Stock Market Game video

Here’s a video that explains the Stock Market Game, sponsored in our area by Shenandoah Valley Economic Education, Inc. I’m involved in this through the Center for Economic Education, which provides support and training for area teachers playing the game.

Learning in the wider world

Again this fall I’m teaching the senior capstone course in economics (ECON 488). Especially in the second half, a major objective of the course is to help students — soon to be graduates — to adjust to learning in the world beyond JMU. Here are some of the ways that learning is different “out there”:

  • It’s on-demand and just-in-time. For most of students’ careers, they learn things because they are in a curriculum that is to be covered. In the wider world, they learn specific bits of knowledge (on-demand) just before they need to use them (just-in-time).
  • It’s less technical and more technical at the same time. It’s less technical, in that graduates are rarely called onto repeat the most difficult calculations from the economics major. It’s more technical, in that graduates have to become experts in the narrow areas of knowledge most important to their clients and employers.
  • It’s more self-initiated and less prescribed. The best of former economics majors will go out and learn something because it helps them do their jobs, not because it’s required.
  • It no longer depends on grades and it no longer generates grades. Grades were, to many students, the sole output of their undergraduate education — the only thing that was regularly measured. After initial job placement, undergraduate grades becomes less and less relevant. This is both good news and bad news: bad news for students who had a high gradepoint and hoped to coast on that, good news for students who always felt their grades understated what they had truly learned. For this group, there’s now the opportunity to go out and achieve, proving those grades wrong — and there are many people who accomplish just that.

Have you met Monique?

The mysterious MoniqueMonique is the mysterious secret agent who recruits you to help others with their personal finances in “Gen i Revolution,” a free online game. I was part of a three-person content development team for this game. We worked with the programmers (inside a tight budget, by computer gaming standards) to produce and deploy the game for the Council for Economic Education. If you’d like to play, send me email and I’ll send you a free code to get started.

Reflected happiness at a JMU plaza


For years, waves of James Madison University students have walked back and forth on the plaza that connects the Chandler, Shorts and Eagle dormitories. Sometimes they were dragging, as on the way to 8 a.m. classes in the January cold. Other times they were jubilant, as when they finished their final exams and were free for Christmas break. The plaza was a gathering place, too, and even the home of fundraising seesaw marathons.

From my office on the fourth floor of Zane Showker Hall, overlooking that plaza, I have seen the students come and go. Some time ago as I was looking down, I realized that I had been given a gift. I like to call this gift “reflected happiness,” – feeling happier just because I was in the presence of happy people, even from four floors above.

This summer that plaza has been totally rebuilt. Many in the JMU community liked that plaza, and when the renovation was announced we were not sure we favored the idea of changing it. Students who had lived in those dorms remembered talking with friends or shooting hoops out on the plaza. It’s especially nice on warm spring evenings.

But now that the construction is complete, I can say that the designers and landscapers have done something almost magical. Instead of simply replacing the concrete, they made a design that combines grassy areas, tasteful plantings, and interesting curves around a circular forum area in the middle.

The old design did not have many natural gathering places, I now realize. A lot of it was just a big rectangle of concrete. The new design has benches and swings and many little nooks that seem to invite reflection and conversation.

The old plaza could be reached by someone in a wheelchair, but it wasn’t easy. The new design took out steps and a narrow ramp to Chandler Hall, replacing both structures with a broad sweeping ramp that’s pleasant walking for anyone but especially easy for wheelchairs.

There has been a great deal of construction at JMU this summer. As the students return, the most noted project will be the stadium expansion – and rightly so, because it changes the skyline of the campus and promises good things for the football program. But to me, the Chandler-Eagle-Shorts plaza project is just as impressive in its own way. From four floors up, I’m looking forward to a lot of reflected happiness from that plaza.

Return to econometrics

This fall I’ll be teaching econometrics again, and I’m excited. No, seriously. Econometrics has been very, very good to me, to echo a famous line from baseball. “Econometrics” comes from root words meaning “economic measurement,” and that’s what we do in econometrics. Here’s an example: There are lots of theories about discrimination, but how can you test for its existence and measure its effects? By using econometrics, of course!

For me personally, econometrics has opened a lot of doors. I look forward to helping my students see the possibilities. This summer I’ve been revising examples, setting up the new software, and getting set to go. Here’s the textbook we’ll be using:

A.H. Studenmund
Using Econometrics: A Practical Guide
Boston: Pearson Addison-Wesley
6th edition 2011
ISBN 978-0131367739