Time on Journey

A solution that means less time preparing plans and more time teaching students.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Jeff Blackwood of ABPathFinderFormed in 2010 by veteran entrepreneurs and software industry experts in consultation with experts in special education and autism therapy, ABPathfinder is a company providing a cloud-based platform that helps educators and therapists craft lesson plans, as well as collect, graph and analyze performance data. The Kansas-based company, headed up by CEO Jeff Blackwood (pictured), develops software that improves the creation, implementation and management of lesson plans by providing special educators with an intelligent online data management tool and real-time data capture. The software can be used to create behavior plans, and provide assistants tools for working with students. The idea is that educators will spend less time preparing plans and more time teaching, and students will achieve better

It gives them a tangible way to see the day-to-day progress they’re making with the students they help.

outcomes. “We recognized that people working in special education and autism therapy were challenged by balancing the amount of time they spend with the children versus the amount of time spent filling out paperwork,” explains Jeff. “As the incidence of autism increases, more and more children are receiving special education and therapy services. Schools and therapy centers are overwhelmed with paperwork and planning,” he says. “We knew that ABPathfinder could provide the right tools to assist therapists in spending less time on paperwork and more time with the children they help.”

Victor: What exactly does ABPathfinder do? What are its benefits? Who is it particularly tailored for?

ABPathfinder logoJeff: The ABPathfinder software eliminates the tedious paper and pen methods many therapy centers use to plan therapy and to collect, graph and analyze data. We translate these processes into software that helps the therapist be more efficient and effective.

This saves the therapy team time, and gives therapists more control over how the therapy is being delivered. They track the entered data in real-time and make adjustments more quickly than when they use three-ring binders. It also increases the quality of therapy for the kids. We conducted a study, which revealed that therapy teams using ABPathfinder software saw the children they worked with gain skills 20 percent faster because of the consistent improvement in the therapy being administered.

That’s why the software is designed for public schools’ special education departments and autism therapy centers to help them administer special education and therapy.

Victor: How is ABPathfinder unique from other similar products or services?

AB PathFinder TeamJeff: Our company works with the therapists and schools to incorporate their curriculum into the software. From the moment they first log onto the software they will be using their own protocols. Schools and centers can continue to perform their curriculum and lesson planning the way they normally do; ABPathfinder simply acts as a workflow engine to help with lesson planning and the recording of the data.

Our software is built for flexibility, not only on the protocol side, but also on the mobile device side. ABPathfinder can be used with iPads, Android tablets and even with paper, so the school can continue to record information in whatever format they like.

Victor: What are some examples of ABPathfinder in action?

Jeff: Alternative Behavior Strategies, Inc. (ABS), based in Salt Lake City, Utah has successfully offered intensive therapy programs for three years. The clinic, however, knew it faced challenges with collecting and analyzing patient data via paper and pencil. As soon as the clinic found ABPathfinder, it recognized that the software could bring about dramatic change for their therapy team. We’ve heard incredible feedback from them, and they’ve said that they can’t imagine going back to the old paper and pen processes.

Victor: In your experience, what has been the most challenging aspect for school leaders and educators when managing time and data tracking in special education? The most rewarding? How does ABPathfinder address some of your concerns about education?

Jeff: Change is always going to require an investment of time. It’s a challenge for educators and therapists to dedicate the time to learning the software when they’re already overworked. Yet once they make that investment, they quickly start to realize the rewards and how it’s going to save them time on an ongoing basis throughout the school year. A little bit of pain up front leads to numerous benefits at the back end.

Victor: Thoughts on education in general these days?  

Jeff: In today’s schools, there is a lot of pressure put on educators. Many educators are doing the best they can, but don’t necessarily have the time, curriculum or software to take their instruction to the next level. The result is high turnover, particularly in special education. Educators work hard, but they also can burn out fast because they’re not getting the support they need. That’s why building tools like ABPathfinder is so important. It gives them a tangible way to see the day-to-day progress they’re making with the students they help.

Victor: Any advice for educators out there?

Jeff: Keep your eyes open for tools will that truly help you succeed. Be open to learning and understanding new products or processes. Even though it may take a time investment, that investment will often yield more positive results long-term.

Victor: Still early in 2014 – any thoughts looking back at 2013 or ahead to the rest of 2014?

Jeff: This past year, ABPathfinder worked to meet the basic needs of schools and therapy centers. Now we are expanding beyond the basics, and 2014 will be about significantly exceeding expectations with new features for more efficient and effective therapy.

Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of ABPathfinder?  

Jeff: Unfortunately, a lot of early adopters of classroom technology have been burned in the past, and they may be hesitant to try new education technology tools. ABPathfinder is part of a new generation of software that’s designed with the classroom in mind. We emulate the school’s existing processes, and give them a tool that improves workflow without trying to force them into a specific process. ABPathfinder is all about helping them improve their existing skill sets. It’s what every educator should be looking for – not to completely change current processes, but to look for tools like ABPathfinder that will make a process that much better.

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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