Monday, December 31, 2012

Interactive Government Budget Calculator

Everyone seems upset our legislators cannot seem to work together to solve for fiscal crisis. Is it really that easy? See for yourself...

Click here to make the tough choices for yourself. Is it really that easy?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

25 leaders for you to follow and me to thank

Thank you to everyone I follow on Twitter. I am on Twitter to get better and share. I have only been teaching for just under a decade, so I know I have a lot to learn. This is my first full year on Twitter, and I feel like I have learned more this year than any prior year. Twitter really is an incredible professional development tool, especially for teacher's always on the move.

So thank you to everyone I follow, and a special thank you to these 25 people. Many of you have helped me beyond twitter, you know who you are. I could write a full blog post about each of you, but I would prefer share this list with the world so others will follow you and can benefit just as I have.

@Edutopia - Quality reporting of cutting edge education resources and techniques.
@cybraryman1 - Clearly the go-to internet resource for teachers, students, and parents.
@tomwhitby - The man. Period. #EdChat.
@teacherken - I will always be thankful for the time you took to help me with my AP course.
@HCESCgifted - My go-to gifted education resource.
@Larryferlazzo - You may have the best education blog in the country.
@newtechnetwork - You are a connector, a go-to resource, and a great #PBLChat leader.
@stumpteacher - He doesn't believe in homework. That's just awesome no matter who you are.
@buddyxo - Flips, connects, and shares. I've only flipped a couple times, but I learned from the best!
@OHEducation - Effectively guiding Ohio teachers through the tough transition into new policies. 

Education Technology
@coolcatteacher - You are a technology magician with a heart of gold. It was honor to work with you.
@rmbyrne - You are the master of google apps.
@Edudemic - Every time you tweet, I know it's going to be some kind of incredible technology tool.
@remind101 - I had to bring you up because your service just rocks.
@Getting_Smart - I can always count on you to give me ideas of how to integrate technology.

Financial & Economic Literacy
@NatlJumpStart - THE connector for financial literacy organizations and resources.
@dankadlec - The best financial literacy writer in the country - period.
@NEFE_ORG - Providing links to every financial literacy resource you need, and it is all free.
@council4econed - Tweeting about every aspect of financial and economic literacy, and it's great stuff.
@PracticalMoney - They have it all covered, but their games have to be my favorite.
@AmericaSaves - Tweeting about research based saving techniques that every kid should learn.
@Bankrate - A financial calculator for everything - they have personal finance covered from all angles.
@Stlouisfed - I am still amazed at the quality of their education resources and their tweets.
@CreditExperts - These guys are educators at heart, and their tweets are useful in the classroom.
@Experian_US - Rod Griffin and Maxine Sweet share incredible credit education information.

P.S. A special thank you to Michael Roush of the National Disability Institute @RealEconImpact and Chris Shannon. We have been working very hard on the personal finance coursework for special education students to fulfill this grant, and in the process I have gained a wealth of knowledge.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 by the numbers...making the case for schools to better prepare kids for life

Outstanding student loan debt hit $1 trillion

• In 2012... roughly 650,000 people lost their homes

Credit card debt hit $850 billion

• The average total credit card debt of those who carry a balance in 2012 was... $15,418

• Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have zero emergency savings

89% of people who have access to a 401(k) are not contributing enough to retire

• When surveyed, 75% of credit card carrying college students were unaware of late payments

26 - the number of states with zero requirements to teach personal finance. This means schools in these states are not even required to integrate basic personal finance concepts into other content areas.

1 - the number of new states who began personal finance instruction in a stand-alone semester long course required for gradation (Virginia).

 The nasty ripple effects of poverty and financial stress by the numbers...

#1 cited reason for divorce is financial stress.

#1 cited reason for dropping out of college is for financial reasons.

• It is not a number, but it is a fact that financial stress sadly leads to suicide.

It is time legislators across our country get serious about education legislation that teaches to the whole child. It is time our education system prepares every student to make wise and informed financial choices. 

