Technology and Business: Hooking them early
Online Tools and Projects for High School Classrooms

Introduction
In most schools, business classes are electives. This leads to the assumption that most students choose to take business courses. In fact, this is not rue at all. Some courses are intended to intrigue the students into seeking a career in business, such as marketing, sports marketing, or even an accounting class. The majority of the classes taught, however, are mandatory for graduation. Although technically electives these courses are only electives by the notion that they can be taken at any time during the students attending period. These include courses like personal finance, economics, district appointed computer classes, and courses focusing on career development. Subjects like these tend to be mundane to many young learners, they need to be invigorated about the subject matter.

Technology and business go hand-and-hand. One of the major reasons that technology has become so prominent, aside from easy access to information, is the business-to-business aspect. In the early days of the internet, business-to-business was the only form of communication. Email, online trading, online bill pay, and many other online tools were developed so businesses could more easily communicate with each other. With this innate marriage to each other, students need to learn how to access these ideas and employ them to be better suited for their lives in the future, whether they choose to venture into the business realm or not.

Provided in the following are eight different ways to involve students taking business courses in the technology that surrounds the subject. In doing so many kinds tools will be accessed; software that needs to be installed, downloadable games, and web sites that can simply be used as a resource. This variety will keep the students alert for class and end the preconceived perception of monotony in business related courses. Each section describes what the resource is capable of, how it can be used in the classroom effectively and provides a quick evaluation of ease of use and whether or not it is appropriate for different levels of education.

Software
Microsoft Excel:
Microsoft excel can be used in several business disciplines. With its ability to use formulas, spreadsheets and charts, Excel keeps track of data and makes that data easily viewable through several different types of visual aids. The most likely venue for using Excel would be accounting and personal finance courses. Tutorials are available on the website ( http://www.microsoft.com/education/default.mspx ).

This software is available to most schools at a substantial discount as the Microsoft Office software and can be an invaluable resource.
Also available to the classroom are online games. One such game can be located at http://www.sabine.k12.la.us/training/Excel%202000.htm#Classroom%20Activities%20and%20Projects . This is a link to a stock market game that works twofold. It not only provides an excellent tutorial to the excel software and its abilities, but when finished the students will have made a template for their very own game. The step-by-step tutorial can be easily guided by the instructor. If computer space is a problem this can be a group activity. This is a fun easy way to introduce kids to excel and the stock market at the same time.

Microsoft Powerpoint:
Presentations are used in nearly every workplace. Originated for business meetings as visual aids, powerpoint presentations are now used by educators in every discipline. This software is perfect for marketing, personal finance, career development, and computer orientation courses. Powerpoint can be attained through the same Microsoft Office software than contains the Excel resource as well. Tutorials are available on many websites, the best are offered by
www.123ppt.com, an educator based website and www.microsoft.com/Education/PowerPoint.mspx, which is run by Microsoft itself.

Students can be given a tutorial in class and quickly become experts as they are asked to give either a group or individual presentation including a powerpoint slideshow. Throughout the semester, students will be providing these presentations to the class as a jigsaw activity. They should be given lots of creative room so as not to stifle any individual originality.

Powerpoint can make students’ ideas come to life, a skill that not all students possess on their own. This can make public speaking less frightening to first timers as it can divert the attention easily to the visual aids and the topic, rather than on the individual standing all alone in front of a class of their peers.

Inspiration:
Inspiration is an effortless way to incorporate visual aids into any presentation. Unlike Microsoft Powerpoint, Inspiration is not used solely for presentations. The software allows the student or teacher to become more organized and artistic with their projects. Several templates are available to act as starting points for such areas as goal setting and organization. Clip art and other visual aids are available and can easily be added to as great visuals to any project, computer related or not. Although the software can be purchased in large quantities, it can also be downloaded easily for a 30-day trial period on www.inspiration.com.

One of the more interesting aspects of Inspiration is the interactive templates available for goal setting, organization and career development. These can be either filled out through the Inspiration software itself, or printed out for those who prefer to work in the traditional manner. The templates are an easily renewable resource for students to return to when they need some help organizing projects. In an introductory lesson in what is the proper way to use this resource can be given through sample goal setting sessions.

Inspiration may not be for all high school age students. Some may find some of the features below their maturity level. The presentation of the product seems to be focused on middle school students. However, the topics and tools can be more helpful to high school age learners. The features are easy to use and implant into a lesson plan. As a side note, there are also lesson planning tools for educators that may be easier and more beneficial than what is currently being used.

Online Activities
Case Studies:
Case studies are used throughout the business world. Every corporation is different, but the situations that arise are sometimes very similar. To figure out how to solve these situations before they arise, we use sample situations, analyze them and find out what could have been done differently. This problem solving technique is not fool proof, but it gives a sense of experience to the reader.

One website that deals with worldwide issues, not all business related mind you, is
www.digitaldividend.org/case/case.htm. Here students can use the archives to choose their topic. This is a jigsaw activity, so students may be in groups of three or four. Once an article is chosen, the students will read and eventually introduce the case to the rest of the class. The review should include; what the problem was, why there was a problem, what is being done to solve the problem, and how the problem could have been prevented in the first place.

