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Neale Godfrey Headshot

Making the Gamification of Financial Literacy Work for Our Kids

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Remember when attending school meant sitting in a classroom with each child being expected to learn the same way? We wrote down our homework, handed it in to the teacher and waited for the assignment to be graded and returned. This one size fits all "old school" approach may be going the way of book straps and filmstrips. Technology can add the opportunity for instantaneous feedback and immediate adjustment.

Technology can now be tailored to compliment the individual 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 might 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 of using technology as a teaching tool is not novel, but in order to keep our students from merely living behind a screen, we have to take the lessons learned through technological means into the real world. Twenty-five years ago I wrote my first book, Money Doesn't Grow on Trees,and since then I have devoted much of my career to making our youth more financially literate. Many books later, I needed a new way to connect with today's kids. The fundamentals of the information I teach have not changed much in the past 25 years -- the way we consume that information has changed.

The Role Of Video Games

I needed a way to combine expanding technology with the topic of financial literacy, so I turned to the language that kids speak -- video games. I had to work with the changing technology in order to add another tool to help parents with the financial education of their children. This new "tool" had to be both useful and enjoyable.

This was the inception of Green$treets: Unleash The Loot!, a mobile video gaming app for 5-10-year-olds -- teaching the financial facts of life in a different way. Kids think it's just fun -- parents know their kids are learning. Kids enjoy earning money within the game and have to decide what to do with it. In fact, kids enjoyed the app so much that we are expanding the fun and learning -- GreenStreets: Shmootz Happens! was just released.

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. We went a step further. We teamed up with the Fingerprint network, a first-of-its-kind mobile learn and play network with multiplayer and safe social features, to use their platform in order to connect the technology to real life -- 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 real life reinforcement is the key. 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.

As loving parents, we want to feed, clothe and educate our children. The underlying factor which enables all of these things to happen is MONEY. Having a grasp of the value of money and how it works, is a critical life skill. Typically, learning about the basics of how money works is left to "on the job training" and doesn't happen until and unless our children have the need to deal with it. GREEN$TREETS is an easy system that exists to introduce our children to this critical life skill.

The debate over the best ways to learn will continue -- it makes sense 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. Remember that this new technology is a tool, not a lone solution.

Please share your comments or anecdotes on teaching with technology in the space provided.

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