#OAME2019 roundup; #sketchnote

This year the annual OAME Math conference for Ontario Math teachers was held in my hometown, Ottawa, at the University of Ottawa campus. I missed the road trip with my teacher buds and I missed staying in the dorms. Being in my own town meant I felt like I had to still do my regular life obligations in the evenings. Next year it will be held in Oshawa May 7-8 and while there are no Saturday workshops I think we should all stay over Friday night and go have breakfast together Saturday morning before driving home.

This year’s conference had great featured speakers. All of the sessions I attended were great and gave me food for thought, new strategies and new tools to try. And best of all I got to meet for the first time & get to know better some of the fine folks that I follow in the #MTBoS (blog & Twitter world). That’s always special.

So I thought I would compile the sketchnotes I made for each of the sessions I attended below:oame2019.PNG

Vera Sarina: Measurement Formula Sheets
I also learned during the session that we are now allowed to give my grade 9 students a formula sheet of our own making for the EQAO exam (so long as it does not contain instructional material). Love that!

Nat Banting: Instigating Mathematical Action
I met Nat briefly at last year’s OAME conference. This was my first time hearing him speak and is he ever an engaging presenter! And so much application of his ideas to my Thinking Classroom routine that I’ll be putting into place.

Cal Armstrong: Streamlining Observations & Conversations
Cal is another teacher I follow on Twitter so really great to finally attend one of his sessions. Love his shout out to Learning In The Loo also!

Tom Steinke: Notes in a Thinking Classroom
I’ve followed Tom and his dedication to the Thinking ClassroomΒ framework for a while on Twitter. His workshop title was very close to mine so I was curious to see his ideas on the topic.

Heather Theijsmeijer: Capturing the Math Beyond Traditional Assessment
Can’t remember whether or not I’ve attended one of Heather’s sessions before, but she’s another Twitter friend that I was lucky to see in action this week.

Sam Shah & Mattie Baker: Teacher Voice
Two big names in the teacher community that I was fangirling over. They prefaced their talk by saying they were not used to such a large audience and they were really awkward. Except they were anything but. They were heartfelt, passionate & polished speakers with a lot of humour. Two things of note. One, they had every person in the room crying when they showed a well-timed emotional video after a particularly personal anecdote (see below for link to the video). Two, they got a standing ovation. STANDING OVATION AT A MATH CONFERENCE, people. That just doesn’t happen.

Just ignore my grammatical error in that tweet. 😲

Tracy Zager: Student Thinking
A heavyweight in the #MTBoS world. My first time hearing her speak. Very engaging! Check the sketchnote for a couple of books she strongly recommended being worth the read.

Carl Oliver: Making Connections
Speaking on a topic I love, a great chance to meet & listen to another MTBoS teacher I’ve followed online for a while.

Jennifer Wilson: Reflecting, Connecting, Communicating

Mary Bourassa: Desmos Activities
Saturday was filled with Desmos sessions. Mary, a teacher from my board, presented on Desmos Activities and I paired up with a colleague of mine that was unfamiliar with them. He was so excited to get to play with it as a student and really saw the power of this tool in Mary’s session. Mary was also one of the main folks on the organizing team for the conference (I do not know how she does it all!).

Marieta Angjeli: Project-based learning
Not captured in the sketchnote were the plethora of examples of student projects she shared with us.

Eli Luberoff: Breaking Down Barriers with Technology
Eli is the CEO of Desmos. He was the final feature speaker. He gave a great talk that while using Desmos & talking about Desmos, wasn’t only about Desmos. Really great to hear him speak after following him online for so long. Also, my colleague that was attending his first OAME conference told me he sat beside Eli in a previous session & chatted with him all the while having no idea he was talking to the CEO of Desmos – and he commented on Eli’s friendliness & generosity.

Laura Wheeler (ME!): Course Packs for the Thinking Classroom
I had about 75 or more folks in my session on Saturday. We spent our time discussing course packs for student notes in a Thinking Classroom framework. Thanks to everyone who joined me!

