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FREDcast: A New Forecasting Game for the Classroom - Econ Lowdown Webinar Series, Episode 4

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In this session of the Econ Lowdown webinar series, presenters from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis discuss strategies for using FREDcast in the classroom.

FREDcast is a new interactive game that allows players to test their forecasting skills against friends, classmates, or the whole FREDcast user base. FREDcast players predict four economic indicators: GDP, unemployment, CPI, and payroll employment. Their forecasts are then compared with the actual release numbers and scored for accuracy. Users can assess their performance by viewing their positions on leaderboards within leagues and for all FREDcast players. FREDcast integrates directly with Econ Lowdown so that teachers can create leagues out of existing classrooms and assign FREDcast forecasting to their students.

NOTE: On Dec. 20, 2016, FREDcast CPI units changed from “month-to-month annualized percent change” to “year-over-year percent change.” The units for CPI in this webinar and transcript are out of date. Please be aware that going forward, all forecasts for CPI in FREDcast should be entered in terms of year-over-year percent change.


Below is a full transcript of this video presentation. It has not been edited or reviewed for accuracy or readability.

Denise Davis: Good afternoon. And welcome to today's ECON Lowdown webinar. Our discussion for today focuses on FREDcast, a new forecasting game for the classroom. I'm Denise Davis with the St. Louis Fed, and I'll be your facilitator. We've got an outstanding lineup of presenters here today, also from the St. Louis Fed. Allow me to introduce Hannah Shell and Mark Bayles.

Now, please join me on slide two, and we'll cover the call logistics. If you haven't already done so yet, click on the webinar link you received after registering. This option offers a few benefits: You can watch the slides live, as they are advanced. You can type questions to us, download the session materials, or even choose to listen to the audio through your PC speakers.

Please note that the webinar performance is dependent upon your connection. So if at any time you're having problems, just pick up the phone and dial the toll-free number. To ask questions today, you can submit them at any time by clicking on the "Ask Question" button in the webinar tool. One additional note: The views expressed in this presentation are those of the presenters and are not the official opinions of, nor binding on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, nor the Federal Reserve System.

All right, now. Please grab your mouse because we would like you ask you a polling question to get this session started today. So I'm going to go ahead, and you should see that coming up on your screen there. And the question is, what description best describes you as a Fred user? A, I work in education and use Fred regularly in the classroom. B, I work in education and use Fred occasionally in the classroom. C, I work in a field other than education and use Fred regularly. D, I work in a field other than education and use Fred occasionally. Or E, I am new to Fred. Okay. So go ahead and make your results—I mean make your choice. Sorry.

And I'm going to go ahead and stop our poll here and show the results. And we should see those popping up here in just a moment. All right. It looks like 47 percent say, B, I work in education and use Fred occasionally in the classroom. All righty. And we have 27 percent that say they're new to Fred. Welcome. You're going to learn a lot today. Now, with that, I'm going to go ahead and welcome our first presenter, Hannah. Hannah, the floor is yours.

Hannah Shell: Thanks, Denise. I'd like to thank everyone for being here today. I'm very excited for the opportunity to share the St. Louis Fed's newest tool with all of you. Before we get into the details of FREDcast, let's discuss the motivation for how FREDcast came to be. So, Mark, why, exactly, did the St. Louis Fed develop a fantasy forecasting game?

Mark Bayles: Hannah, this slide shows logos for two websites that are essential to FREDcast. So let me begin by talking about ECON Lowdown. ECON Lowdown is our web portal that connects to hundreds of free economics and personal finance resources for grades K to 16. We're always on the lookout for new avenues to engage students and teachers by extending the reach of ECON Lowdown. And FREDcast, as Hannah will explain, is a great way to connect textbook theory to today's headlines. FREDcast is a new way to link current events to today's economic data.

Hannah Shell: Exactly. We thought that FREDcast was a great venue to get students excited about macro economic forecasting by tying it into a familiar framework, similar to fantasy sports.

Mark Bayles: FREDcast gives users of existing free web sources, such as Fred, the St. Louis Fed's popular economics database, a competitive outlook, interacting with classmates and other economics enthusiasts.

