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Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!):

A Less-is-More Approach to Teaching with Superexamples

Jim Hornsten Northwestern University j-hornsten@northwestern.edu

We hope using anecdotes (e.g., examples from recent

articles)

makes

our courses more accessible,

interesting, and up-to-date, without making them feel superficial, disjointed, or ephemeral. In this session we consider developing a few detailed “superexamples” that one can employ like a Swiss

army knife to teach multiple topics both within and

across

courses

perhaps

through themed lectures,

homework, or exams. For instance, the market for

drones

naturally

involves

[a

wide

variety

of 1

Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!):

A Less-is-More Approach to Teaching with Superexamples

Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!): A Less-is-More Approach to Teaching with Superexamples Why Do
Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!): A Less-is-More Approach to Teaching with Superexamples Why Do
Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!): A Less-is-More Approach to Teaching with Superexamples Why Do

Why Do We Teach Using Examples? What’s the Ideal # of Examples? The Educational Input Mix One Idea for Many Topics Mapping to Mankiw’s Micro Principles Themed Homework or Exams Superexamples

Google

Uber

Drones

One Idea for Several Courses

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Why are we here?

(At a national economics teaching conference)

Thinking about an educational production function! How can I better attain my teaching objectives? My motivations could be

Improve student results (e.g., understanding, retention, fun, TUCE scores)

Improve teaching results

Have more fun Cut prep time/costs Inject novelty & variety into familiar material Establish credibility Build rapport Challenge self to learn a new “technology”

"Output"=f["Inputs"] =f[flip classroom, use clickers, create Facebook page, run experiment, magic tricks, tinker with grading scheme, assign group project, employ think-pair-share, teach with Seinfeld or Harry Potter or clowns theme, adopt Socratic method, etc.]

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4 Ways of Communicating Most ECON Ideas

Intuition

4 Ways of Communicating Most ECON Ideas • Intuition  Explain it to your roommate, parent,

Explain it to your roommate, parent, or stranger at a party

Anecdotes (Examples)

The singular of data is anecdote – G. Stigler

Find it in The Economist, NY Times, WSJ, Wired, Cosmo, Sports Illustrated

Math (Theory)

Plug numbers into a formula; find a first-order condition

Graphs (Theory)

Find peak of a hill-shaped profit function

GOAL: Teach students to fluently translate between these forms, as if they were translating Thank you into other languages [Gracias, Merci, Danke, Grazie, Arigato, Diakuju]

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Teaching With Examples: Why Do This?

This is a weak list … What am I missing? PROS

Accessible Interesting Up-to-date Fun to do online searches to “prep for class”

CONS

Superficial Disjointed Ephemeral Costly to do each term

Teaching With Examples: Why Do This? • • This is a weak list … What am

There are a lot of examples out there competing for our attention, so how do we narrow them down?

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How Many Examples to Employ? A Spectrum of Possibilities N = # of Examples N= N

How Many Examples to

Employ?

A Spectrum of Possibilities

N = # of Examples

N=

N

N

N

0

How Many Examples to Employ? A Spectrum of Possibilities N = # of Examples N= N

small

large Probably Too Many; Redundant or Overwhelming; No Time Left to Cover Theory

How Many Examples to Employ? A Spectrum of Possibilities N = # of Examples N= N
How Many Examples to Employ? A Spectrum of Possibilities N = # of Examples N= N

Goldilock s Level in a Laffer Curvian Way

How Many Examples to Employ? A Spectrum of Possibilities N = # of Examples N= N

Probably Too Few; Unclear if ECON Applies to Real World; Maybe Professor Doesn’t Really Know This Topic

It’s probably not a bad idea to think about this occasionally, especially when preparing a

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IsoQuants: Q Widgets = f[Labor, Capital]

min TC[L,K] wL rK subject to Q Target f[L,K]

L,K

Capital,

K

(Robots)

IsoQuants: Q = f[Labor, Capital] min TC [ L , K ]  wL  rK
IsoQuants: Q = f[Labor, Capital] min TC [ L , K ]  wL  rK
IsoQuants: Q = f[Labor, Capital] min TC [ L , K ]  wL  rK

where L=labor, K=capital, w=wage, r=rental rate, and

Q Target output target

Perfect Complements: Q = min {L, K}

Imperfect Substitutes: Q = LK

Perfect Substitutes: Q = L + K

Labor,

L

(Humans)

