IEP Writing: Writing IEPs is not the most engaging part of being a special education teacher. It is a tedious process and the language used for writing IEPs changes constantly. The second you figure out how to write an IEP, the demands change. In all honestly, IEP Writing is quite outdated. There are a few programs out there to help schools and teachers digitize IEPs but the ones I have used are pretty glitchy and they look like they were built in the 80’s. So much attention is placed on the legal jargon and sequencing of words that many teachers lose sight of the purpose behind the IEP: setting goals.
One thing I could never figure out about IEPs is why every student does not get one. Setting goals is not something that should be specific to students with special needs – all students have strengths and areas for growth. Identifying these areas and setting goals is a process that should be done for every student in the classroom.
EdTech’s Gaping Hole: Having stepped onto the EdTech field this year, I have noticed a gaping hole: special education. Most EdTech conferences I attend pay little or no attention to special education. I am not sure why that is exactly, it seems like startups would be racing to find solutions to fill this hole. Perhaps special education is not “sexy” enough, or entrepreneurs don’t have enough information about the field to build solutions. I recently stumbled across Goalbook, an app that helps teachers, parents, students and other team members to collaborate on a student’s learning plan. I am pretty impressed by the idea and I am looking forward to tracking Goalbook’s growth as they continue with their project. If I were still in the classroom, I would be beta testing for them!
Goalbook: Goalbook seems to serve two purposes. First, it helps educators organize goals and progress for their students. Secondly, it helps build collaboration between all of the members of a students’ team: teacher, parent, paraprofessional, service providers and of course the student! This second issue is a major problem in many schools. Due to time constraints, IEP meetings do not happen often enough. The team needs to have a way to access information about student growth and to communicate feelings such as gratitude, excitement and concern. Goalbook puts this collaboration first and foremost and that is important! I also really like their design.
Next Up for Goalbook: Goalbook is working on launching the Universal Goal Bank, a database where teachers can share and browse through goals that are aligned to Common Core Standards. This is a slippery slope for sure. Many teachers can benefit from browsing through strong goals developed by other teachers. I am a bit hesitant because I have experienced IEP goal banks that have not worked in the past. Sometimes teachers choose goals that are already created even though they are not specifically tailored to the students. Goalbook offers flexibility for teachers to edit and modify goals, but that is dependent on the fact that the teacher is strong and experienced. Proper goal design is an art. I am curious to see how the Goal Bank is utilized by teachers.