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'Wearable Interventions' — National Association of School Psychologists

May 1, 2019

The Communique, Volume 47 Issue 7 p. 36
The Communique is the official newsletter for the National Association of School Psychologists


Technology has gradually insinuated itself more and more into school psychology over the past several decades.

It has helped school psychologists become more efficient by being better able to integrate large amounts of information into reports and to track the effectiveness of interventions.

In the last decade or so, smartphone use has taken off and programmers have become agile in creating apps that give school psychologists valuable tools. Some school psychologists have even created apps like Behavior Snap and School Psychology Tools. These and other apps have been embraced by school psychologists because they could quickly look up information or do behavior observations that would synch easily with their main computer.

The next leap in technological innovation is happening in the area of wearables.

This is a term for embedding smart electronic devices into clothing or worn as accessories. Fitbit and Apple Watch are examples of this trend. Devices such as the Fitbit will track steps, activity level, heart rate, and sleep quality. All of this provides a wealth of data and valuable insights into behavior.

While a valid criticism of these devices is that they can be inaccurate and should not be used for medical diagnoses, I do believe that they provide better information than self-report. For example Apple Watch had recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a class 2 medical device that can detect low heart rate, irregular heartbeats, and falls.

These wearables are also being integrated into various mood apps. This can give school psychologists valuable insights regarding sleep and activity levels and how they relate to the mood of a student. Seeing a graph of a student's day with color coded indicators of mood fluctuation can be powerful in helping a student see patterns of how these factors can influence their mood or inform school psychologists as to the best time to target a particular intervention. This hopefully leads to better treatment outcomes.

Despite all of the promise of wearables, they are currently used mostly for monitoring progress and less so for active interventions.

An early innovator in wearable interventions was the MotivAider by Behavioral Dynamics. This resembled a pager that a student wore at their waist and was set to buzz either at regular intervals or randomly. The intent was to have students with attention issues be able to more easily self-monitor their on-task behaviors.

While the MotivAider was useful, a new product has come onto the market that I believe is the next generation of behavioral intervention wearables. The product is called Revibe, which resembles a watch and works in a similar manner as the MotivAider regarding self-monitoring.

Revibe has four preprogrammed settings that can be used depending on the student's level of distractibility. There is even an adaptive learning mode where Revibe begins to adapt to the student's needs based on previous responses. It can also be linked to an app where a student's class schedule can be loaded so that the Revibe is only active during classes and not during lunch or recess.

The Revibe addresses many of the shortcomings of previous offerings.

One issue with the vibrations is that students can become habituated to them over time, making the device less effective. The Revibe has been programmed to vary the feel of the vibrations, which makes it harder to habituate. It also looks more stylish in a Fitbit-style watch.

The story behind the Revibe is certainly one to note:

The device was created by a school psychologist as he was trying to come up with an effective intervention for students who were easily distracted in class. Rich Brancaccio went a bit further than most of us as he designed the Revibe and managed to get a Department of Education grant to help fund his research and to bring the product to market. There is more detailed information on the Revibe at

One in five students struggle with an attention or learning issue. Before Revibe came around, teachers had no choice but to call students out or tap them on the shoulder to redirect attention.

Wearable technology is going to continue to advance... will opportunities for wearable behavioral interventions. This technology is going to allow for greater fidelity with interventions and positively impact more students than is currently possible. Keep your eyes open for new developments.

Topics: focus
Dan Florell

Written by Dan Florell

Dan Florell, PhD, NCSP, is an associate professor in the school psychology program at Eastern Kentucky University and has a private practice. He is an associate editor of School Psychology Forum and a contributing editor for the Communiqué. In addition, he records podcasts for the NASP website as the NASP online communication coordinator, and he is the NASP historian.