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The Perks of Paper/Pencil Data Collection for Special Ed Teachers

Are you Team Technology or Team Paper and Pencil when it comes to data collection?

Technology is a way of life now, especially with virtual learning, but there is something to be said for paper and pencil data collection.

While technology has given us fast and easy ways to calculate, store, and record data, does it take away from the benefits of paper and pencil work? There are pros and cons to both sides.

Ya’ll know I am partial to pencil/paper data collection. You can learn my method here, and you can see the data collection category here for all things progress monitoring in special ed.


The Benefits of Paper and Pencil Data Collection

It Never Crashes

Unlike technology that has the tendency to crash, lose data, or become obsolete, paper and pencil data collection is a constant. The information will always be accessible, and the only way to lose the data is if the paper itself is lost.

inclusion documentation forms

Learn how I keep track of all the paperwork for myself with the IEP Caseload Binder here, and all of the student paperwork and work samples with Color Coded Student IEP Binders here.

Take it Anywhere

Especially with the free data collection binder rings!

You do not have to worry about Internet access, low batteries, or the location not being conducive to electronics when you use paper and pencil data collection. All you have to do is grab your binder ring and take them with you (or a stack of sticky notes!) Paper and pencil travel anywhere.

data sheets for special education - endless data sheet bundle image

You can find 170+ printable data sheets here.
But if you’re in need of digital data sheets, you can find those here too.

See All of the Information at Once

Forget toggling between screens with paper and pencil data. You can spread all of your files out in front of you and compare information side by side without having to try and navigate a split-screen when your records are handwritten.

It also makes it easier to do reporting when you can place everything out at once versus having to switch between screens or devices.

Kids Don’t Focus on the Technology

One of the unintended consequences of using technology to record data is that it is often distracting for students.

Instead of focusing on their work, they tend to become focused on the tablet or computer that is being used to record the information. This can lead to wrong or misrepresented data because it does not accurately depict a student’s abilities.

Paper and pencil collection also gives the evaluator a chance to focus on what’s happening and not worry about what the device is doing or not doing!

Creates a Paper Trail

When you need to keep track of what has been happening and are asked to provide a paper trail of documentation, it can be challenging to do that if all of the data has been collected on the computer or a tablet.

Paper may be old school, but it gives you a literal paper trail of what has transpired. That is especially helpful for those hard to manage cases!

While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with either method, there are pros and cons to each. The most important thing is to use your school’s system and get comfortable navigating it.

If you prefer paper and pencil methods, but your school wants the final documentation online, you could write your data notes and observations using the pencil/paper method and then transferring it to the computer later.

At the end of the day, the goal is accurate data and however that happens is best for you and your students.

What is your preferred method of data collection? Let us know in the comments below!


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I'm a special education teacher, presenter, curriculum writer, and educational blogger behind Mrs. D's Corner.
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