Reblog! Short and Sweet: A Comparison of URL Shorteners

One of my favorite people, Amy Roediger, is not only a smart, funny and sweet person, she is also apparently a mind reader. This week on her blog, A Lever and A Place to Stand, she wrote about URL shortners–the very same topic I had planned to write about tonight! I considered covering one or two, but her post is much more comprehensive than what I had “written” in my head. She’s graciously agreed to let me reblog it below. Thanks Amy! Enjoy.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Short and Sweet: A Comparison of URL Shorteners

Last weekend I mentioned in a post that I had taught a Google class that finished with a “what’s the one thing you can’t wait to share” Slides show. A couple of the class participants selected shortening URLs as their one thing. A URL is a Uniform Resource Locator or, in regular words, the web address you type to get to a website. A URL shortener allows users to take a long, crazy web address and shorten it down to fewer characters that are easier to type and remember. For teachers, this means we can get down to business faster.

In the class, I used the Google URL shortener, Since the class is about Google, I feel compelled to use as many Google tools as possible. There are many other URL shorteners, though, so I thought I would compare a few of my favorites in chart form. As you will see, they all have slightly different attributes. Which one you choose will depend on what you need.

Here is a bonus one-sentence “loves me, loves me not” summary of them too.

I love that is associated with my Google account and that a QR code is created when I shorten it, but I don’t love that Google uses O and 0 and I, l, and 1 that all look alike in fonts without serifs.

I love the allows for customization and analytics.

I love that allows for customization but I don’t love that there isn’t an account to search previously shortened URLs.

I love that allows me to cluster several URLs and shorten them together (this would be so great for school projects with students), but I don’t love that the account seems finicky.

I love that is simple and easy and integrates with other Twitter tools.

In the reflection papers that the Google participants wrote, several mentioned how handy a shortened URL would be in their classrooms. In fact, one teacher wrote:

My students, who are fourth graders, some of whom are extremely low, struggle to type in those long web addresses.  And then, once they get the address typed, they have missed a period or a put in a space and all of their work is for naught.  Their hand goes up and there they sit until I can rescue them from their long wait and point out their error.  Time lost is learning lost.

I love that the URL shortener will create more time for learning.

Follow Amy for more awesome content. great for subs, and E-Rate compliance

My lovely fiance gave me a virus last week, and I’ve been out of school a couple of days recovering. Luckily, preparing for a sub isn’t too taxing, especially with my rosters and assignments already set up for just such an occasion. Post the link on Google Classroom, and bam, finished. offers online lessons with auto-grading. (It also has discussion and journal options). Students watch an animated story and answer questions (multiple choice, fill in the blank, drag and drop) as the plot progresses. Lessons include Cyber-bullying, Blogs, Internet Essentials, Composing Emails, Sending Emails and more. Having students do this while I am away is ideal, because it is easy for any sub to manage, and doesn’t require technical expertise or content knowledge. I know I can’t be the only technology teacher that isn’t comfortable leaving plans that rely on a unknown substitute!

The Ohio Department of Education has purchased this program for use in all pubic K-12 districts (and non-public charters). You can find out if your district has already registered, how complies with E-Rate and CIPA, and more here. I suggest getting your roster put together and assigning lessons ahead of time, so that when you get sick, it will be quick and easy to get those sub plans finished.

UPDATE: 2 days after publishing this post, I got the following email, which I have permission to share.


There is still time to get your students started with the Easy Tech Online Safety Curriculum. Whether you are preparing for a possible E-Rate audit, needing to offer standards based lessons on cyberbullying and online safety, or just wanting to send additional district personnel to a workshop to learn how to implement it, this upcoming March 7 hands-on workshop is for you.

INFOhio is hosting an additional workshop March 7 from 9-2 on this powerful curriculum and its new mobile app, available for free to ALL Ohio schools, public and private, through the Ohio Department of Education.

Learn how your AUP needs to be revised and about the 3 key pieces of data you need to collect to be ready for an eRate audit! Since 2012 schools have been required to

  • provide education for Appropriate Online Behavior and Cyberbullying for students,
  • state that they are providing the education in their AUP and
  • be able to provide documentation for the lessons to be compliant for eRate requirements.

Learn how the EasyTech Online Safety Curriculum provides the lessons, resources and documentation for these changes at no cost to Ohio schools. Join Tricia Kluener from Ross Local Schools to see how these changes can be implemented in your district.

The Easy Tech Online Safety curriculum not only meets but exceeds those requirements, covering topics on appropriate online behavior, keeping personal information safe and cyberbullying awareness with lessons, journaling and discussions. All the assesments and reporting necessary to meet the national E-Rate requirements for student Internet safety training are included along with a learning management system, a mobile app, and numerous resources for teachers and parents.

In the first semester of this school year 309,876 students across Ohio have been enrolled in the EasyTech Online Safety Curriculum for K-12? There’s still plenty of time to enroll your students!

Find out how you can successfully implement the curriculum in your school the upcoming hands-on workshop, March 7, at OhioNET, 1500 W. Lane Ave., Columbus.

