Friday, December 28, 2007

Help us with our digital ink survey

Dan Talley and I are preparing a digital ink survey of department chairs and faculty in economics nationwide. We are going to try to determine the extent of use of digital ink and how this may effect our pedagogy. If you are a digital ink user (or would like to be) can you reply directly to Dan and I with the questions that interest you, both research questions and the survey questions that should be asked to ascertain the effect of digital ink on our teaching. Click on this sentence to reply to us directly.

If you know of other surveys of use and pedagogy in other disciplines let us know as well. Thanks.

Monday, December 17, 2007

ASSA meetings coming up

Finally this semester is over and the national meetings in New Orleans are just two weeks away. I will be presenting two papers, one on Assessment of the Economics Program and one on PBL in econometics. The first paper reports on a national survey of department chairs... pretty cool results. If you read this and see me there ...say hi.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

DyKnow Vision and Tablet PCs (more on 1:1 computing)

It may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I had a lot of fun with DyKnow Vision in my graduate classroom this Fall. Those who have read this blog will note that I discussed problem based learning in my graduate econometrics class last Spring when my students had Tablets for 6 whole weeks. The 'experiment' was a great success. This Fall 2007 I am again in a 1:1 relationship with my graduate students as each have assigned to them a Tablet PC for the entire year. Once again I am collecting performance and attitude information from the students about their Tablet PC use in learning Econometrics.

Last spring when I spoke on the problem based learning at the DyKnow Users Conference at DePauw university I participated in an interview with two other economists, Michelle Valinski and Mary Dixon, and this video is the result. Click here to see the video. You have to watch for a while to see me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tricking Out Your HP2710p

This is written for the UA faculty, but it applies to anyone who has one of the new HP2710p Tablet PCs. Learning to change the default settings to make it more efficient and convienience can be a great help.

Read it here. It is posted on the UA Digital Ink Group web page.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More on Note Taking with One Note

On the Student Tablet PC, Robert posts on Note Taking using the Cornell method in One Note. It is a good reference.

More on Electronic Grading and Mark-up

Jim Vanides from HP is at it again with Tablet PC tip #3, this time on electronic grading or mark up. I posted a comment with links to some posts in this blog. What I didn't point out is how unreliable digital ink markup in Microsoft Word is. It is too easy to find times where the typed words and the ink marks do not connect and stay together. Circle a word in MS Word and make changes in the document and many times that circle is still there, just no longer around the original word. I can't work with that uncertainty. The PDF markup software, MS Journal and even One Note are far superior.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bluebeam Revu prefered over Adobe Acrobat and PDF Annotator?

Bluebeam Revu site
Bluebeam Revu discount(from Student Tablet PC blog)
Bluebeam Revu review (from Got to Be mobile blog)

PDF Annotator (from my previous post)

(links fixed 10/24/07)

Last Friday I downloaded Bluebeam Revu which is a PDF creator, has a PDF print driver, and has great annotating and markup tools. I think this could kill off Adobe Acrobat Pro from my computer and has seriously pushed to the back my previous purchase of PDF Annotator. I really like how it works and the pen tools are quite good. At first I disliked the highlighter until I discovered you can toggle it between highlighting the text and just marking up with a highlighter. This software is designed for me and the way I work. It installs a toolbar in Microsoft Office, but I can not yet figure how to get it to be the default viewer in Internet Explorer. It atomatically installs in the "SEND TO" option of the right click options in explorer. You can right click on a word document, or any document, and choose to open in PDF ala Bluebeam Revu. I do not use AutoCAD, but it you do there is a premium version to support that program.

For now I think this will replace both Acrobat and PDF Annotator, but until I am sure, I will keep both of those on here as well. So far the only thing I really do not like is their ico file. Perhaps I am just way too used to seeing the Adobe Acrobat icon in my directory listings, but I suspect it has to do with my love of red and not that shade of blue. Try it and let me know what you think. Download here.

Traveling with the great HP 2710p Tablet PC

Hello all.

James Kendrick is posting on how his HP 2710p is doing on the road. Previously he made a video while showing you the computer and the ultra slim battery and the ultra slim expansion base with DVD burner. Today he is giving more details about his use which is remarkably similar to my experience. I can attest that on my trip this month to Savannah the HP was quite the traveller. I packed the HP2710p, an extended battery, the HP2710p 6-cell Ultra-slim battery, and the Ultra-slim Expansion Base. I had the power cable and the connector cable for my Palm Treo which was my EV-DO modem for the five days. I never ran out of battery the entire time I was traveling. I had the tablet on at each airport and during the flights. I stowed the Ultra-slim Expansion Base on one side of the divider in my carryon bag and the tablet with the Ultra-slim Battery attached in the other side which I came to realize was unnecessary. When I got to my seat, the small Tablet with battery easily fit in the seat back in front of me and my bag up above my head. Nothing beats a Tablet PC for use on the plane in those cramped spaces unless it is a smaller format and light Tablet PC such as the HP 2710p. At one point I saw the battery indicator show 11.5 hours with the extended battery attached.

Since we at the University of Akron still use MS Windows XP, James comments on Vista are noteworthy: "HP has gotten the Vista experience done nicely on the 2710p and it shows in mobile settings. I have no problems with Sleep and Resume like I have on every other mobile PC running Vista, a testament to how tightly HP has integrated Vista into the 2710p. I can literally pull the HP out, do email and whatever else I need to do and put the 2710p back in the bag in a minute. That's the way this sort of thing is supposed to work and I am very happy with how well it works." -- James Kendrick (at this post). This tells me that the HP 2710p will be just fine for our transition to Windows Vista.
Upon ariving in our room at the Hyatt Savannah it was easy to connect to my Palm Treo and at 247.5 kbps I was connected to the internet and could stay in touch with my graduate assistants and my students while in GA, download my mail and log into our course management system and of course DyKnow Vision. I really like this computer, the HP 2710p, possibly more than any other computer I have ever owned.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mankiw's Ten Principles Translated (with Humor)

Yoram Bauman is the standup economist and has a great you tube presentation of Mankiw's tem principles. If you don't have a sense of humor do not click play below.

And you might be an economist if ...

Found on GMU econ societies blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Milton Freedman Free to Choose Video Available

Here is a great teaching tool for your classes. Many of the resources we give our students are digital and served to student through course management systems and web page links. Add now the Free To Choose videos now freely available and streamed from IdeaChannel.TV. All 10 volumes from the series in 1980 and as revised in 1990 are available.

Whether you are a Milton Freedman fan or not you will also benefit from the two interviews at as well. You can listen as Milton Freedman talks to Russ Roberts about his life and the "radical ideas he put forward almost 50 years ago in Capitalism and Freedom.

These two technologies of streaming video and MP3 podcasts and the easy way we can introduce these to our students give advantages to our students that I could have only wished I had when reading Milton and others during my schooling. The things Milton said 50 years ago are still incredibly relevant.

