Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#EdTech specialist - can you please help?

The purpose of this post is to ask for help and advice from #EdTech specialist who are familiar with the new MacBook Air. I was fortunate to be the recipient of a $60,000 grant from Discover's Pathway to Financial Success, and with my Grant dollars I purchased a full computer lab. Click here if you are interested in learning more about the Grant, and how else I have allocated the money.

Our technology specialist has already ordered 30 MacBook Pro's (plus one for me), and all of the support equipment. Our school is not a 1:1 school, and many of the kids have no experience working with a laptop computer. Furthermore, the kids have little to no experience turning in paperless work, or using online programs to take notes.

The primary purpose for the technology is to support my students in my stand-alone personal finance course for our special education students. I will have kids from all of my classes using the computers, so they are going to benefit as well.

I have a SMART board in my classroom that has never worked, but is going to be fixed. I would like to integrate my SMART board into my lessons, student notes, and classroom activities.

To be clear, I do not want to overwhelm the students. My goal is to use technology to enhance learning opportunities. I do not want to overwhelm them with technology and create barriers to learning.

My short term goals and questions
  • I immediately want to go paperless with everything except for tests. This means how I share notes, assignments, and projects. I have been told that Microsoft's OneNote is an excellent program for note-sharing.
    • Does One-Note work well with Mac's?
    • Is there any cost for One-Note beyond the initial purchase of the program?
    • What is the third-party intermediary that allows for sharing notes, and is there a cost?
    • Are there any other note-sharing programs that you feel may be better?
    • We have an internal dropbox at the school. Would this be the best way for the students to turn in their assignments? Would DropBox be better because it has an app?
  • I want to ensure students are not sidetracked with off-site/off-topic internet sites. 
    • What kind of spyware do you recommend I use?
    • Beyond engaging lessons, do you have any specific classroom management techniques you feel are effective?
  • I want to make sure the computers are not damaged or stolen.
    • Any advice?
My long term goals and questions
  • I want my students to leave our school and enter a college or a work setting computer literate. I don't know how else to explain my end goal other than sharing two visions... 
    • I want see my students in a college sitting next to kids who attended elite private schools with 1:1 programs, and be able to outperform them. 
      • Any specific advice, programs, fluencies, that I should integrate into my coursework?
    • I want my non-college bound students and/or special education students to walk into an office setting and have enough technology fluency to thrive in an everyday office setting.
      • Any specific advice, programs, fluencies, that I should integrate into my coursework?
  • I do not want to ever use paper again - - ever.
    • Do you know of any assessment programs that would allow me to upload my assessments, for my students to take the assessments, and to turn them in? Note - my tests are typically multiple choice and extended response. 
    • Do you know of any programs that will auto-grade multiple choice and/or written response questions?
  • I want my students to leave every class with an e-portfolio, something they can show future employers or college admissions. 
    • Any suggested e-portolio programs and/or resources? Preferably free.
Any advice you can provide me in response to this post is greatly appreciated.

Thank you...for 39 years

Earlier this month I had a close friend tell me that he divides people into two categories. There are people who skim across the surface of life - - experiencing and doing things that make their own lives better. Then there are people who dive into the lives of others, and who dedicate their lives to making the experiences and lives of other people better. These are the people who leave a legacy, the people who are talked about years after they are out of your lives or after they pass, people like my great friend Dennis Sulfsted.

Dennis Sulfsted grew up in Reading, Ohio. Dennis partially stepped away from Reading to attend the University of Cincinnati. He soon returned to serve the community in 1974 as a teacher at Reading Schools and never left. During his tenure, he won countless awards for excelling with every position he held with our district. As an English teacher and Newspaper advisor, he won national awards. As a wrestling coach, he won numerous championships and coach of the year awards. As our technology director, he won leadership awards.

I chose not to write a full-page summary of his awards, because adult recognition is not that important to him. I believe the moments that matter the most to him are memories of students in the midst of a lesson, who he has at the edge of their seats. Memories of students engaged in learning during a carefully crafted lesson that drive deep into the soul of a child, far beyond the context of a book.

Dennis is a friend I turn to as a moral compass. He serves as my guide to help me navigate through the many shades of grey in education. Regardless of the situation his priorities are clear and consistent. He puts the needs of kids first. He never lies - - ever. And he prioritizes helping teachers’ help kids through technology.

