Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

The Great Digital Divide: Using Popular Media to Teach Economics

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

The Great Digital Divide: Using Popular Media to Teach Economics

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The research on economic education in the past decade has provided economic educators with many innovative and diverse pedagogical methods. Becker and Watts (1996) found that the median economist spent about 83% of class time lecturing, leaving little time to incorporate alternative pedagogy. In a more recent paper, Watts and Schaur (2011) find that the median economist still spends about 83% of class time lecturing, although the average time lecturing fell from 73% to 65%, suggesting that there is a movement--albeit slowly--towards incorporating alternative teaching methods such as cooperative learning, flipped classrooms, and classroom experiments, among many others. One such innovation, and the focus of this study, is the use of popular media in the economics classroom. Economics educators have suggested that the use of popular media, especially television shows, movies and music, may help students learn economics better by connecting concepts to something with which students already have a frame of reference (Sexton, 2006; Mateer and Li, 2008; Gillis and Hall, 2010; Mateer, Ghent, and Stone, 2011; Al-Bahrani and Patel, 2015; Hall and Lawson, 2008).

The pedagogy tool of using popular media in economics classrooms is based on an assumption that students are familiar with the television shows and music that instructors use. However, we are not aware of any studies that formally survey students on their preferences. Therefore, we conduct a study across three institutions to gauge student preferences and match them with the resources currently available. We find that a "divide" exists between what instructors use and what is currently popular with students.

While economic educators have been somewhat flexible in trying new teaching methods, they may not be making the connection with the students based on the differences in what is considered "popular." Future students are digital natives; that is, they have always lived in a "connected" world. MTV is calling these generations "The Founders"--a group that do not know a time before being consistently plugged in (Sanburn, 2015).This makes popular media a potentially useful resource to engage students in economics classrooms. In this paper, we examine student preferences to see if they align with the television and music resources currently available to economics educators.

There are currently several resources available for economics educators to use when incorporating television shows and music into their courses. Instructors are able to choose from shows like The Simpsons (Luccasen and Thomas, 2010), The Office (Kuester et al., 2014), The Big Bang Theory (Tierney et al., 2016), Seinfeld (Ghent, Grant, and Lesica, 2011), ESPN 30 for 30 (Al-Bahrani & Patel, 2015), Shark Tank (Acchiardo et al., 2016) and many others that are currently in the developmental stage. Often the claim is that these shows are popular amongst students and therefore can be leveraged for educational purposes. Our findings demonstrate that many of the most popular television shows among students do not currently have an accompanying resource devoted to illustrating the economics within the show. Thus, there is a so-called "divide" between what economics educators tend to choose to use to enhance their courses and what students actually watch regularly. While we cannot say with certainty, this divide is likely due to a number of plausible reasons, including differences in age, gender, tastes/preferences, and availability of media. In highlighting the divide, we hope to provide instructors with an extra resource to enhance their courses. Although we are aware that the popularity of the shows will continue to evolve over time, the purpose of the paper is to determine if there is currently a divide between faculty and student preferences. Our survey indicates there is a difference between the resources faculty currently have available and what students actually watch regularly; therefore, faculty need to think deliberately in terms of what shows/music to invest their time in if they wish to incorporate these resources into their courses. …

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