Saturday, August 27, 2011

Financial Education - In the Middle School

I have read numerous blogs debating the most appropriate place for a financial education. Should it be in high school, middle school, or in elementary school? Should it be left to the parents? My answer is: 'All of the Above'. Therefore, I believe the best approach to a great financial education is a collective approach.

My responsibility at Reading Community City Schools is to teach Personal Finance (among other business courses). With that said, I have volunteered my time to help provide curriculum suggestions in the elementary and middle schools. We have also done an inter-disciplinary lesson between the high school and third grade students. You can read more about each of these examples by visiting our student-run financial literacy organization:

I would argue that our school board and administration has embraced the responsibility of a financial education as well as any school in the country. Our school board and administration have time and time again demonstrated their commitment to financial education, beginning with making my stand-alone personal finance course a high school graduation requirement. Our latest commitment is the development of a stand-alone middle school personal finance course. In the past few weeks, I have spent quite a bit of time putting together curriculum for the instructor who has embraced the course with open arms.

I used Jump$tart's national standards to pull together a number of resources to support the curriculum including Bizworld, NEFE, Junior Achievement, and the Dave Ramsey curriculum. I am excited about each of these resources, and most eager for the students to participate in the Council for Economic Education's Gen i Revolution. The online simulation is an ideal tool for concluding a middle school course, just as the Awesome Island Game is. (Note - because it is my game we are going to have the students first experience it with me in the high school).

As I said earlier, appropriate parental involvement is also an important path toward a well-rounded financial education. Fortunately, parents have incredible financial education teaching tools at their disposal. Personally, I prefer MoneyTrail, FamZoo, Family Mint, and Sammy the Rabbit. My favorite financial education author is Dan Kadlec. These are the resources I feel most comfortable recommending to our families to use with their own children, which we will be doing in the upcoming weeks.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thoughts on homework...

I just read a blog by Justin Tarte that George Couros passed on entitled 'Thoughts on Homework' intended to create an open dialogue between teachers. I feel compelled to respond as I put a lot of thought into my students' homework assignments because I hated homework myself. I believe that if you are going to extend, or create learning experiences through homework, there has to be a motivation beyond the grade of the assignment for the student to participate and learn from the assignment.

Next week is our first week back. Early in the week, I will introduce their semester long homework assignment Budget Challenge. This is an online bill-paying simulation that is practical, engaging, competitive, and replicates the responsibility needed to stay on top of bills. Students check their email daily for bills, manage their virtual savings, checking, and retirement accounts, and earn points in a competition against their peers and fellow schools assessing their capability of managing virtual money.

One of my first lessons is goal setting. I use imagery in the activity, a technique highlighted in the article 'Time Travel. The Key to Financial Security' written by Dan Kadlec earlier in the year. As opposed to discussing artificial goals such as graduating, going to college, getting married, etc - - my activity is designed to engage the students into imagining how they want to live their own lives in much greater detail. In this activity, I ask the students to close their eyes, imagine they are 35 years old, and I then guide them through a long series of prompts such as "You are walking into work. What does it look like? What kind of people do you work with? What do you wear to work everyday?" They consider what their home looks like, how long their work hours are, what they can afford to do for fun, etc. The intention is to guide them through every detail of a day in their life in the future that they most desire. Immediately after the exercise, the students write each detail down.

For homework, the students are to draw a picture or find a picture that best illustrates a vision of that life. The next day the picture is checked for completion. In class we learn how to establish short term, intermediate, and long term SMART goals designed to get them to that ideal day at age 35. Finally, I tell the students to take the picture home and put it somewhere in their home where they can see it everyday so they have a picture of what their life goal is, inspiring them everyday to work toward their goals.

These are just two examples of how I use homework. Stacey Roshan introduced me to flipping, which I will use from time to time, and I love the extended learning opportunities created by Khan Academy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Here we go...

Finally, August is here. For me, this means the fun is about to begin. I am ready to apply the fresh ideas from my summer reading into my lessons. I am eager to see the looks on the kids' faces when they experience a lesson that makes a difference to them, especially when it is the product of my summer learning. With that said, I am most excited about watching my students play Awesome Island, and the engaging atmosphere that comes with it.

