Monday, May 08, 2006

Have a Great Summer!


Thank you for an enjoyable year of sharing my WSJ thoughts and experiences with you. I hope you have benefited.
Have a great summer!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Consider This

As the school year draws to a close, there are a few things that you may wish to consider. You might be surprised how little time it will take for you to get some inspiration and great ideas to use the Journal in your classes - regardless of your discipline, student body, or class sizes.

Think about using the Wall Street Journal in your classes next fall. As you draft your syllabus sometime this summer, you can add this feature in big ways or in small ways. I have provided numerous integration ideas in previous blogs. Take a few minutes to review some of them to see how you might begin using the Journal in your classroom. Now is the time to take advantage of the incredibly low subscription rate of only $19.95 for 15 weeks this fall.

If you have already integrated the Journal, consider increasing your integration of the Journal in the fall. Maybe now is the time to expand your integration as you reflect on the success of your efforts. A quick review of some previous blog entries might help with some new ideas.

Consider trying the Journal in your summer school classes. The 6-week summer subscription costs only $8.95. If you are concerned about requiring an extra fee for your students for spring or fall terms, you can experiment with integration of the Journal for a very low fee this summer.

Consider an Academic Partnership with Dow Jones. If several professors at your school are using the Journal, you may want to consider joining with the Wall Street Journal in this program. Participants include many of the best business schools in the country. My school has been an Academic Partner for a couple of years and we have appreciated the benefits from the program – even more teaching resources to help us in the classroom. More professors have integrated the Journal and students are seeing connections between courses. Contact the Journal through www.ProfessorJournal.com for more information on this very interesting and beneficial program.

Consider browsing through ProfessorJournal.com. This website is full of valuable resources designed especially for college instructors. You can also sign up to received weekly emails featuring summaries of selected articles written by your peers. You can read, download, and order everything you need to begin using the Journal in your classes.

Have a great, restful, and productive summer!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Encouragement: More Evidence

This is a great time of year: the end of the semester. Don’t get me wrong, I love my students and find it difficult to see a class end. We have developed such a great classroom community together.

This time of year is great source of encouragement to me as I begin the next set of new classes. I wish it could be like this from the first week through the semester.

I need to remember how great each class becomes as the semester progresses. Many (not all!) of my students are resistant or scared or intimidated or overwhelmed (or many other negative emotions) by having a daily Wall Street Journal discussion in class. The requirement that they read the Journal on a regular basis is simple not appealing to many students. (Hmmm, I wonder why.) But this time of the semester is when I get to hear how much many of them have come to value and even enjoy reading the Journal and discussing current events in class. And that is after the grades are in!

Some of my most resistant students have told me that the WSJ current events discussion is the most interesting part of the class. For example, several traditional-aged students stopped me in the hallway after class to say they really enjoyed the Journal and plan to continue reading it even if it is not required in future semesters.

I was floored! I had no idea that they were so interested and stimulated.

Some of the initial resistant has diminished since so many of my colleagues are now using the Journal. It seems that students expect current events discussion and business applications from WSJ articles to be a part of the class. That is one of the many benefits you have when your school joins the Journal in an Academic Partnership.

Need more encouragement and inspiration? The thrill is not just from student comments. All kinds of excitement comes from using the Journal. Colleagues from my school and from around the country frequently share success stories with me.

One of my colleagues drafted a question for his business statistics exam using the use of statistics in the NBA. He asked the students to develop a model to predict the number of expected victories based on readily available basketball statistics (like the kind found on the back of trading cards). The idea was to show a real-life use of statistics with a fun topic for the students. Less than one week later, the Journal carried an article about how sports teams are using statisticians to aid in drafting, starting line-ups and play-calling. My friend excitedly shared the article with his classes. His students will definitely remember that concept application now.

In many of our classes, students fail to see the value of the material covered. Articles from the Wall Street Journal supply that crucial link for our students too see that it really is applicable to the world.

So remember, no matter how resistant students may be initially, things always get better as the semester progresses. They are different students now at the end of the semester.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Complaining Students: "Why Do We Have to Know That? It's Not Related to this Class."

Wow, I just had an amazing accounting class. This is a terrific way to end a semester. And it began with an unlikely article.

One of my students selected an article about the growth in sales for expensive jeans for toddlers from Weekend Journal section in the Friday paper. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about the value of this particular article, but I always give my students freedom to fail or succeed. She discussed the basics of the article and how it would impact the financial statements as these sales grew. She also brought in the economics concept of the profit maximizing price point. We were all amused by the topic, as well as informed.

Now it becomes more interesting. One after another, other students chimed in with other, unrelated articles and connected them with the article about high-priced jeans for kids. None of these articles were directly related to denim, toddler clothing, or high-priced clothing. Instead they covered a variety of other topics, but the student still were able to connect the ideas.