 Register yourself and additional district personnel now at

To find information on the curriculum and the E-Rate requirements, go to

To sign your district up for the EasyTech curriculum, go to

We recommend that someone in technical support be your district’s key contact on the registration form.

To learn more about this curriculum and see if it’s right for your district before registering, check out INFOhio’s recorded webinar on EasyTech at



A Sheet(y) View, Improved

“Oh my goodness, that’s awesome!” said a fellow Building Level Team member when viewing the spreadsheet created from a Google Form. He was genuinely excited and surprised to find out that the data collected from the survey was automatically organized. Our BLT wanted to view individual responses, but since the default settings in a sheet are not ideal for that task, I made a few quick changes to improve the clarity. Knowing how you can (and that you can!) do the following in sheets will make your eyes smile.

  1. Freeze Rows or Columns
  2. Adjust column width
  3. Wrap text
  4. Show Summary of Responses/Explore (Automatically created Charts and Graphs! So magical.)

Use playlist button to switch between videos.

Utilize TabResize, guys

My fiance has a 3 monitor monstrosity, so he can comfortably view many windows at once. (Or, I can catch up on my Hulu while he works on the remaining two screens.) Schools can’t afford this kind of luxury, so we make do with one screen per device. My students found a sweet little extension to help them see two windows at the same time, like this.

If you or your students want to do this too, get TabResize. It’s possible to accomplish the feat without the extension, but why make life harder?

TabResize can break your tabs into any number of configurations. Here are some suggested options.

Recently, students used TabResize to watch YouTube on the left, and type in a document on the right side of their screen. It was much more efficient than switching back and forth! Watch how:


Google Forms Advanced Video Playlist

For my snow day, I decided to finish up my video series on Google Forms. In the advanced playlist below, you can see how to add section titles, pictures, videos, and sections (which are actually different pages). You can learn how to make respondents jump to different sections (different pages of the form) depending on their answer to a multiple choice or drop down question. Finally, and most importantly, you can learn how to add collaborators. Two heads are better than one, right?

Remember, click the jump button  to jump to different sections.

And here’s a post on how to best view your data.


Google Forms Video Series

  1. Collect data
  2. Analyze data
  3. Take action based on data

All teachers and administrators need to follow these 3 steps. Completing the first two efficiently gets us to the most important step more quickly. Google Forms allows us to create highly customized surveys, questionnaires and assessments in minutes, send them out in seconds, and analyze much of the resulting data instantly. Also, it’s free.  Learning to do all of this will take you under 12 minutes.

The video playlist below shows how to start a Google Form, what all the question types are, additional options for questions and the form itself, how to send it out, and how to find and analyze the results. If you want to skip around within the playlist, click on the 1/17 in the top left corner.

I will be making more videos about the advanced features of Google Forms, but this will get you started. Let me know if you have any questions!

Ready for the advanced options? Need to know how to view your data in a visually appealing way? Check the linked posts.



DIY Chromebook Cart

We don’t have much money in our district, so creativity is required. This week, I rigged this ridiculousness up with a regular tripod, gallon freezer bag with hole cut in it, an aluminum tray and a bunch of rubber bands scavenged from the teacher’s lounge.


It’s now an iPad mini tripod, that will be used on Friday to record the spelling bee. I’m pretty proud of myself. This DIY item hasn’t been tested yet, but our Chromebook carts have.


We’ve had carts for teachers to sign out for a couple of years now, and since buying one outright costs over $1000, we improvised and saved money. I wasn’t involved in the original setup or purchase of the carts we have so I can’t say for sure how much, but looking at the cost of the materials used, it must be substantial. Through trial and error, and collaboration with colleagues, we’ve improved on the original concept, and have a solid design. The high school sent over 2 Chromebook carts for us to borrow, so I got them into shape–middle school style–the past couple of days. I have no before picture, but this is how I feel about it:

Before: before


It may not look like much, but it makes me happy, because it works!


If you need a lower cost cart too, first buy a rolling file cart. Overstock sells the model we’re using for $180.99. Safco-Scoot-Mobile-File-with-Locking-Top-466e045c-9a5b-44d6-994e-23bcc6820cde_600

We have a APC Back UPS 550 ($57 on Amazon) on the bottom shelf, along with 4 basic power strips. 81Ap6jVpkTL._SL1500_wp-1452111215833.jpg

Each Chromebook cord is plugged in to the strip, and then velcroed and/or zip tied to the sides and front. wp-1452111199851.jpg

If I were you, I’d just get 2 zip ties per charger and forget about the velcro backing. (It is sticky, time consuming, and unnecessary). Place a zip tie through the bottom row of holes to secure and provide a base. Then add another tie on the 2nd or 3rd row to hold the charger tightly against the cart. Roll up and velcro most of the slack on the cord.

Next get some Smead Tuff hanging folders. It’s worth paying more for the extra tough ones, because the metal bars are stronger, and will last longer than the regular folders.wp-1452111210938.jpg

Take out the quantity you need, and tape them together at the top. Before the redesign, we didn’t tape the folders, and kids would put Chromebooks between folders instead of inside. Then they’d slip underneath all the folders or be more difficult to charge. Eliminate the option. Place the taped folders inside the cart.

