The Future is Now: Preparing Our Youngest Scholars for a Digital World

Feel like you're playing Whac-A-Mole with technology and littles? Guest Debbie Tannenbaum shares how to be successful in early childhood technology, offering innovative strategies to transform your classroom and overcome tech frustrations

Early exposure to technology can help children develop digital literacy skills. Around 70% of kindergartners can use educational apps on tablets or smartphones. But it stands to reason that we must help students know how to effectively use these tools so they do not hinder and that they help  But do they know how to use technology effectively? And how much is too much?

Not all technology use is good, and overuse can hold students back. Use should be appropriate, tied to classroom content areas, and guided. With over 70% of US parents concerned about too much screen time for littles, they have a valid concern. And especially with littles, the time should be limited. Debbie Tannenbaum gives us guidance on the practical, balanced use of technology for children in kindergarten through second grade. If you want to know how to start helping little ones learn about technology, this podcast resource is for you to get started.

Debbie Tannenbaum, a veteran teacher and tech coach, has made it her mission to help students develop digital skills even as young as kindergarten. This podcast will explore Debbie’s key strategies for teaching digital literacy skills to our youngest students.
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This week's sponsor

EVERFI - Free Digital Lessons for All Ages

Want to prepare your students for career and life success but short on time? Busy teachers use EVERFI’s standards-aligned, research-based digital lessons, recently awarded with the ISTE Seal for high-quality curriculum, to teach students to thrive in an ever-changing world. Interactive, game-based lessons designed by experienced educators help you engage students at all grade levels and bring critical real-world skills like financial education, early literacy, character education, health & wellness, and more to your classroom. Thanks to partners, these lessons are FREE for all K-12 schools and students. With back-to-school season gearing up, now is an exciting time to give your students a jumpstart on their future. Go to to learn more and sign up to get a virtual swag bag full of free goodies to get the school year off to a great start.
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This week's guest

Debbie Tannenbaum, an ISTE Certified Educator, author, blogger, and speaker, offers schools and districts a wealth of expertise. With over 20 years of experience, she advocates starting with pedagogy first and then transforming learning experience by using technology tools. Debbie empowers educators with practical strategies, innovative ideas, and insightful guidance for leveraging technology to amplify student success. Connect with Debbie at (Formerly Twitter): @TannenbaumTech


Hosts, Guests & Featured People:
Digital Resources Mentioned:
  • EVERFI and WORD Force, amazing reading games for reading literacy
  • Wixie one of Debbie's favorite tech tools for young learners
  • Book Creator – students can write their own ebooks.
  • Flip (formerly Flipgrid)
  • Clever – how students login to their apps
News and Research on This Topic:
Podcast Table of Contents:
    1. Introduction and Episode Overview 00:00:00:00 – 00:00:32:10
    2. Sponsor Mention and Blog Review 00:00:32:12 – 00:00:59:13
      Vicki Davis talks about the episode's sponsor, EVERFI, and mentions her blog review of WORDFORCE.
    3. Debbie Tannenbaum's Journey 00:01:25:09 – 00:01:50:19
      Debbie Tannenbaum shares her teaching journey, frustrations, and how reaching out to a podcast guest on this show helped her make amazing progress with teaching littles.
    4. Importance of Professional Learning Network (PLN) 00:02:11:22 – 00:02:34:20 Debbie Tannenbaum discusses the importance of a PLN and how it has enriched her career.
    5. Focus on Young Learners 00:03:35:13 – 00:03:54:19
      Vicki Davis and Debbie Tannenbaum discuss the focus on young learners and how to help teachers reach them.
    6. Icon Bingo and Visual Learning 00:04:18:09 – 00:04:39:18
      Debbie Tannenbaum talks about using “Icon Bingo” to help young learners understand digital icons.
    7. Tech Tools for Young Learners 00:07:56:05 – 00:08:11:21
      Debbie Tannenbaum mentions her favorite tech tools for young learners, including Wixie and eBook Creator.
    8. Making Learning Stick 00:09:24:00 – 00:10:02:00
      Debbie Tannenbaum gives an elevator pitch on how to make learning stick with technology for four and five-year-olds.
    9. Closing Remarks and Sponsor Mention 00:11:09:08 – 00:11:38:0
      Vicki Davis wraps up the episode, thanking Debbie Tannenbaum and mentioning the sponsor, Everfi, again.


