An Abundance of Thanks

On Thanksgiving Eve, I’ve been thinking about what I am thankful for. Besides the obvious things, like indoor plumbing, streaming video, and dark chocolate, there are people, like my fiance and my family members whom I love and treasure beyond measure. But, since this is an educational technology blog, I want to share with my readers those people who mean most to me in that realm. The following people have helped me professionally and personally, and I want to say thanks in this post.

Ken Veon

Just out of college, and before I had secured a job in education, Ken helped me practice interviewing. He was principal at my old elementary school at the time, and now is at Beachwood as Director of Operations and Technology. Even though that was nearly a decade ago, Ken has kept me in the loop with job openings and advice throughout the years. He has helped build my confidence and standing in the Northeast Ohio EdTech community, and I am so grateful for his longstanding support.

Sean Whelan

I applied and interviewed for a Technology Integrationist position at West Geauga a few years ago, and was sad to get the call that they went with the internal candidate instead of me. The following spring, I was curious to know how that new position was working out, so I emailed the superintendent and asked if I could contact the person who got my dream job. He gave me Sean’s information and I contacted him right away about job shadowing him over my spring break.  We connected over half a day together at various schools in West G, and I found Sean to be so gracious and generous with his time. After that, we have kept in touch, and I still go to Sean to talk over ideas and prepare for interviews. I consider him to be both a mentor and a friend, and I’m truly thankful for the positive relationship I gained from not getting that job.

Andreas Johansson

I met Andreas, Kenston’s Director of Technology Integration, in February 2015, at the first ever NEOTIE conference. We’ve run in to each other IRL at multiple conferences and meetings, and kept in touch on Twitter. Like Ken and Sean, Andreas has unselfishly given his time to help me with my pursuits. When I agreed to provide professional development via Google Hangouts on Air to a school south of Columbus, Andreas met with me at a Panera one afternoon so I could get the hang of it before the big day. He hosts this very blog. He asked me to give the Ignite Speech at the 2nd NEOTIE conference, giving me a bigger stage to voice my thoughts than I’d ever had, and a vote of confidence that I was worth listening to. That’s what I am most thankful for about Andreas.


Although my dad, Nick Orlando, isn’t involved as much with technology in Buckeye Local Schools anymore, he has always supported me and been my cheerleader. He introduced me to Ken, and encouraged me to introduce myself to Andreas. In my own district, Shaun Spence and I have shared the technology co-coordinator role for a couple of years now. It’s great to be able to rely on someone to share the load. He also forwards me the same emails that my dad does…applications for conferences and committees that would help me grow. Jaymee Wittlock is the Tech Director at Cardinal, and she’s taken me under her wing. I’m her “intern”, and I love getting to spend part of early-release Wednesdays fixing Chromebooks, creating resources for our teachers, and getting to know what her day-to-day is like. Amy Roediger, tech coach and teacher in Mentor, is hilarious, sweet, and smart. One day, she shared my blog with her Lake Erie College students, and I had so many views! It was a mystery why my count went up so high until I saw her at the SPARCC conference in August and she shared that story with me. Her promotion of my blog was touching and I was so excited to know that other people were finding my writing useful. I recently spent the day with her at WVIZ’s Technology and Learning Conference and I hope we will get to hang out again soon!

Thank you all!

I am blessed to have so many wonderful people in my corner. I hope you realize how much you are appreciated.

To follow:


WVIZ Tech and Learning Conference

Today I attended and presented (on Google Classroom) at WVIZ’s Tech and Learning conference. Usually after conferences, I feel like there are so many things I want to look in to, but then, I only ever get around to one or two. I thought it might help if I immediately made a list that I could return to later. Also, in case you couldn’t go, I could help you find something useful! Since I don’t know much about these things, they will just be links and maybe a sentence description.


How Video Killed the Red Pen: Using YouTube to Explain Complex Concepts.


Draw My Life

One Minute, One Take

Orthodox Teaching Disrupted by Innovation

As seen on Twitter with #wvized


Note: I love using Twitter at conferences. (You can follow me @gorland2) I wish the hashtag would have been promoted better though! The picture at the top came from @AmyRoediger


Up Your Vid Game with eduCanon

My friend and colleague Shaun Spence shared eduCanon with our staff at the beginning of this school year, and I was immediately excited about it. It’s a website where you can find and create “Video Bulbs”–videos with questions built in at particular times. Their tag-line is “Deeply engage learners and accountably measure understanding”.

