Archive for the 'Teaching' Category

Feb 20 2017

Some thoughts on educating students for “success” and “happiness” in the 21st century

Today we returned to work after a relaxing week of holiday-making for a day of “professional development”. The day kicked off with our school’s director sharing some information about a recent audit of our school’s parent community, which revealed that there is great anxiety among the parents at our school about their children’s experiences in school today, mostly relating to how well they will achieve on their examinations and whether their levels of achievement will assure them entrance to the top universities to which they (both the parents and the students) aspire.

The ultimate source of this anxiety, it would seem, is not the immediate importance of exam scores or even college acceptances, rather the deeper concern among parents that their children may grow up to be less successful than they themselves have been in their careers. I am sure that this anxiety is one experienced by nearly every parent in the history of mankind: from our primitive ancestors who stressed over their children’s abilities (or lack thereof) with a bow and arrow to blue collar workers of the 20th century who worked 80 hours a week to be able to send their children to state colleges where they may learn a skill that would raise their lot in the future. The parents of my students today likewise fear that their own children may grow up to be less successful in the fields they believe to be worthy of their children: business, finance, law, technology, management, and so on.

In fact, the parents whom our school serves are some of the most successful people in the world in their respective fields. They have risen to the top levels of management in multi-national corporations. They sit at the pinnacles of global financial institutions. Many are successful entrepreneurs or investors who have proudly raised their children in a world of luxury. The very fact that they send their children to our school is evidence of their own career accomplishments (we are a very expensive private school in one of the richest countries in the world).

It is for this reason that I believe nearly all these parents’ should be very anxious about their children’s futures. It is natural for parents to want their children to achieve what they have achieved (or greater!). It is natural for parents to desire for their children to be able to enjoy the living standards they have been afforded thanks to their own accomplishments in business, finance or law. As I have said, every parent in history has wanted as much for their children.

But is it realistic for a major league pitcher to wish for his son to grow up to throw a ball 105 miles per hour? Certainly not.
I believe that today it is less likely than it has been for generations that a child growing up at the top of the socioeconomic ladder will, in fact, achieve the level of professional success and the resulting income and living standard that their parents achieved. These parents’ anxieties are 100% justified and they have very little reason to believe their children will someday earn the incomes they enjoy today.

Here’s why: The entire trajectory of the global economy has shifted since my students’ parents embarked on the career paths that led them to where they are today. Globalization and technological change have displaced (or replaced) many of the blue collar jobs that Europeans and American counted on for a decent living standard in the 20th century, and these same processes have already begun to affect the white collar careers on which many of my students imagine their future paths taking them. The knowledge and skills we teach in schools today will be increasingly devalued in the future.

Knowledge will become a free good as artificial intelligence and other information technologies reduce the barriers to acquiring knowledge to zero. Likewise, the gaps in global skill levels and productivity that allowed the growth of incomes in Europe and North America to exceed those in the rest of the world throughout the 20th century have already begun to narrow, evidenced by a decade of low or no growth in the rich world and nearly 5% growth in the rest of the world. This means the pool of skilled workers of which my students will eventually be a part will be vastly broader and deeper than that in which their parents competed.

The knowledge and the skills we teach our students in school today will only continue to be devalued in the future, meaning students whose future aspirations are based on the assumption that such learning objectives will assure them a high income and living standard will find themselves drowning in a labor pool in which they have less economic value than they ever have in history.

Stated simply, value is a function of scarcity, and as skilled and knowledgeable workers become less scarce, those whose only assets are what they “learned in school” will find themselves far less likely to achieve the levels of income that those of earlier generations did.

The implication of technological advancement and globalization (both the defining forces of our century) for education is that unless we begin teaching something NEW and DIFFERENT than what was taught in the last century, our students will almost certainly not achieve what their parents (educated in the last century) have been able to achieve with their educations.

So this begs the question: What can students learn in school today that WILL help them achieve the levels of success and happiness to which all parents aspire for their children?

I think the answer to this question also came up in this morning’s speech by my school’s director. He closed by sharing a quote from a student who recently graduated from my school in which the student reflected on what he learned on a school trip to Nepal during his last week before graduating (as part of our “classroom without walls” experience). After spending a week with the orphans of Kathmandu and in a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayan foothills, this student returned to Switzerland with a new understanding of what happiness meant. He realized for the first time in his life that happiness was not measured by how many material things we surround ourselves with, but by the relationships we have with others in our community and by our connection to both other human beings and the natural and spiritual worlds.

My question (and concern) is: Why did it take until this student’s last week of school before he came to this important understanding? Is this not the most important lesson he could possibly learn? Should only those students lucky enough to spend a week in the Nepalese slums come to such important understandings about life, happiness and success?

I wonder if it would relieve our parents’ anxieties if we shifted our focus in school today to place less emphasis on a pre-determined set of rapidly depreciating knowledge and skills and more emphasis on relationships, connections with the community and the environment and spiritual self-awareness.