00:00:00:00 – 00:00:03:10
John Davis, Producer
This is the Ten Minute Teacher podcast with your host, Vicki Davis.

00:00:03:14 – 00:00:32:10
Vicki Davis
The future is now preparing our youngest scholars for a digital world. Episode 860. In this show, we'll sit down with Debbie Tannenbaum, the tech-savvy educator for early childhood education and author of “Transform Techie Notes to Make Learning Sticky.” Get ready to discover innovative strategies for integrating technology into early education, building Student Agency, and why your professional learning network can be a game-changer for your teaching career.

00:00:32:12 – 00:00:59:13
Vicki Davis
If you teach the youngest students and are looking to transform your classroom into a dynamic digital learning environment, this episode is your roadmap. Today's sponsor, EVERFI, has created an incredible set of early literacy lessons called WORD Force. Go to to sign up for these early literacy lessons perfect for K to 2 classrooms everywhere. And check out my review this week on my blog.

00:00:59:14 – 00:01:25:07
Vicki Davis
So today we're talking with Debbie Tannenbaum from Tannenbaum Tech, the author of “Transform Techie Notes to Make Learning Sticky.” And Debbie, you have a little bit of a story of your teaching career, how you were teaching and how you started learning. Now you're helping schools and districts and doing so many things. So tell us a little bit about your journey.

00:01:25:09 – 00:01:50:19
Debbie Tannenbaum
This is my 25th year in education, my sixth year as a tech coach, and during my first year as a tech coach, I'm in elementary school. I was getting super frustrated because I felt like I could never help all my kids. And so it's actually funny because I was listening to your podcast back in I guess 2018, 2019, and you were interviewing this woman, Pana Asavavatana, and she was talking about icon literacy.  (See episode 338)

00:01:50:21 – 00:02:11:22
Debbie Tannenbaum
And I reached out to her immediately after the podcast and found out more about her. And this kind of started me on this whole journey. I help districts with a lot of things, but my true passion is helping our little learners, making sure that they develop agency, that they really understand how to use digital devices and how they become digital learners.

00:02:11:22 – 00:02:34:20
Debbie Tannenbaum
It's become a really big passion to me. A lot of what I see is for secondary school. A lot of what I share tends to focus on those littles, those youngest scholars, because we really need to make sure that our kids are ready. There's so much change going on in technology right now and education. And if we don't make sure our kids have those skills, it becomes really, really tricky down the road.

00:02:34:21 – 00:02:58:02
Vicki Davis
Well, I love that you are seeking help. You didn't let your frustration get to you. You found somebody who resonated with you by listening to podcasts. And I'm sure you've been listening to lots of different podcasts, but then you're like, “Oh, this partner really is awesome.” You reached out to her and then you just got excited. So building your PLN really does make a difference, doesn't it?

00:02:58:04 – 00:03:24:20
Debbie Tannenbaum
It absolutely does. And I, over the last five years since I joined Twitter, it's maybe even more than that, becoming part of a PLN has totally changed everything for me. I've had so many opportunities to learn, so many opportunities to share that I would have never had if I hadn't had those experiences. And I've gotten to feel so much richer in what I do because of those experiences.

00:03:24:20 – 00:03:35:10
Debbie Tannenbaum
So it's really been great as the last couple of years have gone. I'm doing things now that I would have never imagined doing five years ago, and a lot of that is due to the people I've been connected with through social media.

00:03:35:13 – 00:03:54:19
Vicki Davis
We're going to talk about making learning sticky and really we want to focus today on the littles because you know what? You may be somebody that resonates with those who are working with trying to reach and help the littles. So where do you start? How do you help teachers reach our youngest?

00:03:54:21 – 00:04:18:09
Debbie Tannenbaum
I think it's really important to start simple. I always talk about when I first start working with my youngest learners because of the work that I had experienced talking to Pana and working with her, I really try to think about those nine icons that I feel like are the most important for my students to understand, to really navigate those digital learning environments before we even touch a device, we really start to learn those.

