A NEW BEGINNING

Last week it was announced that I qualified for a digital classroom for the 2014-2015 school year!  This blog was created to provide a record of digital lessons that I created to justify my selection as a digital teacher.  Thank you to everyone that read, commented, tweeted, or shared my posts in any way.  I appreciate the support, and it allowed me to reach my goal of obtaining a digital classroom.  I am uncertain of what the future holds for this blog.  It will not be updated throughout the summer, but it may be a good place to record my digital journey as I experiment with new apps and programs.  To find out, I guess you’ll just have to check back in the fall.  Until then, best wishes with your own challenges and endeavors.

KICKING OFF YOUR PBL WITH WeKWL

Task: Students started their School Finance PBL by creating a list of “Knows and Need to Knows” using the WeKWL app.  Students logged on to a session created by the teacher, and edited a live document by entering concepts and skills they already knew (K), wanted to know (W), and big ideas they will learn (L).  The School Finance PBL will require students to create a plan for a new educational facility for GCISD.

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Reflection: I was very excited to try this app.  We used it to kick off our Cadre 5 training in February, and it was a perfect way to present what the group needed to learn.  WeKWL worked perfectly for my first class.  Students selected one of the letters and typed in their statements.  Their work instantly appeared on everyone’s screen as a live document typically works.  By the end of the session, we had a large list of ideas that reflected high-level thinking.  After spending some time analyzing our list, the direction for our PBL was clear.  In addition, we were able to save the list as a PDF, and email it right from the app.  Although a live document can be created with a number of platforms such as Google Docs, WeKWL designed a format taylor-made for PBL introductions.  It was easy to use, and the students enjoyed contributing to a product generated by the entire class.

Things changed dramatically after first period.  For the rest of the day, WeKWL crashed.  After students logged in, they could not edit the live document.  The app constantly logged them out, or simply quit.  We tried to troubleshoot by closing the app and rebooting the iPad.  Nothing we tried worked, and we had to abandon our original plans.  Needless to say, it was a frustrating experience because it worked so well during first period.  My original thought was that my first period was smaller than my other classes, and the larger group caused the crash.  However, the app worked perfectly during my Cadre 5 training, and we had about 70 people in the room.  Although we were able to complete the same task on our white boards, I feel the other classes missed out on a unique learning opportunity.

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Conclusion: This was a tale of two experiences.  WeKWL worked perfectly for my first class, but could not be used the rest of the day.  When it works, this is a great app for starting your PBL.  You can create your KWL list quickly, as everyone is editing the same document.  It is easy to save so you can revisit or revise your list throughout the PBL process.  The students enjoyed the collaborative experience, and the app was able to reflect their high-level thinking.  On the other hand, WeKWL has some issues that need to be fixed.  It is entirely possible there was a quick fix that I could not find.  Although I am pretty savvy with apps and programs, I am no expert when it comes to programming.  In the end, I believe WeKWL has great potential, but for now, I would say user beware.  For more information, check out the GCISD LEAD With Technology Blog review!

http://gcisdleadwithtechnology.blogspot.com/2014/02/wekwl-collaborative-kwl-charts.html

STRETCHING FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS WITH INFUSE LEARNING

Task: Students answered STAAR review questions using Infuse Learning as a platform.  After selecting a question, the teacher told the students which method of response to use, and displayed the performance data when reviewing the solution.  At the end of the session, students were given feedback on their progress.

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Reflection: Infuse Learning is a free website that serves as a remote classroom response system.  There are many great qualities about this site.  First, it is compatible with every device.  You can use tablets, phones, or laptops.  Touchscreen devices are the best because of the drawing feature I will discuss shortly.  Next, the students do not need an account.  After the teacher creates their own account, they receive a room number that the students can use to login.  This allows a very quick and easy setup to begin your session.  The next great feature of Infuse Learning is the variety of response formats.  Students can respond through multiple choice, true/false, open ended text, numbers, rankings, drawing samples, or the Likert Scale.  These methods are all convenient ways to quickly evaluate the progress of your lesson, or for students to share their ideas.  Teachers do not have to type in a question for the students to answer.  You can simply ask them a question or point to one on a handout or the projector.

