Putting students in charge of themselves with I-Connect

Putting students in charge of themselves with I-Connect

Karen Henry

Howard Wills is putting high school students with emotional and behavioral problems in charge of themselves. Wills directed the development of a web-based application called I-Connect with Ben Mason that lets teens monitor and manage their behavior and set and achieve academic goals—all through wireless devices like smart phones and tablets.

“Schools have a great need for evidence-based interventions that can lead to students staying in and succeeding in school,” said Wills. “The I-Connect Intervention and Self-Monitoring application fills an important void in supporting high school students most at risk for school failure.”

During the two-year development, 20 high school students in Lawrence and Kansas City used I-Connect to connect with their support systems—school and community mentors and parents—who encouraged them to improve attendance, set goals, complete assignments and evaluate their progress, among other goals.

I-Connect eliminates paper and pencil forms, something any school psychologist or special educator who has had to sift through folders full of self-monitoring sheets that were never entered into a central database will appreciate, said Wills.

Mentoring is very structured and efficient in the I-Connect model, said Wills. Mentors can assess students’ academic and behavioral progress along with the self-monitoring data uploaded from the student’s device to a server. “Reducing paperwork while adding to the richness of the data the mentor can use to problem-solve is the goal of the program.”

Another advantage to I-Connect is that students can monitor themselves unobtrusively. “This is a rare intervention that works without being apparent to peers why it works,” said Mason. “This is valuable for schools that are trying to integrate students with disabilities into general education classrooms but still want to provide supports.”

Self-monitoring has the longest track record of success of any intervention, according to Wills. “Even Benjamin Franklin wrote about it and most of us have used the same principles to meet career and fitness goals.”

The results of U.S Department of Education funded pilot studies have been very positive, said Wills. For example, two high school students’ on-task behavior increased from 51 to 95 percent and from 18 to 91 percent respectively during science class. Wills and Mason will continue the development and testing of the I-Connect self-monitoring application in different settings and with additional populations such as students and young adults with autism. The study collaborators were Ben Mason, post-doctoral researcher, Juniper Gardens Children’s Project; Linda Garrison-Kane, professor of education, Missouri State University, and Shye Hou-Reynolds, software engineer, and Nick Tallmon, web and mobile application engineer, Juniper Gardens Children’s Project.