Looking forward to the 2020 conference, friends!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)


Bank Balance problem

A few weeks ago I was ready to do my first Linear Systems of Equations problem with my MFM2P grade 10 applied class. The first step is to get them to solve systems graphically (a review of gr9 essentially) and interpret the solution. The last few times I did that topic, I used a scenario of a race between a runner and a dog-walker w/ a head start; where/when do they meet? It’s always complicated and requires more hints from me than I’d like. So I decided to design a new scenario – something that would allow us to practice our linear relation skills at the same time. I came up with this scenario of 2 different bank account balances as they grow over time:

Screenshot 2019-03-19 at 2.56.46 PM

  1. Presented with the above data, we worked through our notice & wonder routine using Pear Deck.
  2. Then I showed them the question I had for them:
    “When will they have the same bank balance on the same day?”
    Students estimated how many days before that would happen via Pear Deck.
  3. Then we had turn & talk time with our visibly randomly grouped (VRG) partners to discuss what we should measure, look up, and/or calculate in order to solve the problem. We shared our thoughts to the whole group.
  4. Then I sent students to their group’s board (VNPS) to solve the problem in any way they saw fit. Periodically when the majority of groups seemed either stuck, or ready for it, I called them all over around some board space to do some direct teaching. The things I called them over to talk about at different moments:
    – first differences & whether or not each table is linear
    Desmos: plot the tables
    – Desmos: linear regression for line of best fit
    Asked them to sketch their graph from Desmos on their board.
    Here are their boards:
  5. We had a follow up day where I walked them through interpreting a couple of different graphs of system of equation scenarios.

The whole activity is available in this slidedeck that has added Pear Deck interactivity if you use their add-on.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Reflecting on our First Test

My grade 10 applied class this year has some students with some serious gaps in their math abilities/knowledge. We had our first test last week (which is late – about 5 weeks in – too many interruptions to class so far; assemblies, etc). For the first time I tried Howie Hua’s strategy with my class:

I asked my Tweeps if they do VRG for this or let students choose. Almost everyone said they let students choose. I may try VRG next time as there were a couple of students who didn’t get up to talk to anyone. I’ll be asking them for feedback today about how they thought that helped them (or whether or not it did).

Unfortunately on test day due to an assembly running long that morning, they took 10 minutes away from my period. A number of students had trouble finishing. I struggle with that b/c I think many of them want more time, but simply spend the time staring at the page, not being productive in solving. This class is mostly ELLs thought (more than usual) and in the past when that’s been the case & I have slower test takers I have made shorter more frequent tests.

So normally I test ever 2 to 3 weeks once we’ve done activities & practice that cover 4 or 5 of the 9 overall expectations for the course. Then the test is 2 pages double sided, each side of a page is 1 overall expectation (usually one or two problem solving tasks). In the past I’ve changed that to testing every 1 to 1.5 weeks on 2 of the 9 expectations instead. I think that’s what I’ll need to do here so that if a student needs more time they can have it within that class period.

I haven’t yet returned their marked tests (I put feedback only on the test & they receive their grade separately a day later on their evidence record via email; research shows that mark + feedback results in students caring only about the mark, not the feedback). Yesterday I sketched on the board the same triangle based prism they’d had in a Toblerone bar question on the test but with different dimensions. I asked them to find surface area & volume (dimensions were such that they needed to use Pythagorean Theorem to find the height of the triangular base). Most groups took almost the entire period to solve this!!! One group never got beyond the Pythagorean Theorem part. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to facilitate, correct misconceptions, etc.

As an aside: A colleague came by to watch (said he’s been meaning to for a while now) and I had to ask him not to write on the students’ boards or tell them how to do the next step. Reminded me how hard it is to teach other teachers the skill of not telling students the answers always, but asking questions that help them figure it out for themselves. He said “but they’re nodding so they understand what I’m showing them”. I explained I want them doing the math, not him. I asked him to talk with them but don’t do the math for them.

