The Techbrarian Journal

Wow, it’s cold out there.  As I walk down the street, I see homeless men and women huddled up under cardboard boxes, inside subway stations begging for change, and laying against vents that are pushing warm air out of buildings.  I think to myself how did they get there? If their childhood self could get a glimpse of this future, what would they think and what would they change?  Why don’t they go to shelters? How can I really help?

It’s so easy to turn off to the problem. But there are so many amazing solutions out there.  People crocheting sleeping mats out of plastic bags, organizations providing haircuts, showers, and shoes.

You may say to yourself, that’s good and all, but there’s nothing I can do as a young teen here on the Lower East Side.  Wanna bet?

-january 8, 2018!-

Last week I got caught being a hypocrite (someone who says something but does something different).  My offense?  Drinking bottled water.  Over the years we’ve done a lot of work on this issue.  From testing tap vs. bottled water to filming a “Bottle Cops” video where bottled water drinkers get arrested.   What’s been clear from the get-go, is that bottled water stinks: it’s bad for your health and horrible for the environment:

To raise awareness of this issue, I and my 8-year-old Ruby, created this Lego movie.  Here’s the script.  Why not make your own about this issue or another one?

Click HERE to learn more about the Bottled Water Issue.

-january 2, 2018!-

Happy new year everyone!

OK, back to business.  Over the years, Island Schoolers have made some incredible hip-hop tracks.  Y’all are talented, but we need more artists to bless our Soundcloud page.  YouTube is filled with tutorials on how to make songs and cool ways to create beats.  But none of them talk about how to create Social Action Rap. Therefore, I decided to create The Techbrarian’s Social Action Rap Guide.

In the guide, we talk about what to write about, how to rhyme, and the parts of a song.  For example, a bar is a small section of music. Imagine a counter going 1-2-3-4. The words you fit in during that count are a single bar.  Here’s a quiz:  how many bars does Ezionn’s verse have before the “I’m running off of the stage” chorus comes in (ignore the intro)?


Go to the very bottom of my Journal to find the answer.  The guide also gives a strategy for creating rhymes.


1) Write a meaningful line like:

Standing with animals, so I take a Meatless Monday

2)  Next, create a rhyme for “Monday” and place it at the end of the next line:

Standing with animals, so I take a Meatless Monday

____________________________________One Day


3) Finally, fill in the rest of the second line with something that makes sense like:

Standing with animals, so I take a Meatless Monday

I pray they’ll let the cows graze outside One Day

But all the meat industry cares about is that Money


Anyhow, check out the guide for more ideas.  Can’t wait to see the raps you create!


For the last two weeks, we have been talking about Media Literacy and how to shatter stereotypes.  You created fantastic Anti-Stereotypes and grew skilled at calling out advertisers’ tricks.   There is a TON more to talk about on this subject, but you’ll have to do independent research on, because it’s time to move on to our next issue.

For our final issue of the year, we’re going to be talking about animal cruelty.  This issue is wide-ranging, from how we treat animals in circuses and labs to how we use them for food and clothing.  The links below are often GRAPHIC, so do not click on them if you are sensitive to serious violence.

Scientists know that animals dream and feel pain, yet that doesn’t stop us from treating them like objects and imprisoning them.  Organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), are constantly exposing the companies that clothe and feed us with their muscles, fat, and skin.  Don’t forget, we are animals too!  What gives us the right to do this?

Depressing, right?  But there’s so much we can do!  An easy way to start is to take a day off each week from eating meat.  There are a zillion delicious vegetarian recipes.  You can also consider buying less leather and only buying cruelty-free make-up.  This journal entry was jam packed with links and there are more on  If these touched your heart, consider getting the word out by making a powerful Social Action product like a song, game, shirt, or jewelry.


Last week, we watched a bunch of media that spewed garbage stereotypes.  To identify them, we used Techbrarian’s Media Literacy Guide.

It was pretty sad to see the way media portrayed us and those we care about.  Yep, the week was filled with shouts, tears, and lots of WTF’s.  But now comes the important part: DOING BATTLE.

While there are a million ways to wake people up to damaging stereotypes, one idea stood out this week: Making an Anti-Stereotype game.  Although you can’t actually play the game <sniffle>, click on the image below to read about Bias Breaker:

Now, using the Anti-Stereotype page in Techbrarian’s Media Literacy guide, create a game where you shoot down stereotypes and create Anti-Stereotypes in their place. Use the Scratch Tutorial below for hints on the code.  Click for Part 2 HERE, Part 3 HERE, and Part 4 HERE.


