1. ## The Power of Spreadsheets

14 August 2010 by shartley

Following my student teacher’s lesson on break-even analysis I taught Year 11 Business Studies students how to use spreadsheets to play around with the numbers involved.  In a classroom with computers they  carefully,  step by step, followed what I was setting up in a spreadsheet (seen via a data projector):

• Sal’s Sunglasses
• Selling price of sunglasses  \$10.00
• Cost of purchasing sunglasses \$4.50
• Cost of purchasing sunglass case \$0.50
• Total cost per unit ?
• Lease of retail premises \$2,000
• Wages (for proprietor) \$800
• Service fee to retail centre (security, cleaning, electricity) \$200
• Total fixed costs ?

Through Q & A with the students formulas were chosen for the ? calculations.

Then I showed how to name a cell and use [F5] to Go To the named cell.  (Consequently there were cells named with all sorts of strange and rude names.)  Officially we had P for price, VC for variable costs (total cost per unit) and FC for fixed costs.

Then we constructed a table, and I demonstrated how to use series fill for the various quantities of sunglasses that could be sold.  Again students contributed suggestions for formulas to use.  Just one student knew enough about spreadsheets to race ahead (but he hadn’t known about naming cells).

• Possible quantity of units sold (Q)
• Price of goods sold (P)
• Total Revenue (TR)
• Fixed costs (FC)
• Variable costs (VC x Q)
• Total costs (TC)
• Profit (TR – TC)

Using the figures supplied the students discovered that the break-even point was when 600 sunglasses were sold.  “That’s a lot”, many of them exclaimed.  “So what should the owner do?” I responded.  Most students said to raise the selling price.  I told them to [F5] “P” and change the price to \$15 instead of \$10.

Now up to this point there was a reasonable level of enjoyment from learning to do something different but at this point, when they saw the whole table and thus the break-even point change with the alteration of one cell, they were blown away.  They had grasped the power of spreadsheets.

Last of all they learnt to construct a graph and label it without relying on automatic selections.  They were determined to make the graph accurate and were able to identify when it wasn’t.  The determination came from understanding there were genuinely good reasons for making a break-even graph.  Many of the students left excited about how they could use break-even analysis in their Business Plan Assessment (due Monday).

This lesson was a real kick for me and the students.

Teaching is fun.

2. ## Student Teacher

10 August 2010 by shartley

I found it fascinating watching my student teacher with Year 11 Business Studies today.  Normally she is very friendly and engaging as a teacher.  She is already a good teacher but will be a fantastic teacher in the not so distant future.  Today she was concentrating on maintaining focus from the students for the whole 75 minutes.  It was a very appropriately planned lesson, given it was on break-even analysis.  She attempted engaging the students with her real life experience as a business manager for fine dining restaurants which has been a successful hook in the past but fell flat today.  She then carefully went through the components of calculating the break-even point.  The students were keen to learn, even the disruptive ones.  However, since the disruptive students have in the past disrupted with inane or snide comments she didn’t notice that today they were asking some really intelligent questions and more often than not she was shutting them down.  With the explicit teaching part of the lesson over, there were worksheets to complete but she wanted them done in silence.  Most of the students in this class are not great at concentrating for long lengths of time so a little bit of chatter would have provided a good release valve.  One boy, who can be quite obnoxious but is very intelligent, asked if he could go outside for a drink of water.  She refused, thinking that any moment she would be teaching up-front again.  As it turned out, she took another five minutes or so and the boy was very aware, and indeed obnoxious, about the waste of time since he had completed his worksheet very quickly and accurately.  I explained later that the release valve of letting this boy out would have worked for both of them.

Anyway, none of the students exploded from all the concentrating required of them, none of them appeared upset at the minimal encouragement, so no harm was done and besides, I’m going in first lesson tomorrow to praise them for what I observed.  My student teacher can take a lot of positives away from the lesson in that the students learnt a new business analysis technique and they did focus for the whole lesson.  When we talked afterwards she understood it was simply listening and encouragement of positive contributions that were lacking and that is something that normally comes naturally to her.  We had a good discussion about a tight-loose-tight structure for lessons such as these.

