Tagged: teaching

Mathis Lohaus

International Relations & New Media

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In the current issue of Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen (ZIB), four authors discuss International Relations and New Media. To complement the series in ZIB, we’re running a so-called “blog carnival” that deals with the topic. Please head over to zoon politikon to check out what our colleagues have written [in German].

Here, I would like to address two of the four ZIB articles. The first was written by Ali, a former colleague in Berlin, who is a very experienced blogger (and Twitter power-user).

Under the heading “The Republic of Scholars 2.0” [PDF, in German], he argues that academic discourse in less formalized settings (such as social media and blogs) is the modern equivalent of the exchange of letters among scholars in the 17th century. Thus, German-speaking academics should overcome their shyness and catch up to their American and English colleagues, who seem to be more active users of new media. You can find a summary of Ali’s argument on his blog.

Based on conversations Ali and I had last year, I have argued in the same direction:

Does this lead to shared cultural understandings or at least mutual tolerance? Or does the web merely offer a cheap and anonymous way of reinforcing prejudices and being angry at each other? As any self-respecting political scientist will tell you: It depends…

Academic blogging is probably a “most likely” case of a positive effect. After all, we’re talking about a group of people who share similar ideas and practices, are used to cross-border exchange, and have a lot to gain from talking to each other. Yet I am also cautiously optimistic for non-academic political blogs that speak to a general audience. Whenever people are exposed to voices from outside of their well-established “filter bubble”, this is a great chance to learn and understand new perspectives. The internet certainly offers a huge potential in that direction.

The second article is called: “Teaching IR with New Media” [PDF, in English]. Kimo Quaintance (who has a blog, too) advocates the use of tools such as Wikis and blogs in teaching, but also cautions that not all optimistic assumptions about digital natives should be taken at face value:

While students may possess broad experience with e-mail, social networking and mobile devices, this doesn’t necessarily translate into the kind of information literacy or knowledge creation skills useful in academia.

Kimo has some very good, constructive points on how to foster information literacy, collaboration and outreach. I recommend you read the whole piece.

Here I just want to echo his words of caution. Take the following as me playing the devil’s advocate: Under some conditions, I think that the usage of “new media” in teaching can feel artificial or forced. Blog posts instead of essays, web sites instead of presentations? That might work, but we should be careful not to be too optimistic based on our own enthusiasm for the medium.

First, and most generally, if the core elements of the discipline are old-fashioned, teaching might not be the best venue to change things. If the #1 skill to master is writing formal papers, that should be what you (are forced to) practice. But of course this is subject to change and should not be used to kill all kinds of innovation, so I don’t want to over-stress this point.

Second, think about the value added. Model UN and other simulations are useful because they are inductive tools to experience dynamics that might be difficult to understand based on theory alone. Spending many hours to set up a mock NGO website might be interesting, but we have to be sure that it really adds something that could not be learned in a more efficient way. Also, depending on the class, the experience should not overshadow the contents: If after three days of mock conference / web design I only remember how much fun the negotiating / coding was, but nothing about policy issues, maybe that’s a problem…

Finally, how many people do you know that were born in the 1990s and maintain a blog (in the “traditional” sense)? It might be that blogging is completely passé by now and  we’re beating a dead horse. Maybe the easiest way out would be to ask people about their media habits and productivity tools first, see how much desire for change there is, and then make suggestions. Or let people experiment in groups?!

To wrap up: Ali and Kimo have made a number of very good points on the usefulness of new media in the exchange between scholars and for teaching, respectively. I highly recommend both pieces! Again, please consider looking at the other blog posts dealing with New Media and International Relations, and of course the rest of the ZIB issue.

Mathis Lohaus

Links: Long Research Papers in College; EU Citizenship for Sale

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ziamimi/11337400924/
Snow in Jerusalem 2013 (CC-by Miriam Mezzera via flickr)

Unlike Jerusalem, Berlin has not had its share of snow so far. Nonetheless, we’re taking a short Christmas / winter break. Enjoy the holiday season!

My last links for the year:

At the Duck of Minerva, Jon Western replies to a Slate article heralding the “end of the college essay”. He rightly points out that longer papers should not just be a means of testing, but part of the teaching curriculum.

I am a strong believer in the benefits of a lengthy research paper and I regularly assign them for my advanced seminars in international human rights, American foreign policy, and international security. (…)

I assign the paper as part of the course as an exercise to help students develop critical reasoning and thinking skills as well as to help improve their writing. As a result, the research paper assignment must be integrated into the overall course learning objectives, the course content, and the course schedule.

In German political science, Hausarbeiten (long research papers or essays) are an important part of undergraduate and graduate education. It’s nice to read some reflection on why that might be a good idea — and the thought of abolishing this form of testing (and more importantly: learning) seems odd to me. Then again, I am not (yet) required to grade all of these papers…

I am a big fan of Tim Hartford’s columns for the Financial Times, as I find it really hard not to keep reading after a charming opener like the one he used when talking about Cyprus, where EU citizenship is on sale for € 650,000:

That’s outrageous!

I know. There has to be a cheaper deal out there. You can get Portuguese residency with €500,000 in your pocket – and you don’t even have to give the money away. You just have to buy a pad in Portugal.

No, it’s outrageous that Malta is selling passports.

