Saturday, January 19, 2008

Economics Search Engine

Bill Goffe on tch-econ let us know about a Economics Search Engine at This search seems to obey all the Google rules. I was able to restrict using a site: search, that is, typing in the box site:*.edu search terms and it did restrict to only edu sites. Cool search, but it is not comprehensive. For example, only some of our pages were found, but our pages were not, and my blog not at all. So with care, this is a terrific tool. I am sure it will only get better. At it says there are 12,000 economics web sites and in the link above ( over 20,000. Google will do what Google does best -- grow and organize. I added the tool on the right column of my blog so I can get to it quickly.

Thanks for the tool Bill.

Recession? Blog chatter vs. Prediction Markets

Aaron Scfiff has a great data problem on his blog at Does talking about a recession in blogs correlate with the probablility of a recession given in a prediction market? (see his blog for the caveats in the data).

The relationship is pretty intruguing. But I wonder whether he has captured the entire story. What about that elusive third factor that drives both? What about the amount of time 'recession' occurs in the old media, how many times by politicians. There appear to be two reversals around 9/14/07 and 10/26/07 -- are these correlated with major events or stories? I had just blogged about a great data problem for student econometricians and I think this one is even better. Again this one could be loosed on students for a PBL exercise and I just may.

Aaron goes on to posit a relationship and I wonder if the relationship has trend or drift. Facinating stuff. Thanks Aaron.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What's going on with the PPI? A problem for stimulating student learning.

What does this attached graphic tell you... intriguing anomaly or danger sign?

This graphic shows a huge run-up in the PPI and an increasing volatility. What is the underlying cause of this increasing volatility? Does this portray the normal functions of markets? Is it unstable? Perhaps the source is oil. Maybe it is rare metals. One possible source is in the agriculture sector:

"Continued speculation and skyrocketing commodity prices also threaten the business of agriculture. We've got all the makings for the destruction of the marketplace here." Rich Sauder, manager of the Tremont Cooperative Grain Company, says this as reported in
Commodity prices in 'Star Trek' land (January 15, 2008) by Steve Tarter
of the Journal Star (PEORIA).

I thing the graph holds a terrific problem for economic students. This will exercise their inductive powers and how they might solve the problem. This could be a nice authentic problem for some team based learning from the lowest level of classes to graduate students in time-series econometrics.

The data are from This great resource offers free access for economics instructors. (click here for the graph shown above)

EconoBlogging Course at Ohio U

Donald Lacombe, an associate professor at Ohio University is offering a course he calls EconoBlogging. He has posted about discussions in class on the economics of bad behavior, growth, ethanol, the FDA and trade-offs. He appears to be using the blog as a reflection and summary of each days class.

Using a blog in class is potentially a great use of technology and there are other examples of this. Steve Greenlaw has actively used his blog (and later a wiki) to support his class. (see here and here) Greg Mankiw uses his blog to keep in touch with his current and former students. (The fact that it is ranked 3rd among all economics blogs is just a bonus for all of us). I have reflected on a problem based learning experience in my econometrics class in this blog.

Steve Greenlaw gave a presentation at Cambridge University last year called Augmenting Teaching and Learning With Social Software which is available as an online paper and a blog to support the presentation. Seeing what is possible with Web2.0 software for teaching economics is fun to watch and I encourage others to try.

I wonder how students take to blogs and how important they really are to the teaching and learning process for them. It is clearly important to many professors. As with many uses of technology the measurement of learning is very difficult. My mantra is always not to use technology unless you enhance student learning or you make professors or students time more efficient. I think the key is really whether students engage more with social software (blogs included) and thereby provide for deeper learning.

Last week I attended a lecture by Don Tapscott on his book Wikinomics. He focuses on the corporation in the wiki world, but he made a comment that he could have been talking about higher education. My mind started racing towards whether his four drivers (1) Web2.0, (2) The Net Generation. (3) The (online) Social Revolution and (4) The Economic Revolution couldn't be applied towards higher education and in particular to the teaching of economics. My head is still swimming on this so perhaps I will post some thoughts soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Teaching Economics with You Tube

You tube can be a great teaching tool. It is amazing what you can find. I have a google alert set to "economists assessment' which has caught some interesting things. One of the more interesting is about inflation in China from a decidedly non economic blog.

At the AEA poster session, Dirk Mateer, Penn State University, showcased his you tube site "Teaching Economics With You Tube." At the conference, just days ago, he had 20 subscribers, as of today he has 34 and 1,900 views. I highly support this site and hope that many others add to it or provide links to their video content as well.

"Teaching with You Tube: An Economist's Guide to Free Web-Based Content"
AEA/CEE Poster Session, Janyary 5, 2008 (G. Dirk Mateer)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education?"

The third debate sponsored by the economist is open. (click here for the link). I think the evaluation of Web 2.0 in education is on all of our interests, so I hope many will take advantage of this debate.

From their webpage: Last October, readers of The Economist selected three education-related propositions for debate:

  1. The first proposition, "The continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education", was rigorously debated and OPPOSED.
  2. The second, "Governments and universities everywhere should compete to attract qualified students, regardless of nationality or residence", was overwhelmingly ACCEPTED.
  3. Now we address the final proposition: "Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education?"

Your comments shape the debate and your votes decide the winner

Monday, January 07, 2008

Assessing the Economics Program

At the AEA meetings my colleagues and I presented a paper on assessing the economics program (Assessing A Proficiency Based Economics Program: Weathering The Perfect Storm While Thriving In A New Environment). It has had some nice recognition by Scott Jaschik at (Jan 7, 2008) and David Glenn at the The Chronicle of Higher Education (News Blog Jan. 5, 2008).

This paper has three goals: (1) to describe the general guidelines for programmatic assessment, (2) to describe our experience in requiring our majors to meet the Hansen Proficiencies and (3) to report results of a national survey of economics program assessment.

Sixty five percent of 208 economics department chairs report that they have a formal assessment plan for their economic program. Our survey results suggest strong confirmation for the actual stated Hansen proficiencies in the discipline, but not necessarily a strong awareness of the work of Hansen.