I wonder what our parents would say if we told them that our school’s focus were shifting from providing their children with information and skills that will earn them the best examination results to instilling in them an awareness of and an understanding that happiness is measured not by what you have, but by what you are able to live without.

Will parents understand that their children’s pursuit of a high paying job based on the same knowledge and skills that they learned in school will prove fruitless in an era where knowledge and skills are no longer scarce?

Will they agree that what matters is not their children’s future success as measured by their income and material well-being, rather their future happiness?

I wonder whether my students’ parents realize how justified their anxieties are. And I hope they understand that if or when their children do not succeed on the paths they envision them pursuing, it won’t be their own faults; rather, it is the inexorable outcome in an era where knowledge and skills are continually devalued by technology and globalization.

Henry David Thoreau, who shed the burden of materialistic pursuits for a simple life in the forest, once said, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

The happiness of being able to do without material things is that to which our education today must aspire. The path my students’ parents followed will become increasingly narrow and unattainable for the next generation. Therefore, a rethinking of what we teach and, in fact, value, is necessary to achieve happiness for our students in the future.

Many schools have embraced the alternative path to happiness envisioned by Thoreau and others throughout history. The awareness that true happiness is not attained by the pursuit of money and status, rather a connection with our community, the natural world and our spiritual selves and an embrace of simplicity over complexity is nothing new. The Buddha new it, Jesus knew it, Emerson and Thoreau knew it.

The question is, do our students know it? Do their parents know it? Heck, do I know it? And once we’re aware of this truth, how can we begin to redesign our schools’ learning objectives so that our students leave school with a truly attainable path to happiness and success, perhaps of a different kind from that imagined by their parents, but one that will certainly be more achievable and just as valuable in a future in which the spoils of global economic activity will be more evenly distributed between the world’s people than it has ever been in history.

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Oct 12 2012

Google Apps for Educators Workshop – Using Google forms to gather and analyze data from your students

Published by under Teaching

Part 1 – Demonstration:

As a teacher of a subject in which data forms the basis all understanding, I like to put my students to work finding and analyzing the data most relevant to our subject. In my unit on Macroeconomics (the study of entire nations’ economies), I teach that the primary objectives of government and central bank policies is to achieve four goals. These are:

Each of these objectives can be measured using data recorded by every nation in the world which are, fortunately for me, made public through many online databases. The one I find most useful is the CIA World Factbook, which publishes economic data for all countries for which it is available. The link below will take you to the CIA World Factbook, where you can find economic data for your own country.
The CIA World Factbook
One of my favorite lessons at the beginning of my Macroeconomics unit is to have students find their own countries on the CIA World Factbook and enter the data relating to the four macroeconomic objectives into a Google Form. To demonstrate how this works, follow the link to the CIA World Factbook above, find your own home country, click on the “Economy” section and find and enter the data requested in the form below:
Macroeconomic Indicators Around the World – Google Apps for Educators Sample Form
The cool thing about Google Forms is that the creator of the form has total control over the results as they are submitted by students. For example, as you and the other attendees of this workshop are submitting your results, I am examining the results in real time. Every time the ‘submit’ button is pressed, a spreadsheet of all the form results is updated in real time right in front of my eyes. Now, I can begin to organize the results of this data into interactive charts which we can then analyze as a class. For instance, here are some  charts showing the results from the submissions by students in my year 2 IB Economics course this earlier this semester:

Now, as a class, we can gain a deeper understanding of some of the most important macroeconomic indicators using current data from our own countries, researched and aggregated using Google Forms, analyzed using Google Spreadsheets and the charts it can be used to create.

Part 2 – Brainstorming

As an Economics teacher, there are loads of data relating to nearly every topic I teach available online for students to research, aggregate and analyze. But what about in your subject? The second part of this presentation requires you and some of your peers here today to get together and brainstorm how Google Forms and Spreadsheets could be harnessed in your own subject area. Please get together with two or three people around you and discuss the following questions.

  1. What do you teach or what is your role in your educational community?
  2. What role does data play in your field?
  3. How could you harness Google Forms and Spreadsheets to more efficiently and effectively collect and analyze data either for educational or productivity enhancing purposes?

Take 10 minutes and discuss these questions with the people around you. Once you’ve discussed the questions, follow the link below and share your your thoughts on how you could use Google Forms in your role as a member of a faculty or staff in an educational community.

Brainstorming Form – How can I use Google Forms to enhance data collection and analysis in my classroom or workplace?

At the end of this session, the results from everyone’s brainstorming session can be viewed publicly by clicking here: Google Forms for Data Analysis – Brainstorming Results

If you have any questions about how I use Google Forms or other Google Apps in the classroom, please send me an email at welkerswikinomics@gmail.com. I hope you enjoyed today’s presentation, and thanks for coming!