The data is very useful as well.  Answers are instantly pushed to the teacher account.  The students enjoyed watching the real-time data for our STAAR review.  It provided instant feedback for both the teacher and students.  The draw response was my favorite feature.  After students completed their touch screen drawing, I could share examples with the entire class using the projector.

There are other advanced features of Infuse Learning such as quizzes and importing classes of students for frequent use, but I enjoyed the simple nature of the quick assessments.  The only problem I experienced is getting students logged out so the next class could use the same iPads.  This was easily resolved by logging out of my teacher account each class period.

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Conclusion: GCISD  is currently placing an emphasis on formative assessment.  Infuse Learning is a great tool for quick formative assessment questions that can give you instant feedback about the progress of your students.  I have used remote classroom response systems before, but the variety of methods presented by Infuse Learning takes it to a new level.  Plus, it is absolutely free!  If you lead a digital classroom and already have devices ready, there is no wasted time passing out remote controls or having to type the questions into the system.  There are times such as today where STAAR or traditional test reviews are necessary.  Pairing Infuse Learning with our Bazinga! review game made for an enjoyable lesson that allowed me to identify strengths and weaknesses for the class and individual students.  I highly recommend this site for teachers looking for a user friendly tool to gain quick feedback and other learning samples from their students on a regular basis.  For more information, check out the GCISD LEAD With Technology Blog review!  http://gcisdleadwithtechnology.blogspot.com/2013/10/infuse-learning.html

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IPEVO WHITEBOARD AND SLOPE: A SLANTED STORY

Task: Students created and downloaded pictures of man-made and natural slopes.  After importing them into the IPEVO Whiteboard app, students drew an overlay of the coordinate plane, and calculated the slope of the object in their image.  After successfully finding the slope of three or more real-world images, students used Pic Collage to display their work.  All presentations were emailed to the teacher for evaluation.  At the end of the class period, everyone was able to share their Pic Collages with the entire class on the projector.

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Reflection: This was a simple activity that allowed the students to apply what they learned about slope this week to the real world.  It also provided them a platform to show their creativity and express their mathematical ideas.  When I began to plan the activity, I envisioned an app that would allow me to overlay an image with another picture such as a coordinate plane.  As I browsed the GCISD LEAD With Technology Blog for ideas, I came across the IPEVO Whiteboard app.  (http://gcisdleadwithtechnology.blogspot.com/2013/10/ipevo-whiteboard.html)  It was perfect!  First, no account or login information is required.  The app is free, and we did not experience any problems the entire day.  Students easily uploaded the images from their camera roll into the whiteboard.  From there, they could draw a coordinate plane and their slope calculations in a variety of colors and styles.  They could even record narration as they drew, creating a teaching experience for an audience if they desired.  The app has an eraser for mistakes, so you do not have to start over completely.  All projects saved to the camera roll of the iPad with no issues.  There are many other high-tech features to the app, but I wanted to stick to the basics today with an introductory lesson.  I was very pleased with the creativity and effort the students put into this assignment.  They worked efficiently and had few questions along the way.  Pic Collage was a great tool for the students to display their final product.  They were all familiar with the app, so I did not have to spend any time giving instructions.  I was very excited that all projects were emailed without any problems, and that the images were easy to download and evaluate.

Conclusion: The IPEVO Whiteboard is a great app for middle school students, as it allows them to inject their own thoughts and ideas into real-world images for any subject.  From a technical aspect, the app worked perfectly.  It was nice to have an iPad experience without worrying about lost work and bugs that delay student progress.  One of the objectives of LEAD 2021 is to facilitate a green movement.  This digital product is a great example of how students can demonstrate their conceptual understanding without having to use paper.  One of my biggest challenges as a math teacher will be to dramatically reduce the work my students will do on paper over the next several years in a digital environment.  I am looking forward to creating more learning opportunities such as this one to help meet this goal.  Overall, I believe this was a successful lesson.  They students enjoyed the freedom of choosing images that were meaningful to them, and I was able to evaluate their understanding of slope.  I highly recommend the IPEVO Whiteboard app to any teacher looking for a way to add information to images and pictures.  Thanks to the GCISD LEAD With Technology Blog for the great idea!

