#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 Classroom 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)


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)

What do your students think is the purpose of school? #BFC530 #edchat

Yesterday’s #BFC530 chat was “If you polled your students about the purpose of school, what would they say?” from Ben Owens.

We all had some ideas but also admitted that we should probably actually ask our students! I told them to give me their honest answer as to why they think kids are supposed to go to school … not what they thought I’d want to hear.

The short version of their answers is this:

But if you’re interested in reading them all, here is all of the responses from my gr. 9 computers class, my grade 9 (academic & applied mixed) Math class, and my grade 10 applied (aka remedial) Math class:


Amber Grohs also asked her kindergarten students & tweeted their responses:

And Kathy Iwanicki polled her 8 year old students and wrote this post about their responses.

What do you think your students would say? Better yet – ask them & tell us what they think in the comments below!

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

Sketchnoting: what is it & how can I get started? #Sketchnote #Sketchnoting

What is sketchnoting?

If you’re a teacher on Twitter, chances are you’ve seen at least one sketchnote, if not many. What is a sketchnote?

Sketchnotes are rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines.

Mike Rhode (The Sketchnote Handbook)

The best way to figure out what makes a sketchnote? Go look through a whole lot of them! On Twitter (no account needed) look up #sketchnote to see many different examples & styles across different disciplines. Teachers in particular seem to have taken strongly to this visual note-taking method as a way of sharing ideas and tools.

You don’t have to be a fancy artist to sketchnote. In fact, sometimes simple stick figures make the best illustrations for a sketchnote! Can you draw a stick man? Then you can draw! As Mike Rohde says, sketchnotes are about “ideas, not art“.

To see some examples of the sketchnotes I’ve created, have a look here.

Why should I sketchnote?

Sketchnoting, for me, primarily serves as a way to take notes, but more visually. It helps me remember what I’ve read, heard or seen. It helps me to organize ideas. It’s primary function is as a record, for me! When I think they might also be useful to others – and turn our nice enough – I share them on Twitter so other teachers can learn from them too. I often get teachers asking if it’s OK to print them up as posters for their classrooms or staff rooms – I always say yes of course!

Having trouble building a PLN on Twitter? Create a sketchnote & share it on your Twitter account with #sketchnote. People go crazy for sketchnotes & they get retweeted & shared way more than my usual tweets.

If you’re interested in some of the research that supports an activity like sketchnoting (Dual coding theory, handwriting vs typing notes, etc.) check out Kathy Schrock’s excellent collection of background research here.

What can I sketchnote?

My suggestion to start? Ted Talk videos. Choose your favourite Ted Talk or use this one I often suggest: 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation. The advantage of sketchnoting videos to start (as opposed to live talks) is that you can rewind & replay as many times as you like to capture the ideas you want in your sketchnote.

There is no end to the things we can sketchnote:

When should I sketchnote; live or afterwards?

This is a personal choice. But to start I recommend sketchnoting after the fact or sketching things that you can pause, rewind & look back at. Sketching live during a talk is a whole other ball game, adding the stress of time constraint into the mix. But fun – so give it a shot when you’re ready!

What do I need to get started?

  • Paper
  • Writing implement; pen, marker or pencil – you choose

People often think they need an iPad and fancy stylus to make a decent sketchnote. And while many of the sketchnotes we see accompanying articles on edu-websites are made on a tablet, you absolutely don’t need one! Just grab your favourite writing implement and an 8.5 x 11 sheet of printer paper to get started. These days, my own analog toolkit is fine-tipped & regular-tipped permanent black markers and a set of crayola markers to colour, highlight & accent with. Lately I’ve been drawing in a blank paged notebook that’s maybe 6″ x 9″?

When I do work digitally I use my (now very old & cracked) iPad and a ~20$ disc-tipped stylus I bought off Amazon. On my iPad I use the Paper by FiftyThree app. For smaller drawings on my Android phone I use the Bamboo Paper app.
unnamed (1)

How do I sketchnote?

Decide on a layout: There are many different layouts you can try such as popcorn, radial, columns, paths, etc. But as an easy starter try this one:

Create a title: In big writing either at the top of the page or smack in the middle, write the title of the video, book or whatever it is you’re sketchnoting. If it’s a talk given by a person, it helps to write their name & their twitter handle too.

Now as you listen or read, write down the biggest, most important ideas and/or quotes. Try to use as few words as possible (I’m still working on that skill). Leave some room nearby for a drawing or two.

