Forum post: Economics and Technology



It’s my first post! Maybe I should start off by mentioning that I’m not technically a teacher. But my friend Mimi is a teacher and for the past few months I’ve been teaching her about economics and technology. She’s been applying these lessons to her public school classroom of 4th graders.

Pretty recently Mimi created a blog for her students and I thought that it would be neat if their blog could link to other 4th grader blogs and vice versa. A quick Google search dug up some 4th grade blogs… but it seemed like all the posts were by the teacher instead of by the students themselves. I decided to see if there was a forum specifically for teachers and voila! Here I am!

Mimi’s class is actually a country. The name of the country is Classtopia. This means that the students are actually citizens. :) In order to improve their country, the citizens work together in different departments. So far there are 8 depts… Pet, Garden, Help, Photography, Communications (Blog), Food, IRS and Book. When the citizens buy various donated items, they can choose which depts they give their money to. Basically, the citizens of Classtopia civically crowdfund their country. To be clear, the citizens do not give their money to Mimi… they give it to each other. The depts are responsible for receiving payments, giving receipts, keeping track of their money and deciding how to spend it. For example, the Pet Dept recently purchased the first pet.

In terms of technology… this was the first year that the teachers in Mimi’s school had the option of signing their students up for Google accounts. Mimi quickly did so and her students have been learning to use Google e-mail, docs, sheets and slides. Recently they started using Google classroom as well. In Google classroom each dept has its own classroom which the members use to communicate with each other. Plus, there’s also a trading post classroom where the citizens can trade, sell or buy things. Mimi has also just started helping the citizens create Paypal accounts. They don’t have credit cars or bank accounts to link to so their Paypal will potentially just facilitate internal payments. Not sure if they will use it but we’ll see!

The Google tools are super cool and I’m really green with envy that they weren’t around when I was in elementary school. One thing that is especially neat is how easy it is for the Classtopians to collaborate on projects and share their work with each other. A while back Mimi and I had the idea of the Classtopians having “share pals” in other classes but, unfortunately, so far I think only one other teacher has signed her students up for the Google accounts.

Do your students have Google accounts? For those of you with students who do have Google accounts…. if you’re interested in having some of your students become share pals with Mimi’s students then PM me your e-mail address and I’ll pass it on to her. In theory, the share pals really don’t have to be in the same grade. If they are in different grades then the older students would help mentor the younger students.

One interesting but rather challenging project that the Classtopians are currently working on is creating a decentralized library. The students are adding the titles and authors of their own books at home and in their classroom to a Google sheet. I helped Mimi embed the sheet into a blog page. By including the list of the books that they have at home… they potentially have access to a much larger library. Whether or not they’ll lend each other books remains to be seen. But from what I’ve heard… knowing is half the battle!

If the citizens give their money to the Book Dept, they can use their money to communicate their valuation of their favorite books. The Book Dept keeps tracks of the valuations on a Google sheet which Mimi embedded in this blog page… Favorite Books. The citizens are basically recommending books to each other… and to anybody else who happens to see that page. But rather than the books being ordered alphabetically or by votes, they are ordered by valuations.

Mimi recently joined the Amazon Affiliates program and I wrote a script in the Google sheet to link all the titles of their favorite books to their search results on Amazon. So if somebody clicks on a link and buys anything at Amazon then Classtopia will receive a percentage of the sale.

Well… that wraps up my introduction to Classtopia! Please let me know if you have any questions and/or are interested in collaborating.