CHATTERPIX AND THINGLINK: THE PERFECT COMBINATION?

Task: Students provided evidence of learning by uploading digital media to a shared image.  The videos were created with the Chatterpix app, which allows users to give any object the illusion of speaking.  After taking or uploading a picture, students drew a “mouth line” on the object, and recorded their narration of a problem or skill they generated on their own.  Chatterpix synchronizes the moving mouth of the object with the speaker’s voice, which can be very entertaining.  PAP students concentrated on probability, as they designed and solved problems using cards, dice, coins, popsicle sticks, jelly beans, and spinners.  Accelerated students recorded the skills they learned on the graphing calculator this week.  Once the videos were created, students launched the Thinglink app, and uploaded their creations to a common digital image pictured below.  Each class had its own image to upload media to.  By the end of class, the goal was for each student to have a video posted to the Thinglink image, resulting in a diverse set of learning experiences that everyone could share.

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Reflection: Today was truly a learning experience.  It was the classic case where the end result did not live up to my initial vision.  When I originally planned the lesson, I was excited about having an end product that would allow my students to learn from each other.  It was going to be the ultimate collaborative effort that we could only accomplish with the technology available to us.  There were several obstacles that prevented us from realizing my goal, but that does not take anything away from what the students accomplished.  The first sign of trouble was when the Chatterpix app could not transfer some of the videos to the Camera Roll.  Without this task, there was no way to upload the video to the Thinglink image.  Half of the iPads worked perfectly, but the other half prevented the class from having the experience of a complete Thinglink.  Our brilliant digital coach, Janie Stach was able to solve the problem by rebooting the iPads that didn’t work, but by then it was the end of the day and the students’ work was done.  However, next time I will be ready for this issue.  (Thanks Mrs. Stach!)

The next problem was with Thinglink.  I do not believe Thinglink was created to be edited by an entire class at the same time.  Videos that were posted to the image randomly disappeared and reappeared.  By the end of each class, we did not have a complete set of videos for the students to watch.  The most important part of the lesson was supposed to be when the students watched every video on their iPad.  They would see the complete puzzle put together by the class, and take pride in the piece they contributed to the project.  Instead, we ended up with a handful of videos that left out a big part of the complete learning picture.

Although we encountered unexpected difficulties, today was not without its successes.  First of all, Chatterpix was very popular with the students.  I saw so many creative ways to use the app.  Students found funny pictures on the web, drew talking whiteboards and desks, and experimented with the special effects of the app.  They made a big effort to ensure their presentations were entertaining and informative.  In addition, students demonstrated their knowledge of probability and graphing calculators verbally and in writing.  As I have mentioned before on this blog, communicating mathematical ideas and concepts is very powerful, and the Chatterpix app provided some much needed motivation for the students to show what they learned this week.  Even though we did not get the end product I was hoping for on Thinglink, the individual results proved there was a deep level of conceptual understanding, which made today successful in my opinion.

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Conclusion: Today was a reminder that I will need to be flexible when I start my digital classroom.  Technology will not always work as planned, just like our traditional lessons don’t always play out as we expect.  They key is being able to make quick adjustments that allow the students to accomplish the same objective.  Chatterpix is a great app that can be used for any subject.  It is user-friendly, and the students enjoy using it.  Now that I know how to troubleshoot the Camera Roll issue, I will not hesitate to use it again one day.  As for Thinglink, I need to make some adjustments to use it to its potential.  Next time, I will have each student create their own unique Thinglink image.  This should solve the problem of losing content with multiple editors.  I truly believe these apps were made for each other.  They are both easy to use, and Thinglink is the perfect platform for the creative Chatterpix videos.  At the end of the day, I was very excited about the quality of work I received, and the conceptual understanding of this week’s content that I observed.

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USING NEARPOD TO PRESENT TREE DIAGRAMS

*All PowerPoint slides pictured below were created by Tracy Hall from HMS, and were generously shared with all GCISD middle school math teachers.

