The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

The motivation for using this technology was two-fold. First we wanted to use a response technology that allowed greater functionality, specifically enabling textual narrative responses, especially for modules where developing students’ critical thinking skills was seen as fundamental; the clicker system which we use constrains us with a numeric key pad whereas mobile phones enable us to ask open questions. Secondly, the almost ubiquitous ownership of this technology by students suggested it would be useful to explore its potential.

As all our technologies develop and evolve there will be devices that enable all these functions; however the application to learning and the underlying pedagogy remains the same. An attractive feature of using this technology is that it is low cost: all the providers supply freely downloadable packages that allow for the managing of text messages in real time. Also, rapid developments in the mobile phone market have brought about changes in pricing structures where typically texts are now unlimited and free (addressing some of the earlier student concerns).

We have used the mobile phone technology within lectures to ask questions and prompt discussion, with both diagnostic intent and as a formative exercise for students. Other possibilities include using the device to enable students to ask the questions, which can then be addressed by the lecturer. One case study (Jones et al., 2009) focused on using mobile devices for both academic and personal development particularly during transition to HE, including administrative uses such as reminding students of upcoming deadlines as well as recent changes in lecture venues, cancellations, etc.

Example 1:

  • The Philosophy of Economics UG Level 1 (15 credit elective module)
  • Student numbers approx 100+
  • Economics, Economics and Politics as well as PPE students

The first part of the course introduces ideas from within the Philosophy of Science before focusing more specifically on methodological questions arising in economics. An early question, given to students for discussion (along with the mobile phone number to text in the response), was ‘What is science?’ In this case the answers were not viewed in real time but presented back in the following lecture; first by creating visual representations using a word cloud generator such as Wordle[1] as shown in Figure 8 and then as a table (into which the responses were pasted) as seen in Figure 9. The depth and length of responses as well as the lack of ‘text language’ was truly surprising, as was the student’s eagerness in participating in the activity. The responses fell conceptually into different categories which presented a basis for further discussion as well as reviewing and reflecting on ideas from the previous lectures. The follow-up lecture allowed for analysis and discussion of results and responses.

Figure 8: An example of a Wordle cloud

Figure 9: Student text responses to the question “What is science?”

Universally accepted rules that explain why and how things happen

I think it is the process of discoveries about the world and new findings, learning about how the world works and operates and the things within it, creating theories and laws etc.

The desire to know about the world following a strict methodological framework.

Science is about explaining.

Scientists try to find regularities, establish axioms, through observation and experimentation, in order to analyse, understate and predict.

Science is the process of gathering data in order to make sound analysis so as to be able to make predictions and facilitate decision making when faced with future problems

Science is the ability to falsify a statement / theory through empirical testing

A method where you can isolate and test variables. Scientific theory is without any bias or assumptions that are not founded on evidence.

Using observed and proved facts to try and gain a reliable theory that explains those facts.

Science is about explaining.

Scientists try to find regularities, establish axioms, through observation and experimentation, in order to analyse, understate and predict.Example 2:

  • The Business of Climate Change Level 3 UG (15 credit module)
  • 120 students (from across the Business School particularly Business Economists)
  • This course is assessed by final examination (70%) and written assignment 1500 words (30%)

The aim of this module is to provide students with the opportunity to study how the challenge of climate change can be addressed. At the midpoint of a two-hour introductory lecture students were asked for their ideas on strategies and policies to deal with climate change. We chose to do this before we started the next lectures on mitigation policy instruments in order for us to have some idea of the background to this group (of self-selecting students); also to encourage students to freely share ideas and perhaps be more innovative. We put the question ‘What suggestions do you have for addressing climate change?’ and then viewed the responses in real time which stimulated a lively discussion. We revisited these ideas later in the module, when students could consider them within conceptual frameworks they were developing. This also provided an opportunity for assessment as an assignment question. From a choice of five questions one included: ‘Choose one of the suggestions for reducing climate change risk, made in the first lecture, and explore its feasibility.’ Students were given a brief emphasising rigour and reasonableness, discouraging them from straying too far.

