Chatting with the EduTechGuys at #ICE19

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting down with the EduTechGuys and my good friend and fellow librarian, Andrea Trudeau, at the Illinois Computing Educators Conference.

We talked about everything from expanding the definition of digital citizenship to AR/VR in education and how those two concepts overlap.

If you are geeked out by these topics too, take a listen below!

ISTE Launches a new Edtech Podcast (and guess who’s on Episode 1?!)

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has a brand new podcast called “Your Edtech Questions” and I was lucky enough to be their first guest on an episode entitled “The Do’s Of Digital Citizenship” .

Here’s the description of the podcast from their website:

Educators have lots of questions about how edtech can accelerate teaching and learning. What’s not easy to find are reliable answers. “Your Edtech Questions,” the new podcast from the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE), tackles critical questions at the juncture of edtech research and classroom practice. In each episode, Zac Chase, PK-12 language arts coordinator at St. Vrain Valley Schools in Colorado, and Amal Giknis, an English teacher at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, turn your edtech questions into edtech answers with the help of an ISTE expert. As the hosts plunge into real questions from real teachers in each episode, you’ll get an in-depth understanding of the issue along with authentic classroom solutions. And you can count on the advice, since ISTE has opened up its networks and resources, and provided unprecedented access to the leading edtech experts. If you’re an educator looking for reliable professional development on critical edtech topics, “Your Edtech Questions” is the podcast for you!

Repeat after me: Academic Databases are the Netflix for Nerds!

As a high school librarian, I know how important it is for my students to navigate and utilize academic databases. Ninety five percent of our students graduate with plans to continue their education, and will be expected to conduct research through their college or university library subscriptions.

Teaching students to navigate the databases is not the hardest part of my job, though. The most difficult part is convincing students that they are worth exploring. Every time I am asked to introduce research strategies and resources to a class, I wrestle with the same questions:

  1. How can I compete with the “I’ll just Google it” mentality that many teens (and adults!) have when approaching a research project?
  2. How can I convince learners that academic databases are a treasure trove of fantastic resources?
  3. How can I help students see how academic databases are DIFFERENT from Google searches?
  4. What will convince students that there are actually MORE results available through the databases than Google could ever bring them?

Like most brilliant “aha moments” I have NO IDEA where this one came from. One day I was preparing to introduce a class of freshman to our academic databases and it dawned on me that I needed a clear metaphor to help students connect the concept of a database to a concept they already knew about. Hence, the “Netflix for Nerds” lesson hook was born.

Now I begin research lessons by asking students to repeat after me, “academic databases are the Netflix for nerds*!” There is usually a bit of chuckling mixed in with confusion and blank stares. So we say it aloud again after I reassure them that I am, in fact, a very proud nerd. By the second or third time we say it as a group, I have their attention and ask them to trust me as I help them see a connection between Netflix and academic databases.

In small groups, I have students brainstorm everything they know about subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. As students chat, I circulate and listen for great ideas I can tease out of the class when we come together as a whole group.

Photo by on Unsplash

After several minutes, the brain storming stops and the whole group instruction begins. I ask volunteers to tell me something they know about Netflix and then promise to show them how it relates to our databases. During the next fifteen minutes, students give me their ideas while I make connections to the databases and model what I am talking about on the big screen.

It usually play out like this:

  • Student: “You have to pay for Netflix!” 
    • Me: “Well….someone in your house has to pay for it, but how many of you actually pay the bill?”        **crickets**
    • “That’s what I thought, and that’s okay! Our academic databases work the SAME way. Just like your parents pay for Netflix and you get to watch it, the library pays for databases and YOU get to use them.”
  • Student: “It’s organized in categories and you can search it.”
    • Me: “Our databases are the SAME! Just like Netflix, you can search for a particular title  OR you can browse by categories if you aren’t sure exactly what you are looking for.”
  • Student: “There’s stuff you can find only on Netflix and stuff you can find other places.”
    • Me: “Our databases are the SAME! The companies that manage the database get content from lots of places – newspapers, magazines, book publishers, historians, and more. They also develop some of their own content to help researchers understand big ideas around particular topics. These are like the ‘Netflix originals’ “
  • Student: “You can find different shows on Netflix than you can on Hulu.”
    • Me: “Our databases are the SAME! Each one that we subscribe to has different content which is why we subscribe to so many.”
  • Student: “You need a Netflix password.”
    • Me: “Our databases are the SAME! Because we pay for our databases, we want to make sure that our students are the only ones using them. You will need special passwords to access our databases when you are not at school.”
  • Student: “Netflix has a lot of variety.”
    • Me: “Our databases are the SAME! They are not just full of articles. You can find images, video clips, and audio files here too!”
  • Student: “Netflix lets you make a list to save things you want to watch.”
    • Me: “Our databases are the SAME! You can connect our databases with your Google account so you can easily save all the cool content you find in order to come back to it later.”
  • Student: “Netflix has things you cannot find anywhere else.”
    • Me: “Our databases are the SAME! Just like I cannot do a Google search and watch ‘Stranger Things’ for free on the internet, I cannot read a full book online for free either. But, when the library pays a fee to the database company, we can gain access to that full book — the same way paying your Netflix bills gets you access to ‘Stranger Things’