A school that certainly lives this legacy is George Mason and Arnold Kling writes in about being a Masonomist (is that a George Mason-economist?). Read his "So You Want to be a Masonomist" here. He says in part "Years from now, perhaps people will be saying that something big got started recently at the George Mason University department of economics. Maybe if you become a Masonomist now, you will be getting in early on a trend that will soon catch on much more widely. " I think they are indeed on to something.

More later.

Midwest Conference on Student Learning in Economics, 2007 edition cancelled.

The Midwest Conference on Student Learning in Economics for Fall 2007 is cancelled. The reason is not lack of interest, but lack of local resources. We appreciate all of the emails and interest about the conference and will do it again.

Formerly, we announced that the MWC would be held on November 15-16, 2007. Currently, plans are being examined to hold this in the 2008 time frame. It will have all of the features you are used to in the 2003, 2004 and 2005 conferences including being the number one conference in economics when it comes to a focus on instructional technology. One thought is to possibly hold this in conjunction with our annual Grunberg Memorial Lecture which has featured Nobel Laureates as 14 of its 16 speakers. When the dates are again announced we will release a call for papers as well.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Active Learning and Everyday Economic Statistics

Back from Savannah, one of the most beautiful cities in the US. What a great time there. We attended the International Atlantic Economic Society annual meetings and I presented in a session on active learning put together by Paul Hettler of California University of PA. Four of us presented papers on techniques we are using in our classes. Paul presented on a hybrid team-based learning design, Gerald on a cooperative learning / online design and I presented my Problem Based Learning in Econometrics paper.

I was pleased to see Gary Clayton of Northern Kentucky University there and to get a chance to meet him. Gary has a great book called Everyday Economic Statistics which I use in my required undergraduate Computer Skills for Economic Analysis class. He also has a very supportive website at If you do not know about it it is worth checking out.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Whiteboarding with Tablet PCs in the Classroom

Jim Vanides of HP and author of the blog Teaching, Learning & Technology in Higher Education has placed two videos on his site so far. In the first he shows how a teacher in a classroom can annotate a PowerPoint session. In the second he suggests that MW Journal is better than PowerPoint in the classroom. I agree Jim, but PPT has its useful place as well. Both of his videos are great and I embed them here for you to see. Don't forget to go read his blog as well.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

How to take notes on a notebook computer

While I prefer a Tablet PC, this article by Caleb Schmerge at TabletPCReview is a nice overview of notetaking. I think he overlooks Microsoft Journal and DyKnow Vision is beyond his review, but I agree on his fondness of OneNote. I did a Comparison of Notetaking Software which you might find instructive.

I'm more sold than ever on the mobile learning technology environment.

I got my HP2710p Tablet PC a couple weeks ago and my first impression was it's small and light and it's so different than my Gateway M285E. I liked things about my Gateway that I was about to sacrifice. The Gateway has a large beautiful screen, higher resolution, a better video card, built in DVD, and a heftier processor. I wasn't sure I wanted to leave it behind. But it was always too heavy and that made me use it like the desktop replacement it was designed to be, besides even with the 12 cell battery it seemed to run down fast.

But now I am sold. My lightweight tablet leaves the DVD behind in the dock and the extra battery extends the useful life to 6.5 or 7 hours (although I admit I have not had it long enough to properly evaluate this.) Yes it is underpowered relative to the Gateway, but it doesn't draw the battery down and it doesn't get hot. Yes it is underpowered, but only on intensive programs or when I have way too many windows open do I notice it.

It is so small and light I can hold and carry it in one hand without fatigue. I find I am using it more, not less. Even my bag feels lighter which is good for my shoulder.

What I like the most is the extra battery and the dock. I can leave both on my desk or take in my bag. They are both flat and fit on the bottom of the 2710p making it like a thicker and heavier Tablet. So I think of it like the heavy all inclusive Gateway, but if I don't need the DVD I can snap off the thin flat bottom and leave on my desk. If I don't need my extra battery, which also fits like a second bottom on the 2710p, off it comes. What is great (and I suspect this is true of all extra batteries) is that the external runs down first and charges last. That way if I am on a plane trip, after the external runs down I can snap it off store it in the bag and enjoy a full charge on the light tablet.
I had much to dislike about this HP 2710p tablet, but the more I use it the more I am sold. Still I wish the university had bid bluetooth, because I really miss it not being built in. I highly recommend this Tablet PC, the HP2710p.

I also compared this tablet to my wife's HP TX1000. I really like hers, I like the touch screen, but hers is harder to write on. She says writing on the 2710p is much easier and smooth. Nevertheless, if you are interested in a sweet consumer tablet with all the bells and whistles ... try out the TX series from HP. HP certainly has a couple of winners here. As to the HP2710p, I certainly hope the UA digital ink group ( and the rest of the over 400 faculty who have chosen a Tablet PC this Fall) will be happy with it.

Laptops Owned by 74% Students, But how many are Tablet PCs?

Use it or lose it.
That is use technology well or lose your students....

Some time ago I posted that students wanted professors to use technology, but only if they used it well. Here comes a new follow up report to the one cited back then. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Student and Information Technology, 2007 by Gail Salaway and Judith Borreson Caruso is posted to the educause website in Sept. 2007. The report is a longitudinal followup of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 studies and reports significant findings. 98% of students have a computer with 74% owning a laptop (up from 53% in 2005). I am sadden that they do not ask, or report how many are buying and owning Tablet PCs. Not a single question about whether the professor uses digital ink or if they do. Come on ECAR ask next year PLEASE! Anyone know these numbers? Anyone know how many professors use Tablet PCs in the classrooms?

Do students bring laptops to class? Weekly for 25%, while 53% never bring the laptop to class. OF course without the pen, why do you need a laptop in class? Could most of the 25% be Tablet PCs? Could half?

58.2% of the students thing their instructors do use technology well.
13.6% of the students think their instructors do not use technology well.

60.9% of students agree that IT improves their learning in courses.
40.4% of students agree that they are more engaged in courses requiring the use of IT (20.8% disagree)

Based on the findings ECAR thinks these observations merit further consideration:

  1. Instructor Skill with IT greatly impacts student perception of the value of IT in their courses.
  2. The curriculum matters when it comes to student use and skill with technology.
  3. IT in courses is about convience. (Students are frustrated when online resources are slow, unavailable or not user-friendly.)
  4. Students prefer a moderate amount of technology in courses.
  5. Students are increasingly mobile.
  6. Students expect IT to be worthwhile.

So next year ECAR ... ask about Tablet PCs and digital ink software like DyKnow and classroom presenter.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Economist Invites You To A Debate

The launches a debate -- A Severe Contest: The Economist Debate Series. Check it out and you may enjoy participating.

North Carolina Teaching Conference

Peter W. Schuhmann posts on tch-econ that they still have room available at their teaching conference.

