Thursday, October 18, 2007

Technology Frustration

Yesterday, one of my vacation days, my fabulous research partner and I decided to meet at school to work on our homework. This is not homework for a grad class, nor work for our teacher research project. It's not even work for the actual kids we work with. It was homework related to a technology training so that we can be certified to do our IEPs on-line.

I really, really wanted to ask if we didn't do this homework, or if we failed, could we possibly continue to do our IEPs the way we know how. Because that would have saved us 5 hours of work.

When I first heard we were moving to doing our IEPs on-line I was ecstatic. How perfect! It makes sense, everything else is on-line. I'm all for going paperless. Hooray for my school system to be so innovative! Then I sat through the training.

It seems my large school district decided to develop their own on-line system. I know there are other systems out there. My research partner has used 2 of them in other states and reports how easy they were to use. My school system did not buy one of these systems. It made its own. With technology that slightly reminds you of computer programs in the 80s.

This isn't fair. By 2:45 yesterday I was getting the hang of it. Click on date. save. click on next date. save. Read message 'can't save until you have clicked on new date'. Go back and re-click on date because the computer hasn't registered that you clicked the first time. Wait. Save. Click. Save. Apologize to imaginary parent that their kid's IEP is now taking 2 hours.
God bless the parents who have to sit through these meetings with us. They just want to know about their kid's progress and what we'll do for their kid. They really aren't going to care that we forget to hit the 'release' button so now we have to go back, undo changes, hit release, re-make the changes, hit save, hit confirm, wait, wait, wait, ok, now onto next step.

Our school system is very, very proud of this system. They even gave us little starfish pins to wear on our lanyards to show off that we're using the system. (It's called SEASTARS). I am sure once I've been using it for awhile I'll love it. Yesterday, 5 hours of homework, I didn't love it.
The best part of the original training was when we asked the trainer if the letters to the parents generated by the system would be translated. "No, and there are no plans to do so."
Ok. So for a school system that proudly boasts of the large amounts of languages spoken here, we're just going to assume that if they have an IEP they speak English. Love it.
This means, if we have a parent who does not read in English very well, we have to decide, do we want them to actually come to the IEP meeting? If so, not only do we have to do the letter through SEASTARS (if you don't do the letter it doesn't let you move on to the next step) we have to do another letter in Spanish. The one we currently use now. Making our lives real easy, this program is. Of course, if we don't actually want the parents to come we can send home all the letters in English we want and then just wait to say the parent isn't cooperating.

I really shouldn't vent. Maybe it was the disappointment I felt when I started working with the program because I thought it would be easier. Maybe it's the fact that this is my first year in Special Ed so I've had to go to the trainings to learn how to do IEPs the old way (we can't actually use SEASTARS until Dec.) AND the trainings for the new way. Maybe it's the fact that after staring at a computer screen for 5 straight hours I had a horrendous headache and had to completely change my evening plans because I had to stay in a dark room.

The only fun aspect of the day was writing the fake IEPs. Since we didn't actually have to do IEPs for real children, we were able to come up with our own.
Strengths: RC likes books.
Needs: RC likes to eat books.
Annual goal: R.C. will not eat books on 3 out of 5 measured occasions quarterly.
Progress Report: 2 (made no progress) RC continues to eat books instead of reading them.
Addendum: RC will not eat books or his writing workshop papers on 3 out of 5 measured occasions quarterly.


Tim said...

I really hate to tell you, but that system was bought off the shelf from the vendor and not developed by the district.

Of course, our bureaucracy had to "tweak" it to fit our little idiosyncrasies but it's basically the same software being used in many districts in the country.

Scary, isn't it? :-)

organized chaos said...

Well, if I move somewhere else I know to look for districts already using the system since I'll already know what I'm doing. But then why is everyone saying they have been working on it for 3 years? Has it really taken us 3 years to tweak it?

Tim said...

It took a year or so to go through the process of evaluating the different systems and selecting one. Part of that is due to state and local laws that's supposed to give everyone an equal shot at a big pot of money but which usually just slows down the process.

You can account for another year of the vendor fixing all the problems they didn't know were there until the software was used in a huge district like this one. Ain't technology fun? :-)