After all that she went into a Year 9 History class for a different teacher and applied what we had talked about.  She came out beaming.  She had hit the right tone with the class and felt it was a very successful lesson.

It is a privilege to watch student teachers in action and learn from them.  It is also good for being aware of the methods you use when they watch you.  Observing your class with another teacher is great for learning more about the students themselves and how they best learn.  I highly recommend the experience.

3. ## What’s the buzz?

7 August 2010 by shartley

There’s a buzz in my Business Studies class that is hard to explain but I believe it stems from a situation of mutual respect.  Early in the course I introduced a concept of the boardroom discussion (briefly mentioned in an earlier post).  I would break the syllabus points to be addressed into the form of a meeting agenda.  A student acts as chairperson and they find from the class what they already know.  I simply act as an external consultant, or as the phone-a-friend option.  This gave the students confidence that they actually already knew a lot about Business Studies.  All they had to do was learn to use the language, write in an appropriate format and fill in some gaps, but together they know the bulk of the material.

We also do a fair bit of group work where I try to give them as realistic business scenarios as possible (also mentioned in a previous post).  At the moment they are individually working on their business plan assessment tasks but often as a class we brainstorm ideas for each others’ plans.  They are actually willing and genuinely interested in helping each other.  My mantra is Keep It Real.

To ensure they do cover each of the syllabus points there is an activity on Moodle, one for each syllabus dot-point.  These activities can be drawing diagrams, internet research and much more.  One of my weaknesses in teaching is the monitoring of work completion.  I know my students very well from my interactions with them but sometimes I am caught out when their written responses don’t match what they have demonstrated verbally.  Therefore I have been making a concerted effort to check every item uploaded through Moodle and giving some very quick feedback.  The most basic feedback is by selecting one of the following Moodle options:

• Resubmit
• Satisfactory
• Substantial
• High
• Excellent

(One of these days I will develop my own words to replace these.  For instance, it is only now, and I have been doing this all year, that the students have asked which is better between Satisfactory and Substantial.)
Lately I have been doing this feedback process while they are going on with their work.  I have found this very useful to do in class for the benefit of immediacy.  For instance, yesterday I noted that Mr R was not only completely up to date (at last), he had moved from being consistently Satisfactory to consistently Substantial. One piece of work was better than the majority of the class.  I commented on all this in front of the class, and his chest puffed out with pride.  I am trying harder this term, Miss, he said (paraphrased).  I’m not sure I can keep it up but I’m giving it a go. I did the happy dance inside.

This is a class of 13 boys and 3 girls.  The vast majority of the boys are athletic rather than academic, there is a boy with learning difficulties, a couple of really quiet boys and a boy who was known to have behaviour difficulties (I only see it every now and then).  There is a girl who often places a target on her back with her loud and attention-seeking ways but she has a heart of gold.  A couple of the boys find it very hard to resist going for that target but we talk about it openly.  I might say, Miss L, stop putting that target on your back.  Mr R, please resist the temptation to hit that target and they laugh and we move on.  One student has been sent an N Award warning letter for not completing an assessment task and another has been sick and away for sporting events regularly and has not completed any work for approximately six weeks.  I still need to monitor these situations quite closely.

This class takes a lot of energy.  Yesterday, second last period on a Friday afternoon, I didn’t feel I had the energy to give but the buzz enlivened me and in the end I was actually energised by it.  It is a colony of working bees that relies less and less on their Queen Bee for discipline and knwledge.  The hard yards made in establishing this hive is really paying off.  Yay!

