Friday, December 28, 2012

Conferring Notes & Student Data (Paperless) with the Confer App - created by a National Board Certified Teacher!


Confer: The app that organizes your conferring notes and student data

Though I'm considered to be a 'tech-savvy teacher,' I still struggle with letting go of certain paper systems I'm use to.  I feel like I've mastered the perfect templates and spreadsheets for so many of my note taking strategies and record keeping binders.  In fact, I've gotten so great at being so organized that I even have templates and checklists to organize my binders.  Scary, right?

As a former interior design major, one of the most valuable lessons I learned was that function must outweigh form.  No matter how aesthetically pleasing the design is, if the purpose is not functional, the concept will fail.  For example, we've all seen the perfect outfit on the hanger only to try it on and realize the awkward fit and uncomfortable design.  Similarly, I will not shop at some of my favorite stores simply because the parking structures are so very inconvenient.  Living in Michigan, with snow and two small children, I avoid such places that make it difficult to get in and get out regardless how wonderful the store and products are.  

My point: though my binders and templates are fantastic, I'm finding that they are becoming cumbersome when trying to access during instruction.  After all, if the point of all of these notes is to drive my instruction and to be able to differentiate activities, I should have an improved system that allows me to view my notes quickly in an organized manner. 

My current system of templates, composition notebooks, binders, and clipboards looks great.  To the observer, I'm sure I appear to be quite committed, detail-orientated, and organized.  For me, I love my hand written notes.  I grab my clipboard and sit alongside a student to start conferring away.  At a quick glance, I can see who I need to meet with and later I can review my notes.  In my head, I know which students have similar needs and strengths.  However, to group these items requires time and high lighters.  

Our literacy coach sent out an email about a conferring app.  I decided to check it out only to delete the email after seeing the high price of the app.  How could one charge $14.99 for an app.  To me, this was crazy!  After all, this could buy two pizzas on the way home one evening.

Later that day, he (the literacy coach) stopped by my room.  Jason (also my husband's name) and I have a similar background and agree with many of the same instructional practices.  He and I are both alumni of the National Writing Project and follow the work of the authors of Comprehension Going Forward very closely.  He asked what I thought about the app he sent.  I was honest and told him that I didn't really check it out because it was insanely priced.  He suggested I give it another look.

So, I went to the website, clicked on the tutorial section, and viewed the video...


I had to have this app!  As I was pulling out my iPad to go to the app store, I noticed the contact tab on the website.  I wondered if I could contact the app developer to do a review of the app in exchange for a free download code.  Usually, I receive several emails a day from people wanting to give me a free code in exchange for a review on my blog.  I typically turn these offers down as they often don't relate to my second grade practice.  This was one of the first times I actually contacted a developer to reverse the process.  It worked!

David, the Confer developer, wrote back:

Erin,

Thanks so much for your interest in Confer!  I'd be honored to have you review it. :)  I've copied two promo codes below, but just let me know if you need any more.  Thanks again!

Sincerely,

David

Of course, I used one of the codes to try out and shared one with Jason, my literacy coach.  I've spent a bit of time playing around on the app.  So far, I'm impressed.  

I love apps that are simple and user-friendly.  For example, though there are many IWB apps available, I use  Educreations - it's easy, free, and works well.  I prefer it to Explain Everything, Show Me, and all the others.

Sometimes, more is not better.  I think David, the developer, understands this.  He is a National Board Certified teacher.  He gets it.  The app is not overloaded with jazzy features that make it difficult to use.  It's simple... just like your binder!  Only, you can use the information more effectively.

In the end, yes - I would pay for this app.  After all, I spend about $7 per large binder and even more for the divider tabs, Sharpie markers, highlighters, pens, etc... I think it's worth it.  If you're use to using an iPad, want to go more paperless, or are looking to try a new system, I'd give it a try.

It really is easy to set up and use.  I've created a brief, informal video to show you...


My favorite feature is the ability to view students based on the overall student, student groups, strengths, teaching points, and next steps.  These are all of the key points I include in my observational paper notes, now I can sort and view them easily.  This will certainly help when I call a small group for a table conference during workshop or strategy/skill mini meeting for guided reading.

One New Year's Goal of mine is to become more paperless.  Thanks to Claco and Confer, I know this will be an easier transition!

Would you like to try the Confer App?

David mentioned to let him know if I needed any more codes, so I'd like to offer two codes to Kleinspiration readers!  If you have an iPad and think this is an app you would use with your students, please click here to follow Kleinspiration on Facebook.  Leave a comment on Facebook under this posting on Facebook.  I'll post the winners on Facebook on Saturday evening (est).  To make it fun, the first two to guess the year I started teaching will win the two codes.


12 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Jennifer,

      I really like it so far!

      I'll let you know how it goes once I really start using it.

      Thanks,

      Erin

      Delete
  2. I love, love, love Confer! Way worth the price! I figured with the cost for a good binder, dividers, etc. it was about the same. Confer does all the work of reminding me who I need to conference with, and what they are working on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kelly,

      Thanks for the support of Confer. I'm glad to hear you love it. I'm excited to really take advantage of it.

      Cheers,

      Erin

      Delete
  3. Is this also available for the Android tablets?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've just downloaded Confer. One of my resolutions is to fix my record-keeping messes and reduce the paper and binders cluttering up my classroom. I resolve to use Confer! I already use google docs, so the ability to send it to a google doc is a great back-up, as well. I'm going to show my students, so that they remind me a LOT to keep carrying the ipad to group meetings and conferences to update my notes!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Melanie,

    I don't think it is available for Android. You can go to the site and ask on the "Contact" page. He's great about responding. If he knows there is a need, he may work to develop one. :)

    Thanks,

    Erin

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sarah,

    That is awesome!! I look forward to seeing how it works for you!

    Cheers,

    Erin

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow!! I can already see how to use in small guided reading groups and math groups. I love that you can also share to your google docs and create a spreadsheet right on the spot!! I also see that you can also share with evernote another one of my favs! Ok I think I will try it.

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  8. Thanks Martha!

    I think you'll like it. I've heard so many good things about it from many different people.

    Let me know how it goes!

    Cheers,

    Erin

    ReplyDelete
  9. Erin,
    This was written in Dec 2012, I'm considering this app for this coming school year, do you still think it's worth it. There seems to have been some problems after version 3, I think where people could not find their notes or studentts, has that been taken care of. I don't mind the $15 as long as it works as described. Please let me know.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Maria,

    I have not had an issue with it.... BUT I have started using my LiveScribe Pen and Evernote a bit more.

    If I were you, I may try Evernote first... since it's free. :)

    Thanks,

    Erin

    ReplyDelete

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