Announcing EverFi’s Student Blog Challenge Winners

As part of our recognition of Financial Literacy Month, we asked students who have completed EverFi’s financial literacy platform to share their thoughts – in the form of a blog post – on what they’ve taken away from the experience and how they intend to apply that to their future financial lives.

As we rolled out this national student challenge, we hoped to capture the thoughts of a couple hundred students.  So you can imagine our delight when over 1,400 elementary school and high school students from 166 schools and 37 states chimed in with blog posts.   The submissions were fantastic and we’re incredibly appreciative of all the students (and their supportive teachers) who took so much interest in the challenge.

EverFi Student Blog Challenge Word CloudBecause we’d like to see all students recognized for their thoughtful contributions, we thought a word cloud that encapsulates all 220,000 submitted words would be fitting.  On behalf of the EverFi team, I can certainly say that it makes our day to see so many important topics reflected in the submissions.

After a detailed review that included more than 20 judges, we’re thrilled to announce four national winners and to be able to post their submissions here on the EverFi blog.  Congratulations to these students for completing their certification and for distinguishing themselves amongst a group of fantastic entries!

 

Elementary School Winner

 

Christopher C.
5th grade, PS 189M, New York, NY
Teacher: Damian Rodriguez

The greatest lesson I have learned from Vault is how to keep my money safe.  This has and will definitely affect my future finances in many ways.  First, I will learn how to invest my money in ways where I will gain instead of lose more.  I will save and spend equally on wants and needs.  That is, I will set aside a percentage of my earnings for the things I want and another percentage for the things I need.  Another way this has and will continue to affect my life is because it has motivated me to earn money.  I now know the difference between wages and salaries, wants and needs, and saving and spending.  Most importantly, I have learned the true value of money.  I now understand that by doing jobs like washing cars and mowing people’s lawns, I can earn money that can be saved for future use or used for things that I currently want.  Having people like my parents and teachers as financial advisors will also guide me into making good financial decisions. Vault has inspired me to learn more about money and I strongly believe that every student should have access to this wonderful program.  It is the kind of program that’s valuable not only in school, but in my personal life as well.   This is how Vault has and will continue to change my financial life.

 

High School Winners 

 

Evelyn M.
12th Grade, Quakertown Community High School, Quakertown, PA
Teacher Name:  Lynn Gunning
EverFi Financial Literacy program sponsored by Univest Bank

Financial confidence is the best lesson I have gained from completing the EverFi financial literacy certification. I am so excited to use the knowledge given to me to make better decisions about money in the future. I know how to save money in savings accounts, CDs and other investments, as well as how to better spend my money on higher education and renting vs. owning. In EverFi’s ten short modules, I have gained self-assurance by knowing what I am talking about when finances come up in conversation. Each module is an exciting interactive experience to learn something new, or refresh something you knew before. I would definitely recommend these fun lessons to my friends because they have helped me understand what is going on in the real world. I am no longer intimidated by banks or stock rooms because I finally understand what goes on! EverFi has given me a taste of every aspect of the financial world which I can apply in real life, I have learned everything from how taxes and insurance work, to what a consumer has to look for when comparison shopping for loans, savings accounts and credit cards, and how to protect myself from scams and consumer fraud. I am even able to answer my friends’ questions about subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and other ways to finance their higher education. I am now the go-to money person when someone has a question which makes me feel so smart! This newly-gained confidence empowers me to make financial decisions which will affect the rest of my life for the better. With what the EverFi financial literacy certification has taught me, I see a future where I can be self-reliant, which is the best thing anyone can be given.

 

Elif T.
9th Grade, Ponte Vedra High School, Ponte Vedra, FL
Teacher Name:  Chris Kochan
EverFi Financial Literacy program sponsored by Prosperity Bank

The EverFi financial literacy program pushed me to learn a lot of new and interesting tools that will help me later on in life. The greatest lesson I learned overall, was that going forward I am going to have to be an independent person with many responsibilities. I learned things about banking, savings, financing higher education and credit scores. These are all so important and I definitely feel that I have the necessary knowledge in these categories to succeed in life and be confident about the choices I will make when it comes to buying, selling, or college funds. Taking the time to sit down and watch these videos and interact with games was by far one of the smartest choices I have made this year. By excelling in these categories and topics, I will be able to go to college knowing how to handle funds, scholarships, housing, credit scores and all of the other things that life will throw at me. Even after college I will still use what I learned through this program. Things such as renting vs. owning or taxes and insurance will all help me make greater decisions when it comes time to do so. I feel like EverFi is something that all students in high school should sit down and do, because of the amount of knowledge and awareness it brings. If the majority of high school students in the United States were required to do this program, they would all be more successful in what they decide to do with their money or other things. I am very glad I participated in this program and I know that it is going to benefit me in many ways down the road.