I have to say that my favorite summer tip came from Stacey Roshan, who uses 'flipping' in her course. There are numerous possibilities that come with finding or creating Khan Academy type videos for your coursework. Downloadable video's for our students provide the opportunity for flipping, anchor activities, differentiated classroom approaches, homework, among other techniques. If you go to the Khan Academy website, you can see for yourself in the Finance Section, as well as the Valuation & Investing Section, the educational videos that are going to be helpful for Personal Finance and Economics students. For those of you who do not teach Finance or Economics, you will be pleased with the videos designed for other content areas such as math, science, and history.

Please share how you made yourself better this summer in the blog response below so you can better others, as I will pass on your learning via this blog and the Awesome_Island Twitter account.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Embrace Technology

There seems to be a wide debate in teaching circles about the role of technology in the classroom. Some teachers are fearful that technology could replace human beings in the classroom, and others are unaware of data that supports the effectiveness of technology in the classroom. These debates both fail to recognize the bigger picture. I highly doubt teachers will be replaced with a line of computers and a VCR, just as I doubt that most instructors believe that innovation is anything but an opportunity to make our student learning experiences better.

As the Co-Creator of Awesome Island, you may be wondering why I am pointing out the benefits of bringing technology into the classroom when our game is best defined as a board game. To be clear, my interest lies in the bigger picture, which is our responsibility to prepare our future generations to make informed financial choices consistent with their own values and goals. Our game was a successful product born from an innovative spirit to enhance the learning experience for the participants. It is a tool, and I am fan of any innovative tool that can achieve these results.

I had a colleague challenge me as to why my students are encouraged to use iPods in my classroom. To be clear, they can only do so as an anchor activity, and can only listen to an approved list of financial education podcasts. In all of my academic classes, this is the only time I permit them to do so. I am not sure if she was being complimentary, or questioning the technique. However, I am baffled by any position that we should never use them.

Students receive extra credit if they download podcasts from a variety of sources, such as Laura Adams, NPR Money Planet, Dave Ramsey, even my students' own TeenDollars. As mentioned before, the use of podcasts is a differentiation technique that I use as an anchor activity. Choosing to use their iPod as a learning tool is their choice. They have a variety of other choices to choose from, some of which were great ideas by our wonderful gifted coordinator Nicole Dietrich.

I am very proud of my students for the creation of and their recent podcasts. It is a learning platform developed by a series of high order thinking activities -- such as creating our own podcasts as an exam review. The process began with students developing 40 exam questions, consistent with the content of the course. Each question needed to be scenario based, with a few other requirements. The best 20 questions were selected and the students created a series of podcasts with these questions.

Click here to listen to the TeenDollars podcasts. Click here to visit TeenDollars.

In my next blog, I will write about how as a teacher, I use Everfi and the Khan Academy in my classroom.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Power of Skype

As financial and economic educators, we have an obligation to prepare future generations to make wise and understood money management choices. We provide our students with recommended curriculum, engaging activities, and educational simulations. Most importantly, we give our students our hearts. Yet, we can do more.

The corporate community has a lot to offer our students, and many want to help. The challenging obstacle is connecting your classroom time to their limited free time.

The answer: Skype.

Skype is a free service that allows you to video conference with others around the globe.

In the development of my student-run financial literacy organization, TeenDollars, I hosted Jerry Carstens, the former Vice-President at Proctor & Gamble and John Morris, the Chief Operating Officer at the University of Cincinnati Economic Center for Education & Research. Using Skype, an accountant spoke to my Business II class about managing the books in a business. Mark Knue, the Vice-President of Victory Wholesale spoke to my Business II class about the functions of running a business.

Imagine the possibilities.

I have had great success bringing in bankers, financial advisors, bankruptcy attorneys, insurance professionals, and others for an entire class period. Although I want to do more.

Moving forward, I have scheduled professionals from these fields to speak via Skype as a hook for the first fifteen minutes of my class. Pat O'Brien, an accomplished author on college and career readiness, will be speaking to my class in the coming weeks. An insurance professional will speak to my Personal Finance class about annuities. The list goes on...

Most importantly, you can guide the speaker's time with a specific topic and a student-generated list of questions. With this direction and a more narrow window of time to fill, the speakers will be more effective and more willing to volunteer their time.

Now it is your turn. Please feel free to share your ideas of how you will use Skype to enrich your classroom and content.

