Keeping your child’s records in a three-ring binder can make it easier to track your child’s progress. But you may also want to keep electronic (sometimes called digital) versions of these documents.
Why keep digital records?
There are lots of reasons to keep your child’s records. Having access to detailed information can help you partner with your child’s teachers. Copies of official documents can also be useful if you ever have a dispute with the school about whether it’s giving your child enough services or placing her in the most appropriate setting.
But what’s the advantage of keeping these files on a computer or storing them online?
- If you lose a printed copy of a form, you still have a digital backup to refer to.
- Paper records can take up a lot of space.
- Electronic records are relatively tiny.
- Depending how you store your records, you may be able to access them from anywhere.
- You might not need to carry around a big three-ring binder with your child’s records in it.
- If you have everything stored on a laptop, you could just take that with you to important meetings.
It’s also easier to send an electronic version of a file to other people. If your child is starting at a new school, for example, you can email her entire resource team her service history. No postage needed!
You can often search for specific words within an electronic document using the “find” function on your word processing software. For example, if you have a digital copy of your child’s IEP, you can quickly search it for the name of a particular teacher or a phrase like “annual goals.”
How do parents get digital records?
There are several ways to create a digital file cabinet for your child’s records.
- Ask the school for them. Ask your child’s teacher or school administrator for the digital file of any paper record they give you. They can email you the file or save it to a disk or memory stick. Unlike letters printed on paper, these files may not have the writer’s signature, so may not be considered “official.” You can likely only use them for reference purposes.
- Scan them in yourself. Use a scanner to turn a paper record into an electronic one. If you don’t own a scanner, you may be able to access one at a public library or a copy shop. Chain stores like UPS, FedEx Office and Staples also tend to have scanners available to customers.
- Save your emails. Emails are electronic files. It’s a good idea to keep paper copies of important email exchanges with your child’s school, and it’s also a good idea to save these emails electronically. Go online to find out how to save from your particular email program. Or copy and paste the contents of an email, including the date sent and to/from details, into the body of a new document. Then save that file.
- Take digital notes during meetings. If you can type fast enough, consider using word processing software on your laptop or mobile device to create digital notes. That way, you’ll leave the meeting with notes you can easily search and share. Another option is to use an audio recorder that can “tape” the meeting and digitally transcribe it. Note-taking apps like Evernote may also be of interest. Explore apps in Tech Finder.
- Use digital calendars. Free online options like Google Calendar or Cozi can help you keep track of upcoming appointments with school specialists. They can also make it easier to look up which dates you met with them previously.
Where’s the best place to store digital files?
If you own a computer, you can save documents on your hard drive. Consider organizing files into easily searchable folders. It’s a good idea to give them the same names as the ones in your three-ring binder.
If you don’t own a computer, you still can store electronic copies on a CD or memory stick.
Whether or not you own a computer, consider saving your child’s records in a “cloud”-based service like Google Docs or Dropbox. This will enable you to access your documents from any computer or mobile device at any time, as long as you have access to the internet.
Keep in mind that while digital copies are easy for you to share, federal law protects the privacy of your child’s records. Learn more about who can access your child’s school records.