 

Julia N.
12th Grade, Centennial High School, Champaign, IL
Teacher name: Caitlin O’Grady
EverFi Financial Literacy program sponsored by Heartland Bank and Trust Company and the Rauner Family Foundation

The EverFi program was a great way to learn more about my future with finances. The most important thing that I took away from this program was that it gave me the awareness of how poor financial decisions I make now can have a relatively big effect on my future.  EverFi helped me learn about the seriousness of a credit score and more importantly how I can use it to my advantage. Although, EverFi reminded me that a credit score can be a scary and intimidating factor to my financial security, I was also reminded of the importance of how I can be rewarded from good fiscal habits for a lifetime. The responsibility it takes to earn and maintain a worthy credit score opens up many opportunities in the future to be able to be granted loans for a new car or new home. The first step of many large, significant purchases in life is based on your reliability shown through your credit score. A credit score doubles as a look into your past which also provides a basis for how you can be trusted in your future.  EverFi reminded me of the importance of each and every financial decision I make, and even the significance of starting good habits now despite being financially dependent on my parents. My journey to completing my EverFi Financial Literacy certification taught beyond the mere basis of financial success, but it furthermore taught me the importance of building good character through financial responsibility.

“No more playing around!” Taking gamification seriously in digital education

Word Cloud "Gamification"Earlier this year, I was able to give a lecture on EverFi uses games to teach digital safety and responsibility in Jill Klein’s Global Digital Citizenship course at American University. In describing “HOW” we apply games to our courses, I found it necessary to attempt to explain “WHY” one would choose to incorporate them.

A quick search online revealed that EVERYBODY was talking about “gamification” in digital education, but few seemed to have a very clear grasp of what the term meant. For many, gamification seems to mean adding any sort of enjoyable distraction to an otherwise tedious subject in order to increase engagement, and hopefully, increase knowledge gain.

The basic assumption here is that learning is boring and in order to keep students focused on curriculum, you have to add in something else to distract them from what they are doing. The lowest bar for the addition of gamification for some is “anything that the student feels is fun”. If a game provides temporary enjoyment or engagement, then “HUZZAH!”, gamification has succeeded.

However, the simple addition of some unrelated game into the overall structure of a lesson, does not necessarily move the student any closer to the goals of education:  to increase knowledge in a given domain in such a way as to facilitate and inspire the transfer of that knowledge into another context. At EverFi, we think that games that only distract a student from the course content and goals not only add zero educational value, but detract from possible positive learning outcomes.

So what are some of the aspects of games that make them engaging? I am glad you asked…..

  1. A distant goal that requires building skills of increasing complexity in order to achieve.
  2. Games generally involve continuous progress toward said goal and recognition of/reward for large and small accomplishments along the way.
  3. A narrative or context for learning that extends beyond the information being provided (hopefully this helps the student to apply and transfer knowledge).

gamification 2

All of these elements can provide extrinsic forms of motivation to stay engaged in the lesson. HOWEVER, that extrinsic motivation needs to ignite internal motivation for it to be effective or as soon as the “prize/reward/carrot” is taken away, engagement may end as well. Thus, in order for any game element(s) to increase the effectiveness of a course, they need to be carefully crafted such that they facilitate the goals of the lesson without providing distraction.

This is an extremely difficult balancing act and one of the main drawbacks of gamification is that it is terribly time and labor intensive. It also requires creativity to be done correctly and to be blended seamlessly into the course.

Further, not only is gamifying a lesson correctly a complex process, but adding games or game elements does not guarantee that the course will be enhanced! Some topics may be too simplistic or complicated to benefit from game elements. Other subjects might be too serious or straightforward. Finally, not every student prefers the addition of game characteristics, some students are actually

more accustomed to traditional learning styles and find “gamified” courses distracting, childish, and/or unnecessary.

We are taking all of this into account at EverFi and only incorporate gaming elements into our courses when they are:  a) suitable for the audience, b) woven into the subject matter, and c) designed in such a way that they

improve the outcomes of the course without taking attention away from the topic. It’s a tough job, but if you want to do something right, it probably should be.

Teachers Across the Country We Appreciate

As we close out Teacher Appreciation Week – though surely not our appreciation of teachers! – I wanted to bolster my message of gratitude by recognizing just a few of the remarkable educators we have the opportunity to work with here at EverFi.

