The iPod Touch: A High Tech Executive Function Support Strategy
SET-BC frequently supports technology projects which explore the benefits of the latest technologies in assisting students in the classroom. iDevices (iPod, iPad, iPhone) are new, exciting technologies and many educators continue to investigate how they can be used in K-12 education as a support for students in accessing the curriculum and their individual educational goals.
Students with Asperger's Syndrome frequently have executive functioning deficits leading to organizational difficulties in the school environment. In light of this, SET-BC worked in collaboration with POPARD (Provincial Outreach Program for Autism Spectrum Disorder) to support student's organization using technology. The project goal was to help a group of six high school students with Asperger's Syndrome increase their ability to complete course work (assignments, long-term projects and homework) in a given academic subject.
To assess the effectiveness of the intervention, the students were pre- and post-tested with the Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) and Ratings of the Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents Assessment Interview and Questionaire (Dawson and Guare, 2010). The results of the BRIEF demonstrated that the project students ranged from having mild to severe difficulties in the areas of planning and prioritization (planning for big assignments, setting priorities, overwhelmed by long-term assignments), organization (disorganized backpack and notebooks, messy desk/workspace) and time management (estimating time task requirements, doesn't finish homework or rushes to finish, slow getting ready for classes and appointments). All project assessments were scored and compiled by POPARD Psychologist Ted Wormeli (Ed. D).
The six participating students received an iPod Touch with several iApps designed to support organizational skills. iCalendar enabled the students to enter upcoming tasks and assignments into their iPod with auditory and visual cueing presented to the student to scaffold them toward the accomplishment of those tasks. WhatNext offered a visual countdown timer between programmed iCalendar tasks. Time Timer provided a visual countdown of designated time periods (either working or break periods). The students and their supporting teachers were provided with a half day face-to-face training on these iApps; and the supporting teachers were asked to meet weekly with their students to ensure sustained use of the iPods as their assigned method for scheduling.
SET-BC and POPARD consultants provided one year of implementation support to the students participating in the project. Upon completion of the project, the students were tested to determine the effectiveness of the iPod Touch in helping the students to increase their ability to organize their academic work.
Post Test Results
Upon review of the assessment data, it was evident that there was a clear decrease in the tested, problematic behaviours. Therefore, we concluded that the iPod Touch could be a potential support solution for students struggling with organization and completion of academic work.
The students had a number of positive comments:
"I could never read my writing when I used my agenda."
"I rarely forget my iPod."
"The reminders pop-up even when the iPod is turned off. They also will interrupt my music when I am listening to iit."
Despite the overall success of this intervention, the use of technological solutions in the classroom is never without challenges. Throughout the span of this project, implementation was stalled due to factors such as teacher time constraints (for meetings and data collection), school expectations around technology use, making a change to a long-term established process (the school issued agenda), and more.
As with all assistive technology solutions it is important that educators considering the use of assistive technology with students take the time to develop a solid student profile through assessment, clearly define educational goals where technology can be used as a strategy, and understand that significant and sustained support must be in place if any technological solution is to be successful in the school environment.