Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vongsafood and Colorado

My friend Xan recently choreographed a food-centric celebration that was held in honor of my finding gainful employment at University of Colorado at Boulder.  Celebration Ham (my favorite kind of food) was the main course:


For more details on the feast, check out Xan's write-up on his food blog (here).  The only thing Xan left out of the post was that we also played three games of Dominion.  My other friend, Ryan, won all three games (maybe that's why Xan left that part out).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Teaching from an Outline

I have had a similar experience.

I discovered that when you are teaching something that you know very well, preparation only gets in the way. Improvisation 
1. Forces you to develop the ideas from scratch out loud which gives the students a glimpse at how to arrive at those ideas rather than just seeing them fully baked on an overhead.
2. Creates an element of danger that you naturally respond to by digging deeper and finding your way through.
3. Gets the students’ attention. They can tell you are doing it without a net and the drama of that hooks them in.
4. Makes it less like a lecture and more like a conversation.
Instead of calling it "improvisation," I call it "teaching from an outline."  This approach has pitfalls too.  Namely, students who need more structure tend to get lost in the mix.  I like to teach from an outline, but when I teach a new course, I combat this weakness by typing a set of notes to help add in the missing structure.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

An Assortment of Links

Here are links to interesting posts throughout the econo-blogosphere that I read over the past month (or so), along with some thoughts from me.  For a variety of reasons, the contents of these posts stuck with me.

  1. Mark Thoma: What's the Cost and Financial Value of College?  This was an interesting personal anecdote, but I was hoping for more systematic analysis of the question.  In particular, I was hoping for a more systematic response to the sort of criticisms raised by Catherine Rampell on the Economix blog a couple of years ago.
  2. Tyler Cowen with a hat tip to Lee Benham for finding a paper by Zhengye Chen (a UChicago undergraduate whom I do not know):  How much does graduate school matter for being an economics professor?  This is really about how important the "top" economics Ph.D. programs are to the economics profession.  A slight tangent: One feature of the economics profession that I have found  remarkable in my job market experience is how connected the profession is even though there is considerable geographic dispersion.  Conferences help connect people from across the country/globe, but the fact that most PhD instruction is concentrated among relatively few departments surely has something to do with this.
  3. Ryan Dorow: A Few Thoughts.  I particularly like his thoughts on teaching cursive in public schools.  In grade school, penmanship was my worst subject.  I adapted later on by adopting a hybrid system of print and cursive that allowed me to take notes quickly, and my penmanship never looked good.
  4. Steve Landsburg: Stress Test.  I thought this was a particularly insightful post on some research by Susan Godlonton.  I haven't yet read the paper, but this sounds like evidence of the effect of over-studying.  The key quote, "Those with guaranteed jobs spend, on average, an extra 53 minutes a day watching television (according to their diaries), and correspondingly less time studying the training manuals.  In other words, they're expending less effort (as you'd predict if you were [an] economist) but still doing better."
  5. John Cochrane: Food trucks and movie theaters.  I found Cochrane's description of the local news on regulatory hurdles to be particularly interesting because I live in Hyde Park.  Shortly before reading this post by Cochrane, I saw the movie theater in question, noticed that it was not open, and wondered why it was not showing movies.