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March 22, 2010

Wealth Watchers in the Classroom

By Cindy Ivanac-Lillig

I had met a woman, Alice Wood, a couple of years ago here at the Bank in connection with our Money Smart Week program. She is an attorney, a small business woman, and an author. Her life story is both heart-breaking and inspiring. She has recently come out with a book, "Wealth Watchers," that documents not only her life story but also serves as a how-to for the popular tool she has come up with to help people manage their finances more effectively. As I read the book, I thought -- this could be a great classroom tool for anyone teaching personal finance!

It is a rather easy paradigm to picture, because most of us have heard of the program Weight Watchers. There is no special food, only a way to keep score. Her system works much the same way. At one point in her book she says something like -- this isn't easy, but it is simple, which made me laugh at loud. The concept is so simple; it basically requires that you journal all of your daily expenses and know what your daily limit is for disposable income.

Why is simple sometimes so hard?

Please let me know what you think -- I realize that there are many tools out there and I have by no means tried them all, but this just happened to cross my desk and I thought it was worth sharing!

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Posted by Cindy at 10:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 15, 2010

Exploring the Fed's Independence in the Classroom

By Cindy Ivanac-Lillig

As folks teach about the Fed, they find themselves forced into using words that are so strange and almost contradictory that it makes me wonder what it must sound like for someone hearing it for the first time -- like many of our students. Think about "Quasi-Governmental," "Public-Private," "Independent and Accountable" and "Hybrid." I bet you all could think of some more on your own.

So, have I used these words to explain the Fed at times -- yes. I have tried not to, but the Fed structure was purposefully overlapping and rather complex in order to ensure its independence. Unfortunately, this complexity is often hard to explain without using these borderline nonsensical phrases. The Cleveland Fed has a series of "drawing board" YouTube videos designed to be fun, educational videos that explore different Fed subjects. They just recently released one on the Fed's Independence that does a good job of illustrating and explaining the importance of the unique structure especially as it relates to monetary policy.

Hope you enjoy. Let me know what you think.

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Posted by Cindy at 4:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 5, 2010

Technology's Potential in the Classroom

By Cindy Ivanac-Lillig

In the process of cleaning my desk, I found a really interesting article (amazing what cleaning will do) that introduced me to the Intel Teach website. It offers teachers on-line training on how to incorporate project-based technology into their classrooms. I think it could help a lot of teachers who are currently feeling like they are forcing in technology so that they can mentally check that box, but are really not using it to its fullest potential.

As you may or may not know, the Chicago Fed sponsors a project-based, academic competition called the Fed Challenge, that emphasizes teamwork, presentation skills, fundamental economic theories, and a deep knowledge of macroeconomic data. This last piece of the program has really changed a lot in the last decade. Now, not only can students get data, but they can manipulate data quickly, get expert opinions on the data, and even ask questions of experts via email and get the answers in time for their presentations! Many may argue that students don't have to do as much now, but quite frankly, it seems to me they have to do more -- as there are many more avenues for their fellow competitors to get an edge. Information moves faster and hence more is expected.

As a teacher, this is exciting because in some ways independent and critical thinking have more opportunity to be exercised in this type of environment. The trick is how to incorporate this fast-paced technology into the classroom when we are sometimes not as comfortable with it. Here is where Intel Teach comes in. Intel has dedicated a significant amount of resources in the education field and this is a perfect fit for them.

I usually write blogs on economic topics and/or economic education opportunities, but this is one that I think could really help bring to life one thing that economics has going for it in the classroom -- real data on real life events. The way I see it (or what I hope) is that technology will allow us to breathe life into a highly theoretical subject that just may spark some interest in students. That is pretty exciting!

If anyone has any information on this particular program, please post below. In addition, if anyone does project-based economic projects in their classroom, I am sure we would all like to read about it.... please consider sharing

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Posted by Cindy at 10:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack