Update – Midpoint of Semester (IMPORTANT)

Ok, folks, it’s the midpoint of the semester.

It’s been a very rocky start to this semester, I’ll admit. First, a mea culpa. Much of that is on me. This course so far hasn’t been up to my normal standards.  It’s not an excuse but here’s why.  I made a critical mistake. Note to self: don’t make 3 major innovations in the pedagogy/design of a course at the same time again! I like what we’re trying to do in this course, course-design-wise, but it’s been a lot rougher on my workflow-wise than anticipated. In addition, I had no clue what the election and political developments would do to me work wise this year.  While this course demanded a lot more time on my part to find readings, etc. than anticipated, it happened just as I was getting asked to speak at a LOT of events this year, including a talk/panel discussion in London (yes, that London) about “Open Education in a Time of Trump and Brexit” at an international conference.  Bottom-line, apologies aside, I pretty sure we’re ready to rock now. I have readings and posting up to date AND postings prepared for coming weeks. So we should be able to get back on schedule and reach some interesting conclusions.

So what’s to do?  In particular, what do you need to do?  There are 8 weeks left. The way to think about what you need to do is to think of working on two parallel, sometimes connected tracks. There’s the weekly discussion topics track and your blog posts-book project track. They all come together in the last week with your final exam which is actually an extended reflective blog post. So a brief summary of what you need to do from here is: Continue reading

Your Blog Assignments and Project

In this post I’m going to recount how to do your blog post assignments and describe what you need to write about and when in blog posts. This includes your book-based research project. Be sure to click the “read more” to read the rest of this post.

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What to Say in Your Book Research Project

The Objective of the Book-based Research Project

After you’ve read your book, you need to develop a summary and review of the book. First, let me say what I’m NOT looking for. I’m not looking for a traditional academic research paper. This is about using the web to get ideas across to your fellow students and anybody else out there in the Internets. When other students finish reading the page for your book review(s), they should have a good idea

  • what the book is about
  • what the author is trying to say
  • how it relates to what we’ve studied
  • what your thoughts are about these ideas.

Every one of these books has a “message” – something the author is trying to persuade readers to do, think, or believe. When I and the other students view your post, we need to understand both the “message” the author is pushing AND what you think about it. Do you agree? Disagree? Why? Why not? What do you think the author should have considered but didn’t? Did this book change your thinking? Or did it just make you angry? Or just bored? What would you like to ask or say to the author if you could? Continue reading

Book Suggestions

Obviously the first step in your book review project is to select your book,  obtain a copy, and read it.  The purpose of this post is to help you figure what book to read. I really urge you to shop and browse for a book that corresponds to what you said you were most interested in when we started this course.  To help jump start your browsing, I’ve the link below will take you to a list I created on Amazon.  These are books that I’ve run across that I thought might be interesting for ECON 260 students.  I’ve read some of them. Others are on my to-do list, so I don’t take a book being on this list as an endorsement that it’s an excellent book!

Jim’s List of Books for ECON 260 on Amazon.  (will open in new tab)

Note: I’m using Amazon here mostly for the convenience of building and linking the list.  Don’t feel like you need to buy it from Amazon. Consider a library as on option

If you want to use reply to this post to let me know what your book will be, that’s fine.

Your Blog is Ready – What to Do

You now have your own blog/website on LCC’s new scholarly commons.  The commons is called OpenLCC.net and student blogs/websites are located at Voice.openlcc.net.  (there’s a directory of the more than 150 student blogs so far – it’s a bit disorganized and not pretty but that’s because it’s a work-in-progress).

Why A Separate Blog + the Course hub site?

You might be wondering why you’ll be asked to post some things on your own blog site when we already have a discussion site going on the course hub at compsys17.econproph.net.  That’s a good question.  There are three reasons.

  1. Simple text vs. Complex text. Posts on the coursehub compsys17.econproph.net are limited in what you can create. Specifically, it’s harder to style text, add links, add images or videos or insert quoted material from another website in your post.  The coursehub is really just about conversation and discussion.  For some posting assignments, you’ll want to write more in-depth pieces that are based on some research. You’ll want to link to other sites, quote material, and maybe insert some images or videos.  These more in-depth written pieces are what your blog/website is for. It’s easier to do them there.
  2. Permanence.  The coursehub site, compsys17.econproph.net, is relatively temporary.  It will stay up and be public after the semester ends (unlike D2L), but it’s not clear how long it will make sense to keep the site up since it’s purpose was to be a place to have a conversation.  Your blog/website, however, can be more permanent.  It stays up afterward the course is over. You control it. It’s your blog and website.  LCC simply hosts it as part of our scholarly commons. But it’s you. You can post whatever you want on whatever topic you want (subject to a very few limitations like legality, no ecommerce, and suitable for work/school).
  3. Digital Identity and Portfolio.  One reason LCC is experimenting and creating this voice.openlcc.net scholarly commons of blogs/websites for students is because it is increasingly important that students, graduates, and professionals have a “digital identity” that they control on the Web. This voice.openlcc.net blog/website of yours is your site.  It helps establish who you are on the Web. Google will eventually find it. It becomes a digital portfolio of who you are as  professional or scholar.  If you later you don’t like the LCC hosting, your blog/website is a WordPress site which means it can be easily be exported and transferred to just about any webhosting firm in the world. It’s your data.  I’ll give a brief example of why this permanent digital identity might matter to you.  A student from a few years ago had a student blog for this course and wrote his major project on his blog.  A couple years later after the course, this student had transferred to four-year school. He had an opportunity for a scholarship at that school but needed an example of his “scholarly work”.  No problem. He just gave them the URL address of his blog post where he had done his course project. Oh, by the way, he got the scholarship.