Here’s a 3 minute Video Bulb of Kid President that you can watch to see the possibilities. With a free account, you can add multiple choice questions, free response, and reflective pauses. If you upgrade to a paid account at $89/year, you add in Check all that apply, Skip Segment, Website and Fill in blank. eduCanon question types

The free options are just fine for my purposes. I’ve used eduCanon to have some of my 2nd quarter students watch and think about a video called “Why You Need to Fail” by Derek Sivers. If you’re curious about that, you can check it out below. (In the first quarter, I had them watch that video and take notes using It shows a video on the left and has a time-stamped note-taking feature on the right. But when I found out about eduCanon, I thought it would work better for the assignment). 

As they watched and answered in eduCanon, I was able to use the Monitor tool to see their progress, and grade the extended responses. Multiple choice are graded automatically. As you can probably guess, green=correct, pink=incorrect, and grey=not finished yet. Orange means they answered, but I haven’t graded. The whole grading process took much less time than I expected, because I was able to focus on one question at a time, instead of grading one kid’s entire assignment. Plus, I didn’t have to wait for them to be done with the whole video. So, I finished grading everything just after the last kid finished answering! I also caught one girl who was skipping the extended responses by typing a space, and was able to redirect her to go back and change those non-answers. With a traditional grading system, I wouldn’t have been able to correct that issue as quickly.eduCanon Monitor

You can also reset the bulb for individual students, that way, they can try again if they do poorly the first time around, or if they just enjoyed it that much and want to re-watch and answer. I had a couple of students take this option, and I love that it fits in with what the video is trying to teach them.

Setting up my class lists was simple, because eduCanon and Google Classroom work well together. Other friendly entities include Schoology, Edmodo, Moodle, Blackboard and more. Students can use single sign-on with Google or Clever, or sign up with a class code. If none of those work for you, upload a spreadsheet roster instead.

One way to use this that I haven’t tried yet is to take one of my own videos (created with Screencastify) and eduCanon-ify it. The level of relevance of content created for my students in that way could be swoon-worthy! But remember, you can start slowly, by assigning Video Bulbs that are already created. There are some really wonderful bulbs out there.

I feel like this is one of those things where you might think, “Cool, I’ll have to look into that when I have time.” And I totally understand that feeling. But carve out even just 10 minutes to play around with eduCanon. It’s really fun! More importantly, it’s a way to get your students engaged with the content.



Quarter Query

As a “specials” teacher of 9 week courses, I get to have the first day 4 times a year. Today was my 2nd first day, with a whole new batch of students. What’s great about this is I have a chance to improve upon my 1st quarter units and lessons. Or completely abandon what didn’t work and isn’t worth fixing. I’m not just making these decisions alone though, because I asked my Q1 students some questions to guide my practice in Q2.

I’ve written a similar post in the past. It has the technical info on how to create a Google Form to collect students’ reflections on their learning and your teaching. I’ve learned some things since then though, and that’s why I’m writing about this again.

This year, I thought to mention to my students that it’s customary in college to take an end-of-course survey to help the teacher make the course better. (I don’t know if that’s what they actually get used for, but it’s a good story.) It makes the kids feel important and valued. All people love to be asked their opinion. I was a little nervous about my 8th graders taking the survey for a chance to be funny and ridiculous, but I was pleasantly surprised by their honest, legitimate critiques and by some of the nice things they wrote that I’m sure they’d have never said aloud to me. They will take it seriously and give you real answers, don’t worry.

It was interesting to see the answers to “What are some things have you learned in this class?” I could see trends in what stood out to them the most and what I taught them that I didn’t really mean to, but that came out naturally in the course of showing them how to use the computers efficiently.

I also loved to see their answers on their most & least favorite part of class, and the optional extended response for “Other Comments”. I had written a post called F Words just before school started, and it contained the goals I have for my class:

  1. Frequently learn useful stuff
  2. Fail forward
  3. Fun
  4. Freedom of choice, and
  5. Freedom from Fear

From the answers given on the survey, I feel like I am on the right track! Students were able to name many specific skills, tools, or processes they learned to use this quarter. A kid wrote about him learning that it is okay to fail (as long as you keep on trying). And there are 17 instances of the word “fun”. The 8th graders especially enjoyed their freedom of choice, and although no one mentioned freedom from fear, I think that’s because fear was absent. I would not know if these F’s were coming across without the survey. Are you meeting your #classroomgoals? How will you find out?

The other questions I asked were “What do I need to improve on?” and “What did I do well?” These questions help me gauge how I am coming across as a teacher. I experimented with my 8th grade class by not giving as many instructions aloud and telling my students to find out what to do by going on their Google Classroom and reading or watching video instructions there, and then I’d answer their questions or help them if they needed it. One student wrote that he wished I would have given more verbal instructions. That’s something I’ll consider for this new group. Some students mentioned they liked the video instructions I gave because they could watch and pause to do each step. So, I will definitely continue to do those.

