About mslwheeler

Math teacher at Ridgemont High School, OCDSB. Twitter: @wheeler_laura Class website: misswheeler.pbworks.com

Sketchnote book summary for When by Dan Pink

My latest audiobook read (listen?) was When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink. It was chock-a-block full of ideas and actionable advice so I decided a sketchnote to help me remember was in order. Unfortunately I didn’t think early enough to jot down notes as I listen (somewhat impractical too as I often listen while driving) so instead I used summaries others had written online in order to remember the key ideas from the book.

When Daniel Pink (1)

The only part not captured fully in my sketchnote is each chapter’s time hacker’s handbook that capped off the chapter with actionable advice to try. But by the time I thought about it, I had already hit return on the audiobook loan from the library. Ah well!

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

How Audiobooks Got Me to Start Reading Non-Fiction #TLchat

IMG_20200512_111432_517Or should the title of this post be How Audiobooks Got Me to Start “Reading” Non-Fiction? Do you consider listening to an audiobook to be the equivalent of reading? Both result in you knowing the content of the book, even if the path to get there is different in each case. There’s research out there to indicate they’re equal in terms of brain stimulation.

But here’s the thing … before I got into audiobooks I hardly ever read non-fiction. A few exceptions were books like Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods & Cheryl Strayed’s Wild which were true stories that read more like a novel than a non-fiction book. But mostly whenever I tried to read non-fiction, I’d find myself getting through a page or two before my eyes fell shut at bedtime. Without a story in which I want to know what comes next, there was nothing to hold me awake long enough to read more than a page or two!

Screenshot 2020-05-12 at 11.29.04 AM

For many years I’ve been a fan of podcasts. In fact I should probably write a blog post on that topic too as it’s happened many times that a podcast episode sparks an idea for a lesson or class activity for myself or that I’ve passed on to a colleague. So I looked into getting an audible subscription so that I could also listen to books, specifically non-fiction books I was interested in. But an audible subscription runs over 100$ per year. The advantage to Audible is you have instant access to the titles you want. But the price is costly & goes up from there if you want more than one title per month.

Screenshot 2020-05-12 at 11.28.08 AM

Then I thought about the library. But I live in a rural area in Québec where my local library is small and the primary language of materials is French. So I looked into the Ottawa Public Library as there’s a branch a block away from my school. For 80$ per year I can, as a non-resident, purchase a library card. This gets me access to all of their materials including physical books, audiobooks & even movies etc I think but have yet to explore. Perfect! I signed up.

And so I started listening to audiobooks (and taking out physical books too – trying to declutter at home, so buying fewer books these days). They are great to listen to in the car (I have a 50 minute commute each way), while cooking or doing other chores. Many people like to listen while out walking or running but I prefer to have my ears open to the sounds of nature & approaching cars on our rural roads myself.

Screenshot 2020-05-12 at 11.28.27 AM

An interesting thing I’ve discovered is that if the audiobook is available in CD format, there’s often less of a wait list for it as vehicles and homes shift away from having CD players. But my older car (2009) still has one so I often place a hold on both the mp3 version as well as CD version and take whichever arrives first. This worked great to get Michelle Obama’s book Becoming via CD much faster than the mp3 version would have been available.

Half of the books I’ve read so far this year have been in audiobook format which means I’m reading WAY more non-fiction than I was a year ago. I have some catching up to do I guess – think of all the non-fiction books I’ve missed over the years. So … what are your must-read non-fiction books? Leave me a message in the comments below so I can add them to my list!

EUl-xbuX0AEzkicI still read physical books. Nothing beats reading a chapter of a novel in bed before falling asleep exhausted. Or curling up on the couch and reading through a rainy morning. But I’m glad to have found a way that gets me listening to these non-fiction titles that I would have otherwise missed out on.

Next step … is how do we get audiobooks to our students? Our school library does not have a collection of audiobooks students can borrow. Does yours? If so, what system does your school use or pay into? Or should I just work to help students access audiobooks via their public library card like I do? Share your thoughts in the comment section please!

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

Outdoor Education – let’s go camping!

A month ago I got to accompany our students on their winter camping trip for the Outdoor Education class. I’m a big camper; we go canoe-camping for anywhere from 5 to 12 days at a time each summer. But I had never gone winter camping until I did so with the school 2 years ago.

Winter camping involves a lot of layers. Some good muscles to shovel snow to build your quinzhee (the snow shelter you sleep in). Good food. Lots of firewood. A positive attitude.