IsoQuants: Q Education = f[Examples, Theory]

Theory,

T

(Graphs

Let’s replace (L,K) with (E,T) and widgets with educational outputs
Let’s replace (L,K) with (E,T) and
widgets with educational outputs

& Math)

IsoQuants: Q = f[Examples, Theory] Theory, T (Graphs Let’s replace (L,K) with (E,T) and widgets with
IsoQuants: Q = f[Examples, Theory] Theory, T (Graphs Let’s replace (L,K) with (E,T) and widgets with

Perfect Complements: Q = min {E, T}

Imperfect Substitutes: Q = ET

Perfect Substitutes: Q = E + T

Examples,

E

(anecdotes

& articles)

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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, Universal/Amblin)

Perspective, IsoUtility: U Education = f[Examples, Theory]

Theory,

Prefer a Heavy Dose of E:

U =

E 0.8 T 0.2

T

(Graphs

Bliss Point:

U = 100 – (E – 3) 2 – (T – 3) 2

& Math) Theory is Bad: U = E – T
& Math)
Theory is Bad:
U = E – T

Examples,

E

(anecdotes

& articles)

How do our students feel about our

How do our students feel about our

mix of theory and examples?

mix of theory and examples?

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SUPEREXAMPLES: A Way to Kill 2 (or more!) Topical Birds with 1 Course Prepping Stone

Sometimes we want to show how ECON fits together in a cohesive way. It’s not just a collection of anecdotes. (Cf. behavioral )

End of Unit Review Wrap Up Course

Why do we typically teach micro principles around the model of perfect competition … and then venture off into monopoly, oligopoly, externalities, public goods, moral hazard, adverse selection, transactions costs? Nice to set up benchmark, and then do comparative statics.

“The View From 30,000 Feet”

Table of Contents for Greg Mankiw’s

Microeconomics

1.

Ten Principles

  • 2. Thinking Like Economists

  • 3. Gains From Trade

  • 4. Mkt Forces of S&D

  • 5. Elasticity

  • 6. Govt Policies and S&D

  • 7. Mkt Efficiency

  • 8. Taxation

  • 9. International Trade

    • 10. Externalities

    • 11. Public Goods & Commons

    • 12. Tax Systems

    • 13. Production Costs

    • 14. Competitive Firms

    • 15. Monopoly

    • 16. Monopolistic Competition

    • 17. Oligopoly

    • 18. Factor Markets

    • 19. Discrimination

      • 20. Income Inequality

      • 21. Consumer Choice

      • 22. Micro Frontiers

Challenge: Pick a topic, and try to Challenge: Pick a topic, and try to link it
Challenge: Pick a topic, and try to
Challenge: Pick a topic, and try to
link it wo each of these chapters
link it wo each of these chapters

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Application: Themed Exams

In Micro Principles I’ve used smartphones, beef, summer, umbrellas, tofu and space

PROS:

Easy to keep track of – when students come to office hours it’s a lot easier to refer to the chicken soup exam than Practice Exam #1, the Fall 2014 Midterm Exam, or F14ME

Can be fun if students wonder what the theme will be

CONS:

May seem strained (desperate) Adds constraints, making it a bit tougher to write exam

Makes the exam a bit longer as you add words to place into context

E.g., Pharmaceutical Patent-Themed Homework

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E.g., A Space-Themed Micro Principles Exam

GOAL: Cover Unit 1 Material with Common Theme TASK: Find space-y topics to test S&D shifters, etc.

S&D shifters in the mkt for wool blankets, used by stargazers. [Weak] Cross price elasticity of demand using P fleece and Q wool Minimum wage & occupational licensing in futuristic, competitive labor mkt for Vomit Comet pilots (weightlessness from flying in parabolic arcs) Public Good: Near-Earth Object Program to track comets & asteroids Externalities: City Lights reduce crime, but obscure meteor shower viewing Gravity as an artificially scarce good; P>MC creates DWL Subsidizing Armageddon-style space heroes SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s income taxes

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Links to Microeconomic Topics

  • 1. New Year’s Eve demand for rides; WTP more?

