So Much to Keep Track Of:
Two months into the school year and I've been experimenting with ways to take notes during conferencing. After all that, I still think paper and pen(cil) will work best for most people.
But I'm not most people. Mostly because writing is a real chore for me. For whatever reason, my fine motor skills don't apply to writing. It's slow and not very neat. Print or cursive – it's not very attractive, or even that readable. I did use large index cards last year; one card per student, and it was a large staggered flip chart, but it wasn't convenient. So my next step was to try technology.
Let's Try Some Technology
This summer, I set up a fancy spreadsheet using Numbers for the Mac/iPad:
Numbers provides many data format options, so I experimented with a Star Scale where I just touch a star rating. Or I can just type in a number for a rating. You may notice little yellow triangles in some of the fields, and that is where I attach notes for that observation. In the end, it wasn't very convenient. It was handy for checking ratings, but not for my anecdotal notes.
Now Let's Simplify
Now I'm using Evernote, and crossing my fingers they don't go out of business any time soon. I have one "note" for each class, and each student has their own bullet point plus sub-points for each observation. My notes are short enough that it doesn't take me long to type it in my iPad as I'm observing or right after I confer with the student.
The first line was the first time I conferenced with the students after they completed a timed addition and subtraction sheet. After that, I loop through the class and to about half of the kids every week. I jot down a line of notes, then put the date at the end of my note.
Reviewing The Data
With this format, it's easy to skim (or search) for common problems, or just check on individual students. I just finished with Parent Conferences, and these notes helped me build a profile and learning plan for each student.
After all the ways I could think of for organizing data, this "flat file" is working out well for me. With paper, there's a limited amount of space. No matter if you're grouping by date, concept, or student, it becomes unwieldy if you need to do a lot of flipping around to analyze the data.
What's On Your iPad?
As I mentioned earlier, I'm hoping Evernote can stay in business. They're struggling with growth and retaining talent, and haven't publicly responded to queries regarding their stability. As a backup, I'm using Microsoft's OneNote for some other tasks. It syncs between platforms, but just doesn't quite compare to the power and ease of use of Evernote. At least it's free.
Update: How Did I Miss This?
Today I got a reminder from Evernote that my subscription expires in ten days and I have auto-renew turned off. Yes, that's correct. And, no, I'm not using OneNote. During a random visit to an Apple Store, I let my kids play with some iPad art app while I drooled over the super-expensive iPad Pro 12". Their demo data always makes their apps look awesome. Even their Notes app. That now does just about everything Evernote does. But for free. Now I'm feeling thoroughly embarassed for not finding this earlier. It syncs across all my devices and is super easy to use. The only thing it's missing is OCR of scanned documents, which Evernote does. But I generally get along fine without it.