How Do the Student Blogs & the Course Hub Work Together?

Our conversation, the talking to each other and replying/responding, takes place on the course hub site.  But sometimes, especially later in the course, you’ll have need to make longer, more in depth posts. Instead of commenting on something else, you’ll be wanting to make a statement of your own with research support or images/videos.  You’ll do that writing on your blog/website and publish it there. If you simply check a “category” box to categorize your post on your own site as ECON260 (there’s instructions), your post will be not only be published on your site, but the course hub site will automatically find it, make a copy from your site, and post that copy into the course hub with a link back to your site.  All that happens auto-magically in the background. That way you publish on your site but other students get to see/notified of what you wrote.

How to Get Started

To get started, see the How To Use Your Blog-Website page. It can also be found in the menu bar under the How To tab.




How the Course Works

This course is an effort at open education. What’s open education? Kris Shaffer at University of Mary Washington explains by quoting Jesse Stommel:


Jesse writes that “A Critical Digital Pedagogy demands that open and networked educational environments must not be merely repositories of content. They must be platforms for engaging students and teachers as full agents of their own learning.” He offers four broad things that characterize this pedagogy. It…

  • centers its practice on community and collaboration;
  • must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to reimagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries;
  • will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather together a cacophony of voices;
  • must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.

In practical terms it means this is what we’re going to do. There are 4 things we’ll do.

  1. Weekly readings and discussion on this website. Each week we will engage in some new topic(s), share some readings, read them, think about them, and respond on this website. I hope we also engage each other in discussion by replying. I will post some required readings and some suggested readings. Most of them will be articles on the Web. I expect all students each week to read them and then:
    • I will generally post links to new readings by late on Thursdays.  I may also post some additional stuff during the week – especially if I see something interesting in my own social media feeds.
    • read
    • think about it.
    • post whatever strikes you as you do the readings. I do not have specific questions I want you to ask. There is no formula or required format for posts. Post what hits you. It could be “I didn’t know that..”. It could be “I don’t understand this graph or this concept..”. It could be “this is what I think: this author is right/wrong/deranged/close-but-not-quite”.  You’re smart. You know things. When you read, you make mental connections between the new stuff and what you know. Share it with us. How many posts are required?  I don’t know. It depends on what you say. Don’t feel limited.
    • read the others’ postings of the others and reply if you it strikes you. Think of this website as a social media site devoted to an intelligent discussion of economic system issues -except we’ll be civil and respectful (something Twitter and Facebook don’t always manage!).
    • repeat the following week.  In general it’s best to try to post your thoughts and replies before each Thursday.  I will usually do “grading” on Thursdays.
  2. Own Blogs & In-depth Posts.  You will be getting your own blog (website)  on OpenLCC.net. This is a new LCC provided service that provides personal scholarly websites to students. It will be your site. You can write whatever you want. You can write your thoughts on how snow is boring or you love Thanksgiving dinner or how geology is your favorite course (go ahead, make me cry 😉 ).  But I expect you to write at least four in-depth articles or posts that involve more research and thought than what we do on this weekly discussion site. One of those in-depth posts will be your research project for this course. You’ve got flexibility on topic and timing on these four posts. At least three in-depth posts, including the research project post must be complete by April 27, no later. Personally, I suggest that you should think of putting your first in-depth post up by the time we start back after spring break.  Please do yourself a huge favor and don’t procrastinate all of them to the very end.  Feel free to discuss the ideas you are going to write about in your in-depth post on the weekly discussion site and/or with me.
  3. Research Project.  You will do a long-form in-depth post on your own blog.  Think of this as a research paper/project only in a web-blog format. You will need to read at least one popular book on your topic, use at least one data-analysis website for data, and at least two other web articles as sources.  This will be public. I want it to be the kind of article or essay that you can be really proud of after and, since it’s on the public web, you can show it off.  But I also want it to be your voice, your contribution to the discussion.
  4. Final Exam:  Final exam will consist of two parts: a reflective in-depth post on your blog and a series of short questions based on the information in the other students’ research projects.

One last thought: Whenever there’s a new teaching technique or approach in class, some students get nervous. “What about my grade?” they ask.  Don’t get anxious. First, I’m kind of a grades-skeptic. I think grades as some kind of measurement of learning is pretty much bogus. There’s huge statistical, measurement, and epistemological problems with grades.  Here’s what I ask. Do the work. Give it a good effort and let yourself enjoy the learning aspect. Learning really is fun if we don’t let the grades get in the way, in my opinion. Make mental connections. Put your own thoughts together. Find your own voice. Do that and you’ll be just fine on grades. Trust me.  I’m mostly “grading” whether you’re doing the work.  Your posts are evidence that you’re doing the mental work.