Hannah Shell: We even set a goal of 10,000 registered users by the first year, and we hope that you and your students will help us achieve that goal.

Mark Bayles: It seems like a lofty plateau, but an attainable one, when you take into account the large number of teachers, students, and enthusiasts who visit the ECON Lowdown and Fred website every month.

Hannah Shell: Now, if you'll join me on slide four, we can take a look at the two main topics we're going to cover today. First, I'll start with an overview of how FREDcast works. We'll cover the basics of entering and revising forecasts. And then we'll go into a little more detail about the scoring process. We'll look at examples of when scores will be released, how to view scores, and even dive into some details on how the scores are calculated on a monthly and an all-time basis.

Mark Bayles: Thanks for the quick overview, Hannah. Later on, I'll visit with you about integrating FREDcast Play into your classroom via the IMP, or Econ Lowdown Teacher Portal. We'll learn about setting up a private classroom league, how easy it is to manage your classroom leagues, and track player performance. Finally, we'd like to give you a brief reminder that FREDcast is currently in beta and that we are very much interested in hearing from you about ideas you have for making FREDcast better.

Hannah Shell: If you'll join me on slide five, we'll get started talking about what FREDcast is. FREDcast is a game that involves forecasting four economic series. Really, it's the framework to store these forecasts, score them for accuracy, and allow you to view your scores compared to the general public or a closer group of friends and classmates. Just to clarify, when I say, "Compare to the general public," only the top ten scores will be visible to other users. And those scores are tied to a username of your choice.

At no time in FREDcast can another user see scores tied to a person's name, e-mail address, or any other identifiable information. On slide six, we list the four series FREDcast incorporates. These four series are the unemployment rate, payroll employment, Gross Domestic Products—or GDP, and the Consumer Price Index—or CPI. On the bottom of these slides, you'll see a link to take you to the FREDcast interface where you're welcome to follow along with me as I go through some of the features. I'll go into details about the units and the frequency of the forecasted series later.

The only real deadline you have to remember for FREDcast is listed on slide seven. You must submit your forecast before the twentieth of the month at midnight. You will forecast each series in FREDcast one time, every month. And you can revise those forecasts as many times as you want to, up until that deadline—the twentieth at midnight. Once that deadline passes, your forecast entry will be saved and scored when the data are released.

On the next slide, we cover a little bit about FREDcast's scoring system. FREDcast's scoring system is set up so that the closer your forecast is to the actual number, the higher your score will be. And as you'll see on slide nine, you can see how well you are doing by looking at scores on the monthly leader board. Every time a forecast is scored, the leaderboard is updated with the top ten scores in the public league, or the top ten scores in a private league, if you choose to participate in one.

Additionally, you'll be able to see your position on the leaderboard, even if you're not in the top ten. And if you have a group of people around you that enjoy some friendly competition, on slide ten you can see FREDcast is designed to be played in leagues. You can be in as many leagues as you want, and you only have to enter one set of forecasts.

So, how do you enter these forecasts? On slide 11, we see the landing page of FREDcast. Mark will go over account creation for educator purposes in more detail later. But for any FRED users that want to give it a try, all that has to be done is go to the URL at the bottom of this page—which will take you to the screenshot that you see here—and sign in using your FRED account. You do have to have a FRED account to play FREDcast. So if you don't have one, you can go ahead and register. It's really easy to create one. Once you type in your login information, click the "Sign In to Play" button, and we'll get started.

So, on slide 12 you'll see the first screen after you sign on. This is the forecast entry slide for the unemployment rate. Every month, the first time you enter your forecast, you will see four slides; one for each series. And the first one will always be the unemployment rate slide. There's a lot of information here to help you know exactly what you are forecasting. First of all, the units and frequency are listed right below the indicator title. For the unemployment rate, the unit is the monthly rate after it has been seasonally adjusted. And the frequency, as you might have guessed, is monthly. That just means that for every monthly forecast you submit, there will be one release that is scored for that particular forecast.