The Seventh Annual
Economics Teaching Workshop
Saturday October 13, 2007
SunSpree Resort, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"University of Akron Digital Ink Group" is formed

In a previous post I reported that the faculty have an option this Fall to get Tablet PCs and over 400 of them have done so (although that number is on the level of rumor so far). I just finished conducting three workshops for our Institute for Teaching and Learning entitled "Why Your Laptop Needs A Pen." Over 70 faculty showed up and spent 60-80 minutes with me exploring how their teaching and learning can be enhanced with the Tablet PC. We also have formed under the sponsorship of the Institute for Teaching and Learning a group to share experiences with the new tablets and to possibly lead to some study of them called the University of Akron Digital Ink Group (or UAdig for short). We will be sharing on a private on-campus only discussion list and a more public website.

PowerPoint presentation
UAdig website


Here is a site I will be trying out soon. Combine a powerpoint and podcast to create a slidecast. Already at is the ability to upload your slides to a server and have them run on your webpage. Now they add the ability to add voice to it by combining your MP3 file and you can set the page breaks so the slides are sync'ed with the audio. Here is an example of a slideshow embeded on a webpage (reviewing the DEE Conference).

If the slides do not show below try this link

Augmenting Teaching & Learning with Social Software

Steve Greenlaw posts a new website, Augmenting Teaching & Learning with Social Software, to support a presentation he made to the Developments in Economic Education conference. See his blog for those details and see his references for some good sources on social networking software. This link is the paper written for the conference arranged to allow comment by paragraph. Well done Steve.


From is this top ten list of what can be done with Microsoft's OneNote. the article called "Living in OneNote" says it all. I have used my OneNote for about everything, but mostly for meeting notes, notes while on the phone, collecting all the arrangements for conferences, and the actual notes I take at those conferences. I particularly like being able to send files via the print driver to one note for collection in one spot and for marking up. If you match versions you can collaborate with a colleague and share and simultaneously mark up a one note page or section.

If you are new to OneNote or would like more, click on help while in One Note and click on the Microsoft OneNote tour menu item.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Free Issue - Computer, September 2007

Jim Vanides, HP Higher Ed guru, on his Teaching, Learning & Technology in higher Education blog has a great post and opportunity. For this month a free download of Computer (a IEEE publication) that has five articles about Tablet PCs is available.

See his post at for the download link. Thanks Jim and thanks Jane Prey for providing the link to Jim. To quote Jim:
"Many thanks to Jane Prey (Microsoft and guest co-editor of the issue) for sharing this link! Jane also pointed out that the issue contains five papers about Tablets:

1. Magic Paper: Sketch-Understanding Research – how does one think about a surface that is natural and easy to draw on, yet understands what you draw?

2. Ink, Improvisation, and Interactive Engagement: Learning with Tablets – thoughts on the integration of technology features and instructional models developed by educators.

3. Handwriting Recognition: Tablet PC Text Input – how do you accomplish recognition over a wide range of writing styles and poorly formed cursive script? Use a time-delay neural network working with a lexicon.

4. Classroom Presenter: Enhancing Interactive Education with Digital Ink – this system supports the sharing of digital ink on electronic slides to promote active learning and collaboration in the classroom.

5. Facilitating Pedagogical Practices through a Large-Scale Tablet PC Deployment – tablet use by all students and faculty in and out of the classroom has shown positive initial results."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Undergraduate Paper Competition at Bowling Green

John Hoag announces their Undergraduate Economics Essay contest. They accept student papers on all topics, papers are screened and finalists chosen. The finalists are invited to Bowling Green on Saturday, April 12, 2008 to present their work at a small conference. Cash awards will be made at the conference (first place yields $150 for each of micro and macro, second place is $100, third is $50). The dead line for submission of the paper is February 29, 2008 to, John Hoag, Chair, Department of Economics, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio 43403. Email him for more details and say you read it here.

Gulf Coast Teaching Conference

November 1-2, 2007 in Austin TX. There is a call for papers, but I can not see a deadline.

EconTalk -- A wonderful teaching resource

I admit it, I have been hooked on the EconTalk series of podcasts (economic podcasts for daily life) hosted by Russ Roberts of George Mason. I think you will agree that the quality of these interviews with economists is first rate. I have recently enjoyed two in particular: (1) Paul Romer on Growth and (2) David Henderson on Disagreeable Economists. EconTalk is part of the terrific Library of Economics and Liberty which also hosts the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. I am using these in my online course as a supplement. In fact one of the most often asked questions after the appropriate chapter is which of those growth theories are correct. I think Paul takes care of that, if they will only listen.

UA Faculty Choose HP2710p Tablet PC

Should be any day that we get our new HP 2710p Tablet PCs! This Fall all faculty will recieve

these sleek new computers. I can't wait to have something under 4 lbs after lugging around the Gateway M285E. I am ready for a format that is not wide screen as well. You can see specs on this at Gotta Be Mobile.

I anticipate a lot of our faculty have chosen the Tablet PC (over a regular laptop or mac book) since I have 90 faculty scheduled for 3 sessions of a workshop sponsored by our Institute for Teaching and Learning that I have called "Why Your Next Laptop Needs a Pen." The third session was added due to the demand and filled in less than a day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Second WIPTE Research Book is published

Some really creative users of the Tablet PC have come together for two years now at the Workshop on the Impact of Pen-based Technology on Education held at Purdue University.

In each of these two years a selection of papers are collected by Jane Prey, Robert Reed and Dave Berque and published in a rich little monograph. Last year it was blue and this year red. These two books are loaded with examples of scholarly teaching and the scholarship of teaching with Tablet PCs. One does not have to read many papers to see how either student learning is enhanced or instructors are made more efficient, or both.

Dixon, Pannell and Vallinski present "Can Pen-Based Computing Enhance Graph Construction and Comprehensive in the Introductory Economics and Classroom? The combination of DyKnow Vision and pen-based computing led to better grades and fewer graphic errors than the group that used pen and paper.

In all the book contains 15 contributed evaluations on pen-based computing and covered more than 2,200 students and 60 faculty. Other than economics, the courses studied computer science, engineering, physics, communications, mathematics, Agronomy and Chemistry disciplines. It is a good read and when combined with the results in the 2006 version of this book covers even more areas.

Friday, July 13, 2007

DyKnow User's Group meeting 2007

While the 2007 DyKnow User's Group meeting at DePauw is history, I want to post the PowerPoint version of my presentation here for your comments. The presentation called Problem Based Learning in Econometrics with Supporting Technology reports on my successful use of Problem Based Learning in econometrics in a 1:1 environment where each student had (for about 6 weeks) exclusive use of a Tablet PC and classes were conducted using DyKnow Vision software.

I would enjoy hearing your feedback directly to since we will try this experiment again in the Fall 2007 term. And a public word of thanks to Laura Small, Dave Burque, Frank Gilbert and others who made the conference such a fun time. And yes Jim we are going to apply in your next round!
Notice the graphic in this post, while it's only 8 students, look at how their opinion of the cost of adopting a Tablet PC in class changed from before they knew they were getting one to after they had used one. I hope this convinces a few to shift to Tablet PCs if their reluctance is their fear of the learning curve.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Podcasting has no 'inherent' value, but no technology has 'inherent' value.