I also got a short video of the groups getting started on the problem if you’re interested:

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

#LearningInTheLoo: Indigenous Education Tips

The latest Learning in the Loo poster is a collection of tips about Indigenous Education curated by a great team of educators from my school board based on their own knowledge and that of the students they work with and hear from in our board.

Learning in the Loo (4)

H/T to Jody, Kris, Kareena, Nancy & Josh.

For the full set of Learning in the Loo posters I’ve made, click here.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Learning in the Loo: Collaborative Kahoot Quiz

A few months back I tweeted this:

to which Kahoot responded:

Haha – I had apparently totally missed this news! I then used the spreadsheet to have my Computers class build a Kahoot game collaboratively. So I thought I would share the process with my colleagues in my latest (overdue) edition of Learning in the Loo:

learning in the loo (3)

This poster & all past editions are available hereΒ in case you’d like to post Learning in the Loo posters in your staff toilets also!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

My year on Twitter in 2018

I didn’t blog a ton this year. But I was still fairly active on Twitter. So as is the tradition, here is my year-end review of my Tweets that seemed to go over well this year according to the stats from analytics.twitter.com.

This tweet where I tried to summarize how I teach Math in 1 tweet:

A tweet in response to a #BFC530 Twitter chat question – “What is one “best practice” that you do in your school/classroom that, if adopted broadly, could be a game changer for education quality?”:

The OAME Math conference is always good for a few crowd-pleasers:

Another #BFC530 response to the question “What is one thing you would like non-educators to know about education?”.

Seems like every year my Observe Me sign comes down for whatever reason then I decide it should go back up!

As in years past, sketchnotes are always a big hit!
Hope to see you around Twitter & the MTBoS.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Teacher-Librarian Sketchnotes+

This year, beginning in April, I embarked upon the journey to getting my 3 part specialist as a teacher librarian. Why not in Math you ask? Well, as a BScH psychology major I only had room for the minimum 5 full year credits in Math I required to get me into teacher’s college. So an Honours Specialist in Math would require me to go back & take 3 more uni-level Math courses. No thank-you (can someone please tell me why we don’t allow teachers to submit Math leadership experience in lieu of Math credits to be admitted to an honours specialist course?). So instead I took part 1, part 2 and part 3 of the Teacher-Librarian AQ. Started in April. Submitted my final assignment on Friday. YAY!

I wanted to put together the sketchnotes & visual summaries I created as part of these courses. Somewhere to house them all together. So here they are.

PS: I really enjoyed my part 1 & part 2 through ETFO online – not just for elementary teachers. I did not enjoy – and would not recommend – my part 3 AQ through Queen’s. Too bad as Queen’s is my alma mater & I wanted to love it.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Let me tell you about Bullet Journals …

As a sketchnoter I have heard about Bullet Journals for a while.


This fall I listened to the Sketchnote Army podcast episode with Ryder Carroll, the inventor of the Bullet Journal method. It got me interested enough to order his new book, the Bullet Journal Method. And now I am obsessed. Not only that, but several colleagues (and even students!) that have seen my bullet journal seem interested in learning more and starting their own! For now I’m using a dotted 5″x8.25″ soft cover moleskine. Before January I’ll get a hardcover notebook (probably the LEUCHTTURM1917 or the official Bullet Journal notebook). But the beauty of the bullet journal is you don’t need any specific journal. You number each page yourself as you go & add all the structure & content yourself too.

So what is Bullet Journalling? Here’s a video from Ryder himself about it:

A word of note: if you google bullet journalling (or Bujo as it’s often called) you’ll see plenty of images & videos showing very fancy calligraphy and intricate artwork. That is not was Bullet Journalling is about. Some people like to do it that way which is great. But I really like reading about Bullet Journalling from the creator himself because he really comes at it from a function & purpose persepective that is not about art (which appeals to me as a sketchnoter . . . as Mike Rohde always says: “ideas, not art”).