That last point is the most important to help me drive home my message. I reinforce to students that using a database does not restrict the content that’s available to them…it gives them access to so much more.

I love using the “Netflix for Nerds” analogy with my students. It’s an easy way to help them understand the concept of a database, and when I teach follow up lessons, the class ALWAYS remember how to complete the sentence, “Academic databases are the ……”


Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

*Now, I know what you are thinking. The term “nerd” isn’t exactly flattering, but I love the alliteration and it certainly helps students remember the analogy!



Picture Books for Digital Citizenship Education

You don’t have to implement a “new initiative,” shop for a “curriculum” or “find time in your day” to have digital citizenship conversations with our youngest learners. In fact, digital citizenship education can (and should!) happen in really natural ways — like during story time.

I’ve been previewing TONS of picture books related to technology topics and have added them to this Amazon list. Check them out, and think about ways you can turn your next story time into an opportunity to chat #digcit with kids.



Awesome, Underutilized Resources for Teaching Justice-Oriented Digital Citizens

I came across a GEM of a find today when curating digital citizenship resources for teachers. Why aren’t any of my #digcit pals talking about the resources from Teaching Tolerance? Is it because we have yet to fully equate digital citizenship with anything BUT behavior management?

In my work, I’ve been trying to get educators thinking beyond personal responsibility and behavior management when they talk about digital citizenship. After all, being in community with others is a lot more complicated than just following rules. Maybe some of these great lessons will help!

Here’s a sample of some of the lessons available at

This is just a taste! Take a look at the lesson resources at Tolerance.Org yourself for even more great lessons for ALL citizens – even the digital ones 🙂


Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

You Don’t Have to Be a #DigCit Expert… Use Images to Get Students Talking

You don’t have to be using the latest app or social media site to have conversations with your students about life online. Instead of shying away, provide your students a safe space to talk with you about their digital experiences.

You can use images like the ones below (and hundreds of others linked here!) as a way to kick off the conversation.

Need a few ideas for purposeful integration? Try incorporating bell ringers, a gallery walk, or even just some discussion cards.

You’ve got this!

For more great ideas for integrating digital citizenship in the classroom, check out my book: Digital Citizenship in Action (ISTE, 2017).

Education Talk Radio: Digital Citizenship In Action

This morning I had the pleasure of chatting with Larry from Education Talk Radio. It was a timely conversation as students have begun using social media to organize the March for Our Lives School Walkout.

How should our digital citizenship curriculum evolve to help young people see the technology in their hands as more than a tool for socialization? Take a listen!


Digital Citizenship Discussion Cards

You can create a safe space for your students to engage in conversation about digital topics with though-provoking images and a variety of activities.

Students of all ages can use the image/discussion cards I’ve created in a variety of ways. Asking students to group images and assign groups a label will force them to engage in discussion and analysis of the artwork in front of them. The questions on the back of the image cards can make great journal prompts, debate topics, and launches for research and inquiry projects.

discussion cards.jpg

For more ideas, check out this post on using images as bell ringers across the content areas.

You can also create your own digital citizenship discussion activities using the images I’ve curated here.



Digital Citizenship Bell-Ringers for Content Area Teachers

One of the common concerns I hear about digital citizenship education is that there just “isn’t enough time in the day” to have conversations with kids about living life in digital communities.

Having conversations about our digital selves, our digital communities, and our global society can happen in small doses across content areas.

Today I created a few bell-ringer slides that you can use to kick off class. Have students free write their thoughts in a journal or ask them to turn and talk with the person closest to them.

*I do not own the copyright to any of the images used on these slides. Click here to see the original images plus dozens more that you can use to create your own bell ringers*