Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday is App Day: Using Confer app

For about the past 10 years, I have tweaked or created a whole new note-taking system each year to keep track of all my conference notes from my reading and writing workshops. I have used notebooks with a tab for each student, a binder with double spread pages displaying a box for each student to view whole class at one time, a binder with a tabbed section for each student with blank pages to stick the labels I used to write my conference notes, and the list goes on. Regardless of the system I used, I always used the same template of recording the "Compliment/Strength, Teaching Point, and Next Steps."   Last year, I was intrigued by the iPad so I finally went out and purchased my own when I discovered the Confer App existed that had the same template that I have been using on paper all these years!  After going on YouTube to view one of the Confer app tutorials of a teacher demonstrating step by step how to use the app to take notes on individual students and small groups, I was even more enticed and the decision to purchase an iPad was final. 
Although the Confer app now costs $14.99 (I paid $10.00 when I bought it last year) it is worth every penny! The Confer app enables you to import your class list multiple times so you can make a section for each subject area where you take notes on students (i.e. reading workshop, writing workshop, math, behavior, etc.).  You can take notes on individual students using the template of "Tag, Strength, Teaching Point, and Next Step" or you can take general notes without a template.  It also lets you view your students by name, date, reading level, tag, strength, teaching point, or next step. This allows you to easily see who you haven't conferred with in awhile, help plan instruction based on similar needs, and form small groups based on common next steps. 

When I used to use a paper and pen system, I always had difficulty finding an efficient way to take notes on my small groups because I found myself writing the same teaching point and information four different times (once for each student in the small group).  This is a non-issue now with the Confer app because you can check off the box in front of the four students you are meeting with in a small group and when you hit "add note" in the top right corner of the screen, it brings you to a small group page.  This small group page has the same template used for individual conferences, but this time all the notes you type in automatically goes into each individual students section so you only type it once!  This is such a timesaver and makes my notetaking more efficient and effective. 

The confer app also lets you email the data to yourself or to another colleague which makes sharing data with others much easier.  You can also upload your data now to a gmail account so you can make a spreadsheet of your notes too.  I absolutely love using the Confer app and am very grateful to David Lowe who developed it! If you haven't checked out this app yet, I highly recommend watching the YouTube videos or the tutorials and description of the app in the App Store. 

Happy Conferring! :)


9 comments:

  1. I just stumbled across your post; thanks so much for the review! I'm glad Confer is working so well for you! It's funny to hear you describe your paper notetaking evolution because it was going through that exact same process that prompted me to try and build Confer in the first place. :) I'll be working on updates this summer to hopefully allow online syncing and sharing of subjects between users via online accounts. So look for a big update come September!

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    1. Thank you for creating this app - has made my conferring more effective and organized! I look forward to the updates this summer :-)

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  2. I am intrigued by the confer app. I used Evernote this year, and would. E curious to know if you had tried that app, and if so, how you would compare the two. Thanks for the post and including the tutorial!

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad the post and link to tutorial is helpful. I haven't used Evernote yet in the classroom so I'd love to hear how you are using it :)

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  3. Are you my twin? I, too, went out and bought an iPad after seeing the Confer demo. My friends thought I was joking when I told them I was buying it for one app, but I wasn't. I was so frustrated with not being able to come up with an assessment system I was happy with, no matter how many times I tried. I was willing to pay. Confer may not have been the answer to my dreams. I still have some refining to do with my offerings of teaching points, but life was certainly easier. I look forward to the updates, and giving it another go this year. For the first time in many years, I'm not looking to make major changes.

    Karen-- I tried Evernote, but never could get it to do what I wanted it to. It may be user error.

    Apple should be paying David Lowe some commission!

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  4. Do you have any suggestions on how to enter data on a multi-subject assessment? I teach kindergarten and one piece of work can tell me information on fine motor skills, phonemic awareness, representation, writing, etc. I found it challenging to separate my assessment in different subject because I started loosing track of which students I wrote about already. When I entered the all the multi-subject data into just one subject, it was really easy to enter, and look back on. The problem is after several entries, the pre-typed text list is so extensive that it is impossible to find what I need. Your opinion is much appreciated!

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  5. I just bought the Confer app and am eager to get started. It will surely be an improvement over post its!

    I wonder if there is a way to link the Confer app to a lesson plan app and then to a data collection system so we can see trends in our teaching and in our students' growth. Please think about it - the teacher writes the plan in the plan app and it immediately links the TP to the confer app and the data. Thoughts? It must be possible.

    Thanks.

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  6. I have been using the app this week and last but I am at a loss on what to put as teaching points and next steps. Any suggestions?

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