The school where I teach is very multicultural. I am the minority in my classroom usually as a white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed person. Walking down our halls you are likely to hear many different languages being spoken, including Arabic, Somali, and Nepali. Our school is one of 3 high schools in the city with an ELD program for new Canadians, some of them with schooling gaps due to circumstances such as being in refugee camps. Many of our students do not have the chance to go camping with their families on summer break. In fact many students I speak to tell me they spend very little time outside the city in nature.

So I really love that our students can take Outdoor Ed as a credit in high school. They must participate in at least 2 of the 3 yearly trips (plus additional day field trips). Unlike some other schools where students have – or can borrow from family & friends – a lot of camping gear, we have a large room full of bought & donated gear. Not only do we just have the tents and sleeping bags they’ll need, but also the quick-dry clothing, snowpants, and winter boots, etc.

My colleague who teaches the course spends weeks before the first trip in fall (hiking) teaching students the basics of what to pack, what to wear, what to eat, how to cook it, & how to leave no trace. I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I will remember. Involve me, and I will understand forever.”. So much is learned while “doing” in this course.

This year’s group of students were particularly great, adaptable to the outdoor elements with a positive attitude (for many, only their 2nd camping trip ever). I love getting to know the students outside of the classroom environment. I love watching them as they learn to love and respect the outdoors, spend time away from screens and connect with each other.

Our to other trips are a fall hiking trip and a spring canoe trip:

If you’re a teacher and get the chance to supervise one of the outdoor ed trips, I highly suggest it! Even if you’re not a seasoned camper yourself, it makes a great introduction to camping for you too. You’ll learn so much about your students! Encourage the students at your school – and any other teens in your life – to take Outdoor Ed. I wish I had done so in high school. My first real camping experience (beyond car-camping) was as a teacher with Outdoor Ed myself. Also, consider donating outdoor gear, clothing and/or money to an Outdoor Ed program in your area to help them support students that don’t have the money or equipment to outfit themselves.

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

OLA Super Conference – My First Time #TLchat #OLASC

After getting my teacher-librarian specialist last year, I started transitioning into the 20200205_144018-COLLAGEteacher-librarian (TL) role last semester. This semester I am full time TL. During exam week between semesters I took off to Toronto for my first time attending the Ontario Library Association’s Super Conference. I took the train (which had been a while and it is LOVELY to sit & relax while you travel). Stayed in a hotel in Chinatown and walked everywhere I needed to go including the Metro Centre where the conference was held downtown. I knew a grand total of 2 people there (out of thousands of attendees), one of whom I’d only knew via Twitter & email.


I did my best to sketchnote most of the sessions I attended.





At lunch in the food court across the street I heard my name called out & was very confused in this city of people I don’t know:



This one above apparently caused a stir from a right wing reporter who seemed to think the conference wasn’t staying in it’s lane enough, keeping topics to ebooks and such 🙄. Although I didn’t hear about any of the hoopla until after I’d attended the session (which was excellent by the way!).

A keynote to end the first day:



Amazing (but short) keynote by the queen of data visualization herself:





Also on Thursday & Friday they brought in a yoga instructor to do some morning yoga before the first sessions got going. Conferences mean you spend most of your day sitting. So I really loved the yoga offered (+ walking everywhere in the city +workouts in my hotel room in the morning too).



I attended 3 more Friday sessions that I didn’t sketchnote for various reasons:

  • Images & Imaginations: A primer on visual research methods
  • The A-Z of LGBTQ for K-12 (which got me rethinking our pink sticker strategy for marking LGBTQ books – will likely move to an online booklist for students to look up in the stacks & maybe a bookmark with the most popular titles?)
  • Closing ceremony with Choir! Choir! Choir! (who doesn’t want to sing some Journey with thousands of people in 2 part harmony?)

My thoughts about Toronto:

  • I loved walking everywhere
  • I don’t love the business & noise of the city (I am so thankful we live the full time cottage life!)
  • Lots of smokers walking the streets

My thoughts about the conference:

  • Heavier on public & research librarian topics (as opposed to teacher-librarian ones)
  • Looking forward to putting in a couple of proposals for next year’s conference!

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

Google Classroom’s Plagiarism Checker – Originality Reports #LearningInTheLoo

For years I kept meaning to learn how to use Turn It In so that I could check for copy & pasted work from my students. But I never did get to that. But now Google Classroom has entered the plagiarism checker game. The tool is called Originality Reports and this week’s Learning in the Loo poster will help you get started with it. Melanie Zolnier has a great blog post on the topic, with images, that I turned into this week’s poster:

Learning in the Loo (1)

As always, all the past editions can be found here.

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

My 2019 Review of My Year on Twitter

Each year I try to look back at my top tweets as a way of reflecting on what I’ve shared on Twitter. Twitter analytics is a great tool for this. Here we go . . .

