Tech Tools for Teachers, Just a Click Away

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has recently released several technology-based projects that can enhance teachers' toolkits and strengthen student comprehension of core economic topics such as inflation, unemployment, gross domestic product (GDP), and even the history of central banking. The various types of calculators, data series, economist interviews, and video content also provide primary source materials for teachers integrating common core standards into their classes, as well as up-to-date statistics to guide classroom discussion and analysis. Online delivery also means anytime access for those who are on the web, via laptop, notebook, tablet, interactive whiteboard, or smartphone. Ideal for classroom use, homework, extra credit, or research projects, these 21st-century tools highlight economic concepts in ways that are fresh, engaging, and conducive to independent learning.

Whether you check out these tools to further your own learning or to share with your students, the Federal Reserve's new educational online tools bring data, resources, and information to you where you are, when you are able to use it, through innovative means that can improve both analytical skills and economic literacy.

The Fed Explained
This feature includes a series of short animated videos that illustrate economic concepts and enlighten viewers in a way that is both entertaining and informative. Each video in the series—the topics in the series to date include inflation and the difference between real and potential GDP—also gives viewers a clearer understanding of the role of the Fed in the economy. At about four minutes' running time, each video is brief enough to show in the classroom, while still allowing ample time for lessons, activities, and discussion.

The Inflation Project
Combining data series and visualization tools, the Inflation Project allows users to access current data from businesses on inflation expectations; offers a "dashboard" with the latest statistics in categories such as labor costs, producer prices, money and credit, and retail prices; and interactive graphs that look at the Consumer Price Index of goods with "sticky prices" as well as the probability of deflation. Beyond analyzing the data, the Inflation Project's numerous charts and graphs are excellent resources to sharpen students' abilities to visually interpret statistical data.

The Jobs Calculator
Economists don't look just at the unemployment rate; they also look at the jobs numbers, or changes in payroll employment, when assessing the health of the labor market. This online calculator brings these two sets of data together in a calculator that shows how many jobs are needed to lower the rate of unemployment, and how fast unemployment targets can be achieved. This data can be used by students to compare with the numbers released each month, so they can be their own judges of whether the economy is moving in the right direction.

The Classroom Economist
First launched in 2011, the Classroom Economist is not new, but each quarter brings a new topic to its multimedia treatment of economics. In the latest edition, the history of central banking from its early beginnings through the Great Depression era is highlighted in video interviews with an Atlanta Fed economist, a master teacher lesson demonstration, a voice-over PowerPoint lesson, an interactive quiz, and a SMART lesson. The resource guide that accompanies every module in the series also gives teachers an abundance of lessons, activities and online learning material that can be used to supplement any unit on the given topic.

By Lesley Mace, economic and financial education specialist with the Jacksonville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
October 31, 2012