DigPINS – Pedagogy Week 3

In a liberal arts learning environment, sometimes digital approaches can be met with hostility. However, I’ve found my department to be very encouraging of alternative approaches to classes.  I have, at times, struggled with how I can make my courses engaging, inclusive, challenging, and interesting to all of my students (spoiler alert: not everyone is going to love my class).  One thing I’ve been interested in during this whole DigPINS process has been bringing the digital into the classroom…. SAFELY.

I loved reading all of the exciting, positive, and innovative blog posts from authors such as Sean Michael Morris and Catherine Cronin, but I’m also glad our group leaders suggested Amy Collier’s post about the real hurdles that we need to consider when we encourage our students to work out in the open.  Students may not understand what it means to hit “publish” or “retweet” for their work.  I’m also encouraged and inspired by the open textbook authored by Robin DeRosa and her students.  In all honesty I don’t believe that I’m at the point in my career where an undertaking like this feels feasible.

For my Intro to Macroeconomics class in the fall, I was considering a photo assignment in an attempt to motivate students to think about Econ in their own life.  However, Macroeconomics is a difficult topic to photograph in your everyday life (I know my students are creative and they would have made it work…. I’m 100% sure of that).  I was wrestling with this idea and I’m so glad we are exploring Hypothesis as a means of annotating a webpage/blog post.  This kind of digital conversation would be EXTREMELY useful in an introductory class to allow students to, first, choose an article; second, comment on the article with their peers; and lastly, respond to other students’ questions and comments.

Another introductory economics exercise that this week has me considering is related to our current economic climate.  We hear the term “fake news” so often that most of us use it jokingly.  Like when my 4 year old tells me a unicorn visited her classroom….. that’s “fake news.” BUT, our students need to be equipped to discern what is real, what is fake, and what is “dressed up.” For instance, unemployment rates released by the BLS for June 2018 show that our national unemployment rate is 4.0%.  I want my students to be able to look at that 4% and think to themselves: Is this a “low rate?” Is it seasonally adjusted? What factors go into this percentage?  Could there be something else driving this? Do we WANT a 4% unemployment rate? What might this indicate for our economy?

What about South Africa’s unemployment rate?

Source: https://twitter.com/Mkansi_R/status/1016339070287532033

What about GDP? Real vs. nominal?

Source: https://twitter.com/AtlantaFed/status/1019594548824170497

Students (all people, really) are constantly inundated with information about our economy, but most don’t investigate the authenticity of the information they are receiving.  In an attempt to hone some of these research and deductive reasoning skills I’m inspired to ask my students to set up (or use their personal) Twitter accounts in order to bring articles to the class’s attention.  Then, as a group, we can comment on the article using Hypothesis or even a Moodle forum.  I believe this exercise can bring a lot of classroom dialogue into an introductory class. In addition, students can begin to find data and facts to back up (or disprove) these articles.  It also allows the students to focus in on their own personal interests, which will lead to some students being very active during the Money & Banking chapter while others may be large contributors during the Unemployment chapter.

One question I’m sure I will receive is: How are you grading this, Professor?  That’s a great question and one that I’m in the process of working out.  I’m open to suggestions! One idea may be a “bare minimum” that will get you 80% credit, another may be to let the students grade themselves on their contributions, and lastly this could be used as a “buffer credit” that will help a student who is on the cusp of another letter grade.

I’m really excited to implement this digital exercise in my Intro class, and I’m thankful for the great foundation (i.e. watchout for potential pitfalls!) that the DigPINS group has provided in week 3.

Onto week 4!

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