I'll also note that this number for the unemployment rate is the headline number. So it's the one you're probably familiar with seeing in the news. Below the units on the slide, there's a brief definition of the indicator. That's listed next to the book symbol. For the unemployment rate, it's the percentage of the labor force that is willing to work, does not have a job, and is looking for work. Below the definition, you have a short hint for the unemployment rate. That hint is that seasonal factors are removed. You shouldn't think about things like weather and holidays when you're making your forecast. And finally, we have a link to one of our ECON Lowdown podcasts about the unemployment rate if you want even more information.

Once you're comfortable with the units and the frequency that you'll be forecasting, you can direct your attention to the right side of the slide. Here you see a sentence with a date and a blank box to enter your forecast. This slide is shown—the slide that is currently shown is for the month of September. So when you're forecasting the unemployment rate in September, you'll see in that sentence listed the unemployment rate in September 2016 will be. You'll always forecast the month or quarter for which you are currently in. In technical terms, that's a zero horizon forecast.

Below the forecast entry line is the release date for September data, which is October 7, 2016. Now, FREDcast is designed to ensure that what you enter in the forecast box is what you intended to enter. So, if you enter something that FREDcast detects is a typo, it will give you an error. And you can see that on slide 13 here. I've entered a negative unemployment rate, which FREDcast says, "Well, that doesn't make sense." So it's giving me a red box and an error underneath it with a range. So, the ranges are meant to be wide enough to detect typos—as I said before—or a misunderstanding of the unit without being suggestive of the actual point estimate.

On slide 14 we can see that I've corrected my mistake, and I now have a green check mark next to my unemployment rate forecast. Once that green checkmark appears, you can click "Next Series" to move onto the next spot. After the unemployment rate, you'll enter Payroll Employment. Notice this slide is set up the same exact way, but with different definitions, hints, and units. The unemployment rate unit—excuse me. The payroll employment units are the monthly change in persons rounded to the nearest thousand.

So this is also the headline number, typically reported by news agencies. One thing I will highlight is that this number is rounded to the nearest thousand, but is still in persons. So, for example, if you wanted to forecast 181,500 persons, you would type 1-8-2-0-0-0 to round to the nearest thousand. But you would not type 182 because the number is not in thousands—just rounded to the nearest thousand.

Moving on to the next slide, we can see that real GDP growth follows payroll employment. GDP is a little different than the previous two indicators because while it is forecasted monthly, the variable is released at a quarterly frequency. In FREDcast, this means you will forecast the same initial release of GDPs three times. For example, the first release of the Q3 GDP number will be forecasted once in July, once in August, and once in September. And those are the three months in quarter three. That variable will be released in October—the month immediately following quarter three. You can change your forecast every time or keep it the same, but you must resubmit it every month for all three forecasts to count. When the data is released, all three forecasts will be scored at once.

For GDP, you'll always forecast [unintelligible 00:13:12] its first release. So while the number is revised following the first release, you will never forecast the revision. The units for GDP are the quarterly percent change from the preceding period—and those are seasonally adjusted at an annual rate. Those units mean that you're forecasting the growth between two quarters, as if it had grown at that rate for an entire year. It sounds complicated, but most of you have only ever heard of GDP growth in terms of an annual rate. So it's actually much easier to forecast this way. This is, again, the headline number that we typically think about when we're looking at GDP in the news.

Moving on to the next slide, CPI. This slide is similar to GDP, in that it's an annualized rate. But this is not the headline number that we're used to seeing. CPI is the—CPI in FREDcast is the month-to-month annualized rate, which takes the growth rate over a month and extrapolates it as if it had continued for an entire year. Most news agencies report the year-over-year percent change, which is a little bit different. It doesn't move around quite as much as the month-to-month change.

Once you enter the CPI forecast, you can select the final button to review forecasts, and you'll be taken to the screen on slide 18. So, slide 18 shows the forecast review page. Here, you can read each of your forecasts in a sentence once last time to make sure all the numbers are as you want them. As we mentioned before, FREDcast is designed to make sure that what you type is what you intended to type. So, here is a one last final chance to see if you got a unit wrong or maybe had a typo with the decimal place.

