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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dear students...

(This is the email I sent to my Principles students, all 500 of them, this week)

Welcome to Economics 102, Principles of Microeconomics! I’m looking forward to seeing you all in class next Wednesday and hope that we will have a productive semester together. There are just a couple things I wanted you to know/think about before our first class meeting.

The course website on Blackboard is now available and I encourage you to take a look around; in particular, please look over the syllabus before our first meeting (it is posted under “Course Information”). We will discuss the syllabus in class but I will not have copies so feel free to get it off the website and bring it with you. If you are not familiar with Blackboard, go to https://blackboard.sdsu.edu/ to log in. Your username should be your Red ID and your password is your University PIN (i.e., the same information you use for WebPortal). If you do not know your Red ID number or you want to change your University PIN, contact SDSU e-services at http://www.sdsu.edu/e-services/.

In addition to the syllabus, there is information on course materials. If you’ve been to the bookstore, you will have noticed that you are required to buy access to something called Aplia. This is a private website that we will use for on-line activities and practice problems. Aplia provides an on-line version of the Mankiw textbook so you do not have to buy a hard copy of the book if you don’t want to (you can also buy a hard copy of the book from Aplia later if you decide you want it). Note that you are required to buy access to Aplia; you are not required to buy a hard copy of the textbook. Instructions for how to register for Aplia are in the syllabus and under “Course Information” on Blackboard.

You will also need an individual response pad, commonly called a ‘clicker’. These are also at the bookstore and you have the option of buying a one-semester code or a lifetime code; if you get the semester code and later find that you need your clicker for a future class, you can always upgrade. Once you have your clicker (or if you already have one), you can register it using the “Register Clicker” button in the left-hand menu on Blackboard. Additional instructions are under “Course Information”.

I know some students are wondering why you need to buy this stuff. The simple answer is that both Aplia and clickers are tools for getting you actively involved in actually doing economics. In a smaller class, these tools might not be necessary because we could have more face-to-face interaction in class. But with 500 students, we’re going to need some help from technology. I will try to make it as easy as possible for you to engage with the material but if you ever have any questions or concerns about the technology, please do not hesitate to talk to me. Email is the best way to get a hold of me but I will also be holding open hours next Thursday (September 4), meaning I will be in my office from 9am to 5pm, specifically to help anyone who is confused about Aplia, clickers, Blackboard or anything else related to this class.

Finally, I wanted to tell you a little about my teaching philosophy. The reason that I use tools like Aplia and clickers is that I believe teaching is something I do *with* you, not *to* you. I know that might sound odd if you’re used to teachers lecturing at a chalkboard while you just sit there, maybe taking notes but otherwise pretty passive. But ‘teaching’ doesn’t mean much without ‘learning’ (can I really say I taught if you didn’t learn?), and ‘learning’ is something you do. So teaching is something I do to help you learn but whether you actually learn what I’m trying to teach depends on whether you actively engage with me. I’ll spend the first few class meetings trying to convince you that learning economics is worth your time and effort but ultimately, like most things in life, what you get out of this class will depend on what you put in.

Of course, I will always try to provide guidance and expertise that will make learning as interesting and painless as possible. However, I can’t help with problems I don’t know about so please don’t let the size of the class stop you from contacting me anytime you have questions or concerns. I am available to you during my office hours, by phone, email and IM (all listed below).

I look forward to meeting you next week, if not sooner,
Professor Imazeki

P.S. Special note for first-year students: Starting college can be overwhelming. There is a ton of information thrown at you, mixed together with more freedom to make your own choices than you may have ever had before. To make sure that the choices you are making are good ones, be sure that you ask lots of questions and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help when you need it. It may seem like everyone else knows what’s going on but I promise you, they don’t. Under the “Student Resources” link in Blackboard, I’ve posted links to several articles and websites that I thought might be useful, not only for helping you excel in this class but for making the most of your college years.

6 comments:

  1. Great message, Jennifer. It will be interesting to hear what kind of response you get from your students.

    Would it be okay to share this (not just the link but maybe cut-and-paste) with other large course instructors, who might be able to adapt it for their own use?

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  2. Hi Jim - Sure, share with whoever you'd like. In the interest of full disclosure, there are a couple lines that I lifted from other places but I don't really know where (e.g., I know that "teaching is something I do with you, not to you" is something I read somewhere but I didn't write down the source - a very bad practice that I have since corrected!).

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  3. That "teaching" and "learning" paragraph was a little confusing and hard to get through. I can already see some students saying to themselves, "Who is this lady?".

    I came across an interesting blog by a Spanish teacher who lists in separate paragraphs and separate headings what each class did that day as a summary. It reminds me of high school teachers writing it on the whiteboard so people who weren't there knew what we did. It also reminds me (which I don't know if instructors ever know or not) of the countless emails I and other students get from students who never show up to class, asking if there was anything they needed to know from that particular day of class, like what chapters we went over or what was discussed, or what sheet to download and printout for the next class.

    It also was interesting to see how technology has changed something so small and made me wonder about the larger applications that await its use.

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  4. Hmmm, I can see what you mean Matt. I'll have to fix that for next year, and just hope I haven't made too many students think I'm just weird :-).

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  5. Hello, my name is Brad. I am currently an Econ/Honors Econ teacher at high school in TX. I am a younger one, I'm very interested in taking the way I teach to the next level (the way you just described it). I have no idea how or where to start! I know I want to make the class interactive through blogs and wikis but I am new to the game. I just want to touch base with you and possible use you as a resource for questions.

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  6. Hi Brad! Of course, feel free to email me directly if you want. I'd also suggest Will Richardson's book (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other powerful web tools for the classroom) as a good place to start. I'll be writing a lot this fall about stuff I'm doing with my Econ for Teachers class so hopefully, that will give you some ideas too!

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