Financial Literacy: Teacher’s Perspective on Connecting Technology and Content

Garfield Heights Middle School Financial Literacy teacher Joe Petit shares his thoughts on historical thinking and technology in Economics courses – also see his Teacher Spotlight feature from October 2013.
How do you use technology in your classroom?
Technology is central and can help connect material to a variety of learning styles. I regularly use technology and try to provide opportunities for students to explore on their own.
Do you think that it is important for students to use technology in the classroom? If so, why and what technological resources should they be using?
Technology in the classroom can help strengthen the material. During a lesson about careers students were able to use computers to look up the average wage of their chosen career.
What do you perceive to be some issues related to technology in the classroom?
Technological issues in a lesson can cause problems. If you have planned a lesson around internet use (by either you or the students) and the internet goes out you need to be prepared.  This happens A LOT.
How would you answer a student who says they do not foresee using the information they learned in an Economics or Financial Literacy course in their everyday life?
I have had students tell me that the material doesn’t or won’t apply to them.  For instance, a student told me that if she ever lost her job as an adult her parents would pay for her to live. I gave her a homework assignment that had her telling her parents what she told me and to record it with her phone.  [Joe continued to share that this student’s parents were not on board as she had hoped.]
Can you think of ways to use technology to integrate parents of students into the classroom experience?
I’ve always been very hesitant to try to stray too far into a technology heavy homework assignment because of the lack of technology many students have available at home.
How would you define Financial Literacy for those who are not familiar with the course?
I define Financial Literacy as the ability to understand how we interact with money and how best to hold on to it.
Do you employ any unconventional teaching methods in your classroom? If so, what are they, and how do your students respond?
I use many unconventional methods. I use music and lyrics in the classroom to teach about money. I use candy and contests to teach about opportunity cost. I use fake money and a rewards system to teach about inflation.
What advice do you have for pre-service teachers regarding technology in the classroom?
My advice about pre-service teachers regarding technology is to not use it or to use it sparingly. Work on the fundamentals first. Build amazing lessons (and not so amazing lessons) without the crutch. It’ll teach what to do when your technology fails.
How do you define historical thinking?
I define historical thinking as looking at a piece of history from the context of those who lived it.
Do you think historical thinking and Economics/Financial Literacy are connected in any way? If so, how?
I think historical thinking could be better defined as empathetic thinking because it has you putting yourself in the shoes of the person/people who lived it.  In that sense it is vital to every Social Studies class.
For example, when discussing taxes coming out of your paycheck we delve into what those taxes are spent on. Without portraying sides as liberal or conservative I get students to begin arguing with each other on who and who should not receive money from the government with me arguing the opposite of whatever side says. They often have to put themselves (unknowingly) into the role of a person who might disagree with the level of assistance many of these students receive.
Thank you Joe!