Dennis transitioned from the classroom to our full-time technology director twelve years ago. Regardless of whether he was excelling as a classroom teacher, or through classroom teachers, he spent his career excelling for kids. I experienced this first-hand. I am every technology director’s worst nightmare. I am always pushing the envelope, and often doing so at the last minute. Dennis was always there for me. He often dropped what he was doing to help me because he knew my students would benefit.

To begin the year, the computer lab Dennis built was dedicated to him. The computer lab is now known as the “Sulfsted Computer Lab”. So in the years ahead, teachers and alumni will walk past his lab and remember him, and everything he did for teachers and kids.

I can’t say I will miss Dennis as a friend, because I will not lose touch with him. What I can say is thank you. Thank you for making me a better teacher. Thank you for your advice, your support, and your passion. Most of all, thank you for leaving a legacy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Common Core Resources

Here are my favorite common core resources:
Here are my four favorite posts which share a collection of common core resources:

The United States of Financial and Economic Literacy

The Council for Economic Education has done a terrific job in the past year pulling together this basket of advocacy resources. Their resources include a wide variety multimedia such as the video above and this student debt calculator. They have gone as far as having a dedicated staff member to government affairs and partnership projects, Mary Blanusa, who is a tremendous connector and wealth of advocacy knowledge.

I blogged about this advocacy toolkit earlier, prior to stumbling across this video from a tweet from Gracie Rios Morales of the Federal Reserve.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Special education children deserve a financial education too

I am excited to announce that Discover Financial Services has awarded us (Reading Community Schools) a $60,000 grant to cover the cost of implementing a financial education course specifically for special education and special needs children into our curriculum. The grant is part of Discover’s Pathway to Financial Success program, a five-year, $10 million investment to bring financial education curriculum into public high schools across the country.

Receiving the Discover Financial Services Pathway to Financial Success Grant is a tremendous opportunity for Reading Community Schools to add to our financial literacy program. We already have such a strong curriculum and this will enable us to expand this successful program for special education children.

Comprehensive financial literacy coursework for special education/special needs children for a semester long class does not exist. Since being awarded the Discover Grant, I have begun working closely with national experts to pull together the course-writing team. Doug Young with the Council for Economic Education, a partner in the project, connected me to Michael Roush, the National Program Director for the National Disability Institute. Laura Levine, the Executive Director of Jump$tart, has also been helpful in the process. Chris Shannon, who has written coursework for NEFE and VISA, will be involved in writing the coursework. I have also allocated funds to purchase a full computer lab.

Our collective goal is to write standards and course lessons that will be incorporated in special education classrooms across the country. The generosity of Discover will impact Reading kids, and kids throughout the nation. We are honored to be the first educators to tackle this special project.

My district made the commitment three years ago to mandate a stand-alone course in Personal Finance to graduate, and began to offer a unit of Personal Finance in the middle school. In addition, personal finance and economic strands are being taught in our elementary buildings coupled with experiential elementary programs such as UC's Economic Center STEP program and the Stock Market Game. What was missing was a robust and inclusive financial literacy course specifically designed for special education and special needs children.

Statistics show that a majority of Americans lack the knowledge to make good financial decisions. Eight-four percent of high school students say they need more education on financial management topics, and the Department of the Treasury reported that graduates of high schools in which personal financial education is offered achieve higher savings rates and net worth than those graduating in states where financial education is not mandated.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Character Counts

Imagine opening a parent-teacher conference with “Let’s discuss your child’s character.” The first time I heard this prompt was a few weeks ago at the PwC KWHS Seminar for High School Educators on Business and Financial Responsibility. The presentation was an attempt to tie in character traits to financial behavior. The presenter used the KIPP Character Report Card as the foundation for his presentation, which emphasized the content area I teach.

Earlier in the year I wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post on the dangers of not teaching personal finance to kids. These frightening statistics illustrate the consequences of not equipping our students with basic personal finance tools and concepts — and Americans know it. Eighty-two percent of American parents agree that personal finance should be a graduation requirement, and 89% of teachers feel the same way.

Personal finance is still in the infancy stages of development in our schools. A challenge of teaching the course well is preparing students to put knowledge into action. I enjoy using games and simulations to bridge content with behavior, I even created my own. Although I have yet to assign a grade to the character traits sometimes necessary to making an understood financial choice as KIPP does.

