My name is Zhanna (my friends call me Janet). I earned my Master’s of Education degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology and have spent my entire career working in the field of educational psychology and behavior intervention. I am a School Psychologist and Licensed Educational Psychologist in the state of California and work with middle schoolers in Santa Monica, California.
Behavior observation has been a big part of my job since day one. I was trained to conduct behavior observations via traditional paper and pencil methods. This was fine, but time consuming. I regularly found myself looking for more efficient data collection methods. I began looking for a digital data collection tool that met my needs, but couldn’t find the right one.
So, I decided to make my own! I contemplated this for a year, shared my ideas with colleagues and mentors, and made the right connections in the tech space (which was totally new to me).
So, what did it take for a school psychologist with no app design experience to develop my first app that is now used all over the world? It started with an idea, a big learning curve, and years of hard work; until finally, I launched the first version of the app.
Working as a school psychologist gave great exposure to the subject matter but meant I was spending all of my free time working on the app. After many late-night development meetings, updating multiple versions, and begging colleagues to test the app, Behavior Observation Made Easy was born.
I initially made this app because I needed time back in my day, my colleagues loved it and found it as useful as I did. So, I made it available to everyone! Much to my surprise, the app was downloaded over 200 times in the first week and positive feedback was pouring in. Along with great feedback came great ideas for improvements, which led to various updates to the app.
Since its inception, Behavior Observation Made Easy has been a one-woman show! The interesting thing about a psychologist owning a business is that ethics, morals, and the importance of privacy permeate through all aspects of the technology.
I use the Behavior Observation Made Easy app daily, and it’s made conducting behavior observations, data analysis, and data presentation much more efficient. In turn, I’m able to spend my energy doing what I love; working with kids. I’m ecstatic that this app has helped so many school psychologists, behaviorists, and researchers in my field achieve the same.
As the years passed, I’ve been asked repeatedly to develop a tool for ABC Observations. I weighed the decision to take on another project, and finally decided why not!
Despite this being my second app, there were many more obstacles this time around. During the development phase, my father developed cancer and I shifted all my emotional energy to my family. My father was a creative perfectionist, constantly working on 10 projects simultaneously, and putting maximum effort into everything he did. He was my secure base. It was with his encouragement and in channeling his drive, that I pushed forward with the app. The COVID-19 pandemic hit in the beginning of 2020 and the app progress stalled. My father lost his battle with cancer later that year and I took time off from app development to focus on my family and my own well-being.
Once my energy resumed and my grief stabilized, and with the unending support from loved ones, I once again took this project by the horns; spending all my free time on the development of the next app in the Made Easy suite - ABC Observation Made Easy.
The app is being released over a year and a half later than planned. But, being my father’s daughter, the perfectionist he taught me to be, I knew not to release it until it was just right. It is in my father’s honor that I release the ABC Observation Made Easy app.
This app is dedicated to my dad (Alex). I hope it helps you with your endeavors!
Education technology is my calling and I’m honored to have you along for the ride. I love my profession as a school psychologist, but it only allows me to help one person at a time. The thing I love most about app development is that I can simultaneously help people all over the world.
The next area I want to explore is creating tools that help struggling students catch up. There are so many children in this country who are far behind in their academic competence. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic and is now more apparent than ever. One of the best ways to pull families out of poverty is through educational growth. We must address shortcomings in our educational system and help them catch up. In my opinion, technology is the fastest way to achieve this.