Campus Technology 2007 reports "Consensus: Podcasting Has No 'Inherent' Pedagogic Value." What is cited is a report by Ashley Deal from Carnegie Mellon: Podcasting: A Teaching with Technology White Paper, June 4, 2007. Reporter Paul McClosky states "Podcasting does not contain any inherent value. It is only valuable inasmuch as it helps the instructor and students reach their educational goals, by facilitating thoughtful, engaging learning activities that are designed to work in support of those goals." However, far from being negative and suggesting that all of us throw out our podcasts and give up, we are reminded that we need to first define our learning goals, then design technology to enhance or reach these goals.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

PDF Annotator -- Why did I not try this years ago?

I just downloaded a trial copy of PDFAnnotator and used it to answer a student's question. I brought up a blank screen and proceeded to draw a graph about measuring consumer and producer surplus. When done I saved and sent back to the student in pdf format. I BCC'ed myself and was able to read it with Acrobat Reader. The pen selections were adequate and the writing smooth and natural (unlike the horrible markup feature in Adobe Acrobat).

Before this I would read a students email and print it to MS Journal, mark it up and then save to pdf (using the full version of Adobe Acrobat) and finally send back to the students. PDFAnnotator saved me quite a few steps.

What it lacks is the ability to read in different formats or to have a print to PDFAnnotator feature. I may still need Acrobat for that. I was able to use the MS snipping tool to cut from a non pdf document and easily paste into the PDFAnnotator screen.

This is a 80% solution. It needs a print to feature or ability to read other file formats. Until then I won't scrap Journal and Acrobat, but I won't likely use them as much.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Power, power and more power

Here is something you want if you are mobile. A 10 hour spare battery that will not only run your battery-dead computer or device, but recharge it as well! Thanks go to Ira Silber who showed this to me at WIPTE. See their website at

Here at WIPTE 2007

Second day here at WIPTE 2007 is starting out strong. Joe Tront from Virgina Tech spoke of a large scale deployment of Tablet PCs in the college of engineering. One nice surprise is his discussion and offer of free download of WriteOn at his website. I hope to evaluate this soon.

He also further sold me on PDF Annotator and I liked how he said they preferred it to Adobe Professional.

Also we heard from the audience of the adaptive book project.

All so far so good.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hello from WIPTE 2007

Hello all. Dan Talley and I are at Purdue University for the Workshop on the Impact of Pen-based Technology on Education (WIPTE 2007). A full schedule is on Monday and Tuesday and can be seen from the WIPTE website. The schedule of presentations is here. I will be presenting a poster each day called Learning Econometrics in a Problem Based Learning Curriculum with the Tablet PC: An experiment in 1:1 computing. Quite a mouthful, but I couldn't think of a short title that expressed what it was about. If you are here at WIPTE and you read this blog please stop by and let me know. I am uncertain whether to post the results of this poster here until I get a little more feedback, but will let you know here.
Well tomorrow morning the conference is kicked off by a keynote by Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway on Integrating Mobile Technologies into the Existing Curriculum. Dan and I will be interested to see how this meshes with the mobile learning environment we have written about. Dan teaches at DSU where every student and professor has a Tablet PC. While I and a few professors at UA have Tablet PCs and this last semester we were able to provide a Tablet PC to each of my students in a graduate class, the majority of faculty and students do not have access to Tablet PCs. How Tablets and other mobile learning technologies integrate in our different schools is quite different.
I have been experimenting with a new kind of mobility thanks to my wife talking me into buying a Palm Treo 700wx. Check it out.
So anyway, if you are at WIPTE or just wish you were drop me a line or stop by and say hi. I will be the guy standing in front of my poster. -- Steve

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

NCEE/NAEE/GATE Annual Conference

The 2007 Annual Conference of the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE), National Association of Economic Educators (NAEE) and the Global Association of Teachers of Economics (GATE) is on October 3-6, 2007 in the Rocky Mountains. The 2007 Annual Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Denver Hotel, Colorado. This year's conference will be hosted by the NCEE's affiliated Colorado Council on Economic Education.

The preliminary Conference Program with session descriptions for the 2007 Annual Conference is now available online at Check it out for some cool sounding sessions.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Tablet PC Education Blog: Evaluating Tablet PCs in Schools

The Tablet PC Education Blog: Evaluating Tablet PCs in Schools

I first met Chris Clark with Barry Keating from Notre Dame at Purdue's ITL conference and learned and salivated over their Notre Dame Tablet PC Initiative. I was impressed then as now. A Good read. Very dated, but still relevant as cited recently over at the tablet PC education blog.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Psychology of Learning Environments

Third post today from reading back issues of Educause Review and this article "The Psychology of Learning Environments" (Ken Graetz, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 6 (November/December 2006): 60–75) is another good read. From his vantage point at Winona State (a Tablet PC school) he discusses the bug-a-boo of students having laptops and doing other things while lectures take place. But his point is rather than this being a major distraction, the curriculum is moving from lecture delivery to collaboration. Bill Becker and Mike Watts have long assailed the chalk and talk delivery and Graetz points out the the presence of computers in the hands of students leads one to collaboration and discussion and in turn this does or should lead to changes in classroom design. At the ASSA meetings in January 2007, Marcelo Cericli Arias (Stanford) spoke compellingly about smart classroom design and how the learning space assisted students in economics to fo "From Zero to Agent-Based Modeling in Ten Weeks," a task unheard of in a non-collaborative environment.

In my posts on 1:1 Computing in Econometrics I discovered that by using DyKnow Vision and Monitor, the projector went off the second day and was rarely used there after since the delivery was to everyone's screen. (Just like my favorite phrase in "24" when Jack or someone says just send it to my screen.) My guess, before reviewing the data is the successful problem based learning experience is in part due to the synergies created by the use of the Tablet PC and DyKnow Vision.

The classrooms need to accomodate collaboration and Gratez goes through the requirements including wall and furniture arrangement as well as class size. He discusses the use of DyKnow, clickers, Synchroneyes, virtual campuses such as Second Life and more.

I found the list of usability criteria he quotes quite interesting and aplicable to a variety of learning spaces and devices. Indeed this also applies to my Tablet PC experiment as well.

  • "Learnability refers to the speed and ease with which a novice user can achieve proficiency with the system.

  • Efficiency refers to the degree to which the system supports the performance of an experienced user in the shortest amount of time and with the fewest steps.

  • Memorability refers to the degree to which a user, particularly an intermittent or casual user, can remember how to accomplish a task using the system, the steps of which were learned previously.

  • Errors refer to the number of mistakes and missteps made by users.

  • Satisfaction refers to the users' overall emotional experience when using the system. (this list is from Jakob Neilson, Usability Engineering (San Francisco: Morgan Kaufman, 1993)."

"Careful, objective usability analyses of common digital environments should be conducted and problems should be addressed using similar decision-making processes and with the same sense of urgency that campuses apply when addressing poor conditions in brick-and-mortar classrooms."

