Bring Your iPhone to Your Student-Teacher-Parent Conferences by Bob Sprankle

Or... iPod Touch 4 or Flip Camera, or any other mini camera that can capture short video clips, needs very little editing, and fits in your pocket so you have it with you all the time.

That's what one of my colleagues did at his recent Student/Parent/Teacher Conferences: he simply hooked up his iPhone to a TV and let parents see recordings of students working, reflecting on their work, showing evidence of success and areas to work on. In his 20 minute conferences, he only needed a little bit of video to keep the conversation flowing and focused on important issues.

For instance, one of his student's parents had previously expressed their concern that their child wasn't choosing "good fit" books for reading time. So, he showed the parents a book-talk discussion that the student had with her reading group after struggling with a book choice. In the words of my colleague, "The parents were pretty impressed with that." He noted that their watching their student's process on video was quicker than him trying to explain it (which helps with conferences that are limited by time).

"I think they [the parents] saw it as proof," he went on "of how she led the conversation as a young reader."

Undoubtedly, the parents left knowing that the teacher was committed to their concerns, that their student was making gains, and they got to witness the growth "first hand," rather than through any "filter" or "spin" the teacher could have put on it. After the video viewing, the student was asked to reflect with her parents about what she saw in the video, and what she had been learning about picking "good fit" books.

This is powerful stuff. It was powerful when teachers realized that students should lead their own Parent/Teacher conferences (alas, some teachers have still not come around to this notion, and don't allow students in the conference, and there are certainly times when Teacher/Parent only conference are needed), but this takes it to a whole new level.

Not only is the student present during the discussion in a Student-led conference, but thanks to the video, the student of "the past" is present as well, demonstrating understanding, growth, knowledge and PROOF when learning had actually been happening, rather than reflecting on it at a later date. Also, the video serves to reinforce and focus the message the teacher is trying to impart during the conference.

A complete picture can be painted all through the use of a simple video recorder.

How many of you are using video as evidence in your Conferences?