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Kristen McCormack, faculty director of the Public and Nonprofit Management Program at SMG, is helping her students give away $15,000 to a worthy cause. Photo by Vernon Doucette
Maureen Merrigan and her classmates in the School of Management course Nonprofit Management have a problem. They need to give away thousands of dollars. And it’s a whole different story, Merrigan says, when the money is real and so are the needs.
“It’s going to be tough finding a nonprofit to fund that we can all agree on,” says Merrigan (CAS’08). “We’ve discussed splitting into groups or saving some of the money for next year.”
The money that Merrigan is talking about is a $15,000 fund that Fidelity Investments has donated to the University as part of a nationwide pilot program to nurture young philanthropists on college campuses. This spring, some 25 undergraduates taking the SMG course will act as a genuine charitable organization and disburse the money to a worthy cause. To do it right, the students will form a board of directors, create donor guidelines, and research the inner workings of potential nonprofit candidates.
“The idea is that students learn a lot more from doing than reading about it,” says Kristen McCormack, faculty director of SMG’s Public and Nonprofit Management Program.
The philanthropic initiative, called Students4Giving, is a joint effort of Campus Compact, a national coalition of college and university presidents dedicated to civic and community engagement on campus, and the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, the charitable arm of Fidelity Investments and the country’s fourth-largest public charity. After BU joined Campus Compact this year, McCormack, with the help of several students, submitted a Students4Giving proposal. Of the 35 institutions applying for the seed funds, 5 were chosen: BU, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Portland Community College, in Portland, Ore., California State University, in Fresno, Calif., and Whitworth University, in Spokane, Wash.
“Students are going to learn all about the challenges involved in giving away money,” McCormack says. “They’re also going to learn the characteristics of a well-managed nonprofit organization, and they’re going to figure out what it means to have impact in the community — is it the number of people you serve, the quality of services, or whether you’re making change in a broader context?”
Merrigan, an archaeology major, helps run the BU Community Service Center’s Student Food Rescue, a campus volunteer group that collects and distributes food to shelters, meal programs, and food pantries. After graduation, she’d like to develop youth programs in museums. “I’m very familiar with managing volunteers,” she says, “but the business side of a charity is so foreign.”
Jon Hammer (SMG’08), a business administration major taking the class, says that this is the type of grant he would expect to see in an MBA program.
“It’s a pretty unique opportunity for students at our level to have a real financial impact on real nonprofit organizations,” he says. “It gives us a chance to dig deep into the activities of several organizations to see where we can make the biggest difference and how it should be done.”
That’s precisely what Fidelity has in mind, says Sarah Libbey, senior vice president of marketing for the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, which has disbursed $7.3 million since 1991.
“Our goal is to inspire students to be thoughtful philanthropists while giving them the skills to assess the needs of the local nonprofits,” she says. “We hope this will be the beginning of a lifetime of community involvement.”
Merrigan sees things the same way.
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Note: The apps listed below largely offer their services in the USA. A few, like Branch, may be present in other markets, but their services and rates may differ significantly. Do your research before signing up. If you are in India and looking to receive money from relatives in the US, check out how you can transfer money from the US to India using Google Pay.1. Brigit
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DailyPay uses 256-bit level encryption, and its payment network and customer support channels are PCI-compliant and SOC II-audited. It is one of the most well-respected names in the business, having had an ‘honorable mention’ on Fast Company’s ‘World Changing Ideas’ list this year. Some of the leading companies that offer employees early access to salaries via DailyPay are Burger King, Uber, Doordash, and ShiftGig, among others.
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The Chime app also lets you send money to friends, family, or roommates with no transfer fees. It offers users access to over 38,000 ATMs across the US with Moneypass and Visa Plus Alliance. However, you need to pay out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees where applicable.
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Folks who have PayActive at work will see ‘hours worked’ and their current earnings in the app. They can also transfer the accessible amount to their bank, card, or get cash. Funds accessed using the app will then be deducted from their next paycheck. Like most apps in this category, Payactiv uses time and attendance data to provide earned wage access to employees. Some notable PayActive partners include Subway, Uber, Hilton, Pizza Hut, Walmart, Murphy USA, NYC Taxi, and more.
ProsConsoffers early access to wagesthe app looks a bit clutteredno setup or recurring charges for employerscould lead users to spend moreoffers saving tools and financial counselling
Download: Android (Free), iOS (Free)The Best Dave App Alternatives for Cash Advance
Balancing rigorous academic study with joy in learning, particularly when it comes to project-based learning, may seem impossible. However, in my ninth-grade English class, we manage to do just that.
