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Exciting learning

From Crooked Timber I learnt of these University of California at Berkeley microeconomics lectures available in mp3 format. They are presented by Gordon Rausser and supplemented with lecture powerpoints, a course syllabus, problem sets, past exams – the lot.

I listened to a couple of them today- they are good. Rausser, an agricultural economist, makes abstract theory specific and he engages his audience – listening has pedagogic value.

This technology will revolutionalise teaching in universities over the next decade. Video casts are even better (the visual plus verbal package arrives as a single input) and presentations on purchased DVD will become more common.

Moreover, this trend is a positive not a threat. Instructors can learn to improve presentation skills and students gain access to the best brains in a discipline (there are 30 courses broadcast from Berkeley and a Special Events archive here could keep you thinking for a year).

The US takes much flack these days and, because it is an open society, is good at criticizing itself. But in many areas – economics for certain – US universities are leading the world in teaching and research.

Digression: I got diverted from writing this post by listening to a delightful poetry session by one of my favorite ‘beat’ poets, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who made a Lunch Poems presentation available in the Special Events archive. Ferlinghetti is 85 years old – he doesn’t sound it – these poems are about love, astronomy, politics and ecology. Much fun, much pathos and some San Franciscan beat nostalgia. I particularly enjoyed an engaging tribute to Ezra Pound and Ferlinghetti’s history of flight. Take 45 minutes and listen.

Speakers in the same series of Special Events include Daniel Ellsberg, Robert Reich, Bill Clinton and George Soros.

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