Making The Gamification Of Financial Literacy Work

401k2013

This is a guest post by Neale Godfrey

Making The Gamification Of Financial Literacy Work

Technology allows for instantaneous feedback and allows for immediate adjustment. The days of kids sitting in a classroom forced to learn the same way, writing down their homework, and waiting for the assignment to be graded and returned, may be fading in the way that they have previously existed.

Technology can now be created to compliment the child’s learning style.  Some kids learn via verbal or pictorial illustration, some through kinetic and others through still different means. New technology can pick up on nuances that perhaps would otherwise slip through the cracks in traditional learning environments. I’m not suggesting replacement, merely that today, more than ever we have myriad ways to get through to our children and technology can play a vital part of the process.

This idea is not novel, but what I have found, and what is starting to be implemented in some classrooms, is that in using technology as a teaching tool, we need to enforce the lessons learned through technological means in real life or we risk them living merely behind the screen. I have devoted much of my career to making our youth more financially literate. Twenty-five years ago, while President of The First Women’s Bank, I looked for books to teach my own young kids about money, because at that time – there wasn’t much in terms of technology to help my kids learn about the subject.

When I searched the shelves, there were none – so I decided it was time to write one. Many books later, I needed a new way to connect with today’s kids. It’s not that the fundamentals of the information I teach have changed all that much in the past 25 years, but as with everything else, the way we consume that information has changed.

The Role Of Video Games
But how do I combine the expanding technology with the topic of personal finance?  By speaking the language that speaks to kids…video games. Yes, that’s right, using a video game to teach fundamentals. I had to work with the changing technology to add another tool to the toolbox, so to speak, for parents when it came to the finical education of their children, and I wanted it to be both useful and enjoyable.

Thus came the birth of Green$treets: Unleash The Loot!, a mobile video gaming app for 5-8-year-olds that has since reached #1 Educational Gaming app in the iTunes store, to start to teach the financial facts of life in a different way. Kids think it’s just fun.  While playing games they enjoy within the app, kids earn money in the game and have to decide what to do with it.

In development, we realized we needed to add something else in order to connect the technology to real life. As I mentioned, a problem with technology and learning is that unless a third party makes the connection for the child from the virtual world to the real world, the lessons taught on a screen can get stuck in the game. During game play we connect via email to parents, grandparents, and educators to tell them what the kids are learning so they can reinforce the learning in real life as well.

That reinforcement is really the key issue. The advantage of this technology is that we can engage the kids. It’s easier to start a conversation when kids are interested in the topic – technology can provide that entrance not only to the knowledge, but to the conversation. The disadvantage is that if the lessons are not connected to real earning, savings, spending and sharing; it remains in game – the dots are there and it’s then up to us to connect them for the kids.

The debate of how to best learn will continue. I think it prudent to use all ways available and see what works for individual kids. The reality is that as technology advances, it is in our children’s’ best interest to explore how to best utilize the resources to compliment previously successful techniques.

But most important is to remember that this new technology is a tool, not a lone solution.

Making The Gamification Of Financial Literacy Work; image attribution flickr user 401k2013

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