4. ## Professional Development

4 August 2010 by shartley

@jangreen31 From a PD session I want to be able to connect, collaborate &create. Learn in a trusting, mutually supportive environment.
@simonjob realistic and practical ideas.
@AdeShipp to be inspired by new ideas and then go off and produce them to be used in the classroom.
@ sandynay from PD I want to be included, I want to share, I want to b able 2 support staff at their point of need, 🙂
@ teachercolin Knowledge and expertise if they are filling you in on broad strategies or practical hands implementation for classroom practices
@ jhando passion, real examples and care

Later @simonjob also tweeted “for me, PD must be practical; i.e. usable tomorrow. Not just ideas with no thinking about the implementation.”

@DrAshCasey tweeted “I guess that could pd is so something that is sustained and sustainable i.e. it needs ongoing support that is manageable for all” and has blogged about how Action Research has been the most beneficial PD for him.

This evening on Twitter I asked what teachers hated about PD.  The tweets came thick and fast:
@murcha What I hate most about face2 face PD, is the big cost, time taken for me to get there & need to get permission from leadership.
@lhjh70 The fact that most of it comes at the end of a tiring day #pointlesspd
@lhjh70 Hate motivational PD – you know – a tai chi session, or burning incense & putting your dog on the wall will change everything PD.
@ykombi School-based, first day back of term variety PD is usually irrelevant and never followed up – in my experience
@eliza_peterson When PD is imposed on us by administration. It often is unrelated to what we need as educators!

One complaint I’ve heard that isn’t listed above is that teachers hate being lectured at by managers who are perceived as having lost touch with what it is like to have a full teaching load.

Before I go any further I am going to declare that I’m a convert to my school’s Professional Development (PD) sessions.  I think they’re great.  But first I will address some of the complaints.

Most Mondays after school we have PD for 1- 1½ hours.  Yes, it is after a long day at school, but it would be worse on the weekend or late at night or very early in the morning.  And I can’t see teachers giving up their holidays.  Our staff wanted three weeks holidays in Australia’s Winter so they could travel in Europe.  The three day annual staff seminar was converted to four night seminars, one each term, to enable that to happen.

Yes, my school doesn’t like sending us out on expensive courses, particularly when we are an accredited provider.  But they will if it is needed.  I teach Economics.  We do not have an economist on the payroll so I go to conferences at which economists speak.  I learn from them and I enjoy them because I am interested in Economics.  That’s why I teach it.

So what do we do in the PD sessions at my school? I am privileged to work in a school which is forever trying to make not only our classrooms more engaging but also our PD more engaging.  This term we are learning to make Moodle more streamlined and professional in its use in our school.  Last term we were able to choose from various technologies we thought could apply in our classrooms and mostly they were hands-on sessions.  The school has tried offering PD as online courses (we offer online courses to students) but I believe course completion rate was low.  Staff are also allowed to design their own projects to work on.  Last year a colleague and I tried to put together a new case study for Business Studies but Mohan Dhall obviously had the same idea as us and published one on Breville in Time Riley’s Business Studies Review.  At least we would have made ours online.  But we’ve dropped the concept because now it would look like we were copying.

This week our Principal put together a matrix program roughly based on some of our “matrix” teaching programs for Years 5-8.  There were multiple intelligences down the left of a table and activities worth one, two or three points for each intelligence.  The aim was to achieve at least three points.  There was a collective sigh and moan when the email came round with this table, including me.  The main issue was how was it going to help me in the classroom.  There were some interpersonal and intrapersonal activities that I would be reasonably happy to do but they were the sort of ideas that I do anyway.  For example:

Evaluate ways in which you might harness the energy of highly social students into effective collaborative learning.  Write down those thoughts in a form that can be shared with colleagues so that they might lead to better management of highly social students. (1 point)

The first half of the task I would be really confident about but I don’t want to go beating my chest about it to my colleagues.  And too often, other teachers’ examples of something that works in the classroom are dismissed as personality based methods.  In Business Studies I have a lot of social boys.  We start many lessons with the students conducting a board meeting, taking turns as the chairperson.  The aim is to find out what they already know about that lesson’s topic and to build individuals’ knowledge into class knowledge and understanding.  They love taking ownership of their learning.  See, I can write it here in my blog for the world to see, but to my peers…that’s crazy talk.  Many would say it wouldn’t work in their subject or that it just isn’t their style.  And I’d take it personally.