If you see something wrong, you can fix it directly on this page and then click "Save Forecast" and you're done for the month. On slide 19, you'll see, after you click that "Save Forecast" button, a green confirmation will appear. Anytime you want to revise your forecast before the twentieth at midnight, you can come back to this page and revise the numbers here. Just click the "Your Forecast" button on the menu at the top to navigate back, or you can revise right away. That's everything we need to know for forecast submission.

Now we'll turn our attention to scoring. At first, we're going to talk about when scores will be released. So on slide 20, we see a calendar for the month of August 2016. I'm going to walk through this example as if you had played FREDcast in August and submitted forecasts. The forecast would have been due on August 20. Economic data is always released on a lag, though, so on slide 21 we'll see that the first scoring release for August actually occurs in September. That first score will post on September 2, which is when the August employment report comes out.

This report includes both unemployment rate and payroll employment. And that's a pattern that will occur every month. The employment situation is always released the first Friday of the month immediately following the observation month. So, for August, it's the first Friday in September. The next score that we'll post is the August CPI. And that posts on September 16. The CPI release is not as strict of a pattern. It's typically sometime in the middle of the month. For exact dates, you can look up the release schedule in FRED. On September 20, your September forecast will be due. And I note this because you've noticed that we're still missing a score for one series, and that's GDP.

We're missing that score because GDP is a quarterly variable. So you'll actually forecast it again in September before making your—before seeing your scores for July and August. On slide 22, we see that GDP for quarter three is released on October 28. And that is a pattern as well. The GDP number is always released in the month immediately following the quarter on the last Friday of that month.

Scores will be posted almost instantaneously, once their data is released. You'll get an e-mail if you're signed up in FREDcast. And to view your scores, you can join me on slide 23. I'll go over the score viewing platform. View your scores by clicking on the "View Your Scores" menu at any time within FREDcast. On this menu, you'll see a dropdown of the list of leagues you are in. There is the public league, which everyone is in automatically. That's the first option. And then below that, you'll see several private leagues. And those are something that Mark will discuss for classroom use later. But you can also create a private league on your own, as well. For now, we'll look at the scores for the public league on slide 24.

So this scoring page is going to be the same, whether you're in a public or private league. You'll have two scores: One of them is a number of monthly points. And the other is an all-time score. So the only thing that might be different if you're in a private league is the all-time score. And that's because the all-time score for a private league starts when the league starts. This score is calculated as a summation of monthly points for as long as you've been playing. So if you've been playing for longer than the private league start date, the private league all-time score could be a little bit lower than the public league all-time score. But the number of leagues you are in has no effect on your actual score.

I'll go into detail about calculating the monthly versus all-time score later, but the monthly points are basically a measure of how you did in any month, while the all-time score is an accumulated measure of how you've been doing since you started playing. In the middle, on the top row of the scoring dashboard, I've highlighted a summary of the monthly points and all-time score. On the bottom right immediately below the top line, you can see how many points you earned for each series. On the bottom left is the monthly and all-time leader boards for each league. And if you're in the public league, you'll see a list of public league users. And if you're in a private league, you'll see only the users that are in the league with you. You can click on the leader board to toggle between monthly and all-time.

Scrolling down on this page will take you to the graph on slide 25. These graphs are generated for each person every time they play FREDcast. They give you a view of your past performance compared to other players. The blue bars on these graphs show the average forecast error of all players in a league, and your forecast error appears as a black dot. So if we look at the graph on the bottom right corner, we can see that this particular user has gotten better at forecasting CPI over time relative to other users in his or her league.

Now, let's go over the actual difference between monthly and all-time scores. These calculations do get a bit technical, so I'll try to go slow. And let me know if you have any questions. There is also an FAQ available on FREDcast if you miss something, or if you'd like to see it in writing. To start, FREDcast measures the absolute value of your forecast error and compares that to the—or measures the absolute value of your forecast compared to the actual data. And this number is called the forecast error.

As a refresher, absolute value just means if the data for an actual series—let's say, GDP was 3.5 percent—a forecast of 2 percent or a forecast of 5 percent would both have the same forecast error. Because in terms of distance, they are the same absolute distance away from the actual release number. So once we have that forecast error, we divide that by the standard deviation, as we see on slide 27.