Sharing a cool project a former colleagues posted on Facebook:

In response to the BFC530 questions of the day: “Have you ever used brain breaks? What have you tried and do you feel like they have helped?”

February brought a snow day

and this repost of a tweet from 2018 that was popular but accidentally got deleted:

March saw tensions rising in the negotiations between education workers in Ontario and the Ford government that (still) spreads misinformation and outright lies at every turn:

Do we see a theme developing here?

This one struck a chord with my fellow teachers:

The OAME conference + sketchnotes is always a winning combo:

I have yet to bead another bracelet, but I do wear this one I made in June:

In July I share a bit of how my summer was shaping up (other than being a Math coordinator for summer school; a position I resigned from at summer’s end because it’s time to enjoy my full summers now!):

Some more sharing of summer in August:

And near end of summer each year I always march in the Pride Parade:

Then the new school year started up:

Some more well-liked tweets that are responses to the daily Twitter Breakfast Chat:

November brought new learning from the OCDSB Google Summit:

and more #BFC530 responses of course:

and unfortunately some informational picketing starting on teacher’s own time outside the school day:

Sometimes it’s nice to share a bit of our lives outside of the classroom with each other:

A sad cap to the year was a full walkout at the beginning of December by all secondary education workers in Ontario as well as many education workers from the elementary system. And followed by rotating walkout strikes around the province every Wednesday to follow & into the new year:

My reflections on all of this:

  • folks like seeing photos of our lives outside of the classroom
  • we are in a very tumultuous period of bargaining with a government that prioritizes slashing funding over student learning conditions with no sign of an agreement getting any closer
  • lots of great ideas and conversations coming out of the daily Breakfast Chat on Twitter. Join us! 5:30am daily (but you can answer/read any time of day), one question for 15 minutes (if tuning in live). Follow @BFC_530 and check #BFC530 to see the conversation each day.

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

Annual Reading Challenge – 12 Books in 12 Months

In 2017, I stumbled across the idea of a book reading challenge – formatted as a bookmark. I no longer remember where it came from, where I heard about it or how much I adapted that first list:

bookmark 2017

But I sent it along to our teacher-librarian and she liked the idea too. So she printed them up, laminated them & distributed to interested staff & students. She’s kept it up each year, with a new list each time:
bookmark 2018
bookmark 2019

This semester we are sharing the teacher-librarian role as I transition into it & she back to the classroom. So it was my turn to create the new list for the 2020 reading challenge. Here’s what I came up with (with thanks to folks on Twitter & my colleagues for their suggestions):
bookmark 2020

I’ve printed the bookmarks up on coloured paper, added a short poem about reading to the back, laminated them & have put them out for teachers & staff alike to grab one.

Do you have suggestions for my 2021 list of challenges? Leave them in the comments below!

As always, if you’d like to take the file & edit the bookmarks for your own use, here they are.

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

#LearningInTheLoo: Podcasts

I’ve been pretty quiet on here as it’s been a busy semester. We sold our house & moved full time to our cottage (giving us a longer drive in to work each day). I’m almost full time as teacher-librarian now & learning this new role consumes my days. And I’ve been working at establishing a better work-life balance so haven’t been doing teachery things in the evening as much as possible.

It was high time for a new edition of Learning in the Loo. This one is all about podcasts. With my long drive to & from work I listen to a lot of talk radio and podcasts. I often hear stories that give me lesson ideas or make me think “that would be great for a [fill in the blank with a subject area] class!”. So these can be great for your personal learning. But these could also be used with students, having them listen to a clip on a certain topic as an introduction to an activity, or perhaps as a listening activity in and of itself.

Learning in the Loo.png

If you’d like to use podcasts with your students but are wondering what that might look like, maybe read what some of these teachers have tried:


Teaching the Art of Listening: How to Use Podcasts in the Classroom by Alix Mammina
(also touches on how to go the next step & get your students podcasting about local events/issues)

How Podcasts Can Improve Literacy in the Classroom by Michael Godsey
(talks about using the transcript text to allow students to read along with what they are listening to)

Past editions of Learning in the Loo can be found here.

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

#LearningInTheLoo: Reply All vs Reply Sender

I’m transitioning into my new role as Teacher-Librarian this year. Part of the role, as I see it, is to coach staff and students through pedagogical strategies and technology. I’m hoping I’ll have more time to put out regular Learning in the Loo editions . . . although I don’t think my to-do list has ever been as long as it is now in the library!

This week, I’m sharing some tips on when to use Reply All, Reply Sender & BCC:

Learning in the Loo

Past editions can be found here.

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