So what I did was choose:

Create (download) an iTunes playlist of 15-20 songs for a specific genre and suitable for [students’ ears]. The playlists should be relevant to improving learning or the learning environment. Create information sheets that provide information on the Playlists. (3 points)

Now I didn’t actually download the tunes but a friend and I did come up with a list.  And instead of an information sheet we designed a lesson that linked with an already existing assessment task.  Again I used Twitter for help.  I asked for songs people knew that related to natural hazards or landforms.  I combined the responses with my own searches for suitable songs (eg “Flood” by Jars of Clay) and came up with a list that would engage students.  My thought was to play bits of the music like a trivia night, or playing bingo, until the key word was revealed and students identified the geographical feature.  After they had a list and categorised into landforms and natural hazards (could also add flora and fauna, weather – they’re in the same section of NSW Stage 5 Geography Syllabus p37), they choose one from each category to research.  They could also write their own songs or some other form of creation.  Chris Betcher has designed a brilliant task on natural hazards which you can find on his blog.

In some ways I saw this PD the Principal set as something I just had to get through.  Get the job done, signed off and add it to the NSWIT requirement of 100 hours PD over 5 years.  I haven’t actually taught Year 9 Geography for a few years but I hope to be able to see another teacher put this idea into action to see if it will work.  So it did end up being a productive use of my time.  Sometimes PD is what you make of it.

If you don’t like the PD in your school, maybe you can change it and try to make it relevant.  I read many people on Twitter working hard to guide teachers into improving teaching through application of appropriate technologies.  It is worth chipping away.  The complainers at my school do occasionally have the ah-ha moments and sometimes even become excited when they learn some new technology they can see be relevant in their classroom.  Other times new ideas need to sit in the back of the mind for quite a while but then one day they see a match of a particular technology and a particular lesson.  And boom, improved learning results.

Professional Development is good for you.  At least it is at my school.  Sometimes the people running the show don’t get it right and they can’t always make everyone happy but they are trying.  And we do offer the chance for staff to run their own PD.  If we don’t learn from each other we will be forever boxed alone with our students in the four walls of our classrooms, becoming stagnant.  The world keeps changing, technology with it, and teachers need to expand their thinking too.  I think an hour or so on Monday afternoons is not too much to ask.

5. ## Monopoly

28 April 2010 by shartley

In Business Studies this week Year 11 students played Monopoly.  As they wheeled and dealed their way around the board students recorded their transactions according to the principles of double-entry accounting.  When the game was called to a halt financial statements were constructed.
The income from passing Go, the rent received and prizes for coming second in beauty competitions were recorded as revenue.  Then all the rent, doctors’ fees, school fees and speeding fines paid were recorded as expenses.  The net profit was calculated by taking expenses away from revenue.  This is all listed on the Revenue Statement.
Then on the Balance Sheet the profit was categorised as capital.  Any amounts owed to the bank due to mortgaged properties were listed as liabilities.  Property, houses, hotels and cash held were all listed as assets.  For the Balance Sheet to actually balance: assets = liabilities + capital.
One major check was seeing if the cash remaining did indeed match the calculation according to the recorded transactions.  Often it didn’t.
There were errors made by all but everyone had fun and from the process understood the basics of how financial statements are constructed.

6. ## Group Work

22 April 2010 by shartley

I’m often reluctant to use group work in the classroom since I hated it as a student.  I was too much of a perfectionist so I did all the work myself and the others in my group would have a bludge.

In my Year 11 Business Studies class I have 16 students and we often start the class as a boardroom meeting, changing chairpersons each lesson.  I provide the agenda and act as a consultant but the class then organises themselves into how they will learn the work (with guidance from the consultant).