Series standard deviation—which is taken since—from 1970 to 2015—is the square root of the series variance. So if you think of a normal bell curve, a standard normal distribution is characterized by having about 95 percent of its observations within two standard deviations—technically, 1,96—of the mean. So when we're using the standard deviation, we're scaling the forecast error so it removes the units of the series. It does this because the standard deviation is also in those units.

And so, think about doing this to make a forecast error that's in a percentage comparable to a forecast error that's in thousands of persons. And this scaling by the standard deviation also is a measure of how much the series varies. So a series that moves around a lot is harder to forecast. And this means it will have a larger standard deviation and it will make the overall ratio smaller, holding the forecast error constant.

So let's look at an example of that: If we had a forecast error of 1.5 percent for both GDP and the unemployment rate, the ratio will be lower for GDP because GDP has a higher standard deviation. The ratio will be higher for the unemployment rate because the unemployment rate moves around less and has a lower standard deviation. That makes it easier to predict. This ratio is put into context on slide 28.

Once the ratio is calculated, we scale it to be out of 250 points. We start with 250 and subtract 80 times the ratio to get the monthly series points. We chose 80 as the number because, if you remember my definition of a standard deviation, 80 goes into 250 about three times. So that means that your forecast error would have to be more than three times the standard deviation away from the actual to get a negative score. So if we assume that these series are distributed normally, we'll get most of our forecast within that 250 range.

Don't be discouraged if you do get a negative score, though, because many of us do. And we've seen a lot of them in testing. Basically, what you need to know from this formula is that a higher ratio results in fewer monthly points.

Slide 29 has the final steps for calculating monthly points. First we get the forecast error, and then we take the ratio and scale it to 250. The final step is to add the series points for all series to get a total monthly score. The total monthly score is out of 1,000, although, as I mentioned before, it would be extremely rare for someone to earn all 1,000 points. And if you earn a negative score, your monthly points can be negative. So that's all for the monthly score.

Now, on slide 30, we'll look at the all-time score. As I mentioned before, the all-time score is calculated at a down-weighted sum of the monthly point scores. Down-weighted is just a way of saying that the weight decreases to zero as the months get farther away. For example, the current month is multiplied by a weight of 0.5. And then the second most recent month is multiplied by a weight of 0.36, and the third by 0.33, and so on and so forth. The sum of all months you have forecasted times the weights is the all-time score.

Slide 31 has another visual to help us grasp this concept. The blue bars on slide 31 show the weights for one year of data. And you see that they diminish down towards 0. The green lines show a cumulative score if you've been playing for one year. So think of the months along the bottom as the months since you have started playing. The weights will get smaller, the farther away a month gets. And the all-time score will accumulate and increase, assuming your monthly points are all positive.

Now, I've gone over a lot of information about forecast entry and scoring. I'll hand it back over to Denise and see if we have any questions at this point before we transition to Mark to talk about FREDcast in the classroom

Denise Davis: Thanks so much, Hannah. As a reminder, if you do have questions, just simply click on that "Ask Question" button. We would love to hear from you. Before we jump to the questions, we're going to go ahead and bring up a polling question. But you should see that popping up on your screen there. And I'll read it aloud to you. Do you have an ECON Lowdown account? A, I have an ECON Lowdown account. Or, B, I do not have an ECON Lowdown account. So, I'll go ahead and give you a second to respond. And I will stop our poll. And I'm going to show the results. It should be popping up on our screen here. Okay. Great. 59 percent say they have an ECON Lowdown account. All right. Let me check and see if we have any questions coming in here. Okay. It looks like we do have one. Hannah, is there an easy way to see all the release dates for economic data?

Hannah Shell: Yes. That information is actually all available in FRED, which we mentioned at the beginning of this presentation. So, I know some of you are new to FRED. I would encourage you to go out to our website—Federal Reserve Economic Data—and take a look at all of the data that's available there. Each data series has a full release schedule associated with it. So you can go in and look at CPI, for example, and you can see all the CPI releases that are coming up for this year.