Gwen Blake of West Side High School (Newark, NJ) has a passion for teaching academics and ensuring that her students are prepared to thrive in the world beyond high school. Using EverFi as a launch pad for delivering life lessons, Gwen surrounds her students with visual representations of the responsible financial decisions they’re learning to make – including their EverFi certificates – and extends financial literacy into various elements of the curriculum. And Gwen evangelizes, having turned her colleagues on to EverFi and to the importance of teaching critical life skills. Gwen has planned certification ceremonies that drive home the importance of the lessons her students learn, provides additional incentives to hard work, completion and progress, and consistently goes above and beyond for her students.

Dana Dingell of Madison High School (Fairfax, VA) inspires her students in the classroom in through such real-world and career-oriented organizations as FBLA and DECA. Dana blends her commitment to teaching financial literacy with her desire to see her students learn life lessons by organizing both classroom and club activities, and by encouraging her students to participate in national conferences, traveling around the country in an ongoing effort to prepare her students for life beyond high school.

Rod Hames of Alton C. Crews Middle School (Gwinnett County, GA) has a passion for financial education and is constantly finding ways to engage his students to help them appropriate this vital life skill. After building foundational knowledge through EverFi, Rod builds his students’ skills and expertise by inviting corporate and political figures from around the state and finding creative ways to provide additional resources to his students, thus providing them with a rich, robust learning experience.

Kristina Ackerman of Hernando High School (Mississippi) has taken ownership of EverFi not only at her school, but throughout her state. She has spoken at conferences, networked with fellow teachers and taken leadership roles in organizations like FBLA, thus bringing EverFi’s free programs to dozens of other teachers around Mississippi.

Jacqueline Nixon of Ramsay High School (Birmingham, AL) shares her excitement for teaching with everyone. She is remarkably responsive, replying promptly to every phone call and email, and is eager to share news of her students’ success in EverFi’s financial literacy platform. Jacqueline also spreads the word about EverFi to her colleagues in Birmingham and beyond, and has supported over 300 students on their way to EverFi certification.

Luis Nobriga of Lantrip Elementary (Houston) (sponsored by BBVA Compass) is not only a passionate 5th grade teacher but is also deeply committed to bringing financial education in a variety of ways to his urban school. Luis has spearheaded a college visit for all 65 of his 5th graders to Texas A & M University and designed lessons on paying for college and selecting a college major. Luis also fosters engagement with parents, encouraging them to discuss with their children the topics they cover in Vault and to create household budgets and family savings plans.

Appreciating Teachers Every Week

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week. As we often hear about such official Appreciation Weeks, those of us who stand in gratitude for all that teachers do are thinking, Just one week? So here’s to making this week just the first of many when we send teachers the recognition and appreciation they so deeply deserve.

teacher_photoAs a student, teacher and parent I’ve had the good fortune to witness teachers’ remarkable dedication and drive. To say that teaching is underappreciated is practically a cliché, but I’ll repeat it here: when I consider the guidance I received from Dr. Culbert or Mr. Zipse in high school; the mentorship I received from colleagues during my time with Teach For America in the Mississippi Delta; or the patience that my kids’ teachers have shown, I don’t mind re-committing that gratitude.

Teaching in Helena, Arkansas, in one of the nation’s poorest counties, presented profound challenges, but my fellow educators – most of whom hailed from the region and remained there long after I moved away – provided me with ideas, support and reassurance as I sought to teach my students lessons not only in literature and composition, but life lessons as well. My students faced challenges I’d never known, and I leaned heavily on my colleagues for guidance in reaching those students.

Today I have the opportunity to visit schools and meet with teachers, dozens of them every month, helping them implement EverFi’s critical skills platforms. Visiting a broad cross-section of schools, ranging from elite academies to starkly under-resourced urban and rural schools, I see that today’s teachers face challenges similar to the ones I faced – as well as dramatically increased pressure associated with standardized testing and academic standards. I’m thus proud to be part of a company that’s working in over 5,000 K-12 schools and colleges and universities across the country, providing hard-working teachers with resources that help them teach those crucial life lessons, the ones that will help their students succeed in school and beyond.

  • Teacher-Appreciation-Week-2013We should recognize our teachers every week for dozens of reasons. As I consider my teachers growing up, my fellow teachers who mentored me and the teachers I meet when visiting schools with EverFi, here are the reasons that I want to thank teachers: For working beyond material covered on a standardized test to educate and celebrate the whole student
  • For adopting innovative technologies that make the learning experience more experiential and engaging
  • For encouraging students to think critically in all aspects of their lives – academic, social and even digital
  • For helping their students make responsible decisions that will enable them to thrive in college and in their careers

During Teacher Appreciation Week and beyond, I hope you’ll consider the teachers who have enriched your life, and who are working to engage, educate and inspire students across the country. At EverFi we work to make their lives easier and their work even more impactful; they, in turn, make our work possible.