Thursday, June 19, 2008

Learning by Doing

Economics is about choices. But many students have not made some of the choices I teach them about. Some have only held one job. A few have never held a job. Many have never seen an involved production process.

I often mention pizza in the course. My first economics teacher used pizza often. Most students like it and can relate to decisions involving consumption of pizza. And, though few have made pizza, they understand the involved process by which it is made. But there is no substitute for "doing."

Every year I get more students who have played interactive online games in which they make lots of decisions--some production decisions and some trade decisions.

In the virtual world, they have owned their own business and have striven to get ahead in a competitive economy. These students should understand more about economic decision making than other students (other things being equal, such as real world experience).

I never found a good database, though. In particular, I find the students around me have all had high school economics. Few online gamers have had economics. There is some crossover, who have had economics and gaming experience, but not enough to clearly show in the data.

I know that other researchers have had such data problems before, but this is my first.

Professors who review my work have suggested that I use the online games in class to test their effects, but I am reluctant to do so. The games are addictive. I might turn half my class from decent students into excellent gamers, but terrible students.

Research is not pretty. Maybe you remember my poem on the subject.

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