Table 2: Example of student suggestions for reducing climate change risk

Reduce deforestation, switch power production away from fossil fuels to renewable sources; subsidies for use of solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable sources such as less tax.

Make businesses liable for the pollution they create. Greener methods of production. Subsidising alternative energy sources.

Price carbon through cap and trade. Have a carbon neutral electricity grid. Incentivise firms for small-scale research and development. Invest in renewable energy.

  1. Carbon credits.
  2. Persuasive measures to encourage consumers to change their behaviour (financial incentives).
  3. R&D in new fuels. Huge investments for R&D into alternatives for both domestic users and business and incentives.

More government money in development of hybrid cars. Tighter restrictions on cars. More alternative transport initiatives like the virus bikes. Raised awareness of immediate issues (scare tactics). Enforced recycling. Solar panels should become more available and awareness raised. More emphasis on energy saving on a local level.

Encourage, climate change on the national syllabus. Encourage government investment in sustainability projects and research. Encourage corporations to reduce carbon footprint in more proactive ways, e.g. rooftop gardens on corporate buildings. Nuclear, solar, wind, wave power. Educate LEDC on more efficient farming methods, and cleaner power.

Tax for going over targets and subsides for below. More education/awareness. More effective use of renewable energy resources. Events such as days when everyone tries not to use electricity, unless it is essential.

Plants and grasses on roofs to absorb carbon emissions, greater incentives from government or businesses to share cars/provide shuttle buses, generate energy from the use of gym equipment, incentives to buy local produce to reduce food miles.

A general policy of education and economic encouragement; don’t just tell people their actions are bad and set the argument in an apocalyptic tone. Educate the public and encourage it to lead a more environmentally friendly existence instead of tax rises and new laws.

Nuclear power. Recycling compulsion. Limit on car size (smart cars). Hybrid car compulsion. Start taxing aviation fuel. Tax on carbon. Higher fuel duty. Ban tumble dryers. Wind farms. Stricter environmental regulations on industry in places like China. Better insulation.

  1. Carbon pricing including tradable pollution permits with exemptions for developing countries through to a certain date.
  2. Grants and subsidies to promote production and consumption of solar, hydrogen cars; ground heat source pumps, etc.
  3. Taxing high emitters.
  4. Educate the population as to the causes, likely consequences and it role in reducing emissions.
  5. Legislate against certain activity and introduce climate acts like the UK 2008 Act.

Carbon pricing – tariffs (re-sellable) perhaps different for developing countries. Government incentive schemes – grants and subsidies for example for solar panels, tax consumer for use of high-emission products. Education on the subject – causes, consequences and solutions. International agreements. Weighted allowances of CO2 emissions against developed countries to take into account the first world’s previous pollution and to allow for developing countries to gain economic growth.

Auction the right to own a car with set quota of licences a year. Double public transport investment and encourage cycling ‐ i.e. grade separate cycle paths. Demolish energy inefficient palaces/mansions/castles. Smaller abodes for less energy consumption. More apartments/urban density for shorter commutes.

International carbon markets, cut meat consumption, genetically modify crops to increase crop yields, educate children at a young age to lead low carbon lifestyles, more nuclear power plants, incentives against deforestation, higher CO2 caps for developed counties compared to developing countries, various reengineering strategies, invest lots of money in nuclear fusion

One of the key conclusions of both this chapter and of a large number of previous studies is the need to use a variety of technologies which complement each other. The use of mobile phones in the classroom has the advantage of opening up discussions in situations where most students would not otherwise participate. Students’ anonymity and the ability to have more time to think about the question encourages larger numbers of students to participate. Students tend to enjoy the interaction and the activity helps to maintain concentration and focus. Students particularly liked to see their responses in the context of other students. Initial student feedback on the use of SMS in the classroom suggested that most students were enthusiastic and their responses were very similar to those when asked to review use of the ARS. The students also stated that they benefited from the use of a variety of different systems and teaching methods.[2]


[2]There is increasing interest in many forms of ‘mobile-learning’ or ‘m-learning’ (i.e. using any type of mobile or handheld device), including research and debate on the value of ‘m-learning’ in developing countries where the proliferation of mobile technology is having a huge impact.