Task: Students worked through a Tree Diagram slideshow together using the Nearpod app.  All students had a whiteboard to create their tree diagrams.  After completing the first slideshow, students worked through a second presentation at their own pace.  The second slideshow included four questions that allowed me to formatively assess the class.  Nearpod allows users to upload existing PowerPoint presentations, or create new slideshows.  It also lets you add interactive features such as polls, multiple-choice or open-ended questions, or drawing opportunities.  Once a presentation is created, the teacher can issue the students a pin code to access the lesson.  After students login with their name, the teacher controls the content that can be viewed on the iPad.  A lesson can also be presented in “Homework” mode, which allows the students to watch the presentation at their own pace.

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Reflection: While I was not originally excited about Nearpod, I learned many new features that changed my opinion.  When I think about what I want my digital classroom to look like, I envision students using technology to create things themselves to show their creativity and demonstrate understanding of a concept.  There are times, however, when presenting information is important.  Nearpod makes this experience better because you can make it very interactive.  Students love polls and remote responses that give immediate feedback.  I took a simple PowerPoint that has been in my possession for years, uploaded it to Nearpod, and added polls, questions, and other interactive opportunities to make it come alive.  The program is very user friendly.  PowerPoint is compatible with Nearpod, and adding the interactive features was very easy.  As I went through the first slideshow with the students, they were excited to see the real time data evolve as more students answered the questions.  They enjoyed seeing other students’ opinions, and they always reacted when they instantly learned if their answer was correct.  From my perspective, polls and questions that measured their understanding of Tree Diagrams was extremely valuable formative assessment data.  It allowed me to make adjustments to my lesson right in the middle of instruction!

Pace is the most important aspect of Nearpod that teachers need to consider.  The Live Session mode will allow you to dictate the pace, while the Homework mode allows the students to be in control.  Teachers know the needs of their class, and should choose which mode to use accordingly.  The Homework mode is what we want our students to be able to handle.  It is especially useful for differentiation, as you could create various levels of your slideshow with more or less rigor.  However, there are times when it is best for the teacher to be in charge of the content, which is what Nearpod was created for in the first place.  Finally, Nearpod preserves the data students generate with their answer choices, and it can create valuable reports or even grades.  This feature will help teachers hold the students accountable for their learning, and allows us to spend most of our time helping students correct misconceptions.

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Conclusion: Overall, I was very happy with today’s learning experience.  Nearpod was easy to use, and the students enjoyed the interactive nature of the lesson.  The next time I use it, I want to add audio and use two differentiated versions of the slideshow.  I can also envision students creating their own presentation to share with the class.  In addition, we will probably use it one day in the next few weeks to answer STAAR practice questions, as the instant feedback will keep the students motivated and engaged.  While the danger of Nearpod is the potential of simply giving each student a close-up view of your PowerPoint on their mobile device, there is real value in presenting new concepts and having the ability to engage and formatively assess your students.  There is definitely a place for this app in my future digital classroom.

BACKCHANNELING WITH TODAY’S MEET IN A MATH CLASSROOM

Task: Students used Today’s Meet to communicate ideas while solving problems.  Everyone in the class was given an iPad and a packet of questions.  My Accelerated students worked on STAAR review questions, and my PAP students worked on Central Tendency.  We accessed Today’s Meet through the Safari Browser; no app was necessary.  Students were required to login with their real name.  I reminded them of the technology ground rules such as making appropriate comments and staying on topic.  Students were free to type questions, answers, helpful hints, or anything else pertaining to the current problem.  I began the process by selecting the question, and typing a question or two to stimulate the conversation if necessary.  Today’s Meet allows users to type messages that contain 140 characters or less.  There is a setting that allowed me to display the conversation in real-time on the projector. As students solved the problems, our online conversations allowed us to identify and correct misconceptions, and collaborate with each other to reach a solution.

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Reflection: My students enjoyed using Today’s Meet.  Some of them were experienced with the website, but they had never used it in a math classroom.  I was unsure how the lesson would develop when I made my plans.  I didn’t know if they would take it seriously enough to be an effective lesson.  As it turned out, the students surpassed all of my expectations.  Most of them took right to the concept of collaborating online, and we were able to sustain the momentum for entire class periods.  As a math teacher, it is always very exciting to see students communicate their ideas in writing.  This year it has been a struggle to motivate my students to write about math.  Today’s Meet generated the best ideas I have seen from my students to date.  As a moderator, it was important for me to keep the conversation going by asking specific, rigorous questions.  I also made a point to praise students that contributed with an @ mention.  They were usually excited to see their name highlighted in the conversation.