Constructivist Learning Theory and Web 2.0

Ever wonder what Web 2.0 is or even what is Web 1.0? In this article by Malcom Brown (Dartmouth) called Mashing up the Once and Future CMS. (EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 42, no. 2 (March/April 2007): 8–9)

Brown presents a table comparing the Web 1.0 to the Web 2.0 and then offers this insightful comment following the table:

"If one studies this table long enough, a gestalt emerges: the Web 1.0 looks uncannily like the teaching paradigm, whereas the Web 2.0 resembles the learning paradigm."

If Web 2.0 seems to match up with the constructivist learning theory then it would help to have the CMS we choose to integrate and add on the Web 2.0 aspects while leaving the older teaching paradigm intact.

Confessions of a Podcast Junkie

Got to love this title: Confessions of a Podcast Junkie which is the title of an article in Educause Review, May/June 2007, (42)3 by Carie Windham. I have posted five or six times before this on podcasting and our ITL Research committee has been studying podcasting in Intro to Psych this last academic year and my university just joined iTunesU. This article is just in time for this excitement and offers balance from a student's perspective. Carrie stumbles on free/cheap podcasts, gets hooked, then progressed to making podcasts, then to surveying students and Professors across the country who are using them. This is a great read and important if you are into podcasts and perhaps more importantly if you aren't.

Best section: "If I were in charge: Tips for Faculty." You need to read the article for the whole flavor, but the headings are such common sense:

  • Don't assume

  • Keep is simple

  • Quality counts

  • Make it relevant

  • Don't limit the imagination

  • Encourage exploration

A good read ... now go and podcast :)

Monday, May 14, 2007

eBooks --where are you?

This still intrigues me as a Tablet PC user.

Why wouldn't more people want all their books on their hard drive and be able to read and refer at will?

My previous and only prior post talked of one scheme. Now The Wired Campus of the reports comments by Bill Gates on the subject. "A Bright Future for E-Books?" reports that Gates believes all reading will go completely online. I tend to agree.

For my Tablet PC to completely be useful it is the screen and the weight that is all important. I need to be able to view in any light, at any angle and have a weight not heavier or more bulky than the book itself. The Sony device is GREAT, but it needs a pen and the ability to be my computer or to sync seamlessly with my computer.

From Sonys page: What is E Ink® Technology?The Sony® Reader’s display uses E Ink® - a significant improvement over CRT and LCD technology. Instead of rows of glowing cells, E Ink® microcapsules actually appear as either black or white depending on a positive or negative charge determined by the content. The result is a reading experience that’s similar to paper - high contrast, high resolution, viewable in direct sunlight and at a nearly 180-degree angle, and requiring no power to maintain the image. In other words, it's a screen that, like you, is well read.

Second Life emerging as home to more and more Universities.

Thanks for Bill Goffe for this link to the chronicle and a story on San Jose State Library and its link to the Second Life world. This includes a great video worth watching. Especially impressive how this video and narration presents the hierarchical organization of a web page and shows it crashing down and being replaced with areas and buildings in 3-D. They will begin using the Second Life space starting Summer 2007 to support its distance learning. The island is titled "SJSU SLIS" and you can see more at

Just today Case Western is the subject of using second life in The Wired Campus section of the chronicle.

SJSU's video is also on YouTube and is embedded here. You might want to review the other related videos listed on the YouTube page.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Teaching Economics Graphics

WIPTE 2007 is almost here! In a previous post I referenced the excellent proceedings of much of the research from the WIPTE 2006 conference. This year I will be attending and offering a poster on my 1:1 computing experiment in econometrics.

On the program is a presentation (their second at WIPTE) on how pen computing and DyKnow Vision can lead to better results in teaching economic graphics. Mary Dixon, Kerry Pannell and Michele Villinski will present "Can Pen-Based Computing Enhance Graph Construction and Comprehensive in the Introductory Economics Classroom?" Mary shared a early copy with me and the answer is yes. "The group using pen-and-tablet note-taking technology earned better grades and made fewer graphing errors on the quiz. Despite the relatively small sample size, this study provides preliminary evidence that DyKnow Vision along with Tablet PC technology improves student outcomes in economics, particularly in graph construction and interpretation."

Elluminate + Tablet PC = Virtual Office Hours

I like using Adobe Connect for virtual office hours, but I came across this blog posting at featuring how Dr. Ricky J Cox at Murray State used both a Tablet and Elluminate to teach / tutor chemistry. The video on the link is very instructive, at least to me who has used Adobe Connect. One thing is clear, in economics (as in chemistry) there are plenty of questions that can not be answered without resorting to the pen and drawing the graphs and equations of the answer. I was intirgued with the Illuminate product as explained by Dr. Cox and think it is a great tool for distance lerning.

In a separate post here are some examples of how Elluminate is used for virtual classrooms.

Product website

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

1:1 Computing and Econometrics -- in their own words

Eight graduate students in econometrics relate their experiences by answering a question on the last day in class after using their Gateway M285 Tablet PCs and DyKnow Vision for the past five weeks. This is the second of two classes so our students had Tablet PCs for only the 5 last (and most intense) weeks of a total of 30 weeks. So the question posed in DyKnow was ...

Describe how the use of the Tablet PC has assisted your learning of econometrics.

I received many different statements in four broad categories: (1) about the lecture, (2) about reviewing notes, (3) about mobile computing, and (4) a couple of general comments. I have quoted them closely, but changed the writing to be of one style to help you read through this list.

About Lecture

  • I don't need to write too much during the class so that I can concentrate more on listening
  • It is much easier to make notes, but the pen is really hard to use (and that is the only negative comment)
  • The tablet PC assisted me in studying econometrics a lot. Especially in class, it helps me concentrate more. It helps me pay attention in class better.
  • The Tablet PC has made learning more interactive especially during lecture.

Reviewing Notes

  • The Tablet PC is very useful in that I could use DyKnow to reproduce notes and did learn better from seeing my hand written notes with the lecture notes.
  • Having all the notes accessible on DyKnow Vision was the most useful aspect. I made many references to DyKnow notes.
  • Note taking is enhanced through the ability to correct and move data easily.

Mobile Computing

  • Having an electronic copy of all my notes as well as a portable computer increased my efficiency, desire to work, and number of locations where I am both physically and technologically capable of working and studying. This is especially true for SAS (our statistical software).
  • Mobile technology is a great advantage in and out of the classroom.
  • Having SAS on this computer saved much time avoiding trips back and forth to school.
  • Having the screen directly in front of me made the material much more accessible.
  • I can work at anytime. The Tablet PC reminds me to put more effort on econometrics because whenever I turn it on my assignments were shown instantly reminding me how much I had to finish.

General Comments

  • I can communicate with the teacher more effectively.
  • The statistics (from the polls) in class let me know what others in class are thinking about the specific questions.
  • The Tablet PC is very interactive and I fell in love with it.

There you have it .. in their own words.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

1:1 Computing and Econometrics -- last day

My intent to blog throughout this experience got way laid with the end of the semester pressures from school and elsewhere. The experiment is essentially over and the 8 students in my graduate econometrics course have now completed their last class using DyKnow Vision on their Gateway M285 Tablet PCs. Recall from previous posts that in about the 10th week of classes we assigned to each graduate student exclusive use of a Tablet PC. Overall I think this was a very successful experience and experiment and hope to reproduce it again.

