Elizabeth Uva

How to engage your students with blogs

Blog Post created by Elizabeth Uva Employee on Jul 27, 2016

Originally posted by Felix Ling, M.A.

When students take a principles of economics course, one of the biggest benefits is that the tools they learn can help them better understand and make sense of what’s going on in the world around them. As Kelli Mayes-Denker discussed a few weeks ago, one way to help students make that connection is to use news articles in concert with classroom discussions and/or Sapling Learning’s discussion forums. Another way to accomplish this is via blogs, which have proved to be a fertile ground for economic commentary, covering many issues relevant to your class, such as inequality,externalities, monetary policy, and international trade.

Your Sapling Learning course can help introduce your students to these debates by adding a blog block to your right sidebar, which then displays to your students the headlines and links to the latest posts of the blog(s) chosen. Your Tech TA has probably already configured your course with a blog, especially if you are using a textbook whose author has an economics blog.

Here's how it works

rssBlockScreenshot.png

If your course does not currently have this block, or you wish to change the blog(s) presented by it, this is easy to do. Either ask your Tech TA, or follow these steps:

  1. Login to Sapling Learning, go to your course, and click “Turn editing on” in the upper right.
  2. If you already have a blog block and want to configure it by changing/adding the blogs displayed, scroll down to find that block. It may be titled “Remote News Feed” or “Economics Blogs,” or have the title of an economics blog along with five article links below it (see image to the right for an example).
  3. Then click either the “Add/Edit Feeds” link or the icon that looks like a pencil. Then skip to step 5.
  4. To add a new blog block, scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar. Below “Blocks” there is an “Add…” drop-down menu. Select “Remote RSS Feeds” in this menu. After a moment, your course page will reload.
  5. You should now see the “Remote News Feed” block. Below it, there will be a “Click here to configure this block…” link. Click on that.
  6. You should see two tabs. If the “Manage all my feeds” tab is in blue, click on the “Configure this block” tab to switch there.
  7. You’ll then see a list of various economics blogs with checkboxes. Simply check the ones you’d like, configure the title of the block if you’d like, and then click on the “Save changes” button.

In the list to choose from, we’ve included a number of economics blogs (as well as economic news sources) that should be of interest to principles students. We’ve tried to hit all the bases, but it’s certainly possible that we left out the particular blog you want to add. In future posts, I’ll discuss how you can add a new blog to this list as well as discuss the relative merits of various economics blogs in the context of a principles class, but in the meantime, please talk to your Tech TA, who will be more than happy to assist you.

As a blog tends to have a point of view, you can present a broader perspective to your students by including more than one blog. A bonus from this is that many bloggers often engage in debates with each other, and your students can even participate in the debate when the blogs have open comments. You can encourage such participation by offering credit to students for posting comments on blogs and/or in your Sapling Learning forum.

You will, of course, want to grade on the quality of the contribution. You can configure the Sapling Learning forum to be graded, and there are a number of options available, including allowing students to vote themselves on forum posts. For blog comments, you will most likely want to review the comment yourself and grade it on criteria such use of reason and logic, supporting arguments with evidence, and employing concepts learned in class.

You might even really pique interest by awarding a large amount of credit to any student who manages to get the blog’s author to respond to them but if you want this to be realistically achievable, you may want to extend your site’s blog offerings past the bigger names like Krugman, Mankiw, and Cowen to include some lesser-known blogs such as Economics Help, Econbrowser, EconLog, and Noahpinion.

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