MyLife: IEP Self-Direction and Digital Storytelling

When we started the MyLife project, our focus was on the development of a cognitively accessible, multimedia ePortfolio that would function as a kind of online résumé with a person-centered planning style. The end goal was to provide an intuitive, digital tool for students as end users that would let them document and share their educational, work, and personal experiences, and interests in a way that would foster more meaningful IEP participation and help with transition to adulthood.

Our original design concept was to build on the existing work with ePortfolios that Tobias Rickard and Josh Barbour had already done using WordPress with students in a local secondary transition program, but to emphasize accessibility for students with cognitive disabilities and as well as ease-of-use for teachers and parents. However, through additional collaborative development with teachers and students, My Life evolved into an application that was specifically focused on IEP self-direction.

The current version of MyLife that will soon be available for beta testing* helps students document key aspects of their IEP, track their progress on IEP goals (with integration of data from Goal Guide if they wish), and share that information with team members including teachers, parents, peers, job developers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and others.

A range of digital media can be used to communicate individual strengths, interests, needs, and preferences (videos, files, and images, for instance). The application then enables digital storytelling by combining and presenting the information using meeting tools such as an agenda, one page profile, and slide show—all of which allows students to play a significant and engaging role in running their IEP meetings.

To date, we’ve had nine students who have successfully used MyLife to lead their IEP meetings and we expect to have many others by the end of the current school year. The students have told us they feel more engaged and proud of the ownership they have in not only their IEP progress, but the many goals and achievements they have tracked in MyLife.

From an educator’s perspective, MyLife serves as a platform for tracking and updating a student’s IEP—a process that can be cumbersome and time consuming, especially for individuals managing large case loads.

Here is a link to a blog post about how MyLife as a digital storytelling application ties in to the larger idea of self-determination.

If you happen to be attending the upcoming CEC National Convention in Boston we’ll be presenting our work on MyLife there on April 20, 2017.
* Unlike Goal Guide, MyLife is not currently available on our public beta testing web site. However, we’re looking for school districts interested in collaborating with us on private beta testing of the newest version of MyLife. Anyone who’s interested can contact me at

Note: Development of MyLife and Goal Guide has been supported in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Community Living, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research Award Numbers 90BI0008 and 90IF0080. However, the content and views expressed herein are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the funding agency.

About Tom Keating

Tom Keating, Ph.D. is founder and CEO of Cognitopia, home of the Cognitopia Platform for Self-Determination, emphasizing tools for IEP self-direction, goal management, task analysis, and team coordination. Keating has been focused for the past 20 years on research and development of self-management and community living applications for individuals with cognitive disabilities and has been principal investigator on over 20 federally-funded technology development projects. He is also a Courtesy Research Associate in the Computer and Information Sciences Department of the University of Oregon. Keating’s perspective in all of his work has been strongly influenced by his experience of 31 years as a primary supporter for a brother who experienced autism.

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