At the heart of this experiment was two parallel experiences. The first was the introduction of problem based learning in a big way (second year for PBL). The second was the use of Tablet PCs and DyKnow Vision (first year for that). Both succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and in future entries I will begin to detail how it exceeded my expectations.

Let me go on record as having always opposed laptops in the classroom (including when I was CIO of this university). I thought curriculum had to be bent badly to allow their use and find it ridiculous to see students shove their laptop aside just to take notes on paper. I teach quantitatively demanding courses and other than the running of statistical programs and writing papers (both better accomplished outside of class rather than within) the laptop is useless. I am a huge fan of instructor used computers in the classroom and I have used a laptop everyday in every course since 1995 or so. I did so to display my lecture notes and presentations to the students, adding a digital tablet and later the SMART Sympodia, and later yet again I used the Tablet PC so I could digitally whiteboard. But I found no need for students to have laptops in class. I teach econometrics in a computer classroom and when needed had students on the desktops in the room for purposes of some joint learning. Using SMART Synchroneyes I could take control and display student screens as we jointly worked on programming problems.

In this 1:1 computing and econometrics experience, the success comes from the combination of the Tablet PC and DyKnow Vision. Students have the lecture notes or presentations displayed on their Tablet PCs and they can annotate them and take private notes by typing or with digital ink.

I will have much more to say on this, but for now let me call your attention to the graph at the top of this message. It is the last in-class anonymous poll that I asked my students. This poll followed a discussion of the usefulness of the Tablet PCs to each of the students, and their written responses to an open ended question. With little attempt to define carefully the responses A to E (with A the highest), the students were asked how the Tablet PC assisted them in learning econometrics, that is, how important was it to them to have a Tablet PC to learn economics. An answer of C or the middle response represents a student that reports a take it or leave it response, an answer that says regardless of how much I like the Tablet PC, I could have learned as well without it. Answers A and B report more learning of econometrics with a Tablet PC (and DyKnow) and no one chose the worsening of learning answers of D and E. While hardly scientific, the honest answers of the students show a very positive experience.

More later.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

1:1 Computing and Econometrics -- day three

Three classes using Tablet PCs in a 1:1 computing environment with DyKnow Vision and there is some transformation in and active engagement with the curriculum.

On Monday in class I used a mostly blank DyKnow notebook and an open Adobe pdf file of my lecture notes. Using the screen grab of Adobe Professional 8 I copied as image page after page of equations as I displayed them in DyKnow Vision to all the students. I then talked about them and expanded on the notes with the pen. Students seemed to follow the presentation and for the first day I think the technology was pressed a bit into the background. Still one student kept losing connection (a wireless issue?) and I did not notice many students taking many digital notes on the screen. I will have to follow up and make sure that they are not only taking notes, but saving the notebooks and going back and referring to them as needed.

I was able to use the minute paper (inside DyKnow) at the end to check whether they felt like they were on track and after reading and commenting I returned all the student submitted panels. I think they truly followed the presentation based on their comments. What was remarkable is all 8 students wrote about only the econometrics and not a word about the technology. Have they assimilated DyKnow this fast? Or at least until the next issue. They seemed to remain engaged, following the presentation on the screen and asking plenty of questions about the econometrics.

We also spent time on their PBL projects. There are two teams of 4 who are challenged to analyze the student labor market using the 1997 wave of the NLSY. I remarked that I read and returned proposals and wanted the proposals redone by Wednesday. More on this later.

The major problem identified in their proposals was not articulating the problem well. Peter Kennedy is right, "problem articulation" is the first step, get that wrong and everything that follows is invalid (my word not his). This entire semester I have been trying to teach Graduate Econometrics contrasting the classical estimation and inference with Kennedy's three main principles for Applied Econometrics: (1) problem articulation, (2) data cleaning and (3) model specification. It is the 11th week and they still do not have a better handle on articulation, however I know this is working in part because of a single student comment on a minute paper: "I want to know more pitfalls of analysis because we can learn methods of estimation on our own." This student feels confident they can learn the methods by reading the books and computer manuals, but analysis (in particular) Kennedy's three methods, that is another story.

If you have an interest in Applied Econometrics and haven't read Peter Kennedy's 21st fifth chapter of his Guide to Econometrics, then you are in for a treat. Peter, in that chapter has changed the way I teach graduates econometrics. Tablet PCs and 1:1 computing using DyKnow Vision is simply opening a new and possibly better way to create these Applied Econometricians for the job market.

Students in this class will have a number of writing assignments, both individual and coauthored by the end of the term. Their Job Market paper which all are currently working on is to be the subject of a department wide poster session (the brain child of Dr. Renna) which will include many major employers visiting that day to check out their future analysts. Pressure is on...

Monday, April 02, 2007

More Sweet Tablets

Today at CELT we were joined with representatives of HP and Lenova. It was fun to hold and play with the HP tc4400 and the Lenova X60 Tablet. Both are light and seem quite good. My presentation (Why Your Next Laptop Needs a Pen) using DyKnow Vision went good and we will do it tomorrow as well. I made the point at lunch today I am willing to repeat this presentation for any group that wants.

HP Pavilion TX1120us -- A Sweet Tablet.

Yesterday I saw a sweet little Tablet PC at CompUSA. It was the HP Pavilion tx1120us Notebook -- notebook and not a Tablet PC. Still it swivels and you can write on it, so to me it is a Tablet PC, just as Gateway's convertible laptop is a Tablet PC. Has the Tablet PC such a bad name that marketing types now avoid its use? Nevertheless, the HP is a perfect size and weight with a huge 160 GB SATA hard drive, 2GB RAM and DVD writer and 1280x800 resolution NVIDIA chipset. I almost bought one on the spot. Thanks Eugene for taking the time to show it off.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

UA Celebration of Excellence in Learning and Teaching

The 6th annual CELT at the University of Akron is upon us. Monday and Tuesday April 2-3, 2007 will see showcase examples of teaching and learning by faculty and support staff here at UA. For my part I hope to convince some that their next Laptop should be a Tablet PC in presentations on both days. I hope to see some Tablet PCs on display by the vendors too.

Day Two of the 1:1 Computing experience -- Engagement

The second class day with my graduate students and their newly acquired Gateway tablet PCs went fairly well. I still did not completely have some nuances of DyKnow down and made a couple of small errors. The students each seemed to log in quickly and could follow along with the presentation. I first spent time on our PBL assignment and then flew through a lecture that I have been trying to finish for too many class days so far.

The feature we tried this day was the submission feature. I had a panel that asked for their comments, each student wrote their comments and then submitted that panel to me. I was able to see all of their responses on my computer and quickly scroll though. I 'marked' them up later in my office and with one click sent each student back his panel as marked. Fabulous feature!