Finally, get medium sized binder clips, and clip each charger between the cylinder and charger head as shown below.wp-1452111186869.jpg

By clipping in this way, there will be no slack to get tangled (and subsequently untangled)! Ahh, I love that fact best.wp-1452111206462.jpg


EasyBib Extension Makes Citing Sources Simple

Teaching middle school students how to do the research process is tough, but important. They are unfamiliar with almost every aspect–using advanced search techniques to find relevant information, evaluating those sources, putting facts in their own words without inadvertently plagiarizing–but properly citing sources in MLA format is not only an alien concept, it requires a meticulousness that few adults possess. Thankfully, EasyBib extension is available to automate and break down creating a Works Cited page into manageable bits.

Here’s the intro video from the makers of EasyBib:

And below is my first attempt at showing my students how to use it. I redid this video for my quarter 2 students, and I’m hoping to nail it for quarter 3. (I don’t have my mic with me today, so I can’t record Q3’s video with good or even reasonable audio quality, although I would like to.) In any case, though it isn’t perfect, my video walks through getting on a website, using EasyBib extension to create a citation, and then exporting the formatted Works Cited.

If only this existed while I was in college, I’d have used more sources when writing my papers. Anyone else avoid using more sources because citations were so time consuming/fear inducing? That doesn’t need to be the case any more. Please share this valuable (but free!) extension with teachers and students alike!

Time: spend it well

Time. The lack, or mismanagement of it, is what holds us back from doing the things we really want to do. On technology and other surveys conducted in my district, time is always mentioned on the questions like, What’s the biggest obstacle to implementing X?  or What else do you need to do X? I don’t have time to check out every single tech tool that I’m interested in, because:

  1. I’m interested in so many, that it is literally impossible
  2. I am unwilling to upset the balance on time spent in other enjoyable pursuits

I’ve spent nearly 100 hours on this blog since last April, when I started it. (98 hours, according to the blog logs I keep in Google Sheets, so I can get credit from Lake Erie College). There’s one thing I do, that I get flack for doing, that gives me some extra hours to be able to write. If you want more time, and you can swing this thing, do it! Don’t worry about the naysayers, it’s your life.

Hire cleaners.

This morning, on my first day of Christmas break, instead of feeling obligated to clean my house (as I only would have time to truly scrub and tidy all rooms on days when I am off work, and at home instead of instead of in Cleveland with my fiance Igor), I was able to go into the woods, for over an hour of wandering and restoring my sense of peace.

A photo posted by Giovanna Orlando (@gorland2) on

On my way home, I stopped at the library and found a book that my sister recommended, and a new one in a series I started reading last year. I love reading, and have to put off reading anything too good before bed on school nights, or else I don’t go to sleep at a reasonable hour.


This afternoon, I started the 3 hour process of replicating my mom’s homemade sauce and meatballs, to share with my soon-to-be in-laws on Christmas Eve. It is simmering on the stove now. I’ve had to get up to stir it at least 3 times since starting this post.

All of these things, I was able to do guilt-free in part because the house is already clean. Yesterday when I mentioned the cleaners at our staff Christmas party, one lady was surprised and said, “But your house is so little!” and “I feel bad for Igor.” Yes, I have a small house, but to clean it well takes me over 3 hours. I don’t get a sense of accomplishment from it. I want it done, but I don’t want to do it myself. And as for the comment about Igor, well, he has all 4 limbs and a brain just like I do, so he’s perfectly capable of cleaning just as well as I am. Or paying for cleaning. He and I, we’re alike in that we like a clean space, and do fine with maintaining cleanliness, but we’d rather spend our time in ways other than doing deep cleaning.

Look at how you are spending your time, and evaluate if that aligns with what you truly value. (Like, I played Farmville when I was in college and that was a black hole that I realized I needed to escape after a few weeks. I avoid Pinterest for the same reason). If you find that you spend too much time doing things that aren’t making you happy or don’t make you feel productive, figure out what you can do to get yourself doing things you really love or want to be doing. Outsource the rest. Don’t feel bad about it. Think of it as a gift to yourself (and your family/colleagues/students/etc.) Merry Christmas!!

NEOTIE Magazine, Issue 2

Still looking for a gift for your favorite technophile, technophobe, or techbetween? The new issue of NEOTIE Magazine, Simple, but Effective Technology Ideas, is out in time for the holidays! I can think of no better theme.

I’ve got an article in there on page 12 titled Making Use of Color Coding that is applicable for teachers K-12+. Check it out! Shout out to John and Mac for modeling in the pictures, Megan Cameron for her quote, and @JaelitheRuss for her legit and timely editing.

There is a lot of good information in there, so browse away to find what’s relevant to you. I personally love the hilarious pictures in @SeanWhelanTech’s Rule the Device, and the curated lists in Who To Follow?? on Twitter.

Most unexpectedly, I am pretty sure I can say I’m a centerfold now…along with my fellow Ignite Speakers, the smart, beautiful, and talented @AnnRad21, @PHS_STEM, and @AmyRoediger.NEOTIE Magazine Issue 2 picture