Either as you go, or afterward, add some drawings next to each idea or quote. Pick the keyword from that text & sketch it. Stuck for ideas? Search words on the Noun Project to get ideas for simple icons that are easy to draw. If you still insist you can’t possibly draw, then here’s a little something for you:

Add colour by using highlighters or markers. Either by drawing over top of black text or by colouring in your drawings, or separating ideas using coloured boxes, etc. You can use many colours, or stick to just one!

Use shapes as containers to separate and emphasize ideas.

Use lines to connect & divide ideas.

If you think you might share your work online, put your name on it somewhere (& your Twitter handle if you have one).

Check out this great sketchnote summary of the above info by Shauna Burnie:


Source: https://imperfectmasterpiece.weebly.com/blog/making-media-4-sketchnoting

Where can I share my sketchnotes?

I really encourage you, no matter how bad you think your sketchnotes are, to share them on Twitter. Or with colleagues. Or show them to a friend at the very least. Take an image of your paper sketchnotes using your cell phone and post them to Twitter with the hashtag #sketchnote!

Who can I follow to learn more?

Sylvia Duckworth gave the first sketchnoting workshop I ever attended. If you’ve seen sketchnotes on edu-blog articles, they were likely hers. She’s a force!

Marie-Andrée Ouimet gave the 2nd sketchnoting workshop I attended (with Joel Charlebois) and even let me follow her back to the final keynote for the conference to watch how she sketchnotes live on the spot. En plus, elle est animatrice d’un podcast – La Folie du Sketchnote – sur lequel elle parle avec des enseignants de toutes sortes qui sont en train d’intégrer le sketchnote soit dans leur salle de classe avec leurs élèves ou pour eux même.

Mike Rohde as the author of the seminal Sketchnote Handbook is a good follow. I like following him because he shares a lot of news and ideas on sketchnoting beyond the edu-sphere.

Wendi Pillars is the author of a great book that explores ways teachers can get their students sketchnoting in the classroom; called Visual Note-Taking for Educators.

Kathy Schrock has a great page chock-o-block full of resources related to sketchnoting worth checking out.

I hope you’ll give sketchnoting a try!
I hope you’ll come back here & share your sketchnote in the comments below.
And know that it’s normal to be frustrated by your first attempts not turning out quite as spectacular as you’d like them to.

My first try:
first try
. . . and now:
Thinking Classroom Sketchnote 14 elements

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

Top Tweets from 2017

Earlier this week I wrote a round-up of my top blog posts of the year. Today I wanted to do the same for tweets. I headed over to analytics.twitter.com to see which of my tweets had the most impressions/views & interaction/clicks.

A sketchnote I did of the George Couros keynote at our school board’s Digital Lead Learner Conference:

Two tweets as I started sketchnoting Peter Liljedahl’s research on VNPS, VRG & the Thinking Classroom:

This sketchnote of Peter’s full Thinking Classroom framework back when it had 11 elements only:

My school was chosen to host a [surprise] visit from Malala Yousafzai. I sketched some of the quotes from her talk afterwards to commemorate the event:

It’s been the year of Peter Liljedahl & the Thinking Classroom. It seems anything I post on the topic, teachers go nuts for it:

This tweet I wrote while at the OAME Conference – a quote from the first workshop I attended on day 1 – went crazy … engendering a lot of support for the idea as well as some folks who think we’ve missed the mark by moving away from memorizing & recalling:

Also from OAME:

And this one looking forward to the next OAME:

This sketchnote of Judy Larsen & Peter Liljedahl’s research on the #MTBoS community . . .

. . . which was interesting timing given the great debate of #MTBoS vs #iTeachMath that started the next day:

This sketchnote got some good traction despite posting it during summer vacation in July:

Teachers out for Pride Parade; we led the parade, just in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself:

This news from Desmos:

This idea for a 3 Act Math task I did with my gr.10 applied class. A shout-out here for drawing your own diagrams to insert into activities & tests (I used the Paper by Fifty Three app on an old iPad for this one):

A cool new tool I discovered via Alice Keeler’s blog (a must-subscribe):

Getting back on the #ObserveMe bandwagon. Even got a couple of visitors!

Sketchnote of Peter Liljedahl’s keynote at the OAME Leadership Conference in the fall:

Followed by an updated version of my Thinking Classroom sketchnote to show the now 14 elements that Peter has included in the framework:

This visual I made of a quote from our vice-principal that resonated with me:

Tweeting out the sketchnotes I made for the #DitchSummit digital conference were well received & shared:

And finally, this tweet that I sent out just last night seems to have struck a chord:

What have I noticed from all this?