Today I was covering the first three points of the syllabus requirement:

* the human resource cycle
–        acquisition – identifying staff needs, recruitment, selection
–        development – training, development and maintenance of database
–        maintenance – monetary/non-monetary benefits
–        separation – voluntary/involuntary

I organised the tables into four groups and gave out the task:

Food, Flicks and Fiction is a cafe by day and a restaurant by night and has an adjoining book store and twin-cinema.  The owner of Food, Flicks and Fiction is looking to employ an Employment Relations team.  You are to complete the following as a submission to be that team.
1.    Identify the staffing needs including roles,  qualifications required, casual/full-time/part-time
2.    Plan the recruitment and selection process
3.    Plan the training required for new employees
4.    Plan the remuneration to be offered to the employees and any rewards to be offered to good workers
5.    Present your plan to the manager
(Mrs Hartley) in an oral and visual format

They had 40 minutes to complete the task and 5 minutes for each group to present.

Now, my class is basically the rugby team, three girls and a few boys who are the shy and retiring types, yet they embraced this task and enjoyed it.  One group included a map of the Food, Flicks and Fiction site in their presentation.  All groups covered all elements well but particularly training requirements.  The presentations were a little hazy though with some students using “would probably” and other such indefinite statements.

Overall, I’d call it a great success.  This was the first lesson for the term so it’s a nice way to start.

7. ## Draft of article “What accountants do” (approx 2000 words)

20 March 2010 by shartley

There was once a girl in Year 12 who didn’t know what to do when she finished school.  All she knew was that she eventually wanted to work in the Sydney CBD and be financially successful in an illustrious career.  One day, a handsome young man in a nice suit, representing one of the Big 4 accounting firms of the world [see box of the Big 4 Accounting Firms of the World], spoke to students in the girl’s school.  He spoke of a traineeship which enabled students to work full-time for his firm while studying part-time at university for an accounting degree.  This was perfect, thought the girl.  After submitting her resume and booking an interview she dreamt of working at one of the top floors in the city, looking down at the other office blocks, the harbour and the parks.  The interview process consisted of three different interviews and a tour of the firm.  It was all very exciting until the last interview, when a bored manager asked the girl what area of accounting she wished to work in.  “What areas are there?” she asked.  He gave her an exasperated, perhaps even surly, look, and listed areas such as audit, tax, business services, financial accounting and management accounting, “which is the area I work in,” he said.  “Ooooh,” exclaimed the girl.  “That one sounds interesting.  Management accounting is the area I’d like to work in.”

The girl’s application was unsuccessful.

Dictionaries provide overly simplified definitions of accountants [see box of definitions].  They focus on the financial accounts or records kept by businesses.  Of course this is one of the most featured areas of accounting but it belies the depth and scope of the field of accountancy.  Accountants communicate financial information in the form of accounts, advice and reports.  They are important when times are good to monitor profits and advise how to make them even bigger but also when times are bad to help businesses from the brink of disaster or to break-up a business that is beyond saving and possibly bankrupt.  Accountants are employed by accounting firms, private businesses, governments and other institutions, across all industry sectors.  They can work as sole traders or be part of a global business.

Financial Accounting

Financial accounting is the area most recognised by the general public because broadly speaking, it is about producing reports for people and institutions external to the business.  Financial accountants prepare financial reports, the main reports being the Revenue Statement, the Balance Sheet and the Cash Flow Statement.  These appear in the Annual Reports of companies for the general public to view but they are also used for internal purposes.  To produce these reports accountants record every single financial transaction of a business.  Each transaction consists of a debit and a credit.  Since there are two sides entered into the books for every single transaction this is often referred to as double-entry accounting.  For example, when a business pays its employees it debits salaries, an expense, and credits cash, an asset.  Each item, whether it be a form of revenue, an expense, an asset, a liability or capital, has its own record.  The General Ledger lists each individual ledger account.  They can then be organised to form the financial accounts.