There are many websites that provide sample case studies, so don’t get locked onto one. This site, however, deals with issues of such wide variety that will challenge the mind and allow the students to choose a topic that interests them. Incorporated into a jigsaw is just one of several ways these studies can be used. They can also incite discussion or be topics to essays.

Brainpop:
The website (
www.brainpop.com) provides a series of short videos that cover a wide variety of subjects including science, social studies, english, math, arts & music, health, and technology. Within these subjects are several sub categories that allow the teacher to choose specific topics that apply to the lesson. This is where the business related topics such as supply and demand, stock market, and money can be found. The videos are all about three minutes long and are accompanied by a ten questions follow-up quiz. The website does require registration and does cost money. However, a free 14-day trial offer is available.

This website is a great tool to use for a start-up lesson. As kids enter the room, they can go to the site, download the video and take the test all under five minutes. In order to assure that the students participated and understood the video, it is suggested that the students take the test until all ten questions are answered successfully. Students are allowed to see the answers they missed before they must retake the quiz or simply watch the video again. This is to be graded merely on participation. Students are not expected to have the prior knowledge needed to pass the test. The purpose is simply to get the students acquainted with the subject matter.

Easy to navigate and download the video, the site is ideal for either quick reminder videos or to introduce new material. Some of the videos are not for high school age level. However, the subject matter being introduced is not supposed to be too intensive, remember, this is only a start-up activity.

High School Ace:
As was mentioned in the introduction, business courses are not only strictly about business. The site
www.highschoolace.com provides students and teachers with several different links and activities related to career development and higher education. Many forms are online that are specifically available for any college applicant. Most importantly this site is free.

Students can be lazy. They want things just handed to them. Well, college is not for those students. Introducing this website in the classroom will give the students an easy source to find college applications, admissions standards, FAFSA forms, along with several other helpful links. In order to show what this site can offer, another jigsaw opportunity seems to be the best. Each group will be given a form to download and fill out (either online or on a printed copy). This form will then be explained to the other members of the class. They will discuss the importance of each form, as well as go through any trouble questions that could arise.

The entire site is not necessary for this activity. The site is easily navigated for the purpose of this activity, but there are several distracters that might bring students off task. However, after being introduced to High School Ace, it will be a useful tool to return to when questions come up.

Interactive Games
DECA:
DECA (
www.deca.org) is a mainstay in most high school marketing programs. Hosting the annual DECA Marketing competition is the main use of DECA within schools. However, they provide other nationwide competitions as well. The organization is highly trustworthy and most activities are free to members. Some activities, such as trips to DECA conferences and meets cost only to the students who wish to make the trips.

In business, the easiest way to understand things is by doing things. Entering these nationwide competitions, especially the free ones can foster a community and teach the intended subject lesson. Interactive games that are available are; virtual stock market, running a virtual business, and entering an advertising campaign contest. The students will be working together and using learned skills to succeed.

DECA is a very trusted and secure partner with many schools across America. In a subject area that is not widely recognized, DECA helps to create a sense of purpose and helps to provide a backbone to any business program. The games/contests mentioned above are just some of the wonderful outlets DECA provides to high school students. The hardest part is taking advantage of all the venues.

Fantasy Sports:
Games are one thing, but actual sports in school? This might seem a little strange for some, but it works. Specialty classes come about in strange ways. One school has even developed a Sports Marketing course. The course was developed to peak the interest of students, using the idea of involving professional sports to hook the students. The class actually focuses on the business side of sports, which is really no different than any other business. Even though the students took the class because of the sports aspect, they do not always deal with sports during the main body of the class.

This is where the fantasy sports come into play. In order to keep the interest alive in class, students are also involved in a fantasy sports league. The league is made up of the entire classroom, everybody gets to play. As many teams as necessary may compete; just be careful to exceed ten. The league itself is easy to set up. Many sites offer different types of leagues; however, the most reliable are Yahoo! (
http://fantasysports.yahoo.com), ESPN (http://games.espn.go.com/frontpage)__, and CBS Sportsline (__http://www.sportsline.com/fantasy)__. Each of these sites is easily navigated. The league should be run by a commissioner (teacher), whom is also encouraged to participate. Set up is free and easy. Once set, the league needs to have a draft day. This is the most time consuming aspect of the contest, taking maybe almost two hours of class time. After the teams are set, the league now acts as an attendance guide and a start-up activity. Students need to be to class on time if they want to be involved in the day to day operations of their team. This can also be used as a check-out activity.

Although just a contest, the simple aspect of relating to what the students want and expect form a class need to be met. This game is a small and easily monitored way to make sure the students want to come to class everyday.

Conclusion
Whether its software, activities or interactive gaming; the students will crave the variety and the opportunity to try something new. The same mundane work will not keep the interest of today’s average student. Most online resources are easily accessible and relatively inexpensive. Staying fresh and ahead of the curve is the name of the game. A lesson learned not just in business courses, but in life as well.