Teachers often define academic rigor in English as the study of challenging works of literature accompanied by in-depth literary analysis in writing. But what about projects that allow students to delve into who they are and what they are passionate about? Is there space for these projects in academic classrooms? Can we ensure that students learn concrete skills and are challenged academically while also providing them with opportunities for self-discovery and joy?
The Muse Project
At Pacific Ridge School, where I’ve taught for the past four years, all ninth-grade students complete the Muse Project in English class. Through this project, students explore what myth is and how it connects to identity. We begin by looking at various definitions of myths, including the stories people have told to explain natural phenomena (for instance, Greek and Norse mythology), widely held untrue beliefs, and exaggerated and idealized truths.
Next we turn to our central text, Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. Previously, we used Homer’s The Odyssey, which may seem like a more natural fit given that it is, itself, a myth. While myth may not be the most obvious theme in Ng’s novel, by digging deeper, students find it is central to the Lee family’s story as they consider the myths the characters have about themselves, the myths other people have about them, and the myths people more generally have about different facets of identity, including race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.
For instance, through James, a Chinese American history professor who specializes in American cowboys, students contend with the notion of what it means to be American, to look American, and to be viewed as qualified to teach about America. Through Marilyn, a stay-at-home wife and mother who once dreamed of becoming a doctor, students consider gender-based expectations that, for centuries, excluded women from many spaces, particularly STEM fields.
While I have found that Ng’s novel pairs beautifully with the Muse Project, any number of texts can work, so long as they provide students with the opportunity to consider the myths we as a society have about different identities.
Using this analysis of Ng’s novel as a starting point, we launch into the two-month Muse Project, which asks students to consider the role of myth in their own lives. Students subsequently create an original myth about themselves and bring this to life through an artistic creation of their own design. As students brainstorm ideas for their projects, they consider their own identities, including who they are and who they want to be in our school community. Through their projects, students seek to answer this essential question: Who am I? By answering this question, students are able to share pieces of themselves with our school community, all while having fun, developing their creativity, learning new skills, leaning into discomfort, and taking risks.
I have seen weather balloons, laser-cut planes, stunningly shot music videos, larger-than-life fantasy maps, and digital art made from math equations. Students are encouraged to utilize various teachers, resources, and technology both on and off campus, and every year, they step out of their comfort zones to try new things and create unbelievable works of art. While the projects are impressive, what is most amazing is seeing students share their passions, interests, and who they are at the MUSEum Showcase, an annual event that celebrates their work.
Students also do a significant amount of writing as part of the Muse Project. In a literary analysis assignment, students examine a specific myth about the identities of one of the characters in Everything I Never Told You. Additionally, in a personal statement, they reflect on the myth they created about themselves, how the medium they chose for their artistic creation serves as a form of mythmaking, and the connection between their work and Ng’s text. In this way, the Muse Project provides a blending of academic rigor and joy in learning, providing students with opportunities to hone their analytical, reflective, and personal narrative writing skills while also exploring their artistry and creativity.
Students Need Moments of Joy
During the 2023–21 school year, in the midst of the pandemic and hybrid learning, one of my administrators suggested cutting the Muse Project so we could focus on more academic work. I understood that there was pressure for teachers to mitigate potential learning loss, but I remained adamant that we keep the project—it’s an immense source of joy for students, and I didn’t want to give up a project that allowed them to explore who they are and the limits of their imaginations in the pursuit of purely academic work.
Ultimately, we kept the Muse Project, and seeing what students created absolutely blew me away. Despite the restrictions and obstacles they faced, including fewer resources and limited access to technology and help on campus, students rose to the challenge, using materials and guidance they could get at home to create artistic projects that left our community in awe.
As an English teacher, of course I want my students to learn how to write effectively and persuasively, to grow confident in discussing and analyzing literature, and to master grammatical concepts. But I also want them to cultivate their interests, explore aspects of their identities, and learn that they can achieve greatness even when faced with immense challenges, all while finding joy and having fun.
As I reflect on what has undoubtedly been my most difficult year of teaching, I find myself evaluating strategies I relied on to make online learning productive for my students. Digital notebooks rise to the top: When I pivoted from requiring traditional bound notebooks from my biology students to requiring digital ones, all of us became more creative and learning was enhanced.
The Biology Interactive Learning Log
For over a decade pre-Covid, I had my students maintain what we called a BILL (Biology Interactive Learning Log) in a thick composition notebook, filled with daily bell work (e.g., formative questions about the previous day’s homework), course notes, study guides, and lab data from our classwork. For all of my students, the BILL was a collection of the work they’d done over the course of a unit of study that showed their learning growth, and for many, it was a great source of pride. Some even took their BILL with them to college to support the next phase in their biology coursework.