Accountants in large firms can be responsible for particular areas of financial reports.  For instance, the employment relations department of a business needs to make sure employees are paid and the transactions recorded.  Superannuation needs to be invested, company car leases need to be paid, recruitment firms need to be paid, employees need to reimbursed for expenses they incurred on behalf of the business, any extra benefits employees receive need to be transacted and Fringe Benefits Tax paid on them, and leave needs to be accrued within the accounts so the business knows how much they are liable to pay.  Accountants or account clerks are the employees who perform these tasks.

Tax Accounting

A branch on the tree that is financial accounting is tax accounting.  There are a range of taxes to which businesses are subjected, including Company Tax, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT).  Not only do tax accountants produce the reports for calculating tax (which can be different to those required by other regulatory bodies) but they also check for compliance to tax law within the business (or for individuals), offer advice on how to avoid tax (avoiding tax is legal, evading tax is illegal) and prepare tax returns.

Management Accounting

Management accounting focuses on reports that are needed within the business including budgets, feasibility studies and merger and acquisition reports.  The management accountant helps managers establish budgets for all sections of the business and then measures actual financial performance against the budget.  The sales forecast is an important part of management accounting.  Each sales person could be given a target of revenue they are meant to produce, according to the sales forecast, and then the actual results are checked against the target.  Any variances would need to be evaluated for the cause of the difference and management would decide if any adjustments in conditions or targets are necessary.  Another sales focus could be on the products.  Behind the sales item in every Revenue Statement are all the different products that make up those sales.  Analysing each product line enables management to determine what products are more successful than others so they can then make decisions about future courses of action.  Accountants produce the reports to enable the analysing, but they are also involved in the analysing process.

Cost Accounting

In large firms it is vital for management to know what sections of the business are making money and which sections are spending too much.  The budget is made for a whole company and then broken down into individual departments, geographical locations or products.  The cost accountant ensures that the correct portion of each transaction is allocated to the correct section, location or product.  For instance, the firm may pay for employees to attend a course in how to use spreadsheets but the staff members come from a variety of departments.  The cost of that course needs to be allocated across departments according to the number of employees in each.  An example of cost accounting on a product basis is when packaging is bought for a number of different products.  The cost of the packaging must be distributed across the various products for which the packaging was bought.

Auditors

There are a number of different ways to be an auditor.  The girl mentioned at the beginning of this article applied to the NSW Audit Office for a position.   The NSW Audit Office checks the accounts of the NSW government agencies for accuracy and reliability.  This is the main job of auditors, they sign-off on the accuracy and reliability of financial statements by thoroughly checking the recording of underlying components.  Auditors also work for accounting firms.  Businesses employ auditors from accounting firms to sign-off on their financial statements.  This is required by law for Annual Reports and Prospectuses.  The Big 4 accounting firms used to be The Big 5 until 2002 when the accounting firm, Arthur Andersen collapsed.  Arthur Andersen, as chief auditor for the US company Enron, was caught up in Enron’s downfall under the weight of fraud and corruption.  The common view was that Arthur Andersen must have been corrupt too since they approved accounts which should have been found fraudulent.

Instead of working for the NSW Audit Office the Year 12 girl took a position with a small accounting firm in the suburbs, which was not quite the thriving metropolis she desired. Smaller accounting firms perform audits on smaller businesses. The girl participated in three audits with this accounting firm.  The first was just a simple compliance audit where coins were ran through the pokies of a local club to check what was recorded by the machine was what actually occurred and that the club was also recording wins accurately.  The second audit was of a horse stud where records of horses being purchased had to be checked for their actual existence at the horse stud, ensuring the description on the paperwork matched the horse itself.  The third and last audit the girl ever performed was on a car yard where she learnt that a lot more money is made from selling the cars traded in than from the brand new cars where the profits went back to the manufacturer.

Forensic Accounting

A friend of the girl started her auditing career with the NSW Audit Office but a few years later moved to the NSW Police as a Forensic Accountant.  Her job entailed checking the financial records of businesses suspected of fraud and corruption and then giving evidence in court if a trial eventuated.