Denise Davis: Thanks, Hannah. Well, now, let's jump over to Mark's part of the presentation.

Mark Bayles: Now, as promised, we're going to tell you how to bring FREDcast into your classroom. We'll start by sharing a view of the ECON Lowdown landing page. From the St. Louis Fed's homepage, all you have to do is click on "Education" at the top, and you'll head right there. The ECON Lowdown homepage provides easy access and searchability to the hundreds of free resources from not only the St. Louis Fed, but also from the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, Kansas City, and Philadelphia and organizations like FINRA. Today, however, I want to focus your attention on the red and green apple logos at the top left of the slide. Do you see them?

I hope that it's obvious that we're very excited that we're able to mesh FREDcast with our popular instructor management panel. So, coming back to that red apple I directed your attention to, that's our teacher's shortcut. Hannah, what do you think the green apple stands for?

Hannah Shell: I would guess that stands for students.

Mark Bayles: You got it. For those of you who don't have direct experience with the Econ Lowdown Teacher Portal—or IMP, as we refer to it—this is the portal through which teachers register classrooms and assign online courses and videos and automatically track student progress. I mentioned that it is very popular. We expect more than a million student registrations in 2016. So, why did teachers keep coming back to this free resource? It might be due to the continual improvements and enhancements. Check out the brand new resource gallery feature. It makes sorting the wealth of online courses—we have more than 60 at last count—and videos faster than ever.

Teachers also appreciate the fact that it's easy to create a virtual classroom, enroll students, and roll out calendared assignments. By the way, you can always preview content before signing it. So, please preview our brand new Government Budgets online course when you get a chance. The new Government Budgets course—like all our online courses and videos—features a pre-test and post-test, along with helpful tips for understanding. The ECON Lowdown's IMP—that's the Instructor Management Portal—let's teachers track student progress and download student pre- and post-test results in spreadsheet form, too.

So, remember the red apple logo? Our next slide is what you see when you click the red apple. So, how does a teacher assign online economics content, including classroom FREDcast competition through the IMP? Well, step one is to register a free, accessible from anywhere instructor account. Here's a screenshot that appears when a teacher clicks on that red apple. Once the teacher submits an e-mail address and answers a few easy questions about their school and students, they're e-mailed a link, and the account becomes active. Then, it's just a simple matter of logging into the account, as shown here. Just click that red apple.

It's no effort at all to create virtual classrooms once you're logged in. It's no effort to populate those classrooms with your students and assign content, either. To top it off, the IMP tracks student progress in real time, displaying student workflow and test results. Teachers can also add free response questions to our assigned content and engage students with polling questions.

So, how does FREDcast enter into the picture? FREDcast, in some ways, represents the union of FRED and the IMP. FREDcast effectively bridges these two very popular websites. We wouldn't want you to forget about FRED and its almost 400,000 economic and financial data series. Of course, the four data series that are forecasted—GDP, CPI, unemployment rate, and payroll jobs—are easily tracked using FRED. FREDcast gives teachers the ability to have students, a classroom at a time, use FRED with student progress and success tracked via the IMP.

How does it work? As the slide says, teachers with a separate FRED and ECON Lowdown account can link those accounts to access FREDcast, or they can create a new account, using the e-mail address and password they used for the ECON Lowdown's IMP. It's definitely simpler than I've made it sound. We'll explain student access in a few minutes. But for now, we'll continue to focus on teachers.

Here's a screen a teacher will see when signing up for FREDcast for the very first time. We'll go through that process one step at a time, too. The highlighted area you see explains the account linking that I just talked about. On slide 37, we see a teacher logged into the IMP with an active FRED account. That's all you need to have full access to FREDcast. So, see the FREDcast tab at the top, outlined in red? FREDcast, as Hannah explained, organizes players and leagues, both public and private. Teachers using the IMP function—using the IMP, rather—function as private league managers. As a league manager, the teacher creates the league, adds classrooms to the league, and accesses student player progress by monitoring players' [unintelligible].