One student discussed an article regarding the huge increase in consumer debt over the last 10 years, and she related how that could impact sales in the future, how companies should be careful about expanding (operations management!) and incurring additional fixed costs, and wondered whether debt could continue to fuel consumer purchases of these high-priced items.

Someone else jumped in with an article about the housing market cooling and suggested that home equity debt was not going to be available to fund extravagant purchases forever. He added that the resulting drop in demand would cause a decrease in price (more economics!), and therefore a decrease in revenues.

Another student brought up an article about Wal-Mart relegating its smiley face to second string advertising behind lifestyle ads. The connection he offered was the attempt by the discounter to polish up its image to seem more high-end and the anticipated higher profitability (marketing!).

Another article discussed related to the production scheduling of cyclical pattern in seasonal or faddish-type products (operations management again!).

The discussion continued on for several more articles.

I was thrilled and impressed! My students were able to take unrelated business articles and see connections. Major themes emerged. Concepts from other disciplines were related. They are remembering and applying concepts, so their comprehension and retention is greatly increased. Mission accomplished!

Contrast this with this statement made to one of my colleagues by a student. 'Why do we have to know return-on-investment for this class? This is a management information systems class, not a finance class.' This frustrates me to hear a student more interested in limiting his learning than seeing the connections. I salute this excellent professor for showing his students the importance cost-benefit analysis and payback periods for hardware and software purchases. Unfortunately, despite his valiant efforts, this student missed the point completely.

Using the Journal is a great way to show the connections between business disciplines and helping students to see the big picture. Education is not just memorization of facts and formulas, but more importantly, it should result in the development of thinking processes that utilize that information and see connections.

And my class 'got it!'

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Spring Break!

Happy Spring Break!
The Wall Street Journal has scheduled spring break this week for the WSJ Weekly Reviews and WSJ Professor Blog.
See you next week.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lesson of Global Competition: The World is Flat

Using the Wall Street Journal in your classes can introduce the topic of global competition for your students. This is very important because the world has become flat - another important reason to integrate the Journal into your classes.

With daily current-events discussions, international themes constantly emerge in our class discussions. I tell my students that they are not just competing with the student sitting next to them, or worse yet, the student that has already dropped the course! Competition for jobs is cropping up all round the world. Fortunately I don't have to lecture my students about the career challenges facing them - they read about foreign impact on domestic industries and jobs in the Journal everyday.

Reading "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman confirmed my views and efforts on this topic. He is actually pretty rough on parents in their upbringing of our college students. Friedman criticizes the sense of entitlement parents have encouraged, which hampers our young people in adapting to a flat world.

On page 305, he states "Our children will increasingly be competing head-to-head with Chinese, Indian, and Asian kids, whose parents have a lot more... character-building approach than their own American parents. I am not suggesting that we militarize education, but I am suggesting that we do more to push our young people to go beyond their comfort zones, to do things right, and to be ready to suffer some short-run pain for longer gain."

But we cannot control the parents of our students - we take them as we get them! So what can we share with them? Friedman writes on page 264, "One cannot stress enough: Young Chinese, Indians, and Poles are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top. They do not want to work for us; they don't even want to be us. They want to dominate us - in the sense that they want to be creating the companies of the future that people all over the world will admire and clamor to work for."

I try to help them see the importance of lifetime learning and career flexibility, the value of critical thinking, and adding value to an organization. Our students, more than any generation before them, must be ready to change jobs or career paths as the need arises. Only then will they be the Americans who benefits from globalization, rather than suffer from it.

The Journal has been an important tool for these discussions, with articles serving as real-life verification of the challenges they will. It's our job to educate them, but also to prepare them for the future - instructing them in both knowledge of business information, as well as the realities of this new world economy.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Using the Journal in Your Summer Classes

It is getting to be the time of year that we make plans for summer classes. I know many instructors do not teach summers, but for those of us who do, now is about the time when we must submit book orders. Also we might be thinking about how to change courses for the summer or for next fall.

Why not add the Journal this summer? Summer is a good time to experiment. The setting and tone is somewhat different in a summer class. The mood on campus is more relax and quiet. It could be the perfect time to try a new dimension for your course.

Another good reason to try to Journal in the summer: the subscription price is very low! This spring semester, I was surprised and delighted to see that the price had dropped. And the summer price is even less! Students can purchase short subscriptions so it is less of an expense for your students.

I contacted the terrific sales rep for my school, Marty Jakubek, and he reported the following price cuts:
A 6-week subscription for both the print and online (wsj.com) editions will be only $8.95.
The price for 8 weeks for both print and online is only $11.95.

For me, this is really great news. I am very sensitive to additional expenses for my students. This is especially important if you are thinking about adding the Journal to your class. At these low prices, cost to the student is less of a concern.

After a test run in the summer, you can develop the concept further in the fall semester. And the price for the fall 2006 semester will remain at the new low price of $19.95.

If you are considering using the Journal and have any questions, please let me know. You can reach me at WSJProfBlog@hotmail.com.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

It Really Works: Reading the Journal Helps Students Get Jobs!

