Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Economics of Seinfeld

What a great idea! A few economics professors in the midwest have found an entertaining way to teach economics.

The Economics of Seinfeld uses clips from the old TV show to illustrate economics concepts like incentives, fixed and variable costs, margins, altruism, cost-benefit analysis, game theory, compensating differentials… you name it! Whatever the economics concept, there's a Seinfeld example for you.

The site was created by Linda Ghent, Chair of the department of Economics at Eastern Illinois University along with 2 other economics professors, Alan Grant, Associate Professor of Economics at Baker University, and George Lesica, Assistant to the Dean of the College of Sciences at Eastern Illinois U. It looks fairly new. There's not much in their blog, yet, but there's plenty of stuff ready to use.

The clips tend to be very short. (The one on compensating differentials is only 39 seconds, for example). The index page lists every economics concept you can think of and provides links to the Seinfeld clips that relate to each of them. Their search tool is excellent. I sent news of this site to a few economics professors I know and one responded with "I wonder where the soup Nazi fits in?" I entered "soup nazi" into their search box and immediately found the answer: "barriers to entry" and "monopoly power."

They also provide an embed code should you want to use it online. All of these are made available through a group called Critical Commons which describes itself as "a non-profit advocacy coalition that supports the use of media for scholarship, research and teaching, providing resources, information and tools for scholars, students, educators and creators." The site has loads of great information about Fair Use as it relates to education. (More about that in a future post).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Synchronous & Asynchronous Communication

Posted By Joseph Nyachae
Computer Mediated Communication tools are separated into two key categories: synchronous and asynchronous communications. In asynchronous communication, the learners’ are not mandated to have an instantaneous communication or collaboration because communication is neither time nor location dependent. Users in such a system are able to communicate in an online learning environment using email and threaded discussion boards. This medium works best for learners who have several other commitments such as work and family. The asynchronous nature of this medium allows the learners to log on to the course at any time to contribute to the discussions, respond to messages from peers or instructors. It also allows the students more time to reflect and refine their contributions before posting them to the rest of the class compared to synchronous communication. Synchronous communications requires all the learners to connect at the same time. Synchronous communication involves media such as chat and video conferencing. The synchronous nature of this medium allows the learners to communicate in real time hence avoiding frustrations and feelings of isolation. Just like most technologies, it is important to establish whether synchronous or asynchronous learning is more suitable depending on the desired learning outcomes. According to Hrastinski (2008), it imperative to understand when, why, and how to use asynchronous vs. synchronous communication as opposed to determining which is better.

The table below summarizes when, why, and how to use asynchronous versus synchronous communication

Adopted from Hrastinski, S. (2008)

Hrastinski, S. (2008). Asynchronous and synchronous learning.  Educause Quarterly, 31(4).