Accountants provide advice to individuals, businesses, government and other institutions in a number of ways.  For instance, they can advise a business how to operate more efficiently, by identifying where costs can be cut or revenues increased.  They could also evaluate how productive the manufacturing arm is operating.  Accountants could also recommend strategies in the areas of employment relations, such as recruitment, training and retrenchment; or in marketing, particularly pricing strategies.

Mergers and Acquisitions

One area where it is important to gain the advice of accountants is in mergers and acquisitions.  When businesses are considering merging or acquiring another business experts are required to examine the financial statements to determine the viability of the investment.  This even applies to individuals looking to purchase a small business or franchise.  An accountant will advise if it is worth the asking price or if it is a business that is likely to be a future success.  Accountants may even negotiate on the purchaser’s behalf.  In more complicated investments a due diligence may be performed where accountants determine that all the facts presented by the seller are indeed accurate and reliable.

Insolvency Accounting

When a business does flounder it may go into voluntary administration.  The administrator is usually an accountant who looks to find a way for the business to return to fiscal success and operate again, able to meet its financial obligations.  If a business is unable to pay its bills it may go into receivership where a receiver, an accountant, is appointed to ensure all debtors are paid, aiming to keep the business afloat.  However, if a business is truly unrecoverable then liquidators, also accountants, are appointed to divide up the business in order to pay out claims on the remaining assets.

Environmental Accounting

As society becomes more concerned for the environment there is increasing pressure for environmental accounting.  In other words there is a demand for businesses to account for all actions of a business affecting the environment to be reported.  The difficulty in this reporting is placing a relevant and reliable price on these actions.  Yet this is an area that is seriously undergoing investigation.  At the moment environmental accounting is mainly in the area of cost-benefit analysis evaluating how a new project may impact the environment.

Fund Accounting

The girl who wanted to work in the CBD eventually did work in the heady field of finance.  She worked for a year in the suburban accounting firm, followed by three years as a tax accountant in a bank.  She then moved to an investment bank where she became a fund accountant.  A fund accountant records all the transactions of a trust or superannuation fund and produces appropriate reports and figures for internal and external requirements.  This includes calculating the unit price for the fund and the rates of return to be published in the media.  A fund accountant is an example of a more specialised accounting area that is peculiar to the financial sector.

As can be seen there are a number of areas that accountants work in and a huge range of tasks they perform.  Accountants have a unique view of how a business is performing and thus often go on to work at the top end of business as general managers, chief operating officers and directors.  Accountants don’t need to have a high level of mathematical ability but they do need to enjoy working with numbers and like problem solving.

As for our girl who knew so little in Year 12, after five years in funds management she left accounting to have children and later became a teacher.

A box listing the 4 Big Accountancy firms in Australia:
–    Deloitte: http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_AU/au/index.htm
–    Ernst & Young: http://www.ey.com/au
–    KPMG: http://www.kpmg.com/AU/en/Pages/default.aspx
–    PwC: http://www.pwc.com.au/

A box of definitions of accountant
–    a person who keeps or inspects financial accounts.  http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/accountant?view=uk
–    a person whose profession is inspecting and auditing personal or commercial accounts.  http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/accountant?r=66
–    somebody who checks finances: somebody who maintains the business records of a person or organization and prepares forms and reports for tax or other financial purposes  http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/DictionaryResults.aspx?refid=1861583281

A box of the two main professional bodies for accountants:
– Chartered Accountants: http://www.charteredaccountants.com.au/
– CPA Australia: http://www.cpaaustralia.com.au/

“Trivia” Box:
Auditors use green pens for their little ticks to show they have vouched a certain document.  This is to distinguish from the more commonly used blue, black and red ink.