This lesson was not without its challenges.  As always, it was important to set the tone early.  Many students were tempted to login with false names and make silly comments instead of trying to make it an educational experience.  As students lost their iPad privileges here and there, it helped the rest of the class focus and take it seriously.  There were students that were not engaged in the process.  In particular, my ELL students were not typing many comments.  However, everyone was still able to learn from the comments and solve the problems on their own paper.  At the same time, many students who do not like to volunteer on a regular basis spoke up on this platform, which was very exciting to see.  Because I was very engaged as the moderator, I did not get to walk around and facilitate as much as I would have liked, but there were still opportunities for me to help students one-on-one and offline.

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Conclusion: Today’s Meet is a great website for backchanneling.  It is very user-friendly, and the students enjoy sharing their ideas.  When I begin my digital classroom, I would like to use this process on a regular basis.  I believe I could use it when I am presenting new material without having to generate the discussion on my own.  Communication and collaboration is the key to a successful digital classroom in my opinion, and a math class should not be any different.  A lesson of this kind could very well be the snow day of the future.  It could also be an excellent way to solve problems with other classes across the hall, district, state, country, or even the world.  However, the digital conversation within the confines of our own classroom was an excellent start, and I believe my students benefited from the experience.

 

USING AURASMA TO BRING VOLUME PROBLEMS TO LIFE

Task: Students used the Aurasma app to watch 4 videos of guest teachers presenting the dimensions of real-world objects.  After calculating the volume of the 4 objects, students checked their answers with the app.  Upon completion of the volume problems, students were able to hunt for mystery Aurasma videos, or create their own.  Aurasma works by matching pre-made videos with objects or pictures.  There were 4 pictures of objects the students “scanned” with their iPads.  When the scan was successful, a video would appear and repeat until the iPad focus was taken off the picture.  For the answers, I worked out the 4 problems, and assigned each picture an object in the classroom.  When the students scanned the appropriate object, the solution would appear for them to check their work.

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Reflection: My students enjoyed using Aurasma.  They thought it was “cool” to see an object or a picture transform into a video or a solution.  They also enjoyed seeing the guest teachers they have from other subjects talk to them about their math problems.  There was definitely a motivating factor involved, as it was a new experience for most of them.  From a teacher’s perspective, I was happy that the students could work at their own pace, which gave me the opportunity to work with individuals and groups to correct misconceptions.  Most students were engaged throughout the class period, and I collected a higher percentage of quality work than I usually receive.

Aurasma was easy to use once I learned the basics.  I first had to create a concept for the lesson.  After I chose 4 objects and wrote their dimensions on pink paper, I walked around the school during my conference period and drafted 4 teachers to be in the videos.  This all took less than an hour.  Aurasma did the rest.  I basically selected the videos, and “scanned” a picture of the items that I printed out.  The app recognized the pictures the entire day.  I had zero technical issues as the students walked around watching the videos.  It was very user friendly for the students, and they even created a few overlays of their own.

My only concern from this lesson is the freedom enjoyed by the students to check their work at their own pace.  I had several students (as I expected) look at the answers before they worked the problem, and others who only wanted to use the app and not do the work.  I had to manage my classroom the same way I do when we are not using technology.  It is easy to think we can set our classrooms on cruise control when the technology is in the students’ hands, but that was definitely not the case with this lesson.

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Conclusion: Aurasma is a great app for the classroom.  The students enjoy the “wow” factor, and it allows teachers to differentiate and have meaningful conversations about content.  I initially thought this lesson fell under the Augmentation strand of the SAMR model.  After further reflection, I believe it is more of a Modification lesson, as there was significant task redesign of a typical volume lesson.  Overall, I am very happy with the result of the lesson, as it played out the way I had envisioned it when I first started to plan the production.  I use the word production here because that is exactly what it became.  If you don’t like taking the time to create videos and put the pieces together, you probably wouldn’t like using Aurasma.  However, I enjoyed the entire process, and the students had a memorable learning experience that allowed them to demonstrate their knowledge of calculating the volume of 3-D objects.