Relative to personal finance, the character traits discussed at the seminar that stood out for me were grit, self-control, and kindness. Grit is defined as the ability to finish what one starts; complete something despite obstacles; a combination of persistence and resilience. Self-control is defined as the ability to regulate what one feels and does; being self-disciplined. Kindness is defined as doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.

You need grit to balance a budget on poverty wages. It takes grit to manage job losses or deaths in the family. It takes self-control to restrain from using your credit card to buy something now you really cannot afford. You need self-control, which as you can see in this video is not always innate, to save and wait to buy something later. Living a family budget that prioritizes other members of your family before yourself takes genuine kindness.

Teaching to the whole child is challenging and personal. Most would agree that someone’s character is one of the most important factors in their own success. At a minimum, our students should understand what character traits are necessary to reach their goals. So although a character report card may not feel right to me, neither does an education that all together avoids developing a student’s character. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Fed's EconWise iPad App

The excellent economic analysis you expect, now with the advantages of a free mobile app.

EconWise opens the door to the economic publications of the St. Louis Fed—wherever you go. You’ll find unbiased content, expert research, and down-to-earth commentary in the fields of macroeconomics, microeconomics, monetary policy, banking, finance, and personal finance. Easily sort and search through the publications in several different ways. New content is added frequently. The St. Louis Fed is pleased to continue its history of publishing a wide range of economic analysis, with the aim of helping readers better understand economic concepts and make better decisions. 


Click here for the link to the app store.

Why I'm interested in MindBlownLabs

I just pledged to help fund an innovative financial literacy solution, called Mindblown Life (MBL). Jason Young, a friend of mine and fellow Milken Winner has been working on this for a while now.

MBL is a mobile game/app that will empower millions of young people with critical money management skills. Jason's team is raising funds to launch MBL through Kickstarter, an online platform that allows people with creative projects to raise money from their extended networks.

I am interested in MindBlown because I am eager to find solutions to bridging financial content to financial behavior, and using game-based learning as a method of doing it. 

Click here if you are interested in learning more and/or contributing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tools to advocate for financial literacy

I often hear fellow educators discuss how we can advocate for requirements in personal finance instruction and coursework. A matter of fact, this NEFE study found that 89 percent of teachers agree or strongly agree that students should take a financial literacy course or pass a test for high school graduation.

I am honored to be a member of the Council for Economic Education GATE Teacher Advisory Board. In yesterday's meeting I was informed of their dedicated tool-kit and area on their website that provides educators with the tools they need to be legislative advocates.

Click here for the Council on Economic Education dedicated webpage on advocacy.

Click here for the Council on Economic Education Advocacy Tool Kit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bloom's Taxonomy According to Homer Simpson

Click here to watch a five minute video illustration of Bloom's Taxonomy using Homer Simpson. It is the best I have ever seen.

Click here to check out my previous post of my six favorite Bloom's Taxonomy resources.

Two Reasons Why Banks Should Promote Financial Literacy

It is not uncommon for people to believe that banks want a financially illiterate consumer base. However, new research indicates that may not be the case.

The World Bank's Financial Inclusion Global Practice has used survey results from the Consumer Protection and Financial Capability (CPFC) to illustrate what the CPFC data can tell us about the association between financial literacy, trust in financial institutions and financial inclusion. The results may surprise you.

You can read the full report by clicking here.

The research indicates two persuasive reasons for financial institutions to support a national movement to bring financial literacy into our classrooms.

1. The higher the level of financial literacy, the more formal financial products and services people use.

2. The number of formal products and services used also increases with the level of trust in financial institutions. Those who do not even know if they trust in banks, are unsurprisingly the ones with the least exposure to financial markets.

Dr. Lusardi and Dr. Mitchell both indicated at the PWC & Knowledge@Wharton seminar this weekend that research indicates just a little bit of financial literacy translates into a 20% increase in someone's net worth over time. That is not to say that if someone receives a financial education they will always make a wise financial choice. As the World Bank points out, almost every smoker knows about the negative effects of smoking. Yet that does not always change their behavior. But that doesn't mean we should stop informing the public of the consequences of smoking cigarettes.