As I write this editorial I have just come back from the annual departmental contacts meeting with the Economics Network team at Bristol. No doubt there will be a full report of this meeting in the next Economics Network newsletter, but one observation that I would like to make right now is that, whatever technology you may have at your disposal, there is nothing better than face-to-face meetings where you can interact with other people in real time, getting instant responses and stimulating new ideas. Bulletin boards, blogs and similar devices can try to approximate this kind of setting (and there is an argument that shy people might actually be more willing to contribute in virtual rather than real space) but the easy transition that you get from informal chat to serious discussion and back in real meetings is hard to replicate online.
Although it was by no means the only non-economics topic of conversation at the meeting, football (or soccer if you are reading this in the USA!) was a central theme (one of the delegates even sneaked off early to go and watch the England B team lose to Belarus!). As well as this year’s World Cup, several of us wanted to talk about the success or otherwise of the teams that we support. Here I will indulge myself and abuse my editorial position to remind those that know, and inform those who haven't heard, that my team, Watford FC, beat Leeds United 3–0 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to secure a place in next year's Premiership. (There is an interest here too for American readers in that the scorer of the first goal and man of the match was Watford's Jay DeMerit who hails from Green Bay, Wisconsin.)
Actually, I can just about excuse myself for mentioning this in that Watford's remarkable young manager, Aidy Boothroyd, has gone on record recently about the importance of having a good "learning environment", no matter what it is you are trying to do. "I think any course is important, whether it's football or business," he said, commenting on the benefits that he has derived from working towards his UEFA Pro-Licence, which all managers need if they are to work in the Premier League.
"You learn from the teachers, but also the other people sitting on the course, you can learn from them too. We bounce ideas off each other," he added.
(Source: 'Boothroyd is buzzing', Russell Staves, TheFA.com, 5th February 2006).
Indeed one of the serious topics of conversation that we had at the Economics Network representatives' meeting was all about how one can create a positive learning environment for students, and the extent to which technology might help or hinder this effort. In CHEER we have had plenty of papers describing how simulations and exercises in Excel, Mathcad, WinEcon and other programs can provide an interactive learning experience for students (and we have a few more interesting examples in this issue). We have also had papers looking at the benefits of web-based learning for economics. But we haven’t really yet looked at how some of the newer technologies can contribute – things like blogs, vlogs (video blogs), podcasts, social software (shared bookmarks), wikis, etc. So if you are someone who has already experimented with these in your teaching why not think about writing a paper on it for CHEER? Remember you can submit your paper via the online web form.
Before I finish, while those of you who weren't at the meeting in Bristol can't share with us the delights of an evening boat trip around the harbour or the riverside restaurant meal that followed, you can check out some of the student films that we were shown on the theme "Why Study? Economics".
I am confident that you will also find something to enjoy and something to learn in this issue of CHEER. Thanks for your interest.