Q&A: Susan Sharkey, Director, High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP)

: Susan Sharkey, Director, High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP)

As director of NEFE’s flagship high school program and a former business education teacher, Susan has closely watched technology trends in the classroom. We asked her to reflect upon the pros and cons of new tech tools.

DIGEST: How should instructors decide which technology to use in their lessons?

SS: Teaching tools must have a purpose. Technology is simply a tool — whether you are using a projector, paper and pencil, or playing a game, it still comes down to the intended outcome. As a result of doing whatever this activity is, what do I want the students to know and be able to do? You also want variety. We need to differentiate how we deliver instruction because one method doesn’t work for everybody.

It takes three types of skill sets to design an effective online class: technology know-how, instructional design and content expertise. You want it to be meaningful and to focus on higher-level learning skills so it’s something the students will use far into the future. With well-designed learning content, relevant activities and engaging tools, an online course can be effective for any age group.

DIGEST: How might technology be a hindrance?

SS: The main hindrance is when the technology doesn’t work as planned. If you suddenly can’t hear or see when you’re participating in a webinar, that’s a problem. Another hindrance can be that learners have varied levels of technical skill or ability. Experienced teachers have backup plans. They develop a system to manage the technology that includes training for themselves and their students. For example, if we expect students to use spreadsheets, have they learned how to input functions or formulas into the spreadsheet?

Online classes always should start out with some kind of orientation to get people used to the gadgets and features. It might mean encouraging students to participate in a chat room, or to complete a type of scavenger hunt on the site — not necessarily related to the class content, but just getting them to touch everything. That way, the instructor can see where someone needs help using the platform.

“Technology is simply a tool — whether you are using a projector, paper and pencil, or playing a game, it still comes down to the intended outcome.”


DIGEST: What other challenges do K-12 teachers face in implementing technology?

SS: It depends on the school and which technology is available. School priorities for technology budgets vary. Also, school technology use policies are not the same across the country. For example, some schools don’t allow phones. Some schools are committed to providing tablets because they recognize that all students don’t have the same access at home. However, almost all schools use some kind of technology.

It’s very challenging to keep up with technology. Not all schools have the most current Internet platforms, and it’s expensive and cumbersome to update. And then you always have to learn something new. Whenever there’s a transition, there is a learning curve and necessary adjustments.

DIGEST: Which technology trends do you find most exciting for financial education?

SS: I think technology tools that engage learners in “what if” scenarios have a lot of impact: What if I saved this much at this percent interest? What if I paid more on a debt, how fast will it pay down? Youth are making shopping decisions before they start kindergarten, so “what if” simulations can be relevant for all ages. A simulation can be a safe way to make a decision and reflect on the result. People now have access to financial literacy information that they used to have to get through experts. For example, if I want to know what my debt ratio should be, I can find that information somewhere online. We just need to make sure students are getting information from credible sources. The danger is misinformation — especially when it starts to get regurgitated.

See the full Sept/Oct 2015 Digest or download the PDF.

Contacts

  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]

  • Patricia (Pat) Seaman

    Senior Director of Marketing and Communications

    Direct: 303-224-3538
    [email protected]

Contacts

  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]

  • Patricia (Pat) Seaman

    Senior Director of Marketing and Communications

    Direct: 303-224-3538
    [email protected]