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Friday, August 16, 2013

App Review: Confer

If you are looking for one app that will take your daily conferencing to the next level than Confer Full Version is the app for you! I was initially introduced to Confer through a workshop I attended on the conferring component of Daily 5/CAFE last year.  Our district has been slowly integrating iOS devices into our classrooms, as well as nudging teachers in the direction of Daily 5/CAFE for their literacy blocks.  They made mention of Confer app in the workshop, but didn't really go into any further detail than that.  When I started looking into it more I was pleased to find Confer Lite-a free version that lets you get the gist of what Confer is all about.  However, you really need the full version to fully understand all of the great things Confer has to offer. As of right now it is listed as $14.99. While this is on the high end of cost for me, if you are conferring with your students daily I believe it is worth it. Just think of how much you will be saving in paper (or post-its, or index cards, or whatever conferring system you currently use!) and the priceless benefit of organization and ease of access!

If you recently attended our workshops on iPad Apps for Teachers and Formative Assessment Utilizing iPads you heard all the reasons why I love this app! Here are a few reasons that I choose Confer as a top teacher app:

  1. Customization. My biggest selling feature on an app is the ability for me to customize it however I need. With Confer you can create as many classes as needed-allowing for better organization and easier usability, as well as imputing as many students as you need to. This can be done on the device directly or by importing a class list or roster into Confer from Dropbox or email. Whether you use conferring for your reading or writing instruction, or both, you will be able to tailor this app to meet your conferring needs.  I've even thought of creating a class for my guided math conferencing notes!
  2. Sharing of data.  When an app has easy to use exportation options I notice.  With Confer you can share your data through email, Dropbox, a spreadsheet or the newest feature-syncing through a cloud.  Having this type of data is helpful, but it becomes a more powerful tool when you can share it when needed with a case manager, EL teacher, or intervention team.  Not to mention how beneficial it is for co-teaching and transferring students.  Confer allows you to send data to another teacher who can then open the information up in Confer and it will directly import all of that data.  You can also create teaching points on your computer to bring into the app or share with others. 
  3. Ease of use.  Confer allows me to quickly and easily create and save notes on my students during my daily conferencing time.  You can write a general note or add a note to any/all of four fields: tags, strength, teaching point (I use this space for my CAFE touch points) and next step.  When you are adding in notes it will save the text so that you can quickly add the same note to any student without retyping the entire note.  For when you are working with a small group of students Confer has a feature that allows you to add the same note to multiple student profiles at once.   
  4. I've said the best for last......Sorting. The absolute biggest reason why I use Confer is the sorting feature.  I'll be honest and say that when I first started using Confer I didn't see the appeal on some of the features. However, once I got a few weeks worth of notes added in and I started to differentiate my reading instruction more frequently and more specifically this app became a life saver for me! Within the app you can sort the students in a variety of ways. Sorting by date will provide you with a list of students starting with who you haven't seen in the longest amount of time. Once you add a new note for them it puts that student at the bottom of the list.  I look at this every day. It helps keep me accountable to those students who I feel like I just conferred with-but it has actually been a few weeks!  You can also sort by level or groups, helpful for planning my guided reading instruction.  But my favorite feature is the ability to sort to find students with the same needs.  I do this one of two ways-sorting by looking for a certain text within each of the note taking fields (tags, strength, teaching point or next step).  This will group the students based on if they have similar notes in one of those fields.  Although the way I most often sort is through the search feature.  I type in what I am wanting to group  my students on (ie fluency) and where I want to look for that text (typically I'm looking in teaching point and next step). I can choose how far back to look for that note, hit search and it will provide me with a list of students who have that text in my specified field.  I use this when planning my strategy groups each week and for when I have an adult available for help that I wasn't planning on.  I can quickly create a group of students working on similar reading/writing strategies, have them grab their book boxes or writing folders and have a small group differentiated to their exact need instantly.  

Confer has helped take my formative assessment in writing and reading to the next level.  I can quickly and easily collect data, have that data at my fingertips at all times, and then sort through that data to create impactful differentiation of my instruction.  My teaching is more effective and personalized, leading to increased student achievement and engagement.  

The developer, David Lowe, has shared with us that there will be some tweeks to Confer happening in September-addressing some of the needs that educators wanted to see in the app. There will be an Android version and even more ways to customize Confer to your usage needs.  One of our workshop participants asked if there was a way to edit the date in case you met with a student but didn't have your iOS device with you. This is a feature that will be rolling out in the new update! We love it when developers take feedback and utilize it! We are looking forward to the new updates and starting this upcoming school year with a great teacher tool in Confer!

4 comments:

  1. Great app! Do you know of any apps comparable to Confer for Windows? Thank you!

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  2. Thank you so much for this thorough review. I am currently student teaching and have heard this app mentioned a few times but felt lost on how useful some of the features would be (like you mentioned in the last section). It's obvious to be now how handy this could be in a classroom. I love that you can share data with other teachers!

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  3. Thanks Kirah so much for stopping by! Confer continues to be one of my favorite teacher apps due to its easy to use and handy features! In fact I like it so much I'm presenting about it next Tuesday to my district! If you start using it let us know! Or if you have any ?s about it. Good luck with student teaching!
    Sara
    PS for more app reviews and awesome tech tools that would wow any cooperating teacher check out our personal blogs too:
    Teachernorman.blogspot.com
    Angiekalthoff.blogspot.com

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  4. I'm new to Confer and I love the app. I'm using it on my iPad and iPhone. Is it possible to log on using a Macbook? Or is it only accesible through the app on a mobile device? Thank you for your review!

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