  • 2. Uber drivers use own cars; costly to supply rides

  • 3. Equilibrium price may be high; surge (peak-load) pricing

  • 4. Voluntary, mutually beneficial trades

  • 5. PED: Do many ppl switch from traditional cabs to Uber b/c P low

  • 6. Taxicab medallions & occupational licensing: govt policies

  • 7. Welfare analysis: CS = WTP – P paid , DWL from scarce cabs

  • 8. ASIDE: An interesting topic; current freshlings enamored by sharing economy possibilities (rent/share rather than own; live at home and pay

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UBER: Link to Sharing Economy

UBER: Link to Sharing Economy 16
UBER: Link to Sharing Economy 16
UBER: Link to Sharing Economy 16
UBER: Link to Sharing Economy 16
UBER: Link to Sharing Economy 16
UBER: Link to Sharing Economy 16

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Links to Microeconomic Topics

  • 1. Antitrust troubles in Europe

  • 2. Online search

  • 3. Big player in M&A; often averages one acquisition per week

  • 4. Hardware:

  • 5. OS: Android

  • 6. Patents: Motorola

  • 7. High Tech Gadgets: Google Glass, driverless car

  • 8. Censorship

  • 9. Prioritized search results

Who’ll

Win?
Win?
Who’ll Win? 18
Who’ll Win? 18

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Who’ll Win? 18
Who’ll Win? 18

Links to Microeconomic Topics

  • 1. Military spending

  • 2. Privacy & noise externalities

  • 3. Cool, new 3-D selfies

  • 4. Shd FAA keep them away from airports?

  • 5. Shd another regulator keep them from spying on

me?

The market for drones naturally involves civil aviation regulation, airspace property rights, privacy and noise externalities, public goods (Samuelson’s rule, taxes, voting, bureaucracy), delivering goods to soldiers or Amazon customers way off the beaten path, and defense contract bidding, so focusing on drones could be a cost- effective way to prepare simultaneously for a

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DRONES: Link to Automation: Replacing L with K

DRONES: Link to Automation: Replacing L with K When does it make economic sense to use/send
DRONES: Link to Automation: Replacing L with K When does it make economic sense to use/send

When does it make economic sense to use/send a machine instead of a (wo)man?

DRONES: Link to Automation: Replacing L with K When does it make economic sense to use/send
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SUPEREXAMPLES: A Way to Kill 2 (or more!) Course Prepping Birds with 1 Topical Research Stone

Assumptions:

In your educational production function, perhaps theories and examples are perfect complements

E.g., Q = min {T, E}, so you need one good example to clarify each theory

You have an endowment of theory inputs (i.e., you don’t need to prep the theory part of your lecture)

Examples get stale/dated/unfamiliar/unproductive, so you regularly need to buy new examples. Sorry, that’s life. It takes X hours to develop one new example Each lecture requires one example You teach three different courses

Goal: Spend less than 3X. Indeed, try to spend only

X.

Case: 3 Courses on Regulation, 1 Common Topic

ECON 101: Freshling Writing Seminar on “Economics

of Regulation”

Licensing cosmetologists, seatbelts & Peltzman Effect, recalling Buckyball magnets, texting while driving PSAs, online privacy & targeted ads, soda taxes to fight obesity, raw milk cheese bans, Too Big To Fail banks, soaring student debt, FDA & e-cigarettes, Facebook’s network effects, adverse selection & ACA, low-flow water fixtures, how to slow climate change

ECON 250: Business and Government (for non-

majors)

Case: 3 Courses on Regulation, 1 Common Topic • ECON 101: Freshling Writing Seminar on “Economics

Apply micro principles to study the proper role of government in the economy

ECON 350: Monopoly, Should we Competition discourage patent & Public Policy

(Jr/Sr majors)

assertion entities (“trolls”)?

Apply micro theory to study monopolization in the context of

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public utilities, intellectual property, cartels, predation,

Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!) What are some other current topics (markets, firms, products)

Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!)

Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!) What are some other current topics (markets, firms, products)
Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!) What are some other current topics (markets, firms, products)

What are some other current topics (markets, firms, products) that would allow you/me to exploit these efficiencies in course preparation?

Google, and Uber, and Drones (Oh, My!) What are some other current topics (markets, firms, products)

The Wizard of Oz (1939, MGM)

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