Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Literacies for the digital age: Financial literacy

This post originally appeared in September of 2014 on my Discovery Educator Network blog, Kathy's Katch, where I pen a monthly blog post. Please take a look at the blog when you get a a chance. The new posts go up the first day of each month!
I have identified thirteen literacies important for students to master, which you can see below.  Lisa Nielsen, in her blog post “Should the new math be financial literacy?” states “we have lost focus on preparing young people for what will matter in their real lives. If the education system were to provide some financial literacy classes for kids, it could make a tremendous difference in the economic success of society”. Let’s examine some ways you can easily embed their literacies across the curriculum.
Economic literacy, often called financial literacy, according to Atomic Learning, “targets the importance of making appropriate economic choices on a personal level, and understanding the connection personal, business, and governmental decisions have on individuals, society, and the economy”. The report of the NASBE Commission on Financial and Investor Literacy also offers a useful definition: “Financial literacy is defined as the ability to read, analyze, manage and communicate about the personal financial conditions that affect material well-being. It includes the ability to discern financial choices, discuss money and financial issues without (or despite) discomfort, plan for the future and respond competently to life events that affect everyday financial decisions, including events in the general economy”.


Some states, such as Ohio, have an economic and financial literacy requirement in their Ohio Core state standards to be taught within social studies or another class. In their state, teachers certified in social studies, business education, marketing education, and family and consumer science are all licensed to teach financial literacy. These teachers can help develop a curriculum starting in the earliest grades to make sure these literacies are woven seamlessly throughout the curriculum at all grade levels.
The Council for Economic Education has developed a set of standards for financial literacy that start in grade three.
The strands include:
  • Earning income
  • Buying goods and services
  • Using credit
  • Saving
  • Financial investing
  • Protecting and insuring
Of course, financial literacy strands are also found in the National Business Association’s standards, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences standards,  and state standards, such as the ones in Ohio, Oklahoma (7-12), Nebraska (K-12) and New Jersey (4-12). There are even sets of standards, such as the Jump$tart Coalition’s National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Educationthat can serve to help you embed economic and financial literacy across the curriculum.


Discovery Education Streaming includes videos that can introduce age-appropriate content to students titled “Financial Literacy for Students” and a professional development series titled “Financial Literacy: Teach it!” The links below will work if your district subscribes to Discovery Education Streaming.

Financial literacy for students (2010)

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  • The meaning of money
  • Counting bills and coins
  • Writing out money: decimals and dollar signs
  • Earning power
  • Needs versus wants
  • saving for a goal
  • What do banks do?
  • Creating a budget
  • Savings account
  • Checking account
  • How to use a debit card and ATM
  • Security and banking online
  • Figuring interest
  • Rewards and risks of credit cards
  • Getting a loan: car, school, or home
  • Long-term savings and investing

Financial literacy: Teach it! (2009)

teachit fin lit

  • Penny the  pig
  • Credit clues
  • Career cards
  • Classroom economy
  • Charity presentations
  • Insurance and floods
Grades 5-8
  • Just interest
  • Comparing graham crackers
  • Financial goal setting
  • Dream cities
Grades 9-12
  • Debt consultants


In addition to economic and financial literacy associations, there are investment firms, banks, and government agencies who provide both online and offline material to help you weave financial literacy across the curriculum.
  • Council for Economic Education: EconEdLink Personal Finance
    • Includes lesson plans, up-to-date information, economic data and Web links for educators
    • Interactive tools and lessons for students
  • Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission (US):
    • Information, games and fun facts about money, saving and planning for the future
    • Curricula, lesson plans, tip sheets, guidance and helpful tools for teaching financial capability
    • Clearinghouse of federally-funded research reports, articles and data sets on financial capability and related topics
  • United States Mint: Financial Literacy
    • Activities and lesson plans about coin to promote basic economic understanding for students
  • Fox Business: The Centsables
    • A cable program support page with comic books dealing with financial literacy topics
  • Federal Reserve Bank (US): Lesson Plans
    • Lesson plans for K-12 dealing with financial literacy; includes a literature tie-in
    • Games and simulations for K-12 students
  •  Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company: The Mint
    • Interactive scenarios for kids and teens dealing with saving, spending, protecting, and entrepreneurship
  • H&R Block: Dollars and Sense
    • Provides and gathers ideas, news, tips, and tricks for teachers and students in the area of investing and savings
  • University of Nebraska- Omaha Center for Education: Economic Education Web
    • K-12 concepts and lessons plans for economic and financial literacy as well as links to data sets
    • Special THEN (Teach History and Economics in Education), a 4th grade curricular tie-in
  • Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy: Activity worksheets
    • A curriculum for financial literacy with a handbook and worksheets for adults or high schoolers

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Review: STM Aero and Equil Smartpen 2

I recently acquired two new tech accessories I want to share with you!