Last week we spoke about the pressure that boys face to wear tough-guy masks.  We also pointed out the “beauty-over-brains” message that girls are taught and that boys come to believe.

The messages start young.  Play this mash-up game to see how different boy and girl toy advertisements are:

Now it’s time to dive further.  This week, we’re going to watch some more videos and look at some print ads to identify more tricks and even more stereotypes.  Click HERE to download Techbrarian’s Media Literacy Guide.

Now, for those interested in filmmaking, check out this video on how to use iMovie to make a Tricks & Stereotypes movie.


How often do you look in the mirror and wish you could change something?  Did you always feel that way?

Boys, how often do you feel like you need to be tough, even if it’s not the real you?  Girls, how often do you feel pressure to be pretty (or sexy)?

The thing is, there are so many ways to be a boy, including being a poet, a nurse, and a good listener.  But the media would have you believe the only way to be a boy is to be tough and treat women like objects to be played with.

Likewise, there are also a million ways to be a girl: an engineer, a congresswoman, and a wrestler.  But the media has you believing your job is to look good for men and shop until you drop.

Of course, there are many role models that help us to break these stereotypes, but we need more!  We need you to help other kids to see through the garbage they are feeding us.  What will you create to fight the media’s power? One way is to start with kids– Why not make a book? Click below to hack a Barbie book to break stereotypes:

-NOVEMBER 17, 2017-

Have you ever wondered why you fiend for the latest sneakers?  Afterall, those $185 LeBron 15’s only cost $16 to make.  Why is it that all those American Eagle models have six packs, zero body fat, and no pimples?  And how come those hamburgers on McDonald’s commercials look flawlessly bright, round, and steamy?

The answer is advertising.  Understanding advertising is called Media Literacy.  Let’s take a look at some commercials below.  As you watch them, use THIS sheet to figure out the strategy they use to trick you into buying it.

Can you think of any ways to get kids your age to see through all the tricks that advertisers use?  How about a commercial where you stop mid-way through and call out the trick being used?  Another idea is to encourage people to stop shopping so much.  Check out the site BuyNothingDay for more on this.

-NOVEMBER 13, 2017-

Penis. Vagina. Anus. Sex.  These are some of the most exPLOSive words you can use in the human language.  Why is that?  Why is talking about these body parts and this natural act so scary, embarrassing, and inappropriate?

Welp, in my opinion, it is important to talk about them.  In fact, according to the NYC Department of Education, it is a requirement to teach sexual education (SexEd) in middle school!  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Talking about how your body develops when you reach puberty helps pre-teens and teens feel more comfortable with the changes they are going through.
  2. EVERYONE has questions surrounding sex.  What is a wet dream? Can girls get pregnant when they are on their period? How old do I have to be to buy condoms?  Is my penis a normal size? What’s the difference between HIV and AIDS?
  3. If we don’t talk about how to have safe sex, people are more likely to get pregnant and/or catch a sexually transmitted disease (STD).  Would you rather be a little embarrassed talking about this stuff or be pregnant or get an STD? Hmm?

There are a bunch of resources on, but my absolute favorite is 100 Questions You’d Never Ask Your Parents (ask me for the password).

As you learn more about SexEd, some of you may decide that this is an issue you care about.  In past years, my students have created videossongs, and a blog to help other kids feel more comfortable with their bodies and their relationships.  What will you make?

-NOVEMBER 5, 2017-

This week, I thought we’d delve into the issue of mental health– specifically, Depression,  Feeling sad or depressed is natural and happens to everyone.  Depression, on the other hand, is more serious and long-term.  People can develop depression for unknown reasons or because of life events like bullying, divorce, or the death of a loved one.  LGBTQ individuals are three times more likely to suffer from mental illnesses like depression.

Like physical health issues, mental health issues are real (not imagined).  Like physical health issues, people with mental issues usually need professionals to help.

As a friend of someone who is depressed, it’s hard to know how to help.  Part of it is understanding what they’re going through.  Another part is figuring out what they need from you while they’re going through it– it might not be the same as what you think they need.

How do we talk about this problem and work toward solutions Island Schoolers? Speaking with a trained professional and taking medicine are essential when things get serious.  However, there are strategies you can do to help yourself and others stay positive.  In fact, when my daughter was a 1 year old, she helped me make a video to provide such strategies.  Here’s an example of a T-Shirt someone made.  Also, those who have dealt with depression can speak out about it creatively to free themselves from the shame and help others feel less alone.  Finally, HERE’s a game you can play to learn more about how it feels to go through depression.

-october 30, 2017-

Yesterday I read a mind-boggling article in the New York Times about how plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda.  People are literally getting imprisoned for using them.   That may be a little extreme, but plastic is a huge problem– it’s filling our oceans, killing sea animals, and it’s bad for our health.  California banned single-use plastic bags. Unfortunately, New York’s Governor killed a bill that wouldn’t ban plastic bags, but just place a 5 cent tax on them!

There are some clever solutions out there like edible packaging, but let’s think up some of our own in order to reduce our use of plastic.  Here are a few ideas:

  • make your own toothpaste to avoid buying plastic tubes.  We can store them in Mason Jars.
  • Make your own shopping bags from old t-shirts to use instead of plastic bags
  • Make a documentary or song about how much plastic is used on the Lower East Side

What are some of your ideas?

-october 22, 2017-

We’ve made some really cool products this week!  Follow our Twitter page to catch all of our newest creations.

The whole suicide+guns issue really touched some students.  They spoke of how tough it is to be a teenager: so much judging, so much fighting, so much dissing, so much drama– it can be a lot handle—too much for some.  But like Logic said, there’s always help if you need it at 1-800-273-8255. Remember: it really does get better…barely anybody in high school, college or your workplace has the time or patience for the immature elementary and middle school name calling, fighting, and head games.

That’s not to say life is drama-less.  One big drama happening revolves around the national anthem.  Last year, NFL player Colin Kaepernick decided to sit out during the song to protest police brutality.  This, in turn, started a whole movement of players from all sports taking a knee during the anthem.  Donald Trump and many other Americans believe that that not standing for the national anthem is disrespecting our country.  Others believe that police brutality against people of color needs more attention and this is a powerful (and very American!) way to do it.  What do you believe?

-october 8, 2017-

It’s been a week since the Las Vegas mass Shooting where 59 people were murdered and hundreds were injured. Just like the talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, I can’t stop thinking about it. The second amendment of our constitution allows citizens to have guns, but it’s safe to say our forefathers did not mean AK-47’s designed for warfareAccording to Vox, Americans own nearly half of the privately held firearms in the world.  EveryTown reports that 93 people are killed by guns in the U.S. each day– of those, with more than half being suicides.  Sorry to throw so many numbers at you, I just can’t understand why we make it so easy for Americans to get guns.  

We are not passing laws to make this problem get better.  Instead, our lawmakers are getting paid by The National Rifle Association (NRA) to keep guns in the hands of anyone who wants them– including those who are mentally ill and those who are not allowed on airplanes for fear they are terrorists. In most states, guns can easily be bought by private sellers online or at gun shows.

How are we going to solve this Island Schoolers?  I think it starts by getting people to see the problem.  Make a gun control song or podcast that goes viral!  Make & sell shirts with anti-gun logos! Make & sell a graphic novel!  Fundraise for a gun control organization!  Invent something to prevent gun deaths!

-october 1, 2017-

Wow, the Puerto Rico situation is out-of-control. Trump says the U.S. is doing a fantastic job helping out, everyone actually living in PR says differently.  One huge issue is access to clean water– as in they don’t have it and are flooded by water that’s getting dirtier by the day.   This week we will be having a bake sale to benefit Puerto Rico.  Stay tuned and save your pennies.

Speaking of dirty water, Ruby did some research on the issue and helped me create a podcast using  You can too!  CLICK HERE for a script that you can use to make your own.  Click FILE–>MAKE A COPY to make changes.

Podcasts are an awesome way to learn about the world, by the way.  Check out this one for kids and this one for teens.

-September 26, 2017-

I’m feeling really jazzed about how students have reacted to the videos we watched on gender, transgender rights, and intersex.  Students asked super challenging questions about what it means to be a boy and a girl or to have a combination of parts (intersex).  In the end, we divided gender into: (1) how you dress and act . (2) what body parts you are born with and (3) how you feel on the inside.

We also began brainstorming a few product ideas.  My two favorites are:(1) Creating a stop motion animation of a waffle who knows that it’s a pancake deep in it’s heart and (2) Doing a rap battle between someone pro-LGBTQ rights and someone anti-LGBTQ rights.

Speaking of rapping, did you know that I was in a hip-hop group in college 20 years ago,  Click HERE to listen to some songs.  Tell me which song you like (everyone need compliments!) and why to win a prize!

-September 25, 2017-

The good news: Ruby got a hold of a couple of the cutest caterpillars you’ve ever seen upstate.  Bad news: she got a hold of some poison ivy too.  So so itchy 😦

In our final week of discussing LGBTQ issues, I located some interesting videos including: What is Gender? Intersex Athletes, a Transgender Bathroom Story and Children on How Gender Affects their Lives,  For me (and maybe not for you and that’s OK), each one speaks about the need for us to accept people the way they see themselves–and not how we think they should be.