Honestly, I don’t think once every quarter is too much for any teacher to ask these kinds of questions. Even if you are teaching a year-long course, it’s good to check in with your students. Then, you can make adjustments to make the rest of the year better. You also get the added benefit of the good-will your students will feel toward you for letting them speak their mind, well, type it. I can promise that gathering data about your students’ opinions is well worth it. And fun!

Here’s a list of my questions, in case you want to use them too. All but #7 had paragraph size, open ended response boxes.

  1. What are some things you learned in this class?
  2. Is there anything you WISH you would have learned about this year in this class?
  3. What was your favorite thing about the class?
  4. What was your least favorite part of the class?
  5. What do I need to improve on? What advice do you have for me to be a better teacher?
  6. What did I do well? Like, things I did to help you learn.
  7. How much did you enjoy this class? (Scale of 1-5)
  8. Other comments

Extreme understatement: Meetings can be improved

In a recent staff meeting, we were asked to sort ourselves into 4 basic orientations: action, emotion, details, or big picture. Our staff is a healthy mix of all 4, but my people are the let’s-get-going types. Make a plan, and immediately start taking steps to implement it. Sometimes my attitude makes me feel impatient, so, I volunteered to be the recorder for our District Leadership Team, or DLT. Another reason I wanted that position is because I already had some ideas on how to make our meetings efficient and collaborative. Char Shryock, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Bay Village, had written an article on eAgendas in NEOTIE‘s first magazine that I read before our first meeting, and it has a lot of great advice.

If you feel that meetings can be run in a more efficient and collaborative way, here are some steps you can take to get on track. (If you do not feel that way, there is a 99.9% chance that you’re wrong. Fun fact: Another personality trait is not being 100% sure about anything).

  1. Set up (or have your IT people set up) an email group that includes all members. This enables easier communication. For example, for the DLT, there are around 20 people. I would never be able to remember all of them, and it would take too much time to type all of their email addresses in every time, even with the auto-finish feature on our Gmail. And continuing to reply all to the first email sent out to a group is messy. So, was born and has proven useful to many already.
  2. Set up a shared folder in Google Drive. You can share the folder through your new group email! Then, everyone can access and add documents as needed. Save the trees and stop making copies. Post it all in there.
  3. Put the Google Document agenda in that folder.
  4. Create a process for using the eAgenda. Ours is thiscollaborative agenda process Google Docs
  5. Share and follow the process

Some additional notes:

  • Having one document that includes all agendas (in reverse chronological order, so that the newest is at the top, and the oldest is available by scrolling) makes continuity easier to achieve. You won’t have to open 5 documents to see what you talked about the past few times.
  • Making the last column Next Steps, or Actionable Items, or Homework is a good way to make certain that the group (or part of it) has something to actually accomplish before the next meeting. Being action-oriented, coming out of meetings where there is no clear goal to achieve feels like a waste of time. Hardly anything frustrates me more than an all talk-no action situation. We all have a lot to do, so whiling away the hours in poorly run meetings is not what’s best for kids. On the other hand, a meeting in which important progress is made is well-worth the time. I highlight the Next Steps in our agenda. (See below).
  • Using the Email Collaborators option in Google Docs is an easy way to re-send the agenda as needed. A couple of days before and immediately after the meeting keeps everyone in the loop. It gives all members a chance to think about and comment on the agenda. This is where I remind people of the Next Steps.
  • Using the chat feature is something we haven’t tried yet. But, I want to bring it up soon as an option for back-channel chatter. Instead of side conversation between a few, a temporary chat log appears on the agenda so that people don’t forget what they want to bring up next, or counterpoints.
  • Adding hyperlinks is something I do as a recorder to make the agenda more useful. Again, instead of needing to find many documents, just opening the agenda gives access to all the relevant information. Here’s what our linked agenda looked like today. Cardinal DLT Agendas Google Docs

Please take any or all of the ideas presented here to make meetings more effective and collaborative. If this post has sparked more ideas, share them in the comments! There’s always room for improvement.

Beauty Standards

I like looking at pretty things, and so do you.

Whether it’s fair or not, being good-looking is advantageous. Loveliness garners longer-lasting and more positive attention than the less lovely. To be clear, I’m not talking about people, though sadly the same principles apply. I’m talking about beautifully presented information. I’m talking about design.

