Friday, November 11, 2005

Students and Tablet PCs

See the new site of the Student Tablet PC and read the experiences of Tracey Hooten and Trevor Claiborne and others as they tell of their use of the Tablet PC in their class and their lives. One great feature of this site is the incredible number of links (especially the software links) and the discussion forums.

The more I use the Tablet PC the more I feel it is an indispensable tool for economists. In nearly every lecture we combine text, graphics (mostly hand drawn) and equations, lots and lots of equations. When we grade we grade not only text, but also the student drawn graphics and the hand written equations. When we mark up papers submitted again with the graphs and equations. The Tablet PC allows for the economists (and statisticians and mathematicians and others from quantitatively demanding disciplines) to work in a single electronic environment like no other product.

I have been using a Toshiba M200 and more recently the Gateway M275. I like the higher resolution and small size of the Toshiba and I like the DVD/CD in the Gateway. Choices... what to buy, small and convienient or large and comprehensive?

Friday, November 04, 2005

More on podcasting... "Should Professors podcast their lectures online?"

This question, "Should Professors podcast their lectures online?, " posed by John Palmer and quoted by Tyler Cowen at is a pretty active discussion going on right now. Join in if you are interested. My take on this is no, few students will value the entire lecture on MP3 because it is not scanable and searchable. However, I think the market for 1 to 3 minute commentary might be very high and in class as Frequently Asked Questions support.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Keeping ahead of the students in technology

One word... Impossible.

I have taught an economic analysis class, building computer skills for three years now as part of our revised curriculum and have seen the students come each year with increasing sophistication. Building an Electronic Portfolio for assessing their progress through the course and the major is a critical part of the course. This year we are even trying a blog.

Now comes a Pew Internet and American Life Project, surveying 12 to 17 year old students, that says "(n)early three in five school-age teens with Internet access have created online content ... and about a fifth have their own blogs...." (Martha Irvine, Chicago (AP) Nov. 2 "Survey: One in Five Teens Have Own blogs.") Compare this to only seven percent of adults having their own blogs.

I can remember teaching in the same room to the same crowd of students year after year. In the beginning (about 1994) only one "geekish" student would admit to having ever been on the Internet, but by the end of that run of teaching assignments there would only be one or two students that had not been on the Internet. Now in 2004, given Internet access, twenty percent of students and only seven percent of adults have created blogs. Its happening again. We need to learn and keep up and explore how blogs and podcasts and the other fancy technology at the bleeding edge of our pedagogy can help our students learn and make us more efficient and effective guides.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Teaching and Learning Economics with Podcasts

Podcasts are everywhere. I think they have a real shot at helping students learn economics with technology the students already own.

Listen to Podcasts
You can hear podcasts about Tablet PCs or coverage of conferences or more privately in answers to frequently asked questions to students in class. The first, I have cited in a post below and I also found a new series called On the Run with Tablet PCs. Examples of conference podcasts includes an interview with Ken Spelke at Educause 2005, and a series of podcasts by Allan Carrington of the University of Adelaide as he travels around the world to attend Educause 2005 and includes discussion of Building Learning Communites in Hawaii, getting learners to help build the podcasts in Wisconsin, and interviews at Educause with Diana Oblinger and Steve Gilbert. Fun stuff to listen to while walking or biking.

Publish Podcasts
I discovered that creating a podcast is very simple. I went to Yahoo for my simple tutorial and programs. That website tells how to prepare, how to record and how to publish. Preparing requires a microphone and recording software (Yahoo recommends and I used Audacity which is free for recording and editing) You then need a MP3 encoder such as the free encoder LAME MP3 Encoder or you can use iTunes to convert as well.

I used the Lame MP3 encoder when I created my first MP3. A student had asked a question in my distance learning course on contestable markets which I find complicated enough that I neither wanted to "type" or "draw" an answer so I recorded my voice (My MP3 answer). If you actually click on "My MP3 answer" it downloads from a FAQ site on my website at the university. So publishing is simply taking your newly created MP3 and pulacing it online. If you do a lot of this you can advertise and provide your podcasts using RSS (really simple syndication). Check the Yahoo! podcast publish page for more on that. Another set of instructions and a separate product download is at on How to Podcast.

More Information
If Yahoo is into podcasting at you know it is a time that has come. There is plenty of information there. I searched for podcasts on economics and it identified 23 separate podcasts and 365 separate episodes. One notable podcast is by Dr. James Reese which already has 31 episodes. One of these is an interview with Bill Goeff, Editor of, published this summer which shows you how far behind the bleeding edge I am, but rarely understand. Still part of the fun is the discovery. Some of these podcasts might be worth assigning to students in class. It certainly meets the needs of those students that have Aural learning preferences. (Want to know your learning style preferences go to VARK).

For me if I continue to provide voice response to students I have questions. Will they easily be able to listen (yeah! the iPod generation, probably not a real problem)? Will they be willing to download or stream my voice and have the patience to listen? Will they be able to listen and learn from my answer? Will I be able to correctly address their questions without the verbal and non-verbal feedback that I get in face-to-face conversations? Will I be able to answer without multiple takes quickly removing the advantage of time savings? I have more... .anyone with more questions or answers please let me know.

Another way to get started in podcasts is at the web site. You download iPodder and it links directly with your iTunes on your computer and from there you can listen on your computer or sync to your iPod.

I am adding this after the original post since reviewing a site called PodCast Research. I recommend it to anyone interested. What caught my eye first is the scope of research, that it was done as a blog by students at the university of Buffalo that examines the podcasting phenomena, and that it has some entries such as a Simple Method for Publishing Podcasts as RSS 2.0 feeds using FeedBurner (see my feed in the right most column). They also offer definitions of the difference between a webcast, an audioblog, and a podcast. I do not know if their definitions are right on, but if so what I have done so far is an audioblog, but all I need to do to make it a podcast is to provide a RSS feed of the audioblog.

Finally, I want to link this somewhat unrelated link to RSS enclosures for my own reference if not for yours as well.