Economics Network CHEER Virtual Edition

Volume 16, 2004


Guy Judge
Department of Economics, University of Portsmouth

As we come to the end of 2003 I must begin, I am afraid, with some very sad news. Holger Paetow, a member of the CHEER Editorial Board and a contributor to this Review on several occasions, died earlier this year. He had to go into hospital for an operation, which was successful. However, unfortunately he contracted pneumonia while he was in the hospital and, because his immune system was already very weak, he was unable to survive.

Holger worked at the Hamburg School of Economics and Political Science, and together with his friend and colleague Harald Mattfeldt, he wrote a note for CHEER on Computer Assisted Learning in Germany that appeared in the first issue of Volume 13 (1999).

Harald writes "Besides his outstanding economic knowledge Holger had versatile talents, constructed sailing boats and on many occasions pleased us with his virtuoso jazz-piano skills. And, as you will remember, he had this special English sense of humour which brings people into a smiling mood of reflection. Just some weeks ago we two discussed an article I was going to offer you for CHEER, 'Spreadsheeting time series again: the ARIMA case', and his remarks were always very helpful."

I'm sure that all CHEER readers will join me in sending our condolences to Holger's family, friends and colleagues.

Holger was one of the first contributors to CHEER from outside the United Kingdom and, I am delighted to say, this issue maintains the international reach that we have now achieved. Sven Flakowski, from Münster in Germany, illustrates the way that GAMS (General Algebraic Modelling System) can be used to represent and solve complex mathematical systems, using examples from natural resource economics.

Soumaya Tohamy from the United States reminds us that having fun and learning principles of economics need not be mutually exclusive. In his paper he describes how he got students to play a game based on the TV show Jeopardy but where the questions were based on economics principles. Using a machine (called 'The Judge') linked to handsets issued to the players, he was able to break the distinction between studying and playing.

A team of writers (Alina Zapalska et al.), also from the USA, describe and evaluate their experience of using WebCT for economics instruction in a distance-learning context. With the increasing use of WebCT and other Virtual Learning Environments in our universities and colleges, this paper contributes to our understanding of the benefits (and limitations) of using such tools. If I may highlight the final paragraph of their conclusion: 'We learned that much of distance education's success rested on encouraging learners to take an active role. Students need to learn to rely on themselves to access and master the use of technology. Careful, gradual introduction of Web-based technologies can guide and enhance learners' transition from a traditional model of pedagogy (in which their role is passive) to a model in which they take a full, active role in directing and achieving their own learning.'

Jocelyn Paine and Graham Stark, authors of the Virtual Economy, provide some guidance on the use of JavaScript to write Web-based models in the user's browser (as an alternative to the more familiar approach of running them on the Web server). They provide the source code for their BBC Budget Day tax calculator, which I think readers will find to be both a helpful illustration of the approach taken and a valuable tool in itself.

Finally Dimitrios Vougas gives us his review of Gauss 4.0 for Windows, which as many CHEER readers will know is a matrix programming language that is widely used in economics. It has a devoted band of users ('Gaussians') who are happy to share code for their applications and routines via their mailing list. This spirit of sharing and supporting each other is just the one that is espoused by Economics LTSN and the CALECO Group. I hope that reading this issue of CHEER may encourage more of you to write a paper or review and to submit it to me for inclusion in a future issue of CHEER.

NOTE: Early in 2004 the University of Portsmouth Business School (of which the Department of Economics is a part) is moving to a new building. Telephone and fax numbers, e-mail addresses and website URLs will remain the same as before, but our new postal address will be:

Department of Economics, University of Portsmouth Business School, Richmond Building, Portland Street, Portsmouth, PO1 3DE.

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