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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ways to avoid grading...

As we all recover from turkey overload, here are some sites to check out when you feel like escaping the end-of-semester madness...
  • PNC's 2011 Christmas Price Index is out! The site has gotten a lot more complex and makes you go through a bunch of screens sequentially to get to the total - that's great if you want to waste some time but I couldn't find any way to just jump to the punchline, which is actually kind of annoying, so for those who are as impatient as I am, the total cost is $24,263.18, up 3.5% from last year.
  • The always-awesome Dirk Mateer has a new website. In Dirk's words: "I created this site to act as a "virtual personal assistant" for all Econ professors and TAs, allowing you to easily find engaging pop culture clips and real world examples that will help bring the material to life for your students in a way they can relate to!" You can also follow Dirk on twitter (@dirkmateer) or Facebook.
  • My colleague, and founding editor of the Review of Economics of the Household, Shoshana Grossbard, posts lots of interesting links on her Facebook page, Economics of Love.
  • Tutor2u has put together a list of Economics teachers on Twitter (lots outside the U.S.)
  • And if you must think about coursework, ProfHacker had a very useful round-up of posts about evaluations.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Two more PollEverywhere suggestions

In the course of conversations with people about PollEverywhere over the last few months, some additional uses of the service have come up.  One is to use it as a backchannel during class, since it allows for open-ended responses. That is, you could create a poll that simply asks students to submit any questions or relevant comments that arise for them while the class is meeting. The one catch is the instructor needs a way to monitor those comments throughout class. If you are already using the computer for something else (like your Powerpoint slides), you could either use a second device (smartphone or tablet) to keep an eye on the website or stop every so often to check it. Derek Bruff has a nice post on backchannels in education if you're interested in more about the how and why of backchannels.

Another way to use PollEverywhere is as a replacement for clickers in distance-learning. I don't teach online classes so I'm not entirely sure what the options are if you wanted to ask clicker-type questions during a synchronous class meeting but PollEverywhere would be a way for students to submit responses from anywhere, in real time, and for everyone to see the responses immediately. You could also use it for asynchronous classes but there are probably better options (e.g., most course management systems have a way to administer polls or quizzes).

I haven't used done either of these personally so I can't speak to how well it would work but thought others might be interested...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank you to all Veterans, and their families

When I teach about public goods, the one clear example of a pure public good (perhaps the only one that no student has ever wanted to argue about) is national defense. Even the most hard-core of Libertarians will accept that there is at least one arena where government is needed, in the provision of a strong military. But what we don't usually talk about in economics classes is how lucky all of us civilians are that there are thousands of men and women who are willing to serve in our military. God knows, I would never want to do it, so I am exceedingly thankful for those that do.

On a personal note, my sister married a Navy man a couple years ago. For me, this has been great so far, since he was stationed in San Diego and I have had the opportunity to spend much more time with my sister and my nephew. But my brother-in-law's next assignment is overseas and they will be moving next year. Thankfully, it is not an active war zone but for the next few years, my sister will be raising a toddler in a foreign country, thousands of miles from friends and family, and by herself for months at a time while her husband is at sea. Thinking about it, and worrying about her, has driven home for me the immense sacrifices made not only by our solders but by their families. So to all who are serving, and who have served, in our armed forces, and to your families, my humble thanks...