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Aug 09 2012

Preparing for a new year of AP and IB Economics

Another summer has come to an end and I’m in my classroom preparing for another year of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Economics. There’s a lot to be excited about this year, including the fact that the co-author of my textbook, Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma, Sean Maley, has joined me at Zurich International School as a teaching partner. He will be taking two sections of IB Year 1, two of IB Year 2 and one AP Microeconomics this year. I will have the same IB load and one AP  Micro/Macro combined course.

I’m also excited because this year I will be using my brand new PowerPoints and Lecture Notes created over the summer, which are a huge improvement on their popular predecessors.

In addition to adding to the already large library of video lectures on The Economics Classroom created last year, I plan to produce even more 8-15 minute YouTube lessons covering the remaining topics from AP and IB Economics. For each new lesson I produce, I plan to create a practice activity to go with it (all of last year’s activities are already available for free here). I’ve received several requests from teachers and students for answer keys to go with each activity, which is also something I plan to create this year. By this time next year, I hope to have a workbook for AP and IB Economics available for purchase through my website.

Other exciting developments in Welker’s Wikinomics include:

  • Flashcards on key terms from every section of the AP and IB course, developed late last school year to help my students study for their exams,
  • A comprehensive glossary of over 330 Economics terms, also made for exam review last year,
  • Floating definitions on the Economics Classroom, so that no matter what post you’re looking at, the definition of any key term can be read without having to leave the page,
  • My free mobile app for the Android and iPhone, which provides convenient access to the mobile versions of both Economics in Plain English and The Economics Classroom, along with full access to the flashcards and glossary on your mobile device.

If you’re not already subscribed to the weekly update from Economics in Plain English and the Economics Classroom, go ahead and enter your email address into the field in the upper right hand corner of this blog, or on my home page. You’ll receive one email newsletter per week (Monday morning) containing the latest posts or video lessons put up in the last week. You can also follow me through your favorite social media, indluding:

As always, I love hearing from students and teachers using my resources. Please feel free to post your comments to this blog or send me emails directly at welkerswikinomics@gmail.com. I love hearing suggestions and talking to teachers and students about Economics about any topic whatsoever!

Here’s to a new school year and another exciting year of Economic teaching and studies!

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Aug 03 2012

Macroeconomics and International Economics PowerPoints and Study Guides NOW AVAILABLE!

Published by under Lesson Plan,Teaching

Welker’s Wikinomics Lecture Notes – PowerPoint and PDF Study Guides: ORDER HERE!

Two weeks ago I finished a complete overhaul of my popular Microeconomics PowerPoints and Study Guides. Now the Macroeconomic and International Economics PowerPoints and Study Guides are ready to order.

Here’s what you get when you order the Macro and International Lecture Notes:

The Macroeconomics and International Economics Lecture Notes include the following units of study:

  •     1.0 Introduction to Economics (45 pages with 2 video lessons)
  •     2.1 GDP and its Determinants (23 pages with 3 video lesson)
  •     2.2 Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply (38 pages with 2 video lesson)
  •     2.3 Macroeconomic Objectives (40 pages with 3 video lessons)
  •     2.4 Fiscal Policy (28 pages with 5 video lessons)
  •     2.5 and 2.6 Monetary and Supply-side Policies (36 pages with 3 video lessons)
  •     3.1 Free Trade and Protectionism (27 pages with 3 video lessons)
  •     3.2 Exchange Rates (26 pages with 3 video lessons)
  •     3.3 Balance of Payments (24 pages with 4 video lessons)
  •     What you get: A 287 page set of lecture notes including 28 video lessons

Here’s a quick look at one of the units:

Sample Welker’s Wikinomics PowerPoint – Exchange Rates from Jason Welker
Follow the link at the top of this post or click HERE to order you lecture note bundle now!

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Jan 29 2012

Welker’s Wikinomics Video Lectures – 50 lessons and still growing!

Since September 2011 I have been producing and publishing around three video lessons per week covering the topics I’m teaching in my three Economics classes at any given time. With an AP Macro class, a year 1 and year 2 class going on all at the same time, this means I’ve been making videos covering everything from linear supply functions to protectionist quotas to monetary policy.

This week I posted my 50th video lesson. Since I began producing lessons on my YouTube channel, they’ve been viewed over 35,000 times and nearly 200 people have subscribed to my YouTube feed.

If you haven’t checked out my new website, The Economics Classroom, consider subscribing to the weekly newsletter from that site. You’ll receive one email a week with links to the latest videos covering Micro, Macro and International concepts. In addition, I’ve been creating and posting free worksheets, practice activities and even unit quizzes and tests to the resource page.

If you’re wondering what my videos are like, check out the one I posted tonight to introduce the new IB Year 1 unit on Theory of the Firm, which I’ll start teaching on Tuesday this week!

 

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