To better understand the need for financial literacy in our schools, watch this short video.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

3 reasons to give Pinterest a shot

I was told in a technology meeting a couple of weeks ago by a teacher I greatly respect that Pinterest is a great professional development tool. This was not the first time I had heard this, so I decided to give it a shot while on break. Pinterest has a purpose, and here are the reasons I like Pinterest the most.

1. It is the best social media tool for personalizing our professional development.
2. It is less stressful than Twitter.
3. It is a great way to interact with our colleagues, friends, or spouse.

It is the best social media tool for personalizing our professional development
We can follow subject boards of interest to us, and steer clear of the boards we have no interest in. Take for instance the teacher who recommended Pinterest. I follow her education boards to get writing ideas, but steer clear of the boards that are more of an interest to my wife than me.

It is less stressful than Twitter
At the height of the political season or when tragic news hits, tweets begin flying around that can stress us out. Pinterest boards stick to the subject. I have found this to be a more efficient use of our PD time, and a less stressful experience. I will still use Twitter, but I may end up enjoying Pinterest more.

It is a great way to interact with our colleagues, friends, or spouse
We can use the secret board option to create interaction topics. We can use the privacy setting to keep the interactions between who we would like, and change the setting so both (or multiple people) can pin things on the same board. I imagine this could be a great collaboration tool for colleagues. As an example, we are transitioning to Google Apps. I am going to invite fellow district beta testers to my Google App board.

My wife and I are using this feature for a parenting board and a home remodel board. My father and I will be bicycling and backpacking in the Swiss Alps this summer, and we are using the open board option to begin to map our journey.

Click here to learn how to use Pinterest. Happy pinning.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thank you Bill Dwight (FamZoo)

There is no better time to thank my friend Bill Dwight for his generosity than today, the day before holiday break. I just explained to my students his generosity, and they very appreciative. What made his $500 contribution for this project truly special is that he has never met my students. Bill lives in Palo Alto, California and my students are in Reading, Ohio (just outside of Cincinnati). He really has little to gain other than the satisfaction that he will be providing the first $500 toward a child's IRA. His gift could be the seed that leads to financial freedom for a child. 

Thank you Bill, you just changed a life.

Ted Blog on the fiscal cliff

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Video hooks & a virtual book for personal finance

If you are looking for 1-2 minute video hooks to introduce personal finance topics, this Investopedia video library full of scores of videos is an ideal resource. Be sure to explore and bookmark it.

CNNMoney created this virtual book complete with text, resources, quizzes, and virtual calculators. The content is straight forward and to the point, and appropriate for high school students. Be sure to explore and bookmark it.

I have added both to my K-12 Personal Finance LiveBinder.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Federal Reserve In Plain English (Video)

The St. Louis Federal Reserve is full of incredible resources. I particularly like the video above, especially followed up with many of the resources offered on the Federal Reserve Education website.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Forward thinking students

Here is how forward thinking my students are at Reading High School...

Over the past few years my students have written a marketing plan, a business plan, and populated TeenDollars full of useful financial literacy content. Our goal is to help teens with the financial choices they make now. Recently one of my business classes wrote a social media plan to grow our influence. Here were some of my favorite ideas they generated...
  • TeenDólares - A spanish version of TeenDollars. We are still looking into the right people to follow and are open to suggestions. We have two brilliant Spanish teachers willing to use this as a interdisciplinary activity for students to translate what we are trying to say into Spanish. We hope to begin tweeting in the next couple of weeks.
    • By the way, a past student developed our TeenDollars logo and has since graduated. I asked him to develop the TeenDólares logo which he did (above).
  • InstaGram - We started an Instagram account and will send charts, graphs, and pictures that link to financial literacy stories. Why? Some kids like pictures better, some kids are visual learners, and it is another communication channel. Again - - their ideas.
  • BufferApp - Use BufferApp to tweet during lunch and after school. This is when kids are most likely to read them. BufferApp also provides a very useful analytics tools that allows us to track the times and stories people like the most.
  • TeenDollars Twitter - Connect stories to famous athletes and entertainers. This is why we posted the recent 30for30 short film "Broke" on our front page and tweeted about Alan Iverson losing everything after making $150 million in the NBA.
  • Create a TeenDollars Remind101.
  • Continue to focus on content that is relevant to teens now.
    • College funding, car loans, apartments, auto insurance, student bank accounts, building credit, electronic banking services, etc
  • TeenDollars Tribune - We are going to publish a with sections including consumerism, sports, entertainment, and financial education. As you can see, we have already pulled together a draft.
Finally, many thanks to and for their sponsorship. As I have mentioned in a previous post, our school has lost 28% of our funding from previous years. So through their sponsorship we can host this website. If you are interested in becoming a TeenDollars sponsor, please contact me at

