Randy ShumwayThe best methods to long-term learning involve more than one approach: students gain better understanding and recall of a concept when they move beyond simple listening into the realms of seeing and manipulating information. 

As technology becomes more prevalent in Idaho classrooms, students have increasing access to ways of learning that make sense for the modern generation of children.

The internet offers seemingly endless resources for learning inside and outside of the classroom. Teachers often use online videos to provide visual and animated representations of concepts or historical moments. Abstract or remote information comes alive for students when they can watch it unfold.

Websites provide interactive experiences where students can manipulate information and experiment in ways that improve understanding and recall. Resources like Khan Academy and Lynda.com allow students to guide their own learning, working step by step through lessons in math, science, and other key areas. Technology and internet access facilitate in-depth learning and mentorship in the actual classroom.

Internet access is a top priority for Idaho schools. Following the shutdown of the Idaho Education Network in February, schools are contracting with individual providers in their areas to obtain high-speed internet. With 83 internet providers throughout the state, most school districts have options for choosing the service suited to their needs. With rising internet access in Idaho schools, teachers can adapt their lessons to reach students in ways that best facilitate learning.

Short-Term U.S. Economic Outlook

The Commerce Department released its third and final estimate of second-quarter GDP growth in September. U.S. GDP growth was revised upward for a final estimate of 3.9 percent compared to the previous estimate of 3.7 percent. The upward revision primarily reflected stronger consumer spending and business investment. After first-quarter growth of a mere 0.9 percent, this second-quarter rise sets a promising trajectory for the rest of the year.

In addition to GDP growth, interest rates are regarded as a viable indicator of the strength of the economy. After months of speculation that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates in September, rates remained the same at the close of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Prior to the meeting, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), cautioned Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen not to rush into a rate rise that might need to be reversed later. A rate rise should not be implemented if the data doesn’t strongly indicate the economy is ready. An early rate rise could stir market turmoil by causing people in emerging economies to transfer their capital into dollar-denominated assets.

Many economists feel the United States is keeping pace with but not sprinting ahead of the global economy. Recent volatility in domestic and international markets has negatively affected expectations for U.S. economic growth. At the end of September, Goldman Sachs cut its 2016 forecast for U.S. economic growth from 2.8 percent to 2.4 percent—an estimate that barely exceeds Goldman’s forecast for 2015 and matches last year’s growth. With interest rates near zero, the Fed has few tools left to help jumpstart growth, which factors into the lower estimates for 2016. Additionally, while lower oil prices have left consumers happy at the gas pump, they haven’t had the an across the board positive effect on the U.S. economy. Lower oil prices translate into lower earnings and price targets for many companies on the S&P 500 and other stock markets.

Long-Term U.S. Economic Outlook

Long-term economic growth in the U.S. will be affected positively by a healthy homeland economy and negatively by the ailing global economy. In terms of maintaining a healthy national economy, there are two key drivers: consumer spending and net exports. In recent months, consumer spending has been much stronger than net exports, contributing to a higher percentage of overall growth.

U.S. net exports have declined since August as volatility in China’s stock market has created instability in markets around the globe. China is a major trade partner for the U.S., and its economic growth has been revised downward several times this year. While China’s economy is still swelling faster than the global average, its slower-than-expected growth has an impact on U.S. trade.

Strong consumer spending will help stabilize the long-term U.S. economy amid global fluctuations. As net exports are slowing for now, U.S. consumers are carrying the economy forward.