Economy, Society, Globalism: seeing economics in the everyday
- Students took a walk around their neighbourhood, applying ideas from a reading.
- They identified five sites that illustrated points about the economy. They took photographs of these sites, then created a Google Map and added these images with brief descriptions of what each site says about the economy.
- They shared their maps with tutors and classmates, via a Google Form.
- In the first face-to-face class, the maps were used as an icebreaker.
Before starting the subject Economy, Society, Globalism students often have a very mainstream and technical conceptualization of economics, where they associate the topic with macro-economic matters like GDP and Government Deficit and Government Budgets. We wanted students to start off the subject by looking at economics from a more accessible and personal level, with a week one activity that encouraged a grounded, localised understanding of the way that economics affects students and their communities.
- Elizabeth Humphrys (School of Communication, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences)
- Keith Heggart (Learning and Teaching Adjunct, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences)
What were the aims of the project?
In the reading that we use (Economics for Everyone by Jim Stanford), the author encourages readers to take a walk through their neighbourhoods and think about what they see and how that reflects the economy. We wanted to find a way for students to do this visually so they could begin to understand economic issues also as geographic issues, so we used UTSOnline and the Google Suite to make it a reality. In an extension to what Stanford describes, we then built in a way for students to share their findings with each other in order to stimulate discussion and critical thought. We achieved this second aim by using the completed Google maps as the ice breaker in the first face-to-face class.
Can you describe the project?
The first thing that we wanted to do was to create a seamless experience for students for their Week 1 activities. This meant that we wanted to present them with all of the activities that they were required to complete in one place, without requiring them to click from one section of UTS Online to another and then back again. We did this by creating a very simple HTML page which we uploaded to UTSOnline. Students could access this through a button on the main page of the subject, and when they did, they were presented with all the materials they needed to complete this Week 1 Activity. Student had to read (via an embedded PDF on the page) the chapter from Stanford. They then referred to a document about using Google Maps, and had a look at an exemplar map of Penrith, to show them what was required. Student then walked around their neighbourhood, identifying 5 sites that illustrated a point about the economy. They were required to take photographs (using their phone) of these sites, and when they returned from their walk, they created a Google Map and added these images along with a brief description of what that particular site says about the economy. The final stage was for students to share their map with the tutors and classmates, via a Google Form. The idea here was for students to be able to discuss, during Week 2 tutorials, how their map compared with other areas.
How did it go?
There were some teething problems. One of the first issues we ran into was caused by moving some of the resources around on the UTSOnline site, which meant some of the links were broken. Another issue was caused by students not using their UTS Google accounts when trying to create their maps, and instead trying to access the materials from their personal Google accounts. In hindsight, it’s probably likely that we need to make sure that students are aware of the fact that they have a UTS Google account, and they know how to use it.
Overall, though, the project was quite successful. More than 100 students created the maps and shared them with their fellow students and their tutors. The maps were from all over Sydney – Bankstown, Lakemba, the city and lots more. It was great to see the way that students tried to apply the reading in a practical way.
What did you learn?
There were a couple of key points that we’ll keep in mind in the future. The most important one would be the importance of having an exemplar map for students to look at. This is important because it showed students what success in this activity looked like – which might have been difficult to do if we only had listed the expected outcomes from creating the map. Another point to keep in mind was the importance of having the instructions and a minimum requirement very clearly set out for students to follow.
There were also some concerns that a portion of the students did not take Week 1 seriously because there was no face-to-face component. A recommendation Elizabeth will make to the next coordinator of this subject is that a similar but more sophisticated version of this task be used for the first assessment (still focused on the student’s local neighbourhood). In that case the Week 1 task be an early introduction to conceptualisation and technology, perhaps getting students into a short lecture on campus in Week 1, and then getting them to map various options around UTS. This suggestion has partly come out of how successful the Week 1 task is, but also a realisation that the first assessment in this subject will need to e altered for various reasons.
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