#3ActMath – What is it?

I learned about a great tool this past weekend at the Ontario Summit; Adobe Spark video. A huge shoutout to Rushton Hurley for the introduction to this tool. It’s a super fast & easy way to combine photos, videos & text and narrate over top of it to create a seamless professional looking video.

I tried my hand and created one about 3ActMath lesson style. Give it a watch & let me know what you think:

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

Google Summit w/ #EdTechTeam

This past weekend I presented at EdTechTeam’s summit in Rosemere, QC. Their summits are designed to immerse teachers in EdTech for the weekend, learning all about the Gsuite tools (formerly GAFE; Google Apps for Education). Here are my sketchnotes from the weekend:

My pen & paper notes from the sessions I attended:


My digital sketchnotes from the 3 keynote speakers:

Jeffery Heilimg_1954

Jason MarkeyIMG_1959.PNG

Emily Fitzpatrickimg_1962

Finally, I presented about Pear Deck:Pear Deck (2).PNG

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

Student-Paced mode in @PearDeck for #3ActMath tasks

This summer Pear Deck announced the introduction of student-paced mode; the ability for the teacher to allow students to work through the slide deck at their own pace. This is a feature I enjoyed in the Desmos activities I’d been building for graphing (interesting also that Desmos introduced their teacher-paced mode around the same time that Pear Deck introduced student-paced; both platforms now offering both pacing options).

Not sure what Pear Deck is or does? Watch this quick video before reading further:

How to turn on student-paced mode:

Click the 3-dot menu icon on the bottom right of your screen while presenting your Pear Deck, and the option to turn student-paced mode on (or off later) will be there:file-DY4DfcYV8V.png

How do I use student-paced mode?

Most of the activities I do in my math class are in the style of 3 Act Math (a concept put forth by Dan Meyer).

Act 1 consists of present my students with a scenario via photo or video & asking them

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder?

Then I show them the problem I’ve chosen for the day (usually it’s one that most kids write down for “what do you wonder?” since I’ve carefully selected the scenario to lend itself to asking the question I want based on our learning goal).

  • Estimate the answer: too high, too low, best guess?

Act 1 happens via Pear Deck in TEACHER-paced mode. Students are at their seats in their visibly random groups for the day assigned by playing cards. They use their own phone or a loaned chromebook (I have 6 that live in my classroom) to answer these questions on Pear Deck. We often have a quick class discussion here too about reasonable estimates and their strategies for that. I, as the teacher, am choosing when to move the slides forward for the entire group.

Act 2 consists of sending each group to their assigned vertical non-permanent surface (ie. chalkboard or whiteboard) to solve the problem. Often groups also need to do some data collection or measurement here in order to solve the problem.

At this point I have a slide with the original picture & the problem to solve written on it projected on the board while the groups are solving. The moment the first group to finish solving heads back to their seats, this is when I turn on STUDENT-paced mode. The rest of the slides will be follow up questions to reflect on their solution or to apply their thinking to extension problems. Students work on these at their own pace at their own desk.

When all groups are done and back at their seats, I lead a class discussion about the solutions from each group using the 5 practices for orchestrating productive mathematics discussions. During or after this discussion, we might also look at some of the responses to specific follow up questions on Pear Deck. If we do, I turn OFF the student-paced mode to bring everybody’s screen back to whichever one we are discussing.

Act 3 consists of checking our answer either in real life (as we did for the cup stacking activity) or by showing a video or image answer (as we did for the phone charge activity).

Normally, in Pear Deck, there is a projected screen being shown on the board to the whole class by the teacher. The students see a “response” screen on their own device that is different than the one being projected. When in student-paced mode, the student can see both the content slide AND The student response slide on their own device. On a tablet or laptop the two screens are shown side by side when in student-paced mode:IMG_1923.PNG
When using a smaller device such as a phone or iPod, the student will see a blue bar across the bottom of the screen allowing them to toggle back and forth between the “content” & “response” screens:

Have you used student-paced mode in Pear Deck yet? Share in the comments below how you use it with your own students!

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

Remind App for Communication

This week’s #OttSlowChat question is about apps or websites that teachers find useful. I created a sketchnote to share why I love using Remind to communicate with students & parents.


Use Remind to communicate with:

  • students
  • parents
  • colleagues

People can choose to receive your messages via:

  • text message
  • the Remind app
  • email

You can choose between:

  • 1-way announcements
  • 2-way communication
    (you can set “office hours” to manage the time of day during which 2-way communication can occur)

You can send messages to:

  • the entire class
  • a small group within the class
  • an individual in the class

Send a message:

  • now
  • later (using the scheduler)

You can attach:

  • images
  • audio clips

Students will NEVER see your phone number!