I also used each student’s BILL for formative assessment. Just about every day, as students worked through the activities in the notebook, I would walk around and check their work and provide oral or written feedback on what they were doing. This helped me to catch any misconceptions or misunderstandings immediately; I could have a conversation with struggling students in the moment.
Adapting for Online Learning
When the 2023–21 academic year began, over 80 percent of my students were learning remotely. The analog BILL model I’d relied on for so many years simply wasn’t practical. But without the BILL, my students weren’t able to collect evidence of their learning, and I didn’t have the record I most needed to do formative assessments.
BILLs had to go digital. I turned to free Google Slide templates I found at SlidesMania that replicated notebooks. The results? Students appreciated being able to include more types of evidence of learning. Video clips such as Hank Green’s “Crash Course” videos, diagrams from the BioNinja website, and models they found online such as the model of human hemoglobin at the Protein Data Bank all made their way into the students’ digital notebooks.
They appreciated the flexibility and freedom that digital notebooks gave them—they could be more creative and make more connections among concepts. When I asked students what they liked about digital notebooks, they mentioned that they could truly personalize their online notebooks by easily adding in resources they had selected rather than adapting resources I had provided for them. Some students appreciated that their digital notebooks were portable and could easily be taken with them to be used in future biology classes. All in all, digital notebooks gave them more agency, which is always a good thing when it comes to engagement.
Also, BILLs became truly interactive. Before, I had relied heavily on activities that were done on paper, but once BILLs were digital, students could more easily collaborate with one another to complete a task, like a guided inquiry activity. They’d do them in pairs or groups, and even as a group during synchronous instruction. BILLs helped my students take more control over their learning, but they also helped me be more creative. My students enjoyed being able to work together in this way, as it allowed them to learn more easily from their peers and allowed them to bounce ideas off of one another.
Finally, I could integrate the notebook template into assignments in Canvas through the Google Assignments LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability), which allows me to distribute a copy of an assignment via Google Docs/Slides so that students can submit that work back to me in Google Assignments. Because my whole district uses Canvas as its LMS, we didn’t even need Google Classroom. Also, with the LTI, I could provide my students with continuous feedback, since I had unlimited, ongoing access to their files, rather than having to coordinate due dates for the notebooks. Because the digital notebooks paired so well with the learning management system, my instruction became far more efficient.
I know that going forward there will be some students who will prefer paper notebooks, and certainly they’ll have their place in terms of evidence of learning. But for assessment, I think digital notebooks will continue to be a mainstay in my classroom.
Formative assessment is important in every classroom. End of unit assessment should never be a surprise to students or their teacher. And with the availability of so many great educational technology tools, measuring student learning is easy to do. Check out five of my favorite ways to measure student learning in my classroom.
Before my building implemented a 1:1 program, we allowed our students to bring their own devices for classroom use. It was around this time that I first stumbled upon Kahoot , and it has become a staple in my classroom. My students love competing against each other in Kahoot games, which we use a few times each week for formative assessment. Kahoot provides a variety of options for activities that engage students in the assessment process, making it fun. It offers both classic and team modes, which allow students to play a game as an individual or with a group. Students earn points by answering questions quickly and accurately, and enjoy watching the leaderboard throughout the game. Put Kahoot on your list of tools to try. I use it as a bell ringer , for test review, and more.Quizizz
Much like Kahoot, Quizizz allows teachers to gather evidence of student learning in a fun, gamified environment. When teachers create activities through the program, they can search for and use games and questions created by other users. This can be fantastic for students who are accustomed to answering questions only as their teacher creates them. Teachers have the ability to share an activity with students on Google Classroom to be completed in class or as homework. Questions and answers are displayed on students’ individual devices, which saves them from having to crane their necks to see the board around their peers. As students answer questions, they’re greeted with fantastic memes based on the accuracy of their response. So much fun. Teachers can view individual student progress and whole-class data, which is great for assessing student learning.Quizlet Live
Many students know Quizlet as a flash card creation tool, but it’s so much more than that. Recently, Quizlet unveiled Quizlet Live, which allows teachers to create collaborative learning games that emphasize concept mastery. Teachers can create a game from any Quizlet flash card deck. After at least six players join the game, they’re sorted into random teams. (Purchasing the premium version allows teachers to create their own teams.) Students must work together to correctly answer the questions. All team members see the same question on their screens, but they’re given different lists of answer options. As teams answer correctly, they move across the board. The team that answers 11 questions in a row correctly wins, and the competition aspect spurs kids to learn so they can support their team.Padlet
If you’re looking for a collaborative space for your students to communicate about anything, look no further than Padlet, a free tool for teachers and students to share information, resources, images, and more (there’s also a premium version). I use Padlet in my flipped classroom as a backchannel to encourage all students to reflect on their learning. I create a Padlet wall for each of my classes called WSWR, which stands for “what should we review,” and I encourage each of my students to contribute a reflection from the instructional videos they watch. Students post concepts that they feel need to be revisited, and their classmates can reply to their posts. I also use each class’s WSWR wall to create a review screencast based on what the students feel needs to be reviewed.Flipgrid
Over the past few months, Flipgrid has appeared as the new kid on the edtech scene. Through Flipgrid, teachers can create grids (similar to class sections in Classroom or a learning management system) and post topics for students to reflect upon. Using a quick, four-step process, students respond to prompts through a video. Teachers can view student responses and provide timely feedback, and can encourage students to reply to their classmates’ submissions. Teachers can share grids and topics via Google Classroom or a QR code, or keep the grid private.