Box:
A quiz to ascertain the area of accounting that would suit you: http://www.charteredaccountants.com.au/students/game_quiz/student_quiz

http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/bus/accounting/whatisema.asp

8. ## Keeping it Real

9 January 2010 by shartley

When I started teaching six years ago, having previously been in the corporate world, I was keen to show students, particularly in Business Studies, the real world, beyond the textbook.  The students were bemused by my approach of constantly showing via the web how real businesses and other institutions actually operated.  The textbook is great for providing neat answers in the structure of the syllabus, particularly for exam preparation, but for real life learning we need to go far beyond the books.  Textbooks are ideal for students who are good at memorising and regurgitating information for exams that are merely a passport for the next stage of study in life.  Not that this works for all subjects.  In Economics I keep telling my students that memorising the textbook will only give them a mark up to 80% because they need to demonstrate analysis and informed opinion to achieve any higher.  However, education at all levels should be about learning for life and about life and not be just about final results in the HSC and equivalent ‘finals’.

Real life now involves various forms of social media.  I joined Twitter at the start of 2009 but didn’t actually participate until about half way through the year.  I also use Facebook but purely as a social network.  Twitter is my professional network.  At times it is overwhelming due to how much knowledge other educators in the world have about various web applications and how to use them in the classroom, plus the time they have to post about it, not only on Twitter but through blogs too.  I often feel guilty that I am merely a Twitter trawler since I retrieve so much information from it while giving very little back.  When I do give back, it sometimes feels I am speaking to a void, but not for long.

The biggest impact Twitter has had on my classroom so far is an idea I had to connect students in my Society and Culture class with Vietnamese students to help them with a case study they were doing on various aspects of life in Vietnam.  Through the retweets of some of my followers and the consequent passing on of names of teachers in Vietnam I was connected with a teacher in Hanoi.  He established a blog where my students and a class within his school introduced themselves to each other before my students asked questions relevant to their case study.  It has been very exciting to see the project start to unfold.  Two of the Vietnamese students expressed very different opinions about the role of power and authority in both schools and government within Vietnam in response to a question from one of my students.  It showed my students different perspectives that they could never learn from a textbook or an official information website.  At the moment we are keeping the blog private since the students are still learning about appropriate use of blogs, not that there have been any problems to date.  However, it has stalled momentarily due to Australia’s summer holidays.  I’m looking forward to the return of school to move it along further.  This is the third time I have taught this unit but it is the first time it has sparked a desire in me to visit Vietnam.  The personal touch really does have an amazing effect.

The same class also has a public blog to maintain a journal for their Personal Interest Project.  It opens up an opportunity for them to receive feedback about their ideas.  Again, Twitter has been the means for finding the few people who have provided some very constructive thoughts for my students.

The next exciting project that has come from Twitter was purely by accident in the last few hours.  I was merely thinking out loud and feeling silly for posting it at all when I typed in exactly the maximum 140 characters: Thinking about teaching research methodologies by having Yr 12 students film 30 sec demos of each method with target audience of new Yr 11s. Within minutes a teacher from the USA sent me a direct message offering his 14 year old students as a target audience.  We have set a date for late February for my students to have the videos ready.

I am constantly astounded by the connections I make and this is despite having fewer than 150 followers, a small number compared to some of the educators I follow with 1000s of followers.  Through Twitter I also discover new resources, many of which I won’t ever use but some I will and as a result my students will also expand their learning.  I can spend hours every day just reading posts and the weblinks they contain but I need to just opt in and out as I want and not become obsessive about it.  I had a few weeks over Christmas where I didn’t do any work for school so I also chose not to touch Twitter either.  I came back refreshed.  I once showed my Society and Culture students how I use Twitter and one asked, “Do you ever sleep?”  I laughed and said I didn’t sleep enough but asked if she reads everything posted on Facebook, her main online social medium.  She doesn’t.

Twitter is an amazing resource helping me to create an environment of authentic learning.  In just over two weeks I will be back in the classroom after a long summer holiday, armed with new ideas and excited by the prospects they hold.  Stay tuned to see how they go.

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