As a new owner of a smartphone, and a novice one at that, I was excited to be presented with an opportunity to explore and analyze an app that would be relevant to me as an educator. With that in mind, I searched the iTunes mobile app store with the following criteria:
1. Must be usable on a smartphone-As stated before, I am a hearing itinerant teacher. I travel to different schools to work with students with hearing loss. I almost always have my phone handy as a clock, timer, and "office" phone. Since getting my new phone, I was eager to find ways I could incorporate it more into work as a teacher.
2. Must be inexpensive-Though I read reviews of apps, I did not want to spend a lot of money on something that may not be useful. I tried to find an app that was either free or of minimal cost.
3. Must be relevant to my specific position-I found several educational apps that peaked my interest to use with specific students, and I plan on looking into those in the future. But I decided to be selfish and look for one that would make my job easier. As a special education teacher, I am always looking for the most efficient way to collect, calculate, record, and organize learning data on my students. When I am working with a student, I record the data manually with pen and paper, manually count up the correct tallies and the total number of trials, and manually calculate the percentage. Usually, I have to get out my phone to use as a calculator and write down the percentage. Since I am mobile, and my work computer is not, I wait till the end of the week to manually put the data into a spreadsheet-where I can then easily compare and present the progress of the student in a visual manner. I was determined to find an app that would make that whole process more efficient.
In my search, I found Percentally by RinnApps.
Description: Percentally allows the user to record tallies to collect data for various activities. Correct/positive or incorrect/negative tallies are simply tapped in, using different colors to distinguish between right and wrong. The option for sounds to go along with tapping in tallies is available, with the option of a different sound for right and wrong; allowing the user to tap in each correct/incorrect answer without looking at the screen. Percentage is automatically calculated. Finally, the data can then be copied to a clipboard, google spreadsheet, or email.
Reviews: Co-created by Eric Sailers, a speech-language pathologist, Percentally was intended to be used to collect data and track progress of individualized educational goals. Reviews on iTunes and other sites are very positive with majority of reviews being 5 stars. Several blogs, including special education blogs, mention the ease and simplicity of Percentally.
Classroom Applicability: As developed by a special education therapist, Percentally lends itself well to the needs of therapists and educators within the special education world. Percentally allows the educator to quickly and easily collect and convert data into percentages, allowing for more time focused on the student. For myself, I will be able to easily integrate the app into my daily professional life. The following are the top 3 advantages of using Percentally:
1. Separate folders-Percentally allows me to create folders for each of my students, as well as folders within my student folders for separate goals. This allows me to keep all my data in one place for all of my students. When working with an individual student, I am able to open the corresponding folder and collect data as needed. If I am working with multiple students at one time, I am able to create a folder with a corresponding goal for each student. This gives me the ability to collect data for each student simultaneously.
2. Single tally vs. Percentally- There is an option to collect single tallies or to collect tallies correct out of the total number of tallies. This option can be utilized depending on individual needs. For example, if I was collecting data on the total times a student asked a 'WH' question while reading a book, I would use the single tally option. If I needed to distinguish between grammatically correct questions and grammatically incorrect questions, I would use the Percentally option. This gives me versatility in my data collecting.
3. Integration with Google Docs-After collecting data, I have the option to send to clipboard, email, or Google docs. As I already enter students data into a spreadsheet manually and create graphs, the option to automatically have data entered into a spreadsheet is exciting. I then am able to edit the information on my computer as needed, and access it anywhere. I also found through my research, the option of editing Google docs on my phone.
This feature further gives me the ability to collect and edit on the go, allowing me to complete work during the few minutes between time with students, instead of waiting till the end of the day or the end of the week when I am able to be at my office.
Possible Shortcomings: Possible shortcomings include the chance of losing information-through loss/theft of phone, or malfunction of phone/app. Though this would be frustrating and feel devastating, it is important to realize that there is the same possibility with using pen and paper. I could, and have, lost the papers I have collected data on, and have also miscalculated percentages and numbers. Another shortcoming of the app is that there is no option to enter the date data was collected. I found though two ways I could remedy that problem: by entering the date in the notes section of each tally activity or by entering the date into the title for each data set.
Though Percentally is a simple and straighforward app, it has the possibility to revolutionize my data collection. It is easy to navigate, and the integration with Google docs creates an excellent avenue to collect data on special education goals on the go.
**Additional Resource: Through my research, I found an excellent resource for apps that would be beneficial for special education, also created by Eric Sailers.