I use it to communicate with the students in my classes as well as those in clubs and on sports teams that I work with. A very handy app!

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

#EdInnovation2016 Recap

I attended the EdInnovation summit this past weekend in Ottawa to present on behalf of Pear Deck. This was the first year that this conference was run by a new organization team (in the past it was an EdTech Team event). There were over 1200 teachers from all of the major (& not so major) school boards in the Ottawa area. The conference is bilingual; in fact 3 of the 5 workshops that I attended were in French! Here are my sketchnote summaries of the keynotes & workshops I attended:

Chris Hadfield keynote


The A-Z of Generation Z by Jean Marc Dupont

EdInnovation2016 Jean Marc Dupont Gen Z.PNG

Pedagogical Documentation by Chantal Picard & Johanne Ste-Croix

EdInnovation2016 Pedagogical Documentation.PNG

Leading & Learning & the Modern Administrator by Jim Jamieson

EdInnovation Digital Leader Administrator (1).PNG

Google Cardboard & Google Street View keynote by John Bailey

EdInnovation2016 Google Cardboard.PNG

GAFE tools to support research & make thinking visible by Jim Jamieson


and last but not least, my own session on Pear Deck:

Pear Deck Sketchnote.png

Keep an eye on this conference if you work in the Ottawa area; it’s a good one!

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

My Favourite: Desmos! #MTBoS

While I’m not technically participating in the Explore MTBoS blogging initiative, I have been reading others’ posts & liked this idea of writing about “my favourite” something. I also realised that I haven’t ever posted about the ways I incorporate Desmos into my class except in passing when describing the activities we’ve done in class. So here is a list of the ways I use & love Desmos w/ my students:


Desmos New.PNG

New sketchnote created 2016.11.03

Basic Graphing & Solving Problems

Here’s an expectation from my grade 10 applied math class:Capture
The old way: Graph by hand by making a table of values & interpret the graph. Or learn the more difficult algebra for solving for zeros, etc.

The Desmos way: Use Desmos to graph the equation given & identify key points in order to solve problems such as maximum height, landing distance, etc.Capture

Investigating with Desmos:

Here is an example of a curriculum expectation for my grade 10 academic math class:Capture
The old way: 
– Draw graphs of many different equations by hand to compare & conclude
– Use school-loaned TI-83 to graph multiple equations, compare & conclude

The Desmos way:
Have students use sliders to see in real time the effects of the various parameters.CaptureAnd the best part is you don’t even have to make one yourself. Just search “vertex form” in the handy dandy search bar to get a pre-made graph to use right away:

Regression Models

The old way:
In past years I was reluctant move to far towards Demos from our TI-83 graphing calculators because the TI’s regression models were useful to my students. Especially in the applied class where the focus is less on algebraic manipulation and more on understanding & problem solving, being able to use the TI-83 to find the equation given a table of values was great. However, it did require some serious steps to follow on the graphing calculator.

The Desmos way:
Desmos makes linear & quadratic regressions easy for my students. Input your table of values, and one line of “code” . . . et voilà! Click here for a tutorial from Desmos.Capture

Activity Builder

Often when I do a 3 act math problem with my classes, for example a linear pattern problem, they solve using a table of values. I’m happy that they’ve selected & implemented a valid strategy. Perhaps not the most efficient, but the one that makes the most sense to them at the time. But the curriculum asks them to use a graph & equation to solve these problems.

The old way: So I used to create worksheets that asked students to draw a graph the data points, determine an equation, etc. the day after the 3 act math to ensure that we explored all the possible strategies for solving the problem. I would then do some direct teaching pointing out how the graph & equation relates to their table of value solutions so they could see the parallels between them.

The Desmos way: For years Desmos has been creating pre-built activities you can run with your classes; Polygraph, Marbleslides, etc. But new this year is that you can build your own activities with the activity builder. So I’ve been making online “worksheets” where each student can work through the activity using Desmos to create a graph and perform a regression to find the equation for the relation. Click here for a Desmos activity I created to consolidate our learning after the Toothpick Triangles activity. The dashboard allows you to see the work of each student:Capture.JPG

Testing with Desmos

So far this year, I’ve allowed my students their phones, a loaned iPad from me, or a loaned Chromebook from me on tests (in replacement of the TI-83 they used to be allowed during evaluations). They have to cover all camera lenses with paper & masking tape. They are supposed to only use their calculator app & the Desmos app. But I know of at least one student that has used an app that will expand/factor quadratics for her. I would be fine with that if I could make the questions harder (more critical thinking than calculation) but the course has a board-wide exam so my hands are tied.

The exam for that class will be this Friday (in 2 days). And this morning I’ve been experimenting with iOS guided access mode in which I can lock them into 1 app only (Desmos) as well as Android’s Surelock app in which I can lock them into multiple apps (calculator & Desmos) with my own password. I am thinking I will try this for the exam on Friday; no other apps, no internet access.