About the Author:
Brian Page is currently a Finance and Economic Educator with Reading Community City Schools. He has won various 'Teacher of the Year' awards and was recently VISA's 'Financial Innovator of the Month'. He serves on state and national committees including the BizWorld Education Advisory Council and the Ohio Commission on Personal Finance Education. He has presented at a number of conferences, and his co-created game (Awesome Island) was just announced as the Institute for Financial Literacy's EIFLE Award winner for 'Best Instructional Game, Tabletop'. He currently holds a BBA and MEd. Mr. Page is also a Director of Coaching with one of the largest soccer organizations in the country, leading the Community Outreach Program.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Teachers & Twitter

Why Twitter for teachers? Twitter provides us the opportunity to learn, share, collaborate, and follow leading edge information in our content areas. It allows us to narrow our streaming news from quality sources to specific interests and content that translates into student learning and engagement. It brings to life material for us, which makes it easier to bring to life material for our students. Although there are a number of ways to incorporate Twitter into our classrooms, there are three specific techniques that have been most effective for me.
First, as a financial educator, I need to be aware of the never-ending evolution of information in my content area. I am very careful about who I choose to follow, as the information I am collecting could ultimately be brought into my classroom. I have chosen to follow key financial literacy organizations, opinion leading economists, highly respected personal finance bloggers, key government organizations, and other key leaders in the field. Obviously, you can apply this thinking to your own situation.
Second, government and financial literacy organizations often tweet engaging student contests that add more enrichment to your classroom. For example, this past fall we participated in the Ohio Attorney General's Office 'Speak Out Ohio' consumer protection contest for students. The St. Louis Fed created a YouTube contest on saving. Jump$tart supported a drawing contest for younger children. My Reading High School students run a financial literacy organization called
TeenDollars, which created an online financial education game contest. These are just a few of the numerous student contest opportunities I have made available to my students as a result of Twitter.
Third, as educators we are responsible for differentiating instruction for all of our student ability levels and interests. In my room, I have various anchor activities readily available for students if they complete their assignments early. One of the options is a collection of financial education articles consistent with the curriculum, with varying degrees of difficulty. The articles are student centered, and provide additional learning opportunities in the areas the students are interested in the most. These articles derive from my Twitter account.
If you are interested in following me on Twitter, you can do so by
clicking here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Teaching Finance in the 21st Century

Kids have very different experiences then we did. Panasonic is introducing a 3-D television, video games such as ‘Black Ops’ look and feel as if you are in the game, iPads and iPods allow children to be connected to the world-wide-web anytime. Many of us played kick the can and bounced balls against the wall for fun. Fellow teachers - - we have a lot more to compete with, and we have to adapt.

Why not use Podcasts in class to differentiate instruction? Why not participate in online stock market simulations? Why not allow them to create magazines with your content material. If they are capable of creating facebook pages, shouldn't they be capable of creating something using finance education content? A recent study funded by the Gates Foundation in conjunction with Harvard University quantified techniques that work in the classroom and techniques that do not. The net conclusion was that teaching to the test is ineffective.

I am not suggesting a complete abandonment to contemporary instruction as such a suggestion would be irresponsible. What I am suggesting is that we keep in perspective that as instructors we are responsible for student learning. We need to embrace quantifiably proven new ideas that actively engage the current generation of students. For example, according to this recent study, Harvard University believes that a simulation is the most effective teaching tool. More specifically, financial educators are responsible for preparing students for financial choices throughout their lives. Why would simulations not be accepted as the most effective teaching tool for financial educators?

A financial educator’s greatest responsibility is to empower future generations to make understood and responsible financial choices in their lives. There is no greater method for accomplishing this then learning through real life scenarios that prompt teachable moments and guidance in an engaging way. To be clear, we must present our students with simulations that allow them to experience the rewards and the consequences of their own financial choices.

The Awesome Island Game was designed by a teacher who is passionate about financial literacy. The simulation began in a single classroom and evolved as it was used in classrooms and conferences across different demographics in Southwest Ohio. Each time the game was played it was slightly modified based on feedback and gameplay until an effective final product for all kids ages 12 and up was created. It incorporates all of the national financial education standards, rewards appropriate financial choices, and introduces financial literacy in a fun and engaging way for the students.

The Awesome Island Game works. Please visit for more information.