Welcome to the blogosphere: Connecting technology, economics, and literacy skills

Blogging has been called the new poetry of our time, but what is it? And why should teachers care about it? Created as a form of online journaling, blogs (short for "web logs") make online publishing easy for users with little technical knowledge, and it doesn't have to cost a thing. As Twitter CEO Dick Costolo pointed out: "The Internet destroyed most barriers to publication. Anybody can publish, and more importantly, you can publish whatever you want."

The ability for anyone to post comments, share links, and join a conversation about common interests has created millions of online communities and given rise to a new type of journalism, one in which everyone can have a voice, and news and opinions can be instantly transmitted to the world. Estimates of exactly how many blogs exist vary, but popular blog host WordPress reports there are more than 359 million readers viewing more than 2.5 billion pages per month. On an average day, WordPress users produce about 500,000 new posts and 400,000 new comments. The blog search engine Technorati chronicles more than 1.2 million blogs, dividing them into the categories of entertainment, business, sports, politics, autos, technology, the green movement, and science. (In case you were wondering, the most popular subcategory is info technology, at over 22,000 blogs, followed by the arts and small business.)

Of course, the blogosphere would not be complete without blogs about economics, and therein teachers can find a treasure trove of resources both for their own professional development and interest and for use with students in the classroom.

By using content blogs in the classroom, teachers can expose students to the economic way of thinking, the thoughts of well-known economists, and new ways to see the connection between economics and real life. Short blog posts make great bell ringers or discussion questions, and many students may find current events assignments even more interesting when they find them in cyberspace. As school districts across the country increasingly turn their focus to improving literacy and writing skills, blogging provides the opportunity for students not only to read, but to write as well.

Many teachers have embraced the new technology by creating class blogs, or by assigning students the task of creating one of their own. Students are able to encourage and motivate each other as they share their work online, collaborate with students at their school or across the globe, and improve their reading and writing skills in a way that makes learning fun. As a classroom management tool, blogs can also be used to communicate with parents and peers, showcase student work, upload calendars and assignments, and even provide tutoring. WordPress, blogger.com, and LiveJournal.com are just a few of the free web hosts available for those who want to get started on their own blogs, with education-centered hosts Edublogs and classblogmeister also providing numerous instructional ideas and tips on the dos and don'ts of classroom blogging.

Economics blogs

Below, in no particular order, is a sampling of economics blogs that might be of use to you in the classroom. Most blogs also have a "blog roll" feature on their site, and because blogs often cite each other, you are sure to find many more as you browse. There are quite a few economics blogs that have outstanding economic content, but the ones below were chosen primarily because they are student-friendly, keep the discussion at a level accessible to noneconomists, and provide good material for classroom use.

macroblog: macroblog.typepad.com

The Atlanta Fed's macroblog, authored by research director Dave Altig and other Atlanta Fed economists, is a prime source for news on macroeconomic developments, monetary policy, and economic conditions across the Southeast. While some of the content may not be suitable for beginning economics students, there are always numerous links and charts that would be helpful to supplement any classroom discussion of the topics.

Marginal Thoughts: marginalthoughts.chicagofedblogs.org

From the Chicago Fed's Cindy Ivanac-Lillig comes Marginal Thoughts, which blogs stories of interest in economics, particularly macroeconomics, as well as updates on new offerings from the Federal Reserve System. Many of the posts are thorough explanations of the macroeconomic topics that will certainly be covered by any economics teacher.

Economix: Explaining the Science Every Day Life: nytimes.com/upshot

This blog from the New York Times provides daily updates on a variety of news stories, particularly those showing how economics is really in almost everything. The blog also contains best of the web lists and colorful charts that make it very user friendly, with writers paying special attention to stories concerning labor economics and the economics of families.

Readers of the Economist and the Wall Street Journal may also appreciate their respective blogs, which read like articles from the publications.

Free Exchange (from The Economist): economist.com/blogs/freeexchange

Real Time Economics (from the Wall Street Journal): blogs.wsj.com/economics

Greg Ip: gregip.wordpress.com (Greg Ip, economics editor for The Economist, also has his own chart-filled blog on current economic issues.)

Greg Mankiw's Blog: gregmankiw.blogspot.com

Many economists have blog posts on the web. However, the discussion is often geared towards those with a broad economics background. Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, former chairman of George W. Bush' Council of Economic Advisors and author of a bestselling college economics textbook, writes his blog for students of economics. Sprinkled in with current events and economic news is advice on careers in economics and lots of posts that prove economics can be fun.

Carpe Diem: mjperry.blogspot.com

From Mark J. Perry, a professor at the University of Michigan's Flint campus, this blog journals current events with a generous amount of charts, links, statistics, videos, and interesting noneconomic posts, such as a link to a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. Recent posts include topics such as gender differences in who takes various AP exams, market solutions to the organ donation shortage, and updates on leading economic indicators.

Freakonomics: freakonomics.com

Fans of the book can't miss this blog, which continues to find the "hidden side of everything". There are usually a couple of posts a day, with the kind of thought provoking subjects you would expect: the question of whether sharks or big TVs should scare us more, if SuperBowl ads are underpriced, and if Jeremy Lin was overlooked and should get married.

MV=PQ: A Resource for Economic Educators: valuingeconomics.blogspot.com

This blog for economic educators by Mark Witte and Tim Shilling, updated a couple of times a month, has topical posts that often include video content, comics, and links to resources that you can use in the classroom, as well as teaching tips and a useful index that groups posts by topic.

Economics in Plain English: welkerswikinomics.com/blog

Economics teachers, particularly those who teach AP and IB economics, are probably already familiar with the resources shared by Jason Welker. This blog is filled with creative teaching ideas, discussion questions for many of the posts, and links to archived posts on all topics economic.

MoneyBox: slate.com/content/slate/blogs/moneybox.html

From the edgy Slate website, Matthew Yglesias' blog provides commentary on current events and the economics of everyday life in short, very readable posts that would serve well as classroom discussion starters.

Mikeroeconomics: mikeroeconomics.blogspot.com

AP economics teacher Mike Fladlien authors this blog, which contains daily reviews on economic topics complete with worksheets, cartoons, plenty of links, classroom teaching ideas, lecture notes, and even humor, such as the recent post shared from the AP Listserv remaking the famous "Who's on first?" Abbott and Costello routine into a comic discussion about how unemployment is measured.

By Lesley Mace, economic and financial education specialist, Jacksonville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
rch 29, 2012