For some reason one student lost wireless connectivity and this created a bit of hassle towards the end of the class, but the most amazing thing of the day was the students wouldn't leave. One was getting up and I said at least 'he; was leaving and he said if h didn't have another class he wouldn't. So whether it is the Tablet, DyKnow or the task at hand, the word for today is engagement.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

1:1 Computing and Econometrics - 1st Monday

Spring break ended with my 8 graduate students having had 10 days to enjoy and learn their new Gateway M285 Tablet PCs. We started with some trouble as half the class did not yet have the wireless client, but Jay got them set up as we started. I started the class explaining DyKnow Vision and having them logon to DyKnow for the first time. Instantly, each student had my notes on their screen and they could see any annotations I made on their own screen, while making their own annotations that remain private to their own notebooks.

Once everyone was logged in and I began talking about their PBL (problem based learning) assignment, I casually unplugged from the projector and no one noticed that the screen in the front of the screen went blue. This is because DyKnow Vision makes projection unnecessary as every student was focused on their screen.

Their first assignment: I asked the students over spring break to run a SAS multiple regression with all the matrices turned on and to then mark up the computer output using their digital pen to show the mathematical representations in matrix notation for every number they find in the output. Earlier in the course, they ran a SAS two-variable regression and marked up the printed output with ordinary ink pen. I asked them to reflect on the two methods. Of course they indicated that this way was much more fun, new, and exciting. Each student used MS Journal. They could take the output from SAS and 'print' it to Journal and then use the pen and mark it up. Students remarked that the writing was very much like normal and it was so much easier to change if they made a mistake. I spent a couple minutes showing how they can select their handwriting and resize it and move it as an alternative to erasing and rewriting.

We used the polling feature to great advantage. DyKnow Vision allows for the anonymous polling (exactly like clickers) within the software. I pick a polling screen, decide what the possible answers are (A-E, T/F, Yes/No, etc.) and press request answers. In seconds all the students have answered and I can display the results.

So I asked. "Compare the two assignments and ignore as best you can the newness and excitement of the Tablet PC as a toy and concentrate on the learning for you in the two assignments. Rate the use of the Tablet PC for your learning in these two assignments on a scale A-E where C is exactly the same in terms of learning, D and E show progressively worse learning using the Tablet PC and B and A are reflect progressively better learning learning using the tablet PC." The results are in, the class voted and of the eight students, the votes were A-1, B-6 and C-1.

We voted again, this time on selecting groups for the PBL. I wanted to know if they would want to keep their last group together (2 groups of 4) and asked them to vote. This time three said no and 1 was a no vote. Because it was so easy and anonymous to vote I asked again whether their strength of preference to change the group was very high, that is vote yes if you REALLY want or need the groups to be changed. This time the votes showed 8 NO votes. Within a minute I know that while 3 of the 8 wanted to change groups, no one had a strong preference and all in a way to allow total anonymity of the students.

Wed, we will talk more about the PBL and perhaps a minute paper. I closed reminding the students that their part of the experiment is to separate the fun of having fast new Tablets in class from their effect on learning econometrics using Tablets as on tool.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Look Beyond the Whiz Bang paper

Myers and Talley. "Looking Beyond the Whiz-Bang Technology: Using Mobile Learning Technology Tools to Improve Economic Instruction" paper is now also available at ERN Educator: Courses, Cases & Teaching Abstracts, 5 (10) March 19, 2007. Look here.

Gateway M285-E and 1:1 Student Computing in Econometrics

Last week I finished the 9th week of classes with my students in graduate Econometrics. I have been using digital ink in classes for years, but on Wednesday asked the students to evaluate what they thought of the pros and cons of their instructor using a Tablet PC for instruction (reviews I won't see until the course is over). When they completed their surveys they handed them to the student carrying them to the front office. After they were turned in, I asked how many expressed at the end of the survey that they wanted to have a Tablet PC for their own use in this class. Over half the hands went up immediately. Shortly after that we passed out the contractual loaner agreement for their signature and gave them exclusive use of a new Gateway M285-E Convertible Tablet PC for the remaining weeks of the term. Their first assignment is to use Journal to mark up with equations some SAS computer output. This parallels an assignment they had earlier in the term using printout and pen. They will follow this assignment with a PBL assignment, another group project and of course their own research for their job market paper.

From this point forward the students will be able to use their Tablets in class as I use DyKnow Vision to complete the lectures and lead the discussion this term. they will be able to use DyKnow Vision to record their notes privately on the lectures as on my screen. No more haste to copy down all of the equations and keep up. They will be able to concentrate more on the meaning or so goes the hope. DyKnow Vision also has a polling feature just like the popular clickers, but can also "poll" in the subjective. You can ask all students to fill out a minute paper request and sweep up all the pages in one easy to browse and comment on file. Clickers are proving their worth and minute papers are well known for theirs. Add to this the ability for students to annotate anything on their screens and this has to help learning. If it doesn't bring efficiencies or enhanced learning it shouldn't be used.

I want to know three things from this trial. (1) Does access to digital pen technology and supportive software enhance the students perception of learning. (2) Does this enhancement depend on the digital ink, or might laptops do just as well, and (3) should we continue offering Tablet PCs to students in class. In the last case, is it sufficient to have a cart of Tablet PCs to borrow during class or do the students have to have ownership of their Tablets?

I for one have always fought a computer requirement for our students (we get subvented by the State of Ohio for selling credit hours, not computers) but I am slowly being converted from my view. Just as Tablet PCs are flourishing in some vertical industries, perhaps they also will in certain disciplines. Can the graph-drawing, equation-writing, problem solving economists be left out of this picture? While there is always money and interest in STEM and STEMM, should not economics be considered as quantitatively demanding as them?

One example: In my email this morning is an advertisement from Gateway about their 1:1 services. As my friend and coauthor Dan Talley knows well, the classroom is a different place when all the students have their own computers. And as we wrote in our AEA paper-presentation, of such things are the full exploitation of mobile learning networks (PowerPoint presentation here).

Online Textbooks

I do not often blog on what randomly shows up in my email, but this is a link from Gateway's 1:1 service that is called VitalSource Bookshelf. I downloaded the free app and searched for economics texts and was disappointed that their aren't more university level texts available. Consider the Tablet PC student with all their notes on and inside the Tablet PC and they still have to carry their books. I use Parkin Economics in my online classes and Addison Wesley allows a link via my econ lab to the full version, but the student has to be online and have a lot of patience to use it. VitalSource offers to put the full copy (under digital rights management) on the student's tablet. How cool is that? Anyone know of other companies offering this? VitalSource boasts of sales partners including Gateway, Lenova and Apple and an impressive list of publisher clients.
Online Economics Textbooks
It is worth noting the list of Online Economics Textbooks and Classic Works at Oswego, some of which can be downloaded into the Tablet PC. Other links, repec, econlib, businessbookmall, EconPapers, and another link at RFE.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Is this the perfect student note-taking device?

