Annual Report

WordPress emailed me a link to “Your 2015 year in blogging.” It’s a pretty neat way to view the data on my first year of blogging!

Two things were especially interesting. My Google Drive Video Series was the most popular post (excluding the #1 F Words, because the views are artificially inflated since I had my students read that as an assignment). I am glad that that information got out to so many people! The other thing is also an unexpected 2nd place…Brazil. Clicks from the USA is the obvious #1, but Brazil as #2? Must be a lot of Giovannas there.

In 2016, I want to continue blogging each week. I was already thinking about making a video series on Google Forms, and now based on the 2015 results, it seems like it could be a valuable and popular addition. 🙂

Happy New Year!

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

A Carnival of beautiful Slides

Not everyone is artistic. That’s fine. Jimena Catalina will help you! This generous visual designer has created SlidesCarnival to provide the world with beautiful slide templates. On this page on her site, she says:

Working in design for more than 15 years I’ve learnt that, when you try to communicate a message, good design may be as important as the content. Many times I’ve seen how people get frustrated trying to arrange a visually stunning presentation without design knowledge. So I decided to create SlidesCarnival to help people create meaningful content without worrying about the appearance of their slides.

I must admit that there is also a selfish reason behind all this: I suffer a lot when I see poorly designed presentations 😉

I feel a kinship with this woman whom I’ve just learned–or learnt 🙂 –about today, during my exploration of the resources from the WVIZ Tech and Learning Conference. We both believe that pretty presentations are better-received by the viewers than their plain counterparts. I tried out a couple of her templates on the Symbaloo Apps Warehouse, and finally landed on the one below. 

If your slides are a bit boring, start using SlidesCarnival tonight. It’s incredibly simple to start a brand new slideshow, and just a couple more steps to get the designs onto pre-existing slides. It also works with PowerPoint…in case you’re into that sort of thing.

To start a new slideshow

To apply a design to pre-existing slides

Symbaloo to the Rescue!

Rememer that WVIZ Tech and Learning Conference post I wrote a couple weeks ago? (It was as much/more for myself than it was for you. Every conference I go to, there are way too many things that grab my attention than I can actually deal with in a day!) One of the new-to-me apps has already proven useful. Woo-hoo!

Our district tech committee decided that we wanted to provide an “Apps Warehouse” and training on how to find and evaluate apps. I started it off by creating a document that had apps we were using. Although the document had district specific information, and was organized by UDL categories (Engagement, Representation, Action and Expression), it was simply unappealing–ugly and not user-friendly. Plus, it was taking a lot of time to compile. We knew we needed to change course. We needed something that would be eye-catching, applicable to everyone, and easier to make. I had a vague idea that one of the websites I heard about at WVIZ might work…Symbaloo to the rescue!

Symbaloo allows users to create and share collections of bookmarks in a visually appealing way. Here’s their official Welcome To Symbaloo video.

I went on Symbaloo and found a whole bunch of webmixes, screenshot them, and made this slideshow with links to each.

It looks better and has way more content. It will be easier for teachers to navigate than the document.

In a recent survey at Cardinal Middle School, teachers cited Time as their biggest barrier to using new technology. A majority (77%) said they would use an “Apps Warehouse” to find new apps, and just over half said they would like a rubric or checklist to use when evaluating. So, we are planning on giving them time at an upcoming staff meeting or early release day, a rubric and the slides. I hope that everyone (including you!) finds at least one app that will help their students.

Symbaloo seems like a pretty sweet way to organize your own bookmarks. I haven’t done it yet, but I bet it’s simple. If, like me, you just want to find what other people have already spent time collecting, here’s a video (from Symbaloo) on how to do that.

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