Use of blogs in economics education

Introduction

Blogs in general was discussed in a previous post, therefore the use of blogging in economics education will be discussed here.

Using blogs in economic education

The sum of all blogs is known as a blogosphere, or in economics the econoblogosphere (Haab, Schiff, and Whitehead et al 2012:167). Blog posts can occur instantaneously with other current events (Haab et al 2012:167). A blogger can comment on a newspaper article within minutes after the newspaper’s publication (Haab et al 2012:167). Through blogging economic teachers, professors and students have easy access to the unfiltered opinions of some of the top thinkers in economics (DeLong 2006).

Blogs can be used as a ‘learning management system’. Students can be required (Haab et al 2012:167-168):

  • to reflect on a topic
  • for student discussion or
  • as a research tool (as I am using it right now)
  • to read blog postings
  • write posts on the class blog
  • compare positions across blogs
  • write comments on other students’ posts
  • develop and maintain their own blogs, especially when a research component is required as students can provide updates on the research process and posts about current events related to the topic

Professors and instructors can use blogs (Haab et al 2012:168):

  • to develop and maintain a class blog as substitute for a class web page or a syllabus
  • to write own blogs where the most substantive posts can serve as textbook supplements

Outsider blogs (Haab et al 2012:168):

  • Greg Mankiw has a ‘blog map’ link for his textbook users where they can access up to date examples of economic principles
  • the Environmental Economics blog offers ‘Environmental Economics’ 101 with primers, data and recommended readings

The econoblogosphere

Given the amount of time academics have for blogging and their willingness to share that knowledge through teaching means that economics blogging is heavily influenced by academic economists (Haab et al 2012:169). Of the top business and economics blogs in the Congal rankings, a large percentage has primary or significant contributions from academic authors (Haab et al 2012:169).

  1. The Economics Roundtable maintained by William Parke of the University of North Carolina aggregates postsfrom over 150 economics blogs
  2. The Palgrave Ecomolog lists 467 economics blogs
  3. Brian Gongal collects and maintains visitation statistics for economics blogs.

Popular economics blogs

  1. Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok at George MAson University)
  2. Economist’s View (Mark Thoma at University of Oregon)
  3. Greg Mankiw’s blog (Greg is from Harvard University)
  4. Overcoming Bias (Robin Hanson at George Mason University)
  5. Carpe Diem (Mark Perry at University of Michigan, Flint)
  6. Freakonomics (Steven Livitt and Stephen Dubner) – I like this one!
  7. The conscience of a liberall (Paul Krugman)

Mixon and Upadhyaya (2010) used the academic reputation of economics boggers, as measured by citations of the primary author’s scholarly work, to rank economics blogs and found that a ranking of economics departments based on this criteria is highly correlated with rankings of departments based on other criteria.

Interactive web 2.0 technologies as teaching tools in economics

The use of interactive technologies as teaching tools in economics is still relatively new, but anecdotal evidence suggests that blogs are increasingly be used for teaching (Haab et al 2012:172). Blogging might help an economists think more carefully about a topics, and the comments provide useful feedback to shape this thinking (Haab et al 2012:172).To the extent that thinking about economics enhances teaching, then blogging wnhances teaching (Haab et al 2012:172).

Blog posts are often short, and blog readers can switch to a competing blog with a mouse-click, so successful bloggers must develop a concise and engaging style of communication which may also enhance teaching (Haab et al 2012:172). Blogging requires reading, therefore many bloggers are required to expand their reading, which increases the current event-type material that can be presented in the classroom (Haab et al 2012:172).

Research opportunities

The student audience is especially attractive for the informal teaching opportunities that blogging presents (Haab et al 2012:172). However, little is known about the impact of economics blogs and other web 2.0-technologies on teaching effectiveness (Haab et al 2012:172). To better understand the potential of these technologies in economics education, it would be useful to research the link between blogs and specific learning outcomes (Haab et al 2012:172).

These outcomes can include both objective measures of academic performance as well as subjective measures of student participation and satisfaction (Haab et al 2012:172).

Another interesting avenue for research is to examine the effectiveness of blogs to educate people outside of the formal education system on economics concepts and ideas (Haab et al 2012:172). For example, regular economics blog readers who do not have formal backgrounds in economics and are not economics students could be tested to assess their level of understanding of economics againts a control group of non-blog readers (Haab et al 2012:172).

Literature

DeLong, J.B. 2006. The invisible college. Chronicle of Higher Education Review, 52(47), B8.

Haab, T.C., Schiff, A. and Whitehead, J.C. 2012. Economics blogs and economics education. In

Mixon, F.G. and Upadhaya, K.P. 2010. Blogometrics. Eastern Economics Journal. 36:1-10

Schiff, A.  2008. A survey of economics bloggers, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1080238

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