This is a device that is extremely intriguing. "Solidtek DigiMemo L2 Digital Notepad is a stand-alone device with storage capability that digitally captures and stores everything you write or draw with ink on ordinary paper, without the use of computer and special paper. Then you can easily view, edit, organize and share your handwritten notes in Windows. When connected to a PC, the DigiMemo L2 offers an on-line writing function which can instantly synchronize your writing on the paper with the digital page in its software in Windows. It also is a USB tablet device in Windows. "

So my question is could this be a student entry tablet for use independently as well as in class, with products like DyKnow Vision, Classroom Presenter, Ubiquitious Presenter, MS Windows Journal, One Note and more? Does anyone know? Have you tried it? Let me know.

Econometrics and Teaching Economics

While we look at the whiz bang of various devices and softwares we forget that econometrics is the technology that we use the most to learn and teach economics. A raging controversy which is fun to read and now a year old is on Donald Lushkin's blog -- Is Econometrics a Science.

Wikipedia and Writing about Economics

William Polley just posted a commentary on wikipedia that is worth reading. This is the time my students are heavily invested in writing and researching and the temptation of web spaces like wikipedia is seductive. As Polley points out there is both the good and the bad, but before you cite wikipedia read his commentary. His commentary starts: "Is Wikipedia an acceptable source for college papers? Of course not. Is Wikipedia a useful research tool for college students? Absolutely." Go read...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Learning and Learning Style Preferences

The December 2006 issue of CHEER has an article by Naser-Nick Manochehr, The Influence of Learning Styles on Learners in E-Learning Environments... who shows that students who have learning styles that learn best through lecture, papers, analogies, labortories, field work and observations did better in web based learning. Those who like to learn through simulations, case study, brainstorming and logs did better in instructor based learning.

I have wondered about this ever since learning about learning style preferences in a seminar with Neil Fleming about his VARK quiz to reveal learning style preferences of Visual, Aural, Read/Write and Kinestetic. I have used VARK as a pre-assessment in my online courses to help the students at a distance learn techniques of learning that might help them.

Someday maybe I will correlate all those VARK scores with student performance, maybe someone else will and will comment here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Recording Lectures for Later Playback

Campus Technology reports that "Lecture Recording System Draws Devotees at Temple." Caputuring handwriting is addressed in this story and I think that is essential. I have been playing with a free trial download of ZD Soft Screen Recorder (Free for 5 minute recordings and $39 for the unrestricted version). This allows for the recording of everything that shows on my screen including handriting and allows a simultaneous audio recording. Sizes of the files are very small and can then be sent to a streaming server or made available from download.

There are lots of available options for codecs including their own format ZD Soft Screen Video, "which is designed for generic screen recording purpose. ZD Soft Screen Video provides lossless image quality in extremely small file size. This package is used to make those videos playable in various kinds of media players, such as Windows Media Player, Real Player and etc. The FOURCC code of ZD Soft Screen Video is 'ZDSV'.... Download it here. (from the zdsoft website)."

More later ...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Comparison of Digital Ink Products

This was requested on the WIPTE discussion list -- a comparison of digital ink software such as Journal, One Note, DyKnow, Classroom Presenter and more. I have started a chart online to make those comparisons. Email me your comments, corrections and additions to

Go here for the link.

-- Steve

Friday, February 09, 2007

Virtual Worlds and the Teaching of Economics -- It's Real!

(updated February 11, 2007)
Click on the image to the right and read about Digital Game-Based Learning, and read on...

One game is Second Life is a virtual reality game that all can access and partake in. My wife and I have explored only the surface as we gain an avatar and customize it and begin to walk around this environment. Our University is discussing how we can bring gaming to the classroom for education and there are some examples out there. One of these is in the Athens News (1/29/2007) - "Virtual-reality software creates parallel campus, enhances education" and talks about a class held by Paul Shovlin inside Second Life. Read it it is pretty interesting with even a duplicate Ohio University inside Second Life. While Paul's class is in writing and other course are planned, a few notable persons in the lead are economists.

The number three most downloaded paper in the Social Science Research Library is "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier" by Economist Edward Castronova, Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Telecommunications with 37,653 copies being downloaded ranking him as 15th among all authors. Clearly there is something here. He has 13 papers on virtual worlds and synthetic economies on his author page. No one is quite in the lead on discussions of the economies of virtual economies like he is. He even has his own wikipepia article. His blog TERRA NOVA is about virtual worlds and their implications. It has been in existance since September 2003. I highly recommend that you look around his Synthetic Worlds Institute at Indiana University (where he is director) and especially note their current project ARDEN: The World of William Shakespeare.

Jeff Sarbaum teaches a course in introductory economics in a on-line virtual world at UNC Greesboro. While he does not use second life he does use a virtual world. See "Aliens Teach University Economics Class" (by Nell Boyce, NPR) for some pictures and a description. Here is an article from the Duke Instructional Technology Showcase on Sarbaum's game: "Serious Games: Digital Game-Based Learning in Higher Education." An article in Campus Technology also reviews the game.

Windows Vista Secrets for Tablet PC

This morning I learned that our University's LEAP authentication, which is required to access the secure wireless network, does not work with the new Windows operating system Vista. Personal computers running Vista will not be able to access the UA wireless network. Other applications that have problems working with Vista, including WebCT, MathXL, McAfee and SMS. Testing continues. What gives?

This is disappointing since the link above is to the Microsoft Tablet PC Team Blog that shows the Windows Vista secrets for Tablet PCs. I hope they get it all worked out soon.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Synchronous Digital Ink in MSN Messenger

It's always nice to be cited and Birgit Loch and Christine McDonald have done so in "Synchronous Chat and Electronic Ink for Distance Support in Mathematics," Innovate, Feb/March 2007. They cite my 2004 work on Virtual Office Hours for students at a distance which pointed out that economists, statistician and mathematicians can't effectively communicate at a distance with the normal tools of a computer, with type and the mouse. They show the use of digital ink in MSN Messenger and show examples of mouse drawings. I would like to see this used with Tablet PCs where the precision of writing could improve with the use a pen. I am going to have to install MSN and give it a try. The advantage of this over Adobe Connect? It's free!

Students want professors to use technology, but only if it is used well

In the current edition of Educational Quarterly, v 30, n 1 is "Think Small! A Beginner's Guide to Using Technology to Promote Learning" by Beverly King, UNC Pembrook. While not an economist, she writes some good advice for economists wanting to introduce technology and explains why and how it should be introduced. I enjoyed the article and learned a few things and the section on assessment points to an ECAR report pointing out the title of this entry. I intend to read this fully later, but the observations of 18000 students across 65 institutions seems to be well reported. "... use technology, but only if is used well!" How critical is that? How many of you have suffered through a presentation where the speaker is clueless about the technology? It is painful and distracting.

"A major finding of the 2005 ECAR study is that students with the highest IT skill levels acquired many of them as a result of course (or program) requirements (p.19)." Our responsibility as faculty is to use technology well and to integrate it into the curriculum if it is important for the students to learn it for their future performance. (Our ITL Research group here has surveyed our students, might be interesting to compare results.)

R. B. Kvavik and J. B. Caruso, Study of Students and Information Technology: Convenience, Connection, Control, and Learning (Boulder, Colo.: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, Research Study, Vol. 6, 2005)