You start with the first 4 pages for your index:
The index is like a table of contents – as you create sections of your bullet journal, you’ll write down the page numbers for each topic or month. So if I take 2 pages for the new Spanish words I’m learing on Duolingo now & then another 2 page spread later in the notebook, all those page numbers will be listed next to “Spanish” in my index. Makes it easy to find. Now I made the mistake of starting on the actual first page. Next time I’ll use this page to create a “if found, please return to … / contact …” cover page & start the index on the back of the first page; 2 two-paged spreads for it.

Future Log
Next up you create another 2 two-page spreads with blocks of space for the next 11 or 12 months of the year.
This is where you list all of the events & tasks that are not happening in this current month. I prepped this by going through the calendar on my phone (which I am still using in addition to my bullet journal – I do like the pop up reminders of things there … and also useful when my bullet journal isn’t on me & I need to record the date of something coming up).
And go back to your index and list the future log w/ its associated page numbers.

Monthly Log
So now we create a monthly log for the current month.
On the left of the two page spread you write the days of the month down the left side; number & first letter of the day. I write the main things I need to remember happening each of those days. On the inside edge of that left page I have my habit tracker which starts as a dot for each of the 2 habits I want to track; Duolingo practice w/ Spanish & German and taking my vitamines. Each day as I do it, the dot turns into an X to indicate it’s happened.
On the right-hand page you create a list of tasks you want to accomplish in the month. Tasks (indicated with a dot) get Xed out as they are completed.
List this month and its starting page number in your index.

Daily Logs
Starting on the next page, put the date for the first day of the month. And here is where you plan, log tasks/events/notes & reflect on each day.
Tasks start as a dot then turn into an X if they get completed, a > to say it’s been migrated forward to another day in the future or < to say it’s been migrated back to the monthly or future log. I’ve started using arrows rather than < and > myself. The hollow circle indicates and event or something that happened. The dash – is a note. And of course things can be nested under each other using the various symbols. Some people will adjust the symbols to better suit themselves which also works.
I’ve started tracking the the sunset & sunrise times once in the center of each of these daily spreads just for fun. I also create a weather icon for each day & track the day’s high & low from my weather app the next morning. I’m starting to add a few more sketches & icons as I go to satisfy my sketchnoting urges πŸ™‚ But it’s super not necessary!

Side note: Think your handwriting sucks? Doesn’t matter! This journal is for you & no one else. Also, with practice it will get tidier. Try slowing down slightly as you write and being really purposeful in your pen strokes – that often helps!


So then at day’s end take time to reflect on your day & add to your notes about the day. Cross off completed tasks. Migrate tasks forward to tomorrow or back to this month’s task list.
At month’s end go through your month’s task list. What did you complete? Cross it off. What remains? Is it worth moving forward? If it’s still important to you, migrate it forward to the new monthly log & mark it with >.
At year’s end . . . I haven’t experienced this one yet. But the main thing I know Ryder – the creator – suggests is to start a new notebook for the new year … even if you’re current one still has room. Fresh start. Blank slate and all that.

The last element of the basic bullet journal is what Ryder calls Collections.

Collections are two page (or more) spreads for things you’re working on. For example, I have a collection for both the Spanish and German I’m learning with the DuoLingo app. I have a collection spread I’m using to plan what I do each day w/ 2 of my classes. I have another collection spread to organize who I’m planning on sending holiday postcards to. These can be for notes from PD days, meetings, courses you’re taking … whatever you want! Just create a 2 page (or more) spread & list the topic & page numbers in your index. The next time you create a spread for that same topic or project, you’ll add the page numbers next to the first set in your index (eg. Spanish, 17-18, 35-36, 47-50).

Start now!
My final advice to you is to start right now. Like, tonight!
If this seems like something that you’d enjoy & find beneficial it is tempting to say I’ll wait till Jan. 1st to start fresh & that gives me time to buy the right stuff, etc. But come Jan. 1st in the middle of the holidays … you won’t start! So I started with a week left in November. Grabbed a moleskine notebook – but any notebook you have; lined paper, blank paper, … I’m sure you have an unused or unfinished notebook lying around the house right now. No fancy pens are needed. Grab whatever pen or pencil is close at hand. And start! Think of it like a test drive as we finish December where you can learn about how you like your own Bullet Journal to work. Then you’ll be ready for a migration to a fresh notebook on Jan. 1st.