Handing students the task of creating their own vocabulary lists is a simple way to have them take responsibility for their learning.
For many teachers, finding ways to differentiate their lessons is just plain tough. There are so many responsibilities to meet and tasks to complete in a typical day that taking one really great lesson and trying to meet the needs of every single student can be extremely daunting.
Vocabulary instruction, though, is a crucial area to ensure that the work is worth students’ while. Strengthening their vocabulary makes them stronger readers, more influential writers, and more culturally aware citizens.
For so many years, teachers have laboriously passed out vocabulary lists, given students a week to memorize the words and definitions, and then had them regurgitate the out-of-context words that half the kids still couldn’t use properly in a sentence. And the other half already knew some of the words before the list was in their hands.
Can we plan our vocabulary instruction so that all students can walk away with a stronger vocabulary?
I think so. We can start by giving students the power to choose their own vocabulary words, allowing them to take responsibility for their learning.
How to Begin
Start by giving your students a common text to work with. Newsela has great articles that can be differentiated by Lexile levels for the different students in your classroom. Just make sure that the text is at a high enough Lexile level for them to grow. While there should be words with which they will struggle, they shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the text.
Have students preview the text according to your normal processes—making predictions based on the title, looking at text features, etc. Before students begin reading the text, ask them to skim it for five words they don’t recognize. Instruct them to highlight these words so they’re easy to find again, and have students create an “unknown words” chart in their notebooks to prepare for their word work as they read.
As students read and stumble upon their highlighted words, they should stop to determine the meaning of those words. I make sure students have devices to look up definitions as they read. Encourage students to never skip over words they don’t know. This deeply impacts their comprehension of the text—it’s a strategy they need now and can use for the rest of their lives.
Students won’t be able to complete this process effectively until they’ve been taught how to break down words and use context clues, so it’s important to give mini-lessons on the different types of context clues, how to use connotation to determine denotation, and how to recognize word parts. This will set your students up for success with this exercise.
After students have finished the reading and have a graphic organizer breaking down five words, begin providing opportunities for them to use the words. Students truly understand a word best when it’s learned in context and then can be used properly in context. Have students use their five words all week long in different activities—you can give them a variety of options for vocabulary development so they don’t get bored.
Mini-conferences: Since it’s important for students to be able to use the words in context, you can meet with them to ensure that they’re using their words properly. These conferences can be extremely brief and done right at their desks, or you can take a few minutes at a side table. Just make sure you’re providing the coaching your students need in their vocabulary development.
Frayer Model remix: The Frayer Model graphic organizer is a tried-and-true vocabulary strategy, but it can become boring after a while. Keep it fresh by changing up the activity in each box. Try having the students compare their words to random things like types of candy, people in history, or something they could find outside. You’ll find that this strategy will have them thinking more deeply about the words and making deeper connections.
Teach the class: After students have spent some time mastering the words they picked, give them the opportunity to teach the words to their peers. We know that students have mastered content when they can teach it themselves, so use this as a quick assessment to monitor their progress.
Letter to a word: Students bring their word to life by writing a letter to it. The content of the letter will depend on the connotation of the word and how the student has decided to personify the word. Give students the extra challenge of using words they’ve already mastered in the letter.
Vocabulary instruction is easy to differentiate and make personal for every student, and doing so helps students strengthen their vocabulary and build essential skills in using context clues.
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