In it together
Initially, Meeker and Rosenberg were concerned that even this fairly familiar and relatively inconspicuous technology might distract students or have a negative impact on their interactions with the paraprofessionals.
That simply didn’t happen, Meeker said. Somewhat surprisingly, the method turned out to be less disruptive than having a guest physically present.
“Especially for students with autism, who might get upset about changes in routine, in-person coaching really, really changes a lot of the dynamic,” Meeker said. “But everyone was very comfortable. If I were physically sitting at that table I’d be changing the moment. I might make the paraprofessional nervous or distract the student.
“With bug-in-ear I could hear so much more of what a student was saying. We got a level of detail I’ve never been able to get by sitting in a classroom. I felt like we were truly in it together.”
Paraprofessionals Arianna Kruchowski and Van Le discuss their experiences partnering with UW College of Education researchers in the "bug-in-ear" pilot project.
More results, less time
Also, students used more language and advocated for themselves more often—results that continued even after the pilot was finished.
“It was amazing to have the ability to communicate with someone in real time but be several miles away,” said Elizabeth Kelly, a special education PhD candidate who acted as a coach for the pilot.
“Because the feedback was so immediate, it was incredibly effective. It was also very flexible. For instance, one morning I woke up feeling sick but didn’t want to cancel my coaching session. So I delivered the coaching from the comfort of my own home.”
“The children talked more and they talked in new ways,” Rosenberg said. “We saw that using technology this way could be very powerful.”
“We’re focused on serving as many students as possible on a daily basis,” said APL’s Gutierrez. “So it was exciting to have the opportunity to try out new strategies in collaboration with an organization like UW that will be able share the results with lots of educators and families beyond our walls.
“The UW researchers are unique in that they paid attention to making sure we felt comfortable the whole way through. They supported us in any challenges we faced, while giving us lots of coaching and positive feedback at each step. It made it a lot easier for us to fully engage and feel successful as participants in the process. We would definitely like to work with them in the future!”