Two very creative and very smart teachers in the Greenbrier School District found a way to each get grants to fund new Chromebooks for their students. Rebekah Bilderback was awarded a grant for $3,000, and Becky May received $2,863 — almost $6,000 — from the Arkansas Securities Department to be used for investor education. That saves the school district money and has added to the excitement their students feel for their classes. These grants will also help pay the Stock Market Game fees.

Bilderback has ordered 10 Chromebook laptops for her classroom. She only had three computers in her room to share with hundreds of ninth grade students learning economics. These students are participating in a Stock Market Game being played by many students across the state. On a daily basis, each team of three or four students trades with a mock $100,000 given to each of them to buy and sell stocks, bonds and mutual funds in real time. At the end of six weeks, they learn how to manage their money and invest.

"They are quite competitive, and even if they lose money at the end of the course, they are excited about what they learn," Bilderback said. "The object is not necessarily to make a lot of money. It is more important that they learn good savings and investment practices."

May teaches fifth grade social studies at Eastside Elementary School and opted for seven Chromebooks and other financial literature, videos and books to aid her classes.

Both teachers have taught this Stock Market Game before, but fifth graders have their first learning experiences with investing.

May paves the way for Bilderback’s future students. By ninth grade, they are quite savvy about investing and budgeting. Both teachers prepare students by simulating real life experiences with money. Students are paid artificial money to show up at school (as though they were paid to show up for work). They must also budget for things like food, clothing, transportation and other necessary items that simulate real life expenses. Emergencies are planned into the course, such as a car break-down or temporary job loss that the students must plan around.

Chromebooks run web-based apps, not traditional PC applications, and are designed to be connected to the Internet. Files are stored in the Cloud, not on the machine, so that makes it easy to share a Chromebook with multiple students. Switching accounts takes seconds, and everyone gets their own files, apps and settings. Chromebooks are a unique class of light weight mobile computing devices designed for web-based tasks, and these two teachers and their students can hardly wait for them to arrive sometime in January.

"Economic literacy has never been more important than it is now. We teach our students how to make wise choices with their money," May said.