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USING POPPLET TO SHOW AREA AND PERIMETER OF COMPOSITE FIGURES

Task: Students were given duct tape to create a composite figure on the floor tiles.  Next, they were required to calculate the area and perimeter with the appropriate formulas.  Finally, they used the iPads to create a Popplet.  Their product included a picture of their figure, and explanations for their area and perimeter calculations.  Here are some pictures of the compound figures created by the students.

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Reflection: This was an effective lesson that was enhanced by technology.  While this activity could have been done without Popplet, the iPads allowed the students to make a permanent recording of their creative shapes.  This task probably falls under the Augmentation strand according to the the SAMR model.  However, there are many reasons why I believe it was a success.  First, the app significantly improved the students’ attitudes about writing.  Most students do not understand the importance of expressing their mathematical ideas verbally.  When we have writing assignments, many students struggle, do not give their best effort, or complain about having to write in math class.  I did not see or hear any negative reactions to writing their thoughts on Popplet, and I saw many great examples of written mathematical ideas.  Next, the app was easy to navigate.  At our induction training, we were told not to spend much time explaining apps and programs to the students.  They were right.  I spent only one minute showing them the general features of Popplet.  This is the second week in a row the students have impressed me with their quick grasp of a new program.  In addition, I felt very comfortable troubleshooting with the iPads.  I gained confidence by helping students with features or settings that presented them minor difficulties.

There were some concerns that went along with the lesson as well.  First, there were many students I had to keep a close eye on because they wanted to play games on the iPads.  I was also surprised at how careless some of the students were with their iPads, as they were left in the halls or misplaced in the classroom.  It will be important for me to establish high expectations for technology care in my digital classroom so that we do not lose or damage any of the devices.  In addition, several students were familiar with Popplet, and they said it was not the right platform for this activity.  In the future, I would like to give them more choices of apps for presenting information.

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Conclusion: Overall, I believe this was a good experience for the students.  I learned more about managing the iPads, and the students used an app that can help them in all of their classes.  While I am looking forward to designing lessons on the Redefinition side of the SAMR model, this was a good start for my students, and they demonstrated their knowledge of an important concept.

CREATING INFOGRAPHICS TO REFLECT PERCENTS

Task: Students were required to create an inforgraphic for a topic that was meaningful to them.  The first step was to research data that could be converted to percents.  For example, Owl City sold 1,100,000 copies of their Ocean Eyes CD, and sold 1,350,000 total albums.  This can be converted to 81 percent of their total sales.  Students had to write three percent proportions for data they researched.  Several students conducted a quick survey to secure the required data.  The last step was for students to create an inforgraphic using easl.ly.  Here are four examples from our PAP Math 7 classes.

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Reflection: This was a fast-pased activity that allowed students to demonstrate their understanding of the percent proportion.  There were many positive qualities about this lesson.  First, students were allowed to choose a topic that was of great interest to them, which was very motivating.  Next, the infographic allowed the students to show their creativity and to display their results with a fun platform.  In addition, it allowed the me to have conversations with every student about their percent proportions, and to make adjustments to their misconceptions if necessary.

There were some parts of the lesson that could be improved.  First, they really needed two days.  I knew that some students would run with the data collection, and that others would find this very challenging.  Many students did not even start the inforgraphic because they took too long to research and convert their data.  In the end, I made the decision to make this a one-day assignment because of the limited time we have before STAAR.  We have a very tight schedule, and one day was all we could afford to spend on this activity.  Next time, I will have some previously collected data that students can convert to percents if they are struggling with finding their own.  This lesson was also a good reminder that while technology can be very motivating for some students, it is not motivating for all of them.  There were still several who wanted to put their head down or simply not work.  Sometimes technology can be intimidating, and there will always be students who simply do not every want to work.

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Conclusion: The infographic lesson was a great start for my digital classroom bridge.  The students found easl.ly easy to navigate, and they applied their knowledge of percents in a fun and personal way.  Most students were completely engaged the entire class period, they worked collaboratively on their inforgraphics, and I was able to evaluate their learning.  Overall, I believe this had many qualities of a LEAD 2021 lesson, and that it was a positive experience for everyone.