Have I missed any ways that you use Desmos in your classes?
Share them in the comments below.

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

Screencasting Descriptive Feedback

This week in our monthly staff meeting, my colleague John Serroul shared with us his experiences screencasting descriptive feedback on his students’ assignments. And since I’ve been obsessing over sketchnoting lately, I decided to put together a sketchnote summarizing his PD for us:IMG_1461 (1).PNGI made this using the Paper by FiftyThree app for iPad.

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

When Technology Isn’t the Best Tool for the Job

I am considered “techy” by my colleagues. In my class we make use of my students’ own devices or a set of 6 chromebooks they can borrow from me on an almost daily basis. We use Pear Deck & Kahoot a lot.

But technology isn’t always the best tool for the job. A lesson plan should always start with a learning goal in mind, and then you should select the best tool to get you there; be it a digital tool or not. Allow me to share an example of when technology was NOT the best tool for the job.

In spring of 2014, I learned about Peter Liljedahl’s research and started using Visibly Random Groups in my classroom the very next day; each day students are placed in different random groups – visibly (no rigging the groups ahead of time by the teacher). Being the techy sort that I am I found a website in which I could paste the names of my students & it would make groups for me; Team Maker.Capture

But I quickly noticed a number of drawbacks to using a digital team making tool:

  • I had to have a class list of names saved in notepad, had to open up the list in notepad & then copy & paste the list into the team maker site.
  • Sometimes the majority of one group would be absent that day leaving one person there (I like groups of 3).
  • I could wait ’till the bell & delete the names of absent students but that means having everyone get up & change seats after the bell rings.

I stuck with it a week or two but wasn’t loving the system. So I decided to go old school & bought a deck of cards for each class at the dollar store. The table groups in my class are numbered from 1 to 8. So I would take out 3 of each of those card numbers from the deck – these are what I hand out to students as they enter. I place them in order A(1), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on …. As students arrive they get the next card in the deck – no arguing – and proceed to that group of desks. If only 2/3 of my class is present that day then each group gets 2 people. This avoided the problem with the website where I’d have some groups of 3s and other groups with just 1 person there & then have to shuffle people around manually. I’ve been using the playing card system for a year and half now & it still works great for my students & I.

There are many times when technology can help us get to our learning goal more easily. For example, having students explore the parameters of m and b in the linear equation using Desmos sliders is phenomenal; way better than graphing calculators or paper & pencil graphing. Less time spent drawing graphs, more time exploring & drawing conclusions about the parameters in question. But let’s make sure that we are always starting with our learning goal in mind first, and choosing our tool second. Because sometimes old school “technology” (paper & pencil, blackboard, etc) might be the better tool for the job.

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

Wireless Keyboard

At $50, this might just be one of the best investments in my classroom recently: a wireless computer keyboard:
Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

In the above picture you can see in the back corner, just to the left of the classroom door, is my “teacher desk”. On it sits the desktop computer that is hooked up to my projector. But the projector points at a screen that is behind where I’m standing in this photo; across the room from the computer. This means that when I’m teaching, if I need to type, switch tabs, manipulate anything on screen I have to go to the other side of the room from where my students are looking. So I wind up talking to the backs of their heads while they look at the screen.

Now, I don’t spend a ton of time teaching from the “front” of the room. We do a lot of group work. But it’s still inconvenient. I had partly solved the problem for powerpoints by purchasing a clicker that allows me to move the slides ahead from across the room. This was most useful for my teaching at uOttawa this past semester. But the other day in my high school classroom, I was leading the students through a linear regression problem on the graphing calculator. I had the graphing calculator software on the screen but had to be behind where my students were looking in order to manipulate it.

So I had an idea to purchase a wireless keyboard & mouse set.

Originally, I bought this Insignia set at Best Buy in Ottawa for $40:
But when I got it all set up on a rolling cart (needed a surface for the mouse to be on), it wouldn’t work all the way across my classroom despite claiming a range of 30 feet. I tried halfway across the room and it would only work sometimes, losing contact w/ the computer every minute or so. Well, that’s no good!

So I went back to Best Buy, but the location in Gatineau. Returned the crappy one & looked around for a replacement. I found this beauty: 
This one has been awesome! A bit more expensive, although as of this morning it’s on sale until Thursday. The mouse is integrated into the keyboard which means I don’t need to set it on a surface for it to work. The keyboard is light so I can easily move around the room with it in my hands. And this one works in every corner of my classroom! I can walk around the desks, stand near the front, even hand the keyboard to a student to have them work on the board with it.

If I had my way, I’d set up every classroom with one of these babies!

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