00:04:18:09 – 00:04:34:17
Debbie Tannenbaum
And whether we're talking about power or we're doing some total body response and we're using our hands, or we're talking about username, which has seven digits or password, everything we do is really concrete and then we even play some icon bingo to really make sure that the kids know those things.

00:04:34:18 – 00:04:39:18
Vicki Davis
Icon Bingo. Okay, I love that. Tell me about Icon Bingo.

00:04:39:18 – 00:04:59:02
Debbie Tannenbaum
Icon Bingo. There's a really great site. I think it's called ESL Activities and you can put pictures on a bingo board and I put like, I'm trying to remember all nine of them, but like, power, username, image, text, video, microphone. And so I put those ones that I'm going to use with all of my students a lot on there.

00:04:59:02 – 00:05:21:14
Debbie Tannenbaum
And we play it. We play. I even had some educators play some icon bingo in one of my playgrounds because it's really important to make sure that they understand what those icons are. And then, you know, as we build, we can get even more. But there's so many icons that go across different platforms that, yeah, I want to make sure my students understand that.

00:05:21:14 – 00:05:42:05
Debbie Tannenbaum
And so I want my students to know no matter what program they're in, a way to navigate that digital learning environment. And I really, once I've done that with them, I do a lot of things where I reinforce those icons as we're learning and really try to link the digital literacy that they're building with the learning that they're working on as well.

00:05:42:07 – 00:06:03:05
Debbie Tannenbaum
I think that's super important. I have something I call an edu Rubicon that has, you know, the icons on the left and then those criteria for access on the right. And it's very visual because I want my students to know that they can do these things. I incorporate things like video inside of it because I want them to have that agency.

00:06:03:05 – 00:06:34:01
Debbie Tannenbaum
Before this, I was spending a lot of time playing Whac-A-Mole and trying to get my students all down and never being able to. And now what I'm really my goal is, is now they're calling me because they want to show me what they're creating. And that's a big shift. And I think that that's so important. So when I'm working with those, when I'm working with, you know, our primary educators and our youngest learners, I build on that, making sure that before I even mention a tech tool, that I really spend time to talk about ways to promote that agency.

00:06:34:03 – 00:06:53:23
Debbie Tannenbaum
Because far too often we go directly to the tech tools, and when we do that, we're missing a piece. And so whenever I share about littles, I always tell them the first half hour has nothing to do with tech tools. I won't even mention a tech tool until that second half hour. But then when I mention those tech tools, you're going to see those connections made.

00:06:54:03 – 00:06:58:05
Vicki Davis
Love it. So when you say littles, define the age.

00:06:58:07 – 00:07:03:16
Debbie Tannenbaum
With what I do, I really look at like that pre-K to second. But the stuff I share will really work.

00:07:03:16 – 00:07:08:21
Vicki Davis
Pre-K and so have you. Have you done this with three-year-olds or is it more like four-year-olds or five-year-olds?

00:07:08:21 – 00:07:09:15
Debbie Tannenbaum

00:07:09:18 – 00:07:24:20
Vicki Davis
Four-year-olds? The Whac-A-Mole is a complaint that teachers and coaches have with those four-year-olds. So you find that playing bingo really helps them understand the icons and what they do and how long the username is?

00:07:25:01 – 00:07:44:10
Debbie Tannenbaum
I haven't played bingo with my four-year-olds. I played it with my kindergartners. But just that same idea of really building it and making sure when I work with my youngest learners, I try to stick with programs that are very, very visual. One of the ones I really like is called WPXI, and they have a primary view that's super easy for our kids to use.

00:07:44:10 – 00:07:56:05
Debbie Tannenbaum
And then when I get to my older kids, then I'm able to build on that. I'm so excited because we had iPads this year that my pre-K kids, when they get to kindergarten, this is not going to be the first time they've been on a device.

00:07:56:05 – 00:08:02:13
Vicki Davis
What are your favorites? You've got Wix. See, you're excited about the iPads. Just throw some out at us that your kids love.

00:08:02:14 – 00:08:09:12
Debbie Tannenbaum
Wix is probably one of my favorites. I also love eBook Creator. I think eBook Creator is an amazing tool. I use Flip a lot with my kids.