Oh, and our social issue Kahoots! are going well.  Here are a couple of my favorites so far:


Child Abuse Quiz


-September 19, 2017-

This week has started out with super interesting discussions about LGBTQ rights after watching In a Heartbeat.  While we watched the movie, the reactions ranged from negative ew!, f@gg#ts, and yuck, to curious: is this saying it’s ok to be gay? and positive: aww he broke his heart!.  

Afterward, some people argued that God put us here to be straight and to be the gender we were born with; changing either goes against his wishes.  Others said you should be able to love who you want to and it’s no one else’s business.   Many of us had a problem with one student’s statement: I don’t mind gay people, I just don’t want them around me. We felt that it was homophobic: if you don’t want someone around you, then you DO mind them.  So, for those students who are pro-LGBTQ rights, what kinds of projects can we create to get the word out?

-September 17, 2017-

Yuck. The end of this week was pretty stressful. went down and spending time using it for research is pretty much the whole point of the first couple weeks of class.  But I re-created the site somewhere else and it’s now–hope you’re feeling the new design.

Anyhow, in other yucky news, Ruby was playing soccer yesterday (I’m the coach!) and went the wrong way…she scored on her own team.  She was ridiculously embarrassed and left the game.  We finally convinced her to go back in with like 3 minutes left in the game.  The moral: it’s important to have grit (AKA courage and determination) and be able to move on when things don’t go your way…

In other news, Mr. Morley (our dean) showed me this video called “In a Heartbeat”:

Along with this video, there are ones that show the reaction of kids and the elderly.  I find it heartwarming to see both groups embrace the idea of two boys having feelings for each other.

What do you think of the animation?  What are your thoughts on whether it’s OK to be gay (lesbian, bisexual, transgender)?  Should you be able to love who you want or is it against nature and/or God?  Are you secretly homophobic (“Yo, no homo, but…”) or are you a LGBTQ supporter deep in your heart?

-September 10, 2017-

Hurricane Irma is entering Florida–I can only imagine the fear and destruction about to unfold. I still think about what life was like when we in NYC had to deal with Sandy…and these latest hurricanes seem 10 times worse.   You should check out the “Extreme Weather” section and the “Climate Change” section on Techbrarian to learn more about hurricanes.  Unfortunately, I think they will become even more common in our lives 😦

-September 8, 2017-

Today was swell.  Students were so into the Kahoot! quiz about The Tech Café and we started making our own about social issues. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to do this:

In other news, I’m about to start coaching Ruby’s soccer team this Saturday. This reminds me of when I played sports as a kid. Click HERE to see what I looked like when I was her age.  Be one of the first 5 students to tell me what team I was on and you’ll win a prize.

-September 7, 2017-

So today was the first day of school– I did the Kahoot! quiz and it went really well–maybe too well–students were screaming their heads off when they got the right answer and screaming their heads off even more when they got it wrong.  Kind of hard to bring things back to normal in between screaming heads.  I’m thinking about getting one of those call bells.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Harvey tore through Houston and I’m thinking about how Island School students can help contribute to helping those who are injured no longer have homes.  I found THIS article on what we can do.  Now, Hurrican Irma is on her way in.  Things look bad.  I guess this is what happens when the world heats up.

On another depressing note, Trump is getting rid of DACA–the law that let immigrants stay in the country if they came here as children.  That means people in the U.S. who are in college or working in good jobs will have to return back to the country they were born in, but may not have been to since they were toddlers.  To find out more about this ridiculousness, watch the video below:

Anyhow, it’s almost midnight.  Signing off.  Oh, P.S., if you are the first in your class to tell me why Juan left Venezuela in the video above, I’ll give you a prize.

-September 4, 2017-

Jeesh, I’m getting nervous/excited about the first day of school.  But I have a plan for the first day.  Instead of a boring old review of how this class works, I’ll make a cool quiz using Kahoot!. After that, students will spend a few days creating their own Kahoot! about a social issue by clicking HERE. I’m crossing my fingers that Kahoot! will be a hit. If things go badly, I’ll close my eyes and think about THIS.

-September 1, 2017-

Ok, so I had this thought: Maybe it’s time to let you students into the brain of me, Dr. Lahana, AKA The Techbrarian.  Every day or so, I will be creating a post full of my thoughts so that you can follow along.  I’m pretty sure these thoughts will match up with my lessons, but who knows, I’ve never done this before. My writing will be pretty casual…meaning I will often be writing with crumby grammar and a friendly voice.  Also, I’ll try to include something kooky for those cool enough to read it– like THIS.


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