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iPads, board games, and lemonade: Fun ideas for classes

Discover techniques for gamifying academic integrity, helping Googlers, and more.
By Courtney L. Vien

Faculty shared many brilliant teaching ideas at the AAA 2019 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Here are a few we found especially inspiring:

A playful way to get students talking about academic integrity

Concerned about the widespread prevalence of cheating on campus, Amanda White, Ph.D., senior lecturer in accounting at the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS), Australia, developed a board game to teach students the fundamentals of academic integrity. White saw that many of her students weren’t clear on what constituted cheating or plagiarism, or what the consequences would be if they were caught. She designed a game loosely based on Chutes and Ladders, in which students need to answer multiple-choice questions about academic integrity topics to advance. Students play in groups of four and must answer the questions together, which encourages conversation about cheating.

White has her students play the game in their first week of class, and said it takes about 20 minutes for them to complete it. The game proved so popular that health and communications faculty at the UTS now use it as well. White has made downloads of the game board, question cards, and instructions available free online. Faculty can customize the questions to suit their own classes.

Help students who prefer Googling to reading

John Wild, Ph.D., professor of accounting at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and his son, Jonathan Wild, CPA, a recent Ph.D. graduate at Oklahoma State University, lamented the fact that many of their students did not read the textbook before starting on their homework problems. Instead, these students preferred to Google the topics (such as “how to prepare a balance sheet”) and used the material they found to help them through the homework. This presented a problem: The information the students came across online wasn’t always accurate.

Though the Wilds prefer the traditional approach of finding information in the textbook, they acknowledge that many students still won’t read. Therefore, they gave students one-page summaries of each chapter in the textbook that they had created, which they nicknamed “cheat sheets.” The “cheat sheets” contained all the key concepts, procedures, and formulas from a chapter, plus links to the text so students could easily find the relevant information.

The Wilds were pleasantly surprised to find that the “cheat sheets” improved students’ grades and lowered their anxiety. Students were even able to reach higher levels of thinking on Bloom’s taxonomy because using the summaries meant they didn’t have to spend as much time on lower-level functions such as memorization.

An old engagement technique becomes new again

Patrick Lee, CPA, a lecturer at the University of Texas at San Antonio, keeps students engaged during lectures by asking them to write their answers on the board — using iPads. He walks around the classroom and hands students an iPad on which they use an Apple Pencil to write their solutions to the problems on his slides. Via an Apple TV and a OneDrive app, which syncs the answers between the iPad and the screen, the students’ answers appear on the slides in front of the class. This technique keeps them engaged, Lee said, because they don’t want to be caught off-guard and have to answer a problem when they haven’t been paying attention.

Another bonus of using iPads in class, Lee said, is that they allow him to record his lectures through a microphone as he speaks. He can then easily upload the recordings to his class’s learning management system.

Making lemonade out of financial accounting

John Lacey, CPA, Ph.D., professor of accountancy at California State University, Long Beach, uses a simple exercise to introduce students in his financial accounting class to the idea of estimates and judgment in accounting. He starts with a straightforward “textbook” problem: A student wants to make enough money to take his friends to the movies, so he sets up a lemonade stand. The students are told how much the student spent for the pitcher, the stand, and the sugar, and how much he charged for the lemonade. The example explores how much income he made at the end of the weekend.

Then, Lacey encourages students to keep track of what happened. They answer questions such as the following: The student in the example picked the lemons from a tree in the backyard of his rented house. What value should be used for the lemons? What did the lemons cost? Should the house’s rent factor in? How long did it take him to pick the fruit and what was that time worth? Should that factor into their calculations?

At the end of the exercise, students are asked how much the lemonade business made. Everyone comes up with different answers, Lacey said.

The exercise can be used to illustrate many basic accounting concepts, such as inventory (the cups and sugar), depreciation (how much are the stand and pitcher worth after they’re used), and the like. Many students come to accounting thinking it is just adding up numbers. This example shows that accounting isn’t as straightforward a subject as they might have thought, Lacey said.

Courtney Vien is a senior editor–magazines and newsletters at the AICPA. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact her at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.

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