Oh, how to figure out a way to implement the therapy, take meaningful data, document that on the required online system, and then share activities and progress to parents/teachers all in ONE 30 minute lesson’s time frame!!! (And I’m being generous with allotting 30 minutes because of course there is the transition to consider). Seeing that communication is the backbone to my job, that part is highly important to me! I have different systems in place including rubrics, notebooks, newsletters, and of course good ol’ fashioned email. I started implementing the newsletters as a way to get information home about the books, topics, and language concepts for the month to help with home carryover. I customize these per type of group, so I have roughly 7 different versions each month. All of the communication is very important to me, but I really need an easy method for reaching parents in real time with meaningful notes. Enter Brightwheel…
I recently met with two parents and our principal concerning some program changes that our district is implementing, In the course of the conversation we made our way to other topics and one of the parents asked if I had ever tried the Brightwheel app. I would not consider myself the most fluent with apps. And by that of course I mean I am completely happy to stay with other techniques but I am slowly branching out and exploring. For me, and app needs to make life easier and this one certainly met that challenge.
It actually has a broad scope of abilities that are suited for a daycare including letting parents know about feedings, bathroom, scheduling payments, and checking students in. If you are familiar with Class Dojo it feels similar in being able to click on preset functions. (I could see teachers who are with students all day using the feeding button to help share news about students trying new foods, communicating what they ate that day, or even sharing bathroom skill progress because that is an important part of some students’ efforts). The features that I love however are the photos and notes. Parents will see the pictures/notes in their feed in the app, similar to the way you scroll through instagram, however this is all about their child as the star 🙂
I started a slow roll out with it to get comfortable and ensure that it was a system I could truly sustain. I explored using the two students whose parents had introduced me to it. They were my guinea pigs. Next I added all of the students in my three language groups where I push into their literacy classes. This was ideal because it included the original two students and I could address a large set of students/parents with entries for just three classes. I have been exploring how easy it would be to additionally use with my other articulation and language groups. My next roll out will be to include their parents.
Here is the feature I love the most: You can send one photo or note out to any set of students you want…individual, a particular set, or the whole class. This gives me great bang-for-my-buck because I can take a photo of the book we will be reading and jot a note about the concepts and send it to the entire group with one click. Using Brightwheel, I now take pictures of the story, various materials, and choices boards and send it to let parents know what we are doing. The visuals are great because it also helps to reach parents who speak a different language. Plus, it gives something tangible for carryover at home. They can use the picture of the choice board as they read the book at home. I can also screenshot parts of my pdf materials and send that, so the options are wide open!
Step two is that I send photos/notes individually when the time presents itself to share progress or specific details. That may include suggestions for something to do at home, communication they used in group, or even accuracy levels. Primarily they are getting pictures of the materials but sometimes I am able to take pictures of the individual children and I will send that to their parents only. Boy, do the kids love seeing themselves on the iPad!! With my articulation students, I have been playing around with it and I take pictures of the specific words/picture cards we used that day for easy practice time at home. Or I’ll snap a shot of the activity and quickly type some words to use for home carry over. They also love being photographed “in action” for mom or dad to see. This is all surprisingly quick!
Okay, wait, there is another feature I love equally – it is free! You can upgrade for some features, but the main ones I need are free! You can manipulate some portions through their website and others through the app on your phone and devices. I use my phone (android) and iPad interchangeably. As I learn the app more I will share my experiences and hopefully this is something you find useful too – even if it is for just a few groups. This app clearly has a wide range of target audiences, but I feel like it is perfect for the busy SLP who wants desperately to share info but only has so much time! I’d love to hear experiences from anyone who has been using Brightwheel or wants to try it out!