If you are a speech-language pathologist in the school setting, you have likely done at least one or more of these things when it comes to therapy session 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. Sarah and I decided we did not want to include digital data into SLP Toolkit until it made sense. The workflow had to be easy, and the benefits of going digital had to outweigh the hesitation users would feel when considering trying something new.
So let’s talk about why you may want to embrace technology when it comes to data collection.
I get really excited about this, because I tried digital data collection for the first time this school year and can honestly say I will never go back to my paper ways. Not only have have I never taken such comprehensive data in my life, I also included my students in knowing the power in data. We would 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 SLP Toolkit will help you collect the best data ever, easier than ever. Some of our favorite tools include:
1. Copy For Billing Button: When our district switched to digital Medicaid billing several years ago, there were moans and groans across the district. It was completely justified. At the time, everyone was writing notes on paper, and would then have to type them into the EMR/Medicaid software. It took SLPs on average 30-60 minutes PER DAY to complete! Now? All I have to do is collect my data in SLP Toolkit, then hit the ‘Copy for Billing’ button. Voila - my note can be pasted into my Medicaid billing system - cutting my Medicaid billing time down to about 5 minutes per day.
2. 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! These percentages will also plot on your student’s dashboard next to the goals the data points are associated with.
3. Graphs: Everyone loves a graph…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.
4. Reports: Once you have the data, you may need to share it with others! SLP Toolkit has reports that you can filter by student and date range to view graphs of data points, notes only (percentages and notes associated with any goal), or attendance. This is particularly useful for RTI. This year I collected all of the intervention data in the app, then after 6-9 weeks, I would share the report with the parent/teacher along with my recommendations for next steps. It made it really easy for them to understand why I was recommending either to discontinue or move forward with testing. The notes report was also handy when I left a school I was supporting earlier this year, because I knew the incoming SLP had comprehensive, legible notes to review for all of the students I worked with. When one of my 4th grade students heard I was leaving, she said, “Now are you going to share those notes with the new person so she knows what works for me?” Yes. Yes I am.
5. Variety of notes fields: One of the reasons I can take such comprehensive notes is the variety of places I can write them. There are boxes specific to the student (great for noting general subjective information related to absences or session performance), specific to the group (perfect for session reflection and lesson planning), and specific to the goal (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 week to week). Plus, I type WAY faster than I handwrite, so this data is always well populated (and legible!).
6. 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 district. It is the worst feeling ever to not have data when you need it! Plus, Sarah will sometimes complete her Medicaid billing when we’re on the road traveling to conferences. She can do this because rather than carting around 15 student folders, she can login to SLP Toolkit, use the ‘Copy for Billing’ button, and be done in just a few minutes.
7. Quick start-up: The mere thought of entering all demographic information into a new system for every student on your caseload just to use a new feature is overwhelming. And we agree! To get started using digital data inside of SLP Toolkit, all you need to do is create an event from the agenda, enter the student’s name, and enter a goal. You don’t have to type in the entire goal - it can be a summary (e.g. s/z 80% conversation). You will also be prompted to indicate whether or not the event is recurring (e.g. regularly scheduled). If so, that student/group of students will be waiting for you the next week ready for you to collect data!
As you consider using a digital data platform for your speech therapy sessions, 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 how digital data collection looks inside of SLP Toolkit? Check out this 1-minute video!
We can’t wait for you to try it!