STM Aero Small Laptop Backpack

I was able to take a look at this laptop backpack at the FETC15 conference in Orlando last month. After examining it, I realized this laptop backpack was one that would work for me! Here are the features I love, in order of importance to me when traveling:
  • SIZE: The STM Aero is intended for a 13" laptop, but I only need room for the 11.6" MacBook Air. Many backpacks sized for 13" laptops are big and bulky. This one is not! The outer dimensions are only 16.14 x 10.24 x 5.51 inches. The laptop device space is 9.05 x 12.8 x 0.98 inches, which will fit up to a 13" MacBook Pro Retina. In addition, is very lightweight at 1.5 pounds when empty! It comes in Berry red, black, and gray. (I opted for black since it does not show the dirt!)
  • IPAD: I wanted a dedicated pocket for my iPad Air 2, and this bag includes a nicely lined one of these, too.
  • BAGGAGE LOOP: The back of the STM Aero includes a luggage handle pass-through on the back to make it easy for me to carry it on top of my roller bag when I need to.
  •  KEY STRAP: One thing I always worry about when traveling is misplacing my car keys. The STM Aero includes a strap and hook for attaching my keys!
  • INSIDE SPACE: The STM Aero is not very deep, but I can easily fit my technology accessory bag with the adapters, power supplies, extension cord, and additional items in the space.
  •  SIDE POCKETS: I often carry a water bottle, so a side pocket is a necessity for me. This backpack has 2 side pockets, so I am using the other one for easy access to my in-ear headphones.
  • STRAPS: The STM Aero has comfortable, padded shoulder straps and back, and also includes a "sternum strap" that connects the straps in the front in case I am carrying a heavier load. There is a grab strap at the top of the backpack which makes it easy to carry down the plane aisles.
  • FRONT POCKETS: The STM Aero has a zippered, soft-lined pocket on the front which includes two slip pockets (one that I use for my iPhone 6+ and the other for my Wayfarers) and I store my boarding pass in the larger section for easy access to it.
  • INSIDE POCKETS: Inside the STM Aero, there are three more slip pockets, two pen slots, and a deep zippered pocket. 
I marked up some STM Aero images so you can view the components I included in the review.

When fully loaded, the STM Aero Small Laptop Backpack retains it shape and is very comfortable to wear. If you need more space for your items, check out the larger laptop bags and rollers on STM's site!


I know we already have iOS and Android devices with drawing tools and external art/drawing tablets. And there are electronic pens that can collect your notes and send them to your computer when you use special notebooks for taking notes.

I had read some reviews about the Equil Smartpen 2 and thought it hit the sweet spot for both notetaking and drawing in a more traditional way.

The Equil Smartpen 2 includes a reciever that you clip to any piece of paper, pad, or notebook, a regular size pen, and extra pen tip, and a cool case for carrying and charging.

Equil Smartpen 2

As you are drawing or writing, and you are connected via Bluetooth to your Mac or Windows computer or iOS device, what you are drawing is transferred in real-time to the computer or iOS or Android device. You can then turn handwriting into text if you want to on the computer or tablet. It is easy to begin new "virtual" pages by pushing the button on the receiver. The receiver can hold 4 GB of information.

Real-time transfer of drawing to tablet

There are two apps for the Equil Smartpen 2 for the iOS and Android devices - Equil Note and Equil Sketch - one for writing and one for drawing. I think the drawing app is a paper-based sketchnoter's dream come true! (Equil Note is also available for the Mac and Windows platforms.) 

You don't need to be Bluetoothed to a device when you are taking notes or drawing. You can simply use the pen and the small receiver, which will collect the information, and send it to your computer, tablet, or phone later. (This saves some battery life, since the BT connection can be shut off on the receiver while you are writing/drawing.)

The notes are synced across your devices using iCloud, Dropbox, or Evernote and also share with social media.

I can't seem to locate a stylus tip for the pen to use with the iPad as shown in the video. (Perhaps that was scrapped during development.) You can find out more about the Equil Smartpen 2 on their site!