Sunday, April 10, 2016

Financial savvy with Earn Your Future Digital Lab

Personal finance continues to grow in importance. Though the importance and relevance continue to mount, unfortunately, there are still far too many young folks who struggle with the concept and frankly lack awareness. Furthermore, it's these younger years that often prove to be the most critical, so it's in the best interest of schools to continue our focus on teaching personal finance.

The PWC Charitable Foundation has put together a financial literacy program called Earn Your Future Digital Lab. This program is level/module-based and provides students in grades 3-12 the opportunity to gain valuable skills related to personal finance. 

As an educator, you can sign up and explore the different levels and modules, as well as get your entire class set up.

There are three different levels that are each designed for a different age group. Level 1 is designed for beginners in grades 3-5. This level is currently not available, but should be soon. Level 2 is intermediate for grades 6-8, and lastly, level 3 is advanced for grades 9-12.

When you start exploring the different modules within the levels, you start to see the true value in this program. Whether it is related to mortgages, saving money for that cool new phone, dabbling in the stock market, or applying for that first credit card, there's something for everyone within these levels and modules.

Another really neat feature of this program is the 'badge' system where students acquire new and different badges based on their learning and progress. When students go through the levels and modules, they will experience relevant and applicable scenarios that all students can relate to. Additionally, the modules provide students 'drag and drop' scenarios along with some basic and simple math computation scenarios.

Lastly, at the end of each module, students get a 'key learning points' summation to bring it all together. It's a great way to recap all the highlights from the module to ensure the information is retained by students.

In closing, this program does an excellent job of ensuring students can work at their own pace. There's nothing limiting the students to one level or module at the same time, which is critical to creating a personalized learning experience for students. 

PWC has created a viable program here which undoubtedly can help us as we work to provide key exposure and learning for our students when it comes to personal finance.

This is a sponsored recommendation and I have received compensation for writing this blog post.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

5 ways to make your classroom student-centered

A student-centered classroom allows students to be an integral part of the assessment development process. This doesn't necessarily mean every assessment is created and designed by students, but it does mean there is a collaborative and joint venture of teachers and students in the planning and implementation stages of assessments. Students who help to design and create their assessments will find the assessments to be more meaningful, and typically students end up creating assessments that are more challenging than what teachers would have created anyway...

A student-centered classroom focuses on finding solutions to real-world problems. Too often our classroom focus is on solving problems that lack relevance and purpose in the eyes of students. The student-centered classroom addresses real-world problems that affect or will affect students. This in turn will provide meaning and context to student-driven learning, which then will increase levels of engagement and overall student involvement.

A student-centered classroom is not about what the teacher is doing or what the teacher has done; it's about what the students are doing and what the students can do in the future. We all have experienced the teacher observation model that focuses just on what the teacher is doing, but more and more models are now focusing on what the students are doing. Obviously, what the teacher does affects and impacts what the students are doing, but the most important piece is what the students are doing or are able to do as a result of what the teacher is doing.

A student-centered classroom embraces the notion that there are multiple ways to accomplish an individual task. When we limit and confine students to following a certain and specific path, we ultimately end up limiting their levels of ownership, innovation, and creativity. A student-centered classroom allows, encourages, and embraces the multitude of paths one can take to solve a given problem. This also allows for students to follow their strengths and their interests when completing a task.

A student-centered classroom firmly believes that there is a partnership and a strong level of trust between educators and students. The teacher no longer is and hasn't been for a while the 'smartest' person in the room. Because of this, we need to continue forging a partnership between the teachers and the students and accept an equal playing field when it comes to learning, exploration, and discovery. This partnership is built on trust, and trust happens when we are vulnerable and open to learning with and from others...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

10 reasons it's time to move beyond textbooks

1). Paper is getting more and more expensive and textbooks frankly aren't very environmentally friendly.

2). Because the typical history book has just a few pages on the Civil War and when I google the 'Civil War' I get 870,000,000 results in .047 seconds.

3). I have never seen a textbook that wasn't written with bias or written free of errors. So all the folks who believe that textbooks are 'reliable' and 'unbiased' resources, are sadly mistaken.

4). Textbooks can't be adapted and can't be updated once they are printed.

5). There are so many relevant and up-to-date resources that are available for free or for very low cost. When it comes to personalizing and differentiating instruction, textbooks aren't the best choice because they offer a one-size fits all approach.

6). Let's be honest, kids aren't going home and 'reading' textbooks. Also, if kids are doing worksheets and answering questions from a textbook, it's time to reevaluate your instructional practices.

7). Textbooks are quite expensive when compared to similar resources and instructional materials, and when school budgets are being stretched, the money should be spent elsewhere.

8). Textbooks are heavy, bulky, taste good to dogs, and lead to student back problems... I'm not seeing much positive here!

9). Real life doesn't come with a textbook, so why are we so focused on believing that kids need a textbook to learn...?

10). 1,000 different textbooks on 1,000 different topics can be replaced by one single device with access to the internet... enough said.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kids don't need to be ready for school... schools need to be ready for kids

Dan French shared this wonderful tweet that really got me thinking:

This really got me thinking because we spend so much time telling kids they need to do this or they need to do that so they can be successful in school. We project this mentality that if kids aren't prepared to experience this and aren't able to handle that, they're doomed to fail.

We inadvertently transfer the pressure and accountability onto our kids and all the while, we tend to forget that they are just that... kids living in a rapidly changing world.

We also, somewhat arrogantly, assume we know exactly what is best for kids and know exactly what they need to do to be successful in life.

But, what if it were reversed and schools spent their time ensuring schools were ready for what kids were bringing to the table...?

What if kids started talking to schools about what schools needed to do to be prepared for them...?

What if schools were feeling the pressure from students rather than the other way around?

We know life and the world around us are changing more quickly than ever before. And, it's these kids who come to our schools wanting, needing and DESERVING a system that's ready for them and is able to meet their needs.

And as a new parent and educator, I have no idea what my son Emory will need in 5 years when he starts his formal schooling... but I hope at least someone will ask him and consider what it means to be ready for him.

So, the next time you get together with your colleagues, focus on ensuring your school and/or classroom are ready for kids and not the other way around.

Maybe the conversation will be the same... maybe it will be completely different. :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

10 dreams I have for my son's #education

My wife and I celebrated our son, @emorytarte's, 1st birthday just a few weeks ago. Having a young man moving around the house has been quite the experience to say the least. :) 

I now can call myself an educator AND a parent, and the statement, 'you're not a parent, so you don't understand,' no longer applies.

Having said that, I've worked in education for almost 11 years and I've seen the system from the classroom to building administration to district administration, which gives me a rather unique perspective on how education is done.

Now, in a little less than 5 years, my son will be entering the education system, so here are 10 dreams I have that will hopefully be realized by the time he is ready to begin his formal education.

1). I dream of an education system that will never sacrifice play for more instructional time. Play is said to be the best form of research, and I want my son to do plenty of research.

2). I dream of an education system that really stands behind their statements of differentiation and personalized learning. My son is unique just like every other child out there, so I want him treated as such. Too often we treat these strategies as 'events' rather than the way we conduct business.

3). I dream of an education system that boldly recruits and goes after the most innovative and creative thinking folks in society. I want my son to learn with educators who think big and dream of what could be. I want my son's teachers to build their lessons around the question, 'what if?'

4). I dream of an education system that physically looks completely different from the current education system. The architectural layout of most schools just isn't conducive to the types of learning experiences kids need, so it's time schools revisit and retool as needed to account for new approaches.

5). I dream of an education system that commits to creating and designing authentic learning experiences that go far beyond the walls of the actual school and community. The world is getting smaller and global connectedness is the future. My son deserves the opportunity to see beyond his own community.

6). I dream of an education system that solves problems that will make our world a better place. There's no shortage of serious problems facing society, so why not tap into all the knowledge and brain power we have entering our schools every single day. I want my son working on these problems that will ultimately affect him as he gets older.

7). I dream of an education system that views my son's learning as holistic in nature and not compartmentalized into tiny different learning units. Education is a fluid process and isn't and can't be contained and most certainly shouldn't be siloed.

8). I dream of an education system that doesn't get in the way of itself. Far too often we know what we need to do and we know what is right, but yet we fail to do anything because the system we've built prevents us. My son can't wait for the red tape to be cleared.

9). I dream of an education system that focuses more on creation than consumption. Sure, my son will need some basic knowledge, but in the end he will need and will be expected to create something with that basic knowledge. I don't want my son limited to just eating... I want him to be able to cook too.

10). I dream of an education system that is flexible and adaptable enough to meet the ever-changing needs of my son. What he needs to know now vs. what he will need to know later aren't the same, and I expect his education system to recognize that.