Although I am a certified “techie” (I actually got called that in an email today 🙂 ), I am also an artist. I enjoy learning how to make things look and feel “right”, and I think that part of my job as a teacher is to help students improve their digital design literacy. Now, and in the future, it’s not just the content that counts. The packaging of the content is an important component of how well the information will be received.

Canva provides free, cloud-based design tools. Personally, I’ve been using it for about a year, though I’ve just brought it into my classroom in the past week. Here are some things I’ve designed. Note: Wedding Invitation is very much a work in-progress.

My Canva Designs

My 8th grade students worked in Canva’s Design School tutorials for a few days. I had them focus on Choosing the Right Font, Font Pairing Basics, The Art of Alignment, and Working with White Space, along with a brief video on color choices. The tutorials are great because they show and explain an example on the left, and have them apply the principle on the right. My students used screenshots to show their tutorial progress so I could make sure they were getting it.

Here’s a before and after of a tutorial slide:

Canva tutorial before

Canva Tutorial Need a Hint

Every slide of every tutorial I’ve seen has this “Need a hint?”option on it. A video will pop up showing how to accomplish the task in case they’re having trouble.

Canva has preset sizes to design for lots of different types of media. There are SO many options for what you could have your students design. This is what they have out now:

Canva Design options

Once a type is chosen, you get into the editing view, which includes the following side tabs: Search, Layouts, Text, Background, and Uploads. Here’s what those side tabs look like:

Canva Search

Search gives you basic elements that you can use to build a design from scratch or add to an existing design.

Canva Layouts

The layouts they show you change depending on what type of media you have chosen to create. You can pick a free layout and just change the words, colors and pictures to your liking. This can be really helpful if you or some of your students don’t feel confident in your artistic abilities.

Canva Text

The Text tab shows you basic text at the top, and pre-designed text formatting below. I love to use the pre-designed options. You’ve probably noticed the FREE sign next to many of the elements. Everything I’ve designed has been free. You can do a lot with what’s given. The bits that cost money are clearly labeled and are usually listed after scrolling past free components.

Canva Backrounds

If all you want is a plain color or basic textural background, great! Those are all free. If you want something flashier, you’ll need to purchase it, use a pre-designed layout, or upload your own photo.

Canva Uploads

Uploads are drag and drop. You can also connect your Facebook account to use those pics.

Raise the bar on beauty standards for the products students design in your class. Or, just for yourself, take the time to make something look stunning and professional. Make Canva part of your information beautification routine.

Accidental Experiment

I have this assignment called Writing and Citing that I use to help teach part of the research process to my 6th and 7th graders. This year I added a Screencastify video explaining the instructions and showing how to do the work. Since I am doing this assignment with 4 classes this quarter, and none of them started it on the same day, it turned into an accidental experiment.

For my second period class, who got to W&C first, I did not explain the instructions live to the class. I showed them where the link was, showed them the rubric I’d be using to evaluate their work, told them to ask me for help when they needed it, and to check in with me after completing each small section. For my 1st and 6th period classes, I thought it would be better to tell the basic idea of the instructions, and then they’d have the video as a support.

My 2nd period class is finished with the assignment, and they all did GREAT! They asked for clarification when they didn’t know what to do, and worked hard the entire few days. In the other classes though, there is more of a mix. About half of the kids have been raising their hands to check in with me often to make sure they are on the right track, and the other half seem to assume they know what they’re doing. From observations of their work, I see this is not the case. Some are not attending to the details necessary for the assignment (like using quotes and in-text citations) and need many more corrections.

Here’s what I think happened.

Giving live instructions for this complicated work gave the students a false sense of security about their ability to remember what they were supposed to do at each step. They have been doing the assignment based on their memory of what I first explained to them last week (or Monday…it’s now Wednesday).

My 2nd period class had no option but to watch and pay careful attention to the video instructions. They paused and did each step as the video progressed. The number of mistakes they made is much smaller than the other classes’.

The 4th class I mentioned, they don’t start this assignment until tomorrow! For them, I will just be pointing out the video link, telling them to pause and rewind as necessary, and ask me for help if they still don’t get it. If tomorrow’s class goes well, I’ll count it as evidence supporting my new hypothesis: making students rely on a carefully created video, and asking me for support is better than them getting a live demonstration one time and relying on a video for assistance. I’m really curious to see how it goes.

If you choose to use Screencastify to give instructions, it may be worth a try to experiment with different methods. First priority the video or your live demonstration? Directions written out and steps shown, or just steps shown? Really, this kind of experimentation should be going on purposefully all the time in our classrooms.

Live your life in beta. Keep testing out different ways. Don’t just find what works, but keep experimenting to make things better.