In case you were wondering, a teacher has the power to permanently disband a league at any time. FREDcast was designed from the bottom up to integrate smoothly with the IMP. Of course, if you have ideas for improving the experience, we'd love to hear.

The next slide shows the teacher view when the highlighted FREDcast tab is clicked. Now you can see the way it all actually works. After the teacher clicks the FREDcast tab, she then has the option to create a new private league. The teacher chooses the league name, start date, and end date. Clicking the "Create League" button completes the process. Every league a teacher creates—and you can see, this teacher's already created two leagues, with a third just a mouse click away—is listed separately for easy league management.

Speaking of league management, clicking the "Manage League" button lets a teacher deal with each league individually. Additional classrooms and students can be added to a league at any time, too. And FREDcast provides easy access to student progress. Just click the "League Standings" to see how your students are scoring, relative to each other and the world.

What if your initial foray into FREDcast goes so well that you want to expand the size of your league by adding more students? Just click "Add Classrooms". Any classroom you've created via the IMP can be brought into your existing league. If you prefer, you can run each of your classrooms as a separate league. The choice is yours. Here's a hint for teachers: Add yourself as a student in your classrooms, and you'll have the full student participation experience, including a spot on the private league leader board.

Now, here's an important note about league management for the teacher: FREDcast is currently limited to players who are age 13 or older. So we ask all teachers to affirm that fact when registering a classroom to a FREDcast league. When you register your classroom in a FREDcast league, you created a league with a catchy name and filled in a start date and end date. The next step is to invite your students to join you in the private classroom league. Registering a classroom to a league triggers FREDcast to generate a unique league invite code to share with your students. Sending the students invites via e-mail makes it easy for your students to copy and paste the character string.

So, what will your students do when they receive the classroom's unique code? Let's take a look. Remember the green apple. Students log into the IMP classroom by clicking the green apple logo. Student participation in the FREDcast game does not necessitate a separate registration, by the way. This screen shows how your students will complete the one registration form. Here's an important consideration to keep in mind: If you, in your role as teacher and league manager, want to be able to monitor student play, be sure to remind students to check the box at the bottom. When a student checks that box during registration, the league manager can view the student's user ID and e-mail address. And that can be important for awarding credit to student players.

Once registered, students play the FREDcast game just like everybody else. So, Hannah's description of forecasting, scoring, and play applies in exactly the same way to private classroom leagues. Speaking of student play, what can you do to help your students score higher as macro economic forecasters? The next slide has some hints. ECON Lowdown gives teachers a number of tools for teaching about economics using FRED and related resources. Just search the ECON Lowdown for tools for teaching with FRED, and you'll be greeted with links for all of the FRED-based activities listed above.

The Lifetime Inflation activity shown here would be very good for helping students understand CPI and its changes over time. There are also activities for teaching about GDP and unemployment. Just search the ECON Lowdown for tools for teaching with FRED.

Our ECON Education Department is always open to suggestions and feedback from real teachers at all levels. Here's a picture of our current Educator Advisory Board, which includes college economics professors, community college instructors, high school teachers. We listen to these educators and use their ideas to improve our free products. By taking part in this webinar, you've shown yourself to be an educator we need to hear from. We encourage you to give FREDcast a tryout. Please be mindful that FREDcast is currently in beta form. And that means that you and your students can have a direct say in improving the game experience for everyone.

Denise Davis: All right. Now, we're going to take some questions. Go ahead and click that "Ask Question" button to submit your questions. And it looks like we do have a couple coming in. The first one: I teach in a semester schedule. Would my students forecast real GDP growth only once during the length of the semester?

Mark Bayles: Hannah, you want to field that one? I think I know the answers, but I know that you do.

Hannah Shell: Yeah. So, I think that most semesters typically start sometime, I guess—so, if we were thinking about the fall semester—like, late August—and probably go until sometime in the beginning of December. So, what would happen is, your students would be able to submit a forecast for GDP in September and October, for sure. And possibly August, depending on whether or not you get started before that August 20 deadline and—or, I guess, in September. And so then in October, you would get the GDP score for September. So it would just kind of depend on whether or not your students are in that—are in before that August 20 deadline. But they can still submit forecast for GDP in October, November, and December. And then those would be scored in January. So you probably—I don't—depending on how your school is set up, they probably would not be able to see the scores before the class was out. But you'll still get scores for CTI, payroll, and unemployment rates.