  1. Peter Liljedahl’s Thinking Classroom framework – including VNPS & VRG – is still fascinating teachers all over even 3 years after I first learned about it & started to implement it in my own classroom.
  2. People go crazy for sketchnotes – something about the ability to share a complex, broad topic in one single image. You gotta’ give sketchnoting a try!
  3. All except one of my most popular tweets have images attached (and the 1 that didn’t featured a tweet by the Dan Meyer – and may have been retweeted by him – which is almost like cheating when looking for top tweets). It might also just be a biased sample since I’ve noticed over the years that tweets containing visuals of some kind seem to do better. So even for that last tweet above, which could have just contained the quote in text, I created an image for the quote. Those tweets always seem to rise above.

Thanks to everyone that has shared their tweets, read mine, retweeted, answered my questions, pushed my thinking, inspired new ideas . . . Twitter really is THE BEST PD any teacher can get!

What are your top tweets from 2017?

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

#DitchSummit 2017 #Sketchnote RoundUp!

This month was the 2nd annual digital Ditch Summit; 9 talks given via video, available for a limited time to watch until the end of the month, hosted by Matt Miller. Inspired by Jen Giffen’s sketchnotes from each of last year’s Ditch Summit talks, I decided to give it a go myself this year. So here they are:










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

OAME Leadership Conference #OAMElead


I spent Friday at the OAME annual Leadership Conference. It was a great day of learning more about Peter Liljedahl’s Thinking  Classroom framework as well as on the topic of leadership & what it looks like.


Peter Liljedahl was the keynote speaker. He outlined the (now) 14 elements of his Thinking Classroom framework for us. I had previously sketchnoted about the 11 elements he previously outlined so today I just added the 3 new elements to today’s sketchnote of his keynote:

20171110_100052-01Thinking Classroom

Next we were broken up by panel & experience level w/ Thinking Classroom. I attended the secondary intermediate/advanced session led by Al Overwijk & Jimmy Pai. We were visibly random separated into groups of 3 and given a vertical non-permanent surface to work on the problem of decomposing the number 25 into numbers that summed to 25 and finding the set of these that would generate the greatest product:

We also added to our boards the questions we still have about implementing the Thinking Classroom framework – what we are struggling with. It was a relief for many of us to see that other experienced educators that we respect are struggling with similar questions and strategies:

After lunch Jimmy Pai led a panel discussion on the topic of leadership. I did my best to capture a summary with this sketchnote:


After the panel were two breakout sessions for the secondary panel; one by Mary Bourassa which involved immersing ourselves as students in a round of Desmos Parabola Slalom and a session about great problems to spark learning by Kyle Pearce & Jon Orr:


It was a great day of connecting & learning. A big round of 👏applause👏 to OAME president Jill Lazarus and the team for putting the day together:

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


Learning in the Loo: Google Classroom edition

Today I prepared the year’s first edition of Learning in the Loo for my school all about what’s new in Google Classroom this year. The topic was inspired by the most recent episode of the Google Teacher Tribe podcast (worth subscribing to if you’re into podcasts!).

Learning in the Loo (1).png

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

What drives the Collective Knowing & Learning of the #MTBoS community?

#MTBoS: The Math Twitter Blog-o-sphere.

Do you participate? Contribute? Creep? Math teachers seem to have carved out a particular niche using Twitter & blogs to share & learn from each other in order to better our teaching. Teachers in other subject areas are often wondering, why doesn’t this exist for my subject? How exactly does one instigate & support a #MTBoS for a different subject area? Why are so many Math teachers so engaged in this professional learning community via social media?

Judy Larsen & Peter Liljedahl put together a research paper that looks into some of the ways that the #MTBoS promotes interactions & learning among those teachers participating in it. And I sketchnoted their article:


Stimulating sustainable mathematics teacher collaboration can be challenging in many commonly found professional development contexts. Despite this, an unprompted, unfunded, unmandated, and largely unstudied mathematics teacher community has emerged where mathematics teachers use social media to communicate about the teaching and learning of mathematics. This paper presents an analysis of one episode where teachers engage in a prolonged exchange about responding to a common mathematical error. Analytical tools drawn from complexity theory are used to explain moments of productivity. Results indicate that enough redundancy and diversity among members is necessary to make conversations productive. Identified sources of redundancy indicate the ‘taken-as-shared’ values of this group.

Full article available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316994276_Exploring_generative_moments_of_interaction_between_mathematics_teachers_on_social_media [accessed Jul 27, 2017].

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