00:08:09:12 – 00:08:11:21
Vicki Davis
Oh really? How do you use it?

00:08:11:23 – 00:08:29:11
Debbie Tannenbaum
Well, I start really simple. We start with the paper version and they'll start with my kindergartners and I'll say, okay, here's a five screen, color it in two different ways. Do you want to hold it up in front of your face and report or do you want to hold it to the side? I make it so that they only have the camera to start and then I just let them watch each other.

00:08:29:11 – 00:08:50:04
Debbie Tannenbaum
And honestly, they love watching each other. And so we build on all of those things as we're working small strategic steps to really make sure that they understand how to do these things one step at a time. And I like programs that allow our kids to share their own knowledge in lots of different ways. So it's not just, “Oh, I'm drawing the picture,” but maybe I can create a video, maybe I can add my voice.

00:08:50:04 – 00:09:11:05
Debbie Tannenbaum
And so I like those things. And it also makes it easier for our teachers. If our teachers pick a tool that has lots of different choices, then the teachers learn one tool, the kids learn one tool, and then it's easier to help them transfer over when they really understand how all of that works together. So I can work with my kids on Wixie and then when I get to Flip, they understand how they're alike and different.

00:09:11:05 – 00:09:12:18
Debbie Tannenbaum
We can make that transfer.

00:09:12:20 – 00:09:23:19
Vicki Davis
So as we finish up, could you just give us a quick elevator pitch for here's how you can make learning stick with technology. With four and five-year-olds.

00:09:24:00 – 00:09:43:02
Debbie Tannenbaum
I think you have to look at the opportunities the technology can give our students. And is it going to give our students opportunities to share in ways that they can't without the technology? And a lot of times having them record their voice or having them make a video, you're going to get different things than you might get if you just have them draw a picture.

00:09:43:04 – 00:10:01:22
Debbie Tannenbaum
And so giving them those opportunities to do that, having it be able to read to them, really giving them authentic tasks and being like, you're actually creating something on the computer. With my four and five-year-olds, I do a lot of stuff where they have choice boards, where they go. There's a couple of different activities and they get to choose what they're doing.

00:10:02:00 – 00:10:16:02
Debbie Tannenbaum
I want them to feel like when I come to their rooms to do our technology, that it's always linked to what we're learning. I never do something that isn't linked to what they're learning, and I work with the teachers to do that and they see the connection between us.

00:10:16:04 – 00:10:22:03
Vicki Davis
So are the choice boards projected on the board? Are they in a Google doc or Google slide? Or where are those?

00:10:22:04 – 00:10:38:06
Debbie Tannenbaum
A lot of times I'll use Wixie because it allows you to link within and then they get into Wixie using Clever and they know how to do that. I teach them that; we learn how to find the Clever icon. We learn how to find what they call the Rainbow hand. We're really intentional with those icons as we build.

00:10:38:09 – 00:11:09:07
Vicki Davis
Love that Debbie Tannenbaum and you work with districts all over helping them use technology with the littlest to make learning stick. And I love your techniques. So many great ideas. Thank you, Debbie, for coming on the show.

Sponsor: Check Out the Free Lessons from EVERFI

Want to prepare your Students for Career and Life Success but short on time? Busy teachers use EVERFI’s standards-aligned research-based digital lessons recently awarded with the ISTE Seal for high-quality curriculum to teach students to thrive in an ever-changing world.

00:11:09:08 – 00:11:38:00
Vicki Davis
Interactive game-based lessons designed by experienced educators help you engage students at all grade levels and bring critical real-world skills like financial education, early literacy, character education, health and wellness, and more to your classroom. Thanks to partners, these lessons are free for all K-12 schools and students. With back- to-school season gearing up, now is an exciting time to give your students a jumpstart on their future.

00:11:38:00 – 00:11:51:05
Vicki Davis
Go to that's to learn more and sign up to get a virtual swag bag full of free goodies to get the school year off right to a great start. So sign up for EVERFI today.

00:11:59:08 – 00:12:09:15
John Davis, Producer
You've been listening to the Ten Minute Teacher podcast and if you want more content from Vicki Davis, you can find her on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

00:12:09:15 – 00:12:14:10
John Davis, Producer
Thank you for listening.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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