And if you do try Bullet Journalling, please come back & tell me what you think in the comments below! Consider sharing a photo if you’re willing.
Hope to hear from you soon,

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

VZ-R HDMI Document Camera Review

61UvvrZOP+L._SX425_Last month I received a free VZ-R HDMI Document Camera from IPEVO in exchange for a blog post reviewing the tool; be it a positive or negative review.





Here’s what arrived:20181016_092835.jpg
A very neat, compact box with a sleek folded document camera. A small round card giving me a link to the Quick Start Guide online. Small tools needed to assemble the base to the document camera. And the USB cord.

I was quickly able to assemble the unit with all the materials provided:20181016_101731

Take 1 – document camera + desktop computer + projector

The first thing I did was hook it up to my desktop computer & projector input (which required the use of my HDMI-VGA cable b/c my projector is ancient). The problem with this set up is that these connections are in the corner of the room, away from students & far from the project screen. This means that if I wanted to use the document camera to project student work or product (it’s ideal use – rather than showing teacher stuff) the students would have to bring it over to my small teacher table in the corner where the computer & projector input is set up. Don’t love this. I envisioned being able to bring the document camera right to a student’s desk to show what they’re working on. Also you’ll notice IΒ  don’t have a lot of space as I’ve really reduced the teacher’s “real estate” in the room over the years to a rather small desk with not much extra room for putting things:20181016_112347

The other issue with this setup was that it projected with a funny pinkish-purplish hue on the screen:20181016_112414
I don’t have that problem when projecting from the desktop computer. I’m sure I could adjust the colour of the projector, but don’t want to have to do so each time I change from computer to document camera.

TL;DR: This setup is OK but not ideal. But it was easy to set up & get started with the document camera.

Take 2 – document camera + chromebook + Google Cast for Education

Ideally I really want to be able to bring the document camera to a student’s work space & project what they’re doing to the class. They shouldn’t have to come to me. How can I hook this up to my chromebook w/ the USB cable?

So I downloaded the IPEVO Visualizer app for Chrome. It was quick to install, open up & show what the document camera was looking at on the Chromebook. Then I used “Google Cast for Education” to cast my entire Chromebook desktop to the desktop computer that is hooked up to the classroom projector. This worked great & the colour tint wasn’t an issue!


So this is the golden ticket! Projects with no colour issues. And is portable enough with the document camera connected to my chromebook via the provided USB cable. I can take it right to a student’s desk to show what they’ve been working on.

Thanks to IPEVO for providing the document camera to try out! A great tool to add to my classroom repertoire to show off student test solutions on paper, algebra tiles, and other hands-on manipulatives.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

@PearDeck #LearningInTheLoo 🚽

Learning in the Loo (1)

I first heard about Pear Deck at a Google EdTech Team Summit back in 2014:

Pear Deck is an interactive slidedeck tool that gives students the ability to respond to teacher prompts using their personal devices. I quickly approached the presenter, who is also the COO & Co-Founder of Pear Deck – Anthony, pear-deck-certified-coachabout offering to present at conferences in the area on their behalf in trade for a complimentary premium account. Now Pear Deck is an incredibly useful & powerful tool for student voice even when using the free account! But I thought why not ask & see if I can get the full hog premium features? Since that time, Pear Deck has created their Certified Coaches program which I’ve been a part of since the beginning and I’ve made such good use of Pear Deck in all of the subject areas that I teach. I am passionate about sharing this tool with other teachers!

So this week’s edition of Learning in the Loo is all about Pear Deck. It includes a sketchnote covering what Pear Deck is all about, a few of the differences between a free & a paid account (to show that the free one is still awesome!) and a quick how-to-start guide for the Pear Deck add-on in Google Slides:

Learning in the Loo (1)

Interested in posting Learning in the Loo posters in your school’s staff washrooms? My entire archive can be found here.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)