May 29 2007

Thoughts on integrating blogs into an AP Econ course

Published by at 10:37 am under AP Economics,Teaching

NOTE: You may wonder why I’ve got so much time to blog these days. Well, first of all I’m at an international school and have only about 83 students between my grade 9 Asian History, two AP Econs and one IB Econ, so I’ve caught up with all my grading for the semester. This may be my last post in a few days, however, since tomorrow and Thursday my 38 remaining students sit for their final exams which means, I’m guessing, about 10 hours of grading before next week. For now, however, I have a nice class-free day ahead of me, so away I blog!

As my list of other AP Economics teachers’ blogs grows, I continue to hear from teachers around the US and the world who are enthusiastic about integrating this tool into their courses. This is great! If econ professors are out there blogging for the world to read, imparting their knowledge and analysis of events to those interested, why shouldn’t we be doing the same, connecting world events to the often drab details of the AP Economics syllabus, adding relevancy and urgency to what we teach?! Anyway, I heard from another teacher today, Dave Prudente of Delaney HS in Maryland. He’s just joined the blogosphere, starting his own AP Econ blog. Dave sent me the following email, which got me thinking more about how I intend to make this site a useful part of my course next year:

Dear Mr. Welker,
It’s a pleasure to hear from you and it was quite a surprise. Ironically, I’ve just started my blog because I saw your blog last week. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while but have had little time to even contemplate it. I would appreciate it if you would link my blog to your site and I would like to do the same for your site (with your approval).

I would also love to hear about your experience using the blog this year. I’m trying to figure out how to integrate a blog with my classes next year. My problem is that I have five sections with about 145 students. I’m not sure I can keep up with administrating the site if my students really use it. Knowing my students, they’ll flood me with comments…which I suppose is the goal.

In addition, I have to complement you on your site. It’s like a central repository for all the econ material I’ve used and found on the Internet…great job Would love to hear back from you.

Best Regards,
Dave Prudente
Dulaney High School

I replied to Dave with some of the ideas I had for how to use this blog next year, and thought I might as well publish the email here since these ideas might be useful for other teachers out there who stumble upon this blog and are thinking of creating their own blogs for Econ classAplia Econ Blog

Hi Dave,

I’ve also been brainstormng the optimal way to integrate the blog into class next year. The other day I found the Aplia Econ blog (http://econblog.aplia.com/). While this is actually written by employees of Thompson Publishing, who produce the Aplia program, I do like the format of it, to some extent. It is mostly made up of links to articles relating to the content being covered in the econ course, followed by analysis by the author of the post. This is basically what I’ve tried to do this semester, but what the Aplia blog does in addition is include “discussion questions” which I have not up to this point done. Perhaps the “discussion questions” are a good way to start a comment string among students.

When I read other economists’ blogs, like Mankiw’s and others, readers get their own discussions going through comments. This is what I envision my students doing. It happened a few times this semester, on some posts back in April and early May, but the blog was still new and I had not built it into my teaching yet, which is my goal next year.

So, how do we keep track of who’s contributing? Like you said, with 145 students that sound like a full time job. A science teacher at my school who’s used blogs for a while had a good suggestion. Each week you assign one person from each class to go onto the blog and record the names of everyone who’s contributed a comment for that week (or unit if week is too often). Students whose names are not on the list given to you will not receive their “comment credit” for that week or unit. I thought this was a great idea of delegating responsibility among students, and took it to another level by creating a page on my class wiki where every week the student who’s job it is to monitor the blog can tabulate the contributions from that week. Check it out here: http://welkerswikinomics.wetpaint.com/page/Blog+Contributors

In a way I’m jealous that you have so many students to get involved with the blog. I’ll have around 30 myself, and my colleague Michelle will have another 30 or so, so we’ll have a total of 60 kids reading and commenting on the blog next year. In a way, the more the better, because more diverse views and opinions will be expressed. Man, how do you grade 135 econ tests, though? Don’t envy you there!

Anyway, I’m glad you find my blog useful. Every time I find another good blog or website I think can benefit my students (or other econ teachers) I post a link to the blog. I figure the more useful the site is, the more students will use it. Oh by the way, I have created “categories” into which I place each post I make. My goal is that by the end of next semester there will be a category for every section of the AP syllabus, so at any point I can tell students to go on the blog and comment on a post about “externalities” or “current account” or any other section from the syllabus. They can click on that category and find all the posts I’ve made that relate to that section of the syllabus and post their comments! Pretty cool!

Well I’ve already posted a link to your blog on my own under “AP Econ blogs” and would be honored if you’d do the same for mine! Again, the more connected teachers and students are to others around the world, the better! Keep in touch as you develop your blog, and hopefully we’ll all find ways to make this a useful part of our programs in the future!

Best of luck, Jason Welker

I am wondering how other teachers envision the use of blogs in their Econ courses. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please post your comments here!


About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

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