Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Curse Of The Engaged Student

Somehow, my last post tweaked the funny bone of George Siemens and as a result he was kind enough to direct some traffic my way from his blog, http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/. Thank you, George. In the process of finding the reference, I also saw his post on Digital Maoism, a critique of how everyone is reacting to Wikipedia (as distinct from a critique of Wikipedia itself) by Jaron Lanier published in Edge. I thought this was quite a good read, certainly thought provoking.

What do you do when you’ve read something that you feel was well done and made an interesting point, but to make the question slightly harder to answer, isn’t a blog post? I know it would add little value, at least in this one instance only, to simply reprise George Siemens’s post in my blog, because folks who regularly look at edu blogs are apt to find this info on George’s site. So I was thinking about sharing with an audience who wouldn’t find the information on their own, because they don’t read edu blogs, but who would have big benefit from reading the Lanier piece.

Regular readers of my blog will note that in early May during the last day of class I gave books away to my students (really just loaned the books) for summer reading and to get them to think about economics beyond my course, even if they wouldn’t take any more courses in economics, which they won’t. (In the main they’re engineering students who have finished their social science distribution requirements.) So it occurred to me to let them know about this this article and yesterday I sent them an email to that effect.

I don’t know how this has worked overall, but I had one student, for this post I’ll call her M., who seems to lap up everything I give her in the extra curricular area and (implicitly) keeps asking for more. The book she chose from my pile is Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis. I wouldn’t have chosen that for her. While it really is interesting on investment backing circa the early 1980’s, its’s also a bit raunchy and clearly written for a male audience. She loved it. She sent me email to that effect and said she debated the book with her dad at the dinner table and ultimately got him to read it.

Now it’s one day later from when I sent the class the reference about the Digital Maoism piece, and I should point out that while it wasn’t emphasized in the course we did talk about about the Iowa Electronic Markets and the idea that markets efficiently aggregate information, so the Lanier piece provided a good counterpoint to that, and lo and behold here is an email response from M. with the verbatim:

Wow....maybe I don't think about the things I encounter on adaily basis as
carefully as I should. This was an extremelyinteresting article. I
never considered the importance of alisted author, or really thought about the
validity of someof the sites I check for information. Thanks for
passingthis along! Hope you're having a great summer also! (By theway, my
little sister is reading Liar's Poker now, too.)

M.
I kind of knew she would respond to my email, but not so quickly and so appreciatively. I know she is an outlier as a student, but her enthusiasm has shifted the conversation for me. The issue is not the technology and how to teach with it. Instead, it’s what to read and what will keep the interest up. I hope some of you will help, because I’m tapped out.

2 comments:

Iain Liddell said...

I'm neither economist nor historian, but I'm in the midst of Building Jerusalem, by Tristram Hunt. The title refers to William Blake's poem, and the book charts the rise and fall of the Victorian city in Britain. A fascinating interweaving of social history, politics, religion and everything else, with pre-echoes of people like Thatcher and Blair clearly signalled, and a tale well told. The occasional reference to Dickens, Trollope and others will help to set the context of literary commentaries of the day. And anyone who can tempt people to (re)read GK Chesterton's fun little exercise, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, has my vote. I've just started on Part 3, and the rise of suburbia, so I can't judge the whole book. I suppose I've read the rise, and am just getting into the fall.

Your call, of course, but it seems to me that M (and others) might revel in the transnational leap. And if I can help out with particularly obscure British references, I'd be happy to oblige.

Lanny Arvan said...

Iain - thanks for the suggesting. I'll forward to M (and the rest of the class) and put on my own reading list as well, though I've got three books I'm part way through just now.