Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pedagogical Blogging

In a previous post, I recommended that junior faculty avoid activities that distract them from research, such as blogging. Here is an alternative point of view:

Dear Professor Mankiw,

I am a second-year assistant professor at the United States Naval Academy (I finished my Phd at UC Davis, summer '05), and regular reader of your blog and thought I might offer a slightly different perspective on your post: "Advice for Junior Faculty"--since many of your blog readers may be new faculty such as myself: at a school that places a lot of emphasis on teaching, but we still still need to publish in peer-reviewed journals to get promoted.

I decided to set up a blog this semester for my senior level class on monetary policy in order to foster class participation (and get the students to read the news, hopefully). I post a couple times a week (in the style of your blog and marginalrevolution.com) and then ask/require the students to respond to the posts. Their comments go towards participation points in the overall grade.

In this setting the benefits of a blog may outweigh the costs:


*A class blog is a way of connecting with students and providing a different way for them to participate in the course. This hopefully makes the course a more enjoyable experience for both teacher and student.

*A blog is a way to provide "innovative" technology into the course content; being online is a regular part of today's college student's lifestyle--this exploits that. Frankly, at a teaching school such as USNA (or comparable places, say, liberal arts colleges with around 5000 students or less), using a "fresh" teaching approach will be valued more, ceteris paribus, during tenure review than for those at a research school.

Finally, the costs are small if:

i) You post only a couple of times a week and keep the posts short (I also generally go with short articles on cnn.com).

ii) Your classes are small. I have approximately a total of 50 students across three classes this semester.

Lastly let me note blogs such as yours and marginalrevolution.com provide positive externalities for those of us at teaching schools. I can check them and then alert my students to the "day's headlines." If you're interested, here is the link.

Thanks for your time,
Ryan Brady