If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you’ve already been indoctrinated into the world of Making Money Online. Just do a search using one of the big 3 search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft), and you’ll see ads beside your results.
When we were growing up, we made money as teens by mowing the lawn, babysitting the neighbour’s kids, or having a paper route. As we got older, we started to get our first job: working at summer camp, a fast food joint or the local supermarket. Finally, we went to college or university to earn a degree and get a “real” job.
So it can be hard for us to understand that kids want to (and can) make money online.
Here are two things to think about:
1. Make money online as a teacher to help offset the costs of your technology-integrated classroom.
2. Explore the topic of Making money online with your students (either as a media literacy unit or as an extra-curricular club.)
- Examples of Kids who Make Money Online
- Why talk about Making Money Online in the Classroom
- What would a unit on Making Money Online look like?
- Logistical things to consider with Google AdSense.
- The dangers of using Google Ads in the classroom
Although there are several different ways to make money online, a popular one is to show Google ads on your website.
PLEASE NOTE THAT WE CURRENTLY DO NOT RUN GOOGLE ADS ON OUR WEBSITES DIRECTED TOWARDS STUDENTS. We only run Google Ads on our professional websites directed towards teachers and educational professionals. See the dangers of running Google Ads on your class website below.
In accordance with the Google Adsense policy, we’ve hidden how many page impressions or clicks we received. We are, however, allowed to show total earnings.
As of today (Oct 17), we’ve made $267.22 USD after just over a year. ($277.61 CAD at today’s rate.)
It’s money that helped offset the costs of bringing Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) into our classroom as well as money we’re now using towards classroom blogs, custom domain names, online literacy circles, and other classroom technology projects (i.e. getting a class set of laptops.)
The beauty of contextual advertising programs like Google adsense is that Google “reads” the content on your webpage, figures out what key words summarize your topic, and then matches the highest bidding advertiser on Google AdWords who is running an ad campaign directed towards those keywords.
You’ll need a self-hosted WordPress account in order to run Google Ads on your blog. WordPress is free software, but you’ll need to get your own webhosting. (We use BlueHost because you can set up a WordPress account with the click of a button.)
Here are three examples of kids making money online:
- First of all, Chloe Spencer started www.neopetsfanatic.com, makes $30 per day using Google Ads, and she’s only 16. Here is the YouTube clip of Chloe speaking at the BlogHer conference:
- Secondly, Carl Ocab was 13 when he started to make money online. On his about page, he describes how he got started. He got his first computer at 4, started to play on the internet at 10, and then dad introduced him to blogging. He started to blog about his hobbies, online gaming, and internet marketing. Carl now speaks at conferences as well.
- Finally, a few years ago, I had a student in my Grade 7 homeroom who was starting to make money online. He would read books like Affiliate Millions and Multiple Streams of Internet Income, and then go out and try to apply what he had learned. Last time we spoke, I believe he was making around $20-25 per day through affiliate links. (If you’re reading this A, I’d like to have you come out to help out with our entrepreneur club next year and get your high school volunteer hours if you haven’t done so already.)
The world’s changing. I imagine shortly after the internet was invented, people started to look for ways to make money online. The reality is that people everywhere (including our students) are interested in money and making money on the internet is a reality of the world we live in today. (In fact, there’s an entire niche of MMO (Make Money Online) blogs out there dedicated to the subject of getting rich on the internet.)
We live in a digital era. Our students are born in this digital age, however, as teachers, many of us are digital immigrants who need to learn about this culture that our students live and breath.
- I have students in my Grade 7 and 8 classes who have unlocked their iPhones and hacked their wiis based on instructions they found and read online.
- Last year, one of my students built his own amplifier; this year, he found instructions on how to create an infra-red light pen to use with a wiimote whiteboard.
- Last week, two of my students had popped open a calculator to try to “make a gameboy” based on instructions they found online.
- Some of my students use swagbucks to try to earn enough points to buy things online.
And yet, when we do online research for a geography or history assignment and they reach a website like wikipedia or ezinearticles, many of them don’t understand that anyone can post information on the internet. They take the “facts” at face value without applying critical thinking skills.
Our students might be born in this digital age but still need to be taught how to apply critical thinking skills.
Here are three reasons why a unit on making money online would be a great educational hook for our students:
1. The theme of Making Money Online provides an authentic learning opportunity in the classroom and can help address the gender gap.
Classroom technology can motivate in a way that paper-and-pencil projects do not. Many authors have documented a gender gap in reading and writing skills. The Ontario Ministry of Education released a report in 2004 called, Me Read? No, Way! A practical guide to improving boys’ literacy skills.
“Boys respond best when … lessons are broken down into a variety of activities that include more “active” learning opportunities such as … investigation, research, or the use of information technology.” (Wilson, 2003, p 12 as cited in Me Read? No Way, pg 15)
Me Read? No Way! identifies the use of technology to get boys interested in literacy as one of their strategies for success: “Harness boys’ attraction to computers to stimulate their literacy development” (Me Read, pg 40)
A unit on making money online could really capture the entrepreneurial spirit in some of your students in a way that a research project on a famous historic event might not. As illustrated by Chloe Spencer and Carl Ocab, making money online can appeal to both girls and boys.
Cyber Sense (Pearson Education, Grade 8 text) has a series of media texts called Kate’s blog. Kate writes several interesting articles on astroturfing, online scams, and virtual economies for students to reflect on. Students are able to point out that it’s unethical for large companies to pose as consumers and give their products great reviews. However, is it unethical for us to post a youtube video and give it a 5-star rating so more people will view it?