Clone Yourself with Screencastify

If you are a teacher, then you are a person who has to repeat yourself many times. If you have to repeat yourself many times, then you will get frustrated. If you don’t like being frustrated, get Screencastify! It is a Chrome extension that  allows you to record your entire desktop or just one tab. You can also use your webcam to record a video of yourself. In honor of my 50th recording this week, Screencastify’s recent cosmetic update, and my NEOTIE speech last Saturday, I wanted to provide a walkthrough on how to use it with your students or colleagues.

I estimate that using Screencastify has saved me at least an hour a week. This frees up time to help students who are struggling with the content rather than spending many minutes reminding those who can’t quite remember what to do next. Creating multi-step assignments with multiple video instructions allows every kid to work at their own pace. Critically, it allows my daily supply of patience to dwindle at a much reduced rate. It’s a win-win!

First, you will need to open Google Chrome and get the extension. Sign in with your Google Account and allow it to access whatever it’s asking for. You should get a little filmstrip icon next to your address bar. It’ll look like this: screencastify icon

When you click on the icon, you have 3 choices.

  1. Record a Tab. This allows you to choose one tab and record all that you do in that tab. It also has extra tools to show or hide your mouse, draw, erase, or clear your drawings. The drawback of this option is that if there are popup windows or other tabs that you need to show, you must manually switch the view so your recording jumps over to the new tab or window.Screencastify tab tools notification

    Screencastify tools
    The tools available with Tab recording
  2. Record your Desktop. This is my go-to choice. If you choose this one, you don’t have to remember to switch the focus from tab to tab. It will record whatever you are looking at. The drawback on this option is that you can’t use the drawing tools. In both Tab and Desktop you can choose to have a small square video of yourself. If you want that, make sure the checkbox is clicked next to Embed webcam. Then click to choose which corner you want to show up in.Screencastify Embed Webcam
  3. Record with your Cam. This just makes a video using your webcam. I never pick this one, because I think it best to have the visual of the written instructions or the webpage showing, plus the audio of my voice. And often, I embed the small corner cam view (with tab or desktop recording) so my students can feel a personal connection. But, maybe you have a good use for just using the Cam! Consider your options and choose what works for each case.

Normally, I prepare before I record by opening any webpages or creating documents I need to show my students. Then I click the Screencastify icon and choose Desktop, decide if I want a to embed my webcam view or not, and hit the orange Start Recording button at the bottom.

Choose Screencastify Desktop

Then I choose if I want to show my ENTIRE desktop (including my taskbar) or just my current window. My students don’t usually need to see my taskbar, so I choose the option on the right, and click Share.

Desktop choice

Here are some clues to look for to make sure it’s working properly.

Screencastify Recording On

Next, record your instructions. It’s important to articulate words and speak a bit slower than normal. Create a quiet environment to ensure good audio. Turn off fans or AC if possible. Circle your mouse around things before you click. Make sure you don’t click through things too quickly or without saying what to click on.  Underline words with your mouse as you say them to emphasize them.

There are 3 ways to stop recording

A new tab will open so that you can review your recording. If it turned out to your liking, make sure you rename it. You can then choose to download or share. The crop video option is a paid option. Trash poor recordings.After recording

You can choose to Share on your Google Drive, or YouTube. Here are what those screens look like, and their privacy options.

Share on drive


Share to YouTube

I always upload to YouTube, but I choose the privacy based on the content. A lot of times, I will just leave it on Public so parents and students can both find my videos easily. Also, some of my videos are helpful to anyone trying to learn about technology.

My penultimate step is to copy the link to my video from the side panel.

SCreencastify Copy Share Link

Clicking that chain link icon copies the URL, and then, finally, I put the hyperlink wherever it belongs. Oftentimes, that is in a Google document that includes the instructions for the assignment.

The process of creating a video and posting the link into my directions takes just minutes and saves hours. It only takes longer when I have to re-shoot my videos because of stumbling over my words or someone walking into my office to talk to me while I’m recording. Even with mistakes and interruptions, I can get video instructions done in 10 minutes or less, every time. With a little practice, you’ll be able to as well.

Please let me know if you have any questions about Screencastify! I will create a personal video to answer you. 🙂

#NEOTIE Ignite Session

A few weeks ago, I got asked to give an ignite speech at NEOTIE, an awesome local ed tech conference. I was surprised and honored to be chosen to speak alongside some of the best women around: Sarah Rivera (@PHS_STEM), Amy Roediger ( and Ann Radefeld (@AnnRad21).

Here’s what I said. Thanks to my dad for shooting this video!

And, if you want to see some pictures, here’s a beautiful slideshow by Ken Veon (@BeachwoodTech).