Oh. Well, granted, there is an issue here. Given EU rules on freedom of movement, Malta is in effect selling EU citizenship but pocketing the cash. But this sort of problem is in the nature of the EU. Member states will either have to tolerate it or develop some sort of centralised regulator – just as the European Central Bank regulates the shared currency. That has been a tremendous success.

At the core of this story is an important point that doesn’t receive enough attention from many self-proclaimed economic liberals: “We wring our hands about inequality, but the biggest determinant of your income is your country of birth.”

In case you’re still looking for last-minute Christmas gifts, I highly recommend Ha-Joon Chang’s book “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism”, where he makes this point among (as the title suggests) many others. You can find some excerpts at GoodReads, and Chang was recently featured in the Financial Times (in one of their great “lunch with…” interviews).

Unfortunately, I lost track of what else I wanted to post today. My apologies. We’ll be back after the break.

Wiebke Wemheuer-Vogelaar

IR Journals Off the Beaten Track

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Whenever you write an acacemic paper – no matter whether it is for school, for a journal or as part of your thesis – you are in need of literature. You need to find other papers or books to read and to cite to show that you know what you and others are talking about. But where do you look for this literature? No matter whether you start your search at Google Scholar, your local university library or the Web of Knowledge (WoK), you often end up following a beaten track. And that track most oftenly leads through US publishing houses, authors, and journals.

If your are interested in some alternative views, here are some links to journals that might help you leave that path at least once in a while:

Some of these journals are actually listed in the Social Science Citation Index and you might want (or have) to access it through the Web of Knowledge (given that your institution has access to the WoK).

This list is probably not exaustive and it ignores non-US journals from Europe and Canada. But it introduces publications of IR communuties that are probably farest off the beaten  track and it represents what I have collected over the years as part of my own research on post-Western IR. If you know of other journals or good alternative databases, please share these with us!

Wiebke Wemheuer-Vogelaar

About “The Gender Gap in IR and Political Science”

This is my first post on and from APSA 2013 in Chicago. It concerns the increasingly intense debate on a gender gap in International Relations and Political Science. This issue has been raised from different angles and at different places, e.g. the discussion on networking over at the Duck . Another object that fueled recent discussions is the article “The Gender Citation Gap in IR” by Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers and Barbara Walter published in the latest issue of IO (see here). Since Maliniak et al. work with citation data, as do I, and are direct colleagues of mine at TRIP, it was their contribution to the panel that attracted my attention in the first place. However, the overall event turned out to me very inspiring and I would like to share the panelists’ main points with you.

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Sören Stapel

Links: Open Access, Teaching, Painful PhD Problems, Quantitative Methods, Maps, and Movies

With the summer break still going on and some more substantive blog posts in the pipeline and waiting to be written, here again some links that I found interesting over the last two weeks – all of them more or less related to the profession.

Publishing and open access. Over at the Disorder of Things, two related articles take up the open access problematique / discussion. The first article has a list presenting seven propositions on open access. This article is followed by an interview with Eva Erman, chief editor of Ethics & Global Politics, a fully open journal. As we all have a more or less clear idea of how running a polsci / IR journal looks like, this interview nicely shows what it means to edit an open access journal.

Teaching. On Inside Higher Ed, Andrew Pegoda has a great essay on lessons learned in college teaching and what he has experienced over the last couple of years. (h/t to DuckPM; in early July, he also published is own thoughts on teaching introduction to international relations)

Methods. After Phil Schrodt revealed he would soon retire, my twitter feed literally exploded. That’s how I noticed a very great article he presented at APSA 2010 proposing the Seven Deadly Sins of Contemporary Quantitative Political Analysis. His seven points are:

1. Greed: Kitchen sink models that ignore the e ffects of collinearity;
2. Pride: Pre-scienti c explanation in the absence of prediction;
3. Sloth: Reanalyzing the same data sets until they scream;
4. Lust: Using complex methods without understanding the underlying assumptions;
5. Wrath: Interpreting frequentist statistics as if they were Bayesian;
6. Gluttony: Linear statistical monoculture at the expense of alternative structures;
7. Envy: Confusing statistical controls and experimental controls

The APSA paper is more fun to read since he provides lots of pop culture allusions and is way more sarcastic than the more polished version he will publish in the Journal of Peace Research, but the latter one is a bit shorter (here). Apparantly, he also plans to expand it into a book.

Fun facts and trivia – it still summer and the more fun stuff should not come off too short:

In case someone is going to ask me once again how / whether my PhD project over the last year, I will just forward this list of 25 deeply painful problems of a PhD student. (h/t to Tobias)

You’re more of the visual learner? You want to know more about the world? Here is a great collection of comparisons portrayed in maps, i.e. countries invaded by Britain or global internet usage based on time of day. (h/t to Zoe)

And, finally, over at Marginal Revolution, two movies have been promoted because they approach the brutality and personal consequences of killing from two highly interesting, but very different point of views. Check out this very succinct review. (h/t to Mathis)

Sören Stapel

MOOC: publicity bubble or game changing development?

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Lots of questions regarding MOOC. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

2012 is considered to be the year of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), most related media contributions date back only a few weeks, and the MOOC movement has reached Germany. While first-tier universities in the US have been pushing the MOOC agenda over the last couple of months, German academics have been proven resistant to this new teaching and learning concept so far. But it is here in the end, both the MOOC movement and the related discussions. While the fronts between proponents and critics of the MOOC seem to be hardening, I feel like sitting on the fence not knowing what I should make out of the MOOC idea.

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