A unit on making money online also gives us an opportunity to discuss internet safety and ethics. Is small scale-astroturfing unethical (i.e. giving yourself a 5-star rating to get more traffic on youtube)? Some of the ways to make money online are through affiliate commissions. You make a commission when someone buys a product through your link. Is it unethical to write a review about a product that you’ve never used?
What is the art and science of making money online? Do pop-up or pop-under ads work even though they are so annoying?
The genre of making money online allows us to provide students with real-world, relevant applications where we need to apply critical literacy:
- If I click on the banner ad, will I really get a free iPod?
- How can I be the 1,000,000th visitor… again?
- How will my personal information be used when I sign up for this contest?
Teaching students to have critical literacy skills is to prepare them for the real world. Certainly, students need to be able to identify the main idea, the point of view of the author, the missing points of view from the text, as well as to make a deep personal connection. However, critical literacy needs to go beyond academic applications of narratives and expository texts.
Students need to be able to identify bias in a text and then critically evaluate the information they are presented with. Is this a really good deal? Should I sign this mortgage? What are the potential biases of Wikipedia, CNN, or somebody’s blog?
However, critical literacy and critical thinking is more than simply not getting bamboozled with every contract they sign. The thinking process allows us to reflect on our own viewpoints and biases.
Are there any teachers out there running a unit or extra-curricular club on Making Money Online? We’d love to hear about what you are doing. Please leave a comment.
We’re currently thinking about developing a media literacy unit on Making Money online. We think the topic of making money online will motivate students and appeal to their entrpreneurial spirits in a way that day-to-day school activities do not.
Here are some things we are currently thinking about:
- Use print resources like Pearson’s CyberSense to examine the issues, techniques, and ethical debates of making money online.
- What can we do in the classroom, what needs to be done as an optional extra-curricular activity and what can’t be done in an educational context at all? For example, website/media permission forms to publish student work online often explicitly forbid the use of student content for monetary gain. If we are using the money we make online as class or school fundraising does that make a difference?
- If we do try to make money online (instead of just learning about it), can we use the money to fundraise for technology / equipment? (i.e. a class set of laptops?)
- How can we meet the needs and concerns of various stakeholders: students, teachers, administrators, school board policies, parents, Google or Affiliate Marketing Terms and Conditions, labour laws, etc?
- What are students allowed to do online? What laws protect or govern the use of student work?
- Do we need to consider child labour laws given that we’re trying to make money online (fundraising)?
- How does the act of having students make money online as a fundraising activity differ from having students sell fruit or chocolate bars as a fundraiser for a grad trip or band trip?
- Are we allowed to run Google Ads or affiliate links on student content webpages? How do we ensure compliance with Google’s Adsense policies or other internet businesses’ Terms and Conditions?
- How do we ensure that students do not get us banned from Google Adsense (i.e. through click fraud?)
- What if students write book reviews and then post links to online book retailers (i.e. Amazon, Chapters)?
- What if students write product reviews (i.e. CD / movie reviews) and then we link to itunes, Napster, or other entertainment services?
- Where do we draw the line protecting educational spaces from marketing and commercial influences? Naomi Klein argues in No Logo that the branding of learning has already begun. (This year, Toronto District School Board trustees voted 13 to 5 to allow FutureShop to donate $100,000 (but the lab will be painted in their colours.)
- Google Analytics lets you view which of your pages is making you the most money. Because you can track how much money each blog post makes, that means that if students write stories, you can keep track of which stories are making the most money.
- You can install Google Analytics easily into your WordPress blog by using a plugin (but you’ll need a self-hosted wordpress blog to be able to do this.)
- Google AdSense might be blocked by your school board’s firewall. Google Analytics may or may not be blocked.
Students might be motivated to click on their own ads which could result in your Google AdSense account being banned.
Google takes it very seriously. Search for “how do I reactivate my Google AdSense account” to see how quickly they will ban users. You risk losing your Google AdSense for life.
There are ways to potentially hide the Google Ads from your students by not showing the Google adsense ads in your city or province. Google Adsense doesn’t provide a way to stop displaying ads based on geographic location. i.e. Block your city so students can’t click on their own ads. There is a work around using a few WordPress plugins.
On the whole, we don’t think hiding Google Ads based on geographic location is against AdSense policy because we’re not tampering with the code or clicking on the links. (Having said that, we’re not Google and Google seems to be quick to ban suspicious accounts.)
There are two sections that might be relevant:
- Traffic Sources: “Google ads may not be placed on pages receiving traffic from certain sources. For example, publishers may not participate in paid-to-click programs, send unwanted emails or display ads as the result of the action of any software application. Also, publishers using online advertising must ensure that their pages comply with Google’s Landing Page Quality Guidelines.”
- Ad Behaviour: “AdSense code may not be altered, nor may the standard behavior, targeting or delivery of ads be manipulated in any way that is not explicitly permitted by Google. For instance, clicking Google ads may not result in a new browser window being launched.”
We’ll have to get in touch with a Google spokesperson to get a ruling before we get banned.
The biggest problem with Google Adsense is that it delivers ads based on the content of the webpage. Certain keywords might trigger inappropriate content.
School boards may have a policy that no website may have machine-generated content or that websites may not have ads.