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Technology helps you learn and build financial confidence

16 January 2019

Wbc W P Bank Accounts Savings Accounts Life 900X342

Traditionally, as a student, your audience used to be the teacher and at best your classmates, but technology as changed all that. Now your audience is limited only by the channels you employ, and has widened to include your contemporaries, peers, the world.

Think about it. Even in school no one passes notes any more: they Snapchat, text, WhatsApp… Whatever it is they’re doing it’s digital, and digital is changing the way we learn.

Technology creates and supplies better spaces and methods for collaborative learning. Teacher centred learning of the pre-internet is disappearing. Real-time learning, apps, such as Dropbox and Evernote, and task management software, open online courses, they all offer greater diversity of opportunity and thought. Students interact, communicate, work on and solve issues using a range of resources, and such open, collaborative spaces, should, by rights, provide greater diversity of thought, while also having the potential to negate the effects of gender bias, by allowing collaborators to remain more anonymous on that level.

Another positive shift is the active less passive role of the student in the learning process. Teachers become guides rather than spouting a stream of information for note-taking listeners.  Students as participants in the process, increase their autonomy and mastery, leading to greater confidence and motivation.

One of the attributes of technology is its visual component. We learn better if we can see information not just hear it. Reading text has its benefits, but pictures, videos, graphics, etc., add to our understanding. These visual mediums communicate information more effectively, easily and quickly than reading reams of words or listening to a long monologue.

In fact, the better your ‘visualcy’, the better you absorb new ideas and concepts. Our ability to read and understand visual queues contributes to learning and understanding more quickly. There are reasons shorter adaptations of once long plays, Shakespeare for example, work with modern audiences. By combining our skills of visualcy, literacy and numeracy we ‘get’ the queues and make the jumps needed to understand the action more quickly. In other words we need less prompts, less text.

Technology also provides diversity of teaching and learning methods. Adaptive study, peer networking, self-study, etc. offer flexible, personalised content delivery. The one-size fits all of a traditional classroom, surrounded by the white noise of gender distinctions, may be a thing of the past.

Learning through videos, info-graphics, text, webinars and using “gameification” makes education no longer about the product but the process.

For example: I can travel to university anywhere in the world to learn my chosen subject by studying in virtual reality, with the support of preeminent experts in their fields, and tapping into the thoughts of other students enrolled in the often free courses.

That’s not to say the old ways don’t work. In her traditional maths class, my friend’s 15-year-old daughter became fascinated with the concept of simple and compound interest as her teacher applied it to money earned from after-school jobs and saved in bank accounts. That interest quickly translated into an urge to save more and from there to assess her spending habits… before she knew it, she was budgeting.

Maybe it was the focus that the non-tech approach to learning gave my young friend. The multi-tasking technology affords us has been shown to have its drawbacks when it comes to learning. Too much choice and diving down rabbit holes; switching between mediums, for example, from desktop to phone; the lack of focus inherent in using technology, all this can mean students experience poor learning outcomes. It takes students longer to complete tasks, and it has been shown they mix up and don’t remember facts.

A lack of boundaries, there are, after all, no walls in the classroom of modern technology, calls for discernment, critical analysis and appreciation of the information made available to us. This same discernment needs to be applied to what we learn from working with others even as it opens us up to the different ways other people experience similar issues and choose to solve problems.

One rabbit hole to disappear down includes those where you can create interactive posters combining text, images, graphics, video, audio onto the page. Canva and Glogster sport some interesting posters in the economics and financial planning areas built by users who come from various school-age groups. Saving and budgeting applications also make great places to begin looking at where you can help your children develop an interest in concepts of financial literacy. Learning to save and spend and budget supports children to develop their confidence with economic and financial concepts as well as with their money. ASIC’s TrackMySPEND and TrackMyGOALS are free applications worth employing; Pocketbook syncs to your bank account, offering a 360 degree view of your spend.

There are other methods, try Westpac’s Westpac Life if you want to save for different goals without the hassle of managing multiple accounts

Mohamad Jebara Mathspace

And then there’s Mathspace, which not only increases students involvement, understanding and love of maths but has the run off effect of being good for financial literacy and your budget. Here’s why.

Mohamad Jebara (above) began Mathspace about eight years ago. He speaks to Westpac’s Wire about the concept: “I left my job as a derivatives trader to build a web app to help students learn maths. The app, called Mathspace, aims to personalise a student’s pathway through the curriculum with step by step guidance.

“The challenge is the students who use Mathspace don’t use it regularly. And that’s no surprise when you consider every time you put a device in a student’s hands you're competing for a limited ‘attention budget’ against the likes of Facebook, Snapchat and Playstation!

“We discovered a study which looked at paying students to improve their test scores. The results were indisputable – financial incentives could improve student outcomes as long as they were immediate and were designed to reward effort rather than performance. In one test, they gave students $20 and said, ‘touch it; feel it; smell it - it’s all yours! But if you don’t improve I’m taking it away’. And that worked.”

For more, see Mo’s TED@Westpac talk.

For younger family members and adolescents, who sometimes believe money grows on trees, a few financial literacy lessons in what is fast becoming a cashless society also won’t go astray.

1)      Money from the ATM is there because you earned it and once it’s spent there is less for next time until you work and are paid again.

2)      If you earn $20 and spend $25 you are in debt.

3)      If you exist from pay to pay without learning to save you will find your choices severely limited.


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