Mark Bayles: And if they did that through the IMP and checked the box, the instructor would be able to see that the student had entered a forecast each month?

Hannah Shell: Yes. And there's also a feature in—Mark showed you a screenshot of the Manage Leagues page. And once you send all those league invites and your students respond, you'll have a list that shows a spreadsheet of the students that have responded to the league invite. And it shows you their scores. And you have an option to export that to see your students' individual forecasts for the series. So, that's another way to check that they've entered them.

Denise Davis: All right. Our next question: I know a negative entry is not allowed for the unemployment rate, but is a negative entry allowed for the GDP growth rate?

Hannah Shell: Yes. Absolutely. So, the ranges that are set up for each series are designed to be individual for the series. So, you know, for GDP, for CPI, and for payroll employment, all three of those numbers could reasonably take on negative values. In addition, you might think—you know—the payroll employment range is going to be a lot wider than the range for GDP growth, for example, because it's a number in the thousands, versus a percentage.

Denise Davis: Thank you. Can a for-profit university use this tool in their classes

Mark Bayles: Sure. FREDcast, like all the resources available through the ECON Lowdown—and FRED is available to a public—for everybody—for their use.

Denise Davis: Thanks, Mark. All righty. Let's see if we have anymore questions coming in. We'll pause just a moment. Okay. How long has FREDcast been active?

Hannah Shell: FREDcast has been available to the public in beta since, I believe, April of 2016. So, that would be about five months. And during that time, we actually—we have had, I believe, two educators using FREDcast in their classroom. And we've had some really exciting, positive feedback.

Mark Bayles: Yes. We have heard from teachers who've used FREDcast with their students and their classrooms on a pilot basis. And the response we've gotten has been very encouraging from actual teachers and actual students. So, we encourage you to try it out.

Denise Davis: All right. Thanks, Mark. I don't see any further questions coming in. Do you have some closing comments for us today?

Mark Bayles: Well, my closing comment is what's shown on the screen right now. Sign up today. That's Fred, the Frugal Eagle, by the way, who's exhorting you to sign up. And, you know, if you had ideas occur to you during the presentation about how FREDcast could be improved or, you know, different ways to do things, don't be shy. Let us hear from you. It's in beta. We're actively soliciting comments and recommendations and criticisms. Hannah, how do they get in touch with us to let us know they're thinking, whether they're registered or not?

Hannah Shell: Well, one way, if you are registered on FREDcast is that there is a link on the upper right-hand corner of every page that says, "FREDcast is in beta. Send us your feedback." And if you click that link—if you click on that link, that will take you to an e-mail where you can contact one of our representatives that will certainly be able to help you out and [unintelligible 00:42:13] your feedback. Another way that you could get in touch with us is just from the FRED or ECON Lowdown website, correct?

Mark Bayles: We have a mechanism for feedback from users there, too. And, you know, we take e-mail from people. We respond quickly. We're always listening.

Denise Davis: And with that—we actually just had a question come in. And we have some time. So when you click the "Manage League" button in the IMP, does the teacher leave the IMP at that point?

Mark Bayles: That's a great question, and I'm going to have to get back on that one. We can post an answer to that and conceptually, I just have to work through that.

Denise Davis: Sure. No problem. I can send you that email address, and we can follow up later.

Mark Bayles: Thank you.

Denise Davis: Let me just double-check and see if we have any further questions coming in. All right. Well, I don't see anything else coming in. So, with that, if you joined us via the webinar tool, you likely saw a survey link pop up on your screen. Please take a moment to fill that out and let us know how we did. We really do love your feedback. We'd like to hear from you. And with that, I'll officially bring this session to a close. Thank you all so much for joining us, and we hope you have a great rest of your day.


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Audience:   High School, College, Consumers
Language:   English
Subjects:   Economics
Resource Types:   Webinar