talk about taking a lot of this assessment data and how do we use it to make decisions widespread for a lot of students. Yes, that's it Ana Maria. Using assessments to design instructional practices for everybody. Okay, Guest Four, that's good advice. "I'd love to see the examples of boiler plate language "used for reports." I put a little bit in there on how you could request assessments, but then how to actually write the reports, it's so variable based on what a student needs. But maybe having some sort of, keeping it to options that you're providing instead of recommendations might be an example there. Or a strategy for you to use. Alright, are there any other questions? Again, I'm willing to stick around and answer. If not. We'll give back control.