Along those lines, I started a $500 initiative last year to provide one student who, based on criteria, can best illustrate why a financial education is important to them and society. The $500 goes toward opening their first IRA. If you are interested in matching my contribution so I can award two students this year, I would be glad to share with you the specifics of the award criteria. Obviously you would be added as a TeenDollars sponsor. Please contact me at if you are interested.

A Christmas Jingle - Econ Style

This is courtesy of

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A "Review" lesson for every teacher

Here is the lesson I used to review for a test today. I felt like the lesson went really well. (By the way, the test was over credit and content from previous units but I did not incorporate the content because I wanted this template to be applicable to everyone)

I began with a 20 question matching quiz over the vocabulary. I used Quizlet to design the quiz. Students who earned perfect scores were rewarded with candy. Some important notes about Quizlet and why it made the lesson go smoother:
  • It allowed for auto-grading and instant feedback.
  • I was able to use Remind101 and our classroom Twitter account to send the virtual flashcards out to the students so they could study on their own time. 
    • The program has numerous games and assessment options the students can use to study with the virtual flashcards I made for them.
I transitioned into an ungraded formative assessment. I passed out a paper and asked the following types of open-ended questions:
  • Students were to IDENTIFY certain concepts and EXPLAIN how they are incorporated.
  • Students were to ANALYZE a concept and LIST the advantages and disadvantages.
  • Students were to EXPLAIN a concept.
  • Students were to take a position on a certain topic and JUSTIFY their position.
After they were done they exchanged papers and they did a peer review. They were allowed to use their notes to analyze each other's work.

To conclude the lesson I managed a classroom discussion over the answers to each of the questions.

I hope this helps. If you use this template in your classroom and it goes well please let me know!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

PwC's $160 commitment to financial education

Earlier this year in Chicago at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting, PwC US announced PwC’s Earn Your Future, a $160 million dollar commitment to financial education. PwC’s Earn Your Future will focus on two major gaps in the education system: a lack of financial literacy among youth and the lack of training opportunities for educators. The commitment will invest $160 million--$60 million in cash donations and one million service hours worth $100 million—in youth education, impacting more than 2.5 million students and educators in the United States.

Earlier this year I had the honor of experiencing their generosity at the Seminar for High School Educators on Business and Financial Responsibility at the Wharton School. I blogged about it while I was there. It was a first class event and one of the best experiences I have ever had.

Earn Your Future Be sure to take some time and visit their online curriculum. What is particularly impressive about it is how clean and easy it is to navigate through. I also included it as a resource in my LiveBinder.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

An incredibly useful budgeting tool for students

Students have a tough time with budgeting because they don't really know how much they need to earn to live the kind of life they aspire to live. It's a tough lesson for me to teach because there are a lot of variables that make the lesson complex and different for every student. Each line item in a budget is an individual's choice, and each line item will be different depending one where the student lives. Not to mention inflation.

Today, I stumbled across the Living Wage Calculator.

This calculator illustrates the living wage, poverty wage, and minimum wage for every state, county, and most cities across the country. It provides geographic specific anticipated expenses for various family sizes, as well as anticipated incomes for different careers. So at least this tool can provide some clarity to the students as they try to understand what it will cost to live and what they can expect to earn - - all depending on where they live.

As you can see here, M.I.T. extracts the information from a number of government websites. I highly recommend incorporating the site into your budgeting lesson.