While some personal finance educators struggle just to connect to the Internet, others are watching as technology awakens their students to new possibilities — and sometimes to the cold, hard facts of life — through games, apps, websites, simulators, calculators and other tech tools. “They sincerely appreciate the opportunity to make virtual mistakes and avoid some of the same things in the real world,” says Ronald Cross, a financial literacy teacher in Dallas. But good tools are best used by good teachers. As Michigan business teacher Brian Johnson says: “The use of humor, being enthusiastic about the topic, and the ability to communicate with young people is more powerful than the most expensive piece of technology.”
In 2015 NEFE surveyed High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP) educators to find out how they are (and aren’t) using tech tools in their classrooms.
Changing Gang Discussions to Stock Market Talk
"Being a teacher in the Department of Youth Services for the last five years has been rewarding and challenging, but the rewards are so much greater when you see students who have experienced nothing but failure in the classroom enjoy learning again. I use the Internet and Investopedia.com to set each student up with a simulated real-time stock account. I have watched the gang discussions in class change to stock market talk, and each morning, the students are eager to log on and check their portfolios. This is why I teach."
by Jason Richmond, Springfield, Mass.
Wanting to Incorporate More Technology
"I teach all the core subjects to 7th-12th grade students with disabilities. Since none of my students are on the same level in math and many cannot read above a second-grade level, I have used multiple online programs to teach math. I am a big believer in audiobooks and my students use online resources to have text read aloud. I use several apps and programs for Autism Spectrum Disorder support. I am sure I do not utilize technology as much as I could, and would love to incorporate more as I get trained."
Tammy Harper, Mount Vernon, Ark.
Harnessing Students' Love of Gaming
"Let's face it, kids love gaming. If we put nearly the amount of time we engage in playing games into solving a worldwide problem such as hunger or poverty, we'd be a lot closer to solving those problems. At Nicolet High School, we harness that energy and excitement in our Mobile Apps and Game Design course. By searching "Nicolet High School" in the Google Play Store, you'll see some of the apps our kids have programmed/created including Route 50, We Want Whale, Pocket Rocket, Galaxy Rush and more."
by Mike Kania, Glendale, Wis.
Using Technology to Bring Introverts Into the Discussion
"My classrooms are using Google Classroom to facilitate online discussions with students who might be hesitant to speak. This allows every student to have a voice in the discussions. Students are allowed to use their smartphones in class to check stock prices and conduct basic research. I have found that if a student does not have a smartphone, other students are willing to share."
by Rhonda Malcolm, Lawrence, Kan.
Simulation and Gaming
"One of the most efficient things to do is to gamify the lessons. I’ve found that simulations are the most exhilarating activities that a teacher can use, because they make abstract concepts concrete. Students sincerely appreciate the opportunity to make virtual mistakes and avoid some of the same things in the real world. As great as technology is, we also have to find innovative ways to implement and use the resources available."
Robert Cross, Dallas, Texas
Running a Paperless Classroom
"All of our students in grades 9-12 have an iPad through our 1:1 program. Over the past three years, I have been able to run a paperless classroom. Assignments are distributed, completed, corrected and returned — all without using a single piece of paper!"
Marlene Stubber, St. Marys, Pa.
Student-Led Coffee Shop Stimulates Learning
"We use technology quite a bit in my business vocational class. My students actually run a fully-stocked coffee shop for our teachers and students each morning. They learn how to run a real-world business. We use computers and tablets to keep track of our inventory, budget, income and expenses. We also do weekly advertising using computers."
Christina Ladner, Long Beach, Miss.
Preparing Inmates for a World They Can Only Imagine
"I am in a correctional facility and am not able to use technology, but only explain its uses. Imagine having been incarcerated since the early ‘80s and now getting close to your release date. A whole new world from what you left awaits you. For those of us who have never been confined, it seems overwhelming if we do not keep up with the technology. For some of these inmates, they can only imagine things they have not seen others using. The NEFE materials help to inform my students about technology, but also how to make better choices as their lives move forward."
James Tietz, Plymouth, Wis.
Helping Students Envision Their Future
"In my classroom, students explore personal finance by completing a month-long project that integrates technology and their own personal interests to create a unique picture of what their lives will be like in the future. They research a chosen career, understand the requirements of it, and establish a salary. Using this salary, they fill out tax forms online and determine their take-home income. After this, students use typical websites to find a place to live, buy a car, find financing and understand their credit score. In the end, students develop a budget with all of their expenses and reflect on their spending choices."
Laura Bender, Hudson, N.Y.
Slow-Tech Challenges Limit Options
"Sixteen old desktop computers are in my classroom. Sometimes, these work. On good days, some can reach the Internet. The server is slow, so if the resources I've assigned are not too content-dense, my students can use online resources. Don't doubt that I will get better technology. No one thought I could get personal finance added to this school's curriculum, and I am now teaching it!"
Diane Smith, Old Forge, Pa.