Great news from class last night. As we were getting ready to begin, one of my students said that the reading the Wall Street Journal got her a job. And I have heard this story over and over.

Here goes: "CT" is a student in my business law and ethics class. She has a part-time intern-type job at a major corporation in the area. She was interviewing for a sought-after position in management that featured a job-rotation program which usually leads to a promising career. This was an important interview, so she arrived early. Very early, allowing extra time for any potential delays. So as she waited, she read her copy of the Wall Street Journal. When the executive who were to interview her came out, they caught her reading the Journal. The two interviewers talked about her reading material several times throughout the interview, discussing some of the stories and current events she had read. Then they offered her the job. She is convinced that the Journal had something to do with her getting the offer.

One of the interesting parts of her story is that she did not intentionally set the scene to impress the interviewers. Instead, she admits that she was just reading when she had a free moment in order to be prepared for class! But she also said that she enjoys reading the Journal now after the 10 weeks we have used it in class.

This is not an isolated incident. I have heard similar stories from a number of my students. An awareness and understanding of current events and potential ripple effects are important to employers. Additionally, that knowledge is important for our students to hit the ground running in new careers. Integrating the Wall Street Journal into business courses is the best way to use a daily, "living" textbook to bring our students up-to-date with current events. They are able to see how the course material applies to the business world.

And then they can talk about it in an interview.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Using "Context" and "Stickiness" to Improve the Learning Experience

Here are some final thoughts on the book called "The Tipping Point" as it applies to using the Wall Street Journal for current events discussions in class. The book, written by Malcolm Gladwell, talks about how some small ideas or items catch fire and become big. The tipping point is that point when the large change happens.

My classes have already reached that point this semester. More specifically, this particular tipping point occurs when the students begin to see how the course material relates to the real business world. They feel at ease reading the Journal and discussing current events. Students begin to get excited and gain confidence as they begin to see connections with what we are studying. They also begin accumulate information from articles throughout the semester, making connections between various articles over time.

As I read "The Tipping Point," it inspired me reflect on what I can do to make sure reach this tipping point as early as possible each semester. How can we move our students to that point and do it quickly? In blog postings over the last couple of weeks, I have discussed a few ideas we can adopt. I can see a couple more application from the book.

The "stickiness" of an idea or an item is its memorability. This is another factor from the book involved in pushing an idea over the tipping point into something big. How can we make newspaper reading and student interest in current events 'stick' with our students?

To make the ideas stick, we can use the concepts I have already outlined in previous blog postings, for example using active students in the class to ignite others, in addition to our instruction and enthusiasm. Real life is much more interesting than manufactured examples.

Another factor we can use is "Context," meaning whether the environment provides conditions to encourage or discourage change. The learning environment has a lot to do with a teaching idea moving forward. Gladwell uses the example of New York City cleaning up subways as one factor contributing to a drop in crime. The message is that the subways were no longer a crime-dominated environment; that crime was not acceptable. The context of the city at the time set a tone and allowed safety to increase.

We can do the same thing in class by setting a positive tone and environment with high expectations for student growth and change. If we set the standards and expect our students to have dynamic discussions, it is far more likely to happen. I expect and model interesting, dynamic current events discussion, and it happens. For further evidence, I have noticed as more of my colleagues use the Journal, my students accept the assignment and more quickly 'tip' into willing and successful integration!

Hopefully some ideas from "The Tipping Point" have inspired you to help your students over the tipping point to greater academic success!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

People Make the Difference

Last week I discussed the application of some ideas from the book "The Tipping Point" to current events discussions in my classes. The basic premise the book is little changes can have big effects. Wouldn't that be a great return on our efforts as educators if we can use those concepts to produce that kind of leverage?!

In his book, Gladwell discusses how different types of people affect the growth of big trends or changes. Connectors are people who bring people together, Mavens accumulate information and like to help others by passing it on, and Salesmen are those who persuade.

First Connectors. "Sprinkled among every walk of life ... are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors." In a way, our classes are somewhat connected by definition - the same people in the same room at the same time for a semester. But valuable classroom community goes beyond that and forms when the group connects on a cohesive level. Ideally we as instructors, and a few of our more influential students can serve as Connectors. Sure, we cannot control which students enroll in our classes, nor can we make them influence others positively. We can encourage connections through classroom exercises and with encouraging comments and enthusiasm.

Both we and our star students can play the role of Mavens. We, as academics, researchers, and educators, specialize in collecting and sharing information for the special purpose to share and educate others. That's our job! In fact, Gladwell describes a Maven as a teacher. "The one thing that a Maven is not is a persuader. To be a Maven is to be a teacher. But it is also, even more emphatically to be a student." He chose the name because "the word Maven comes from the Yiddish, and it means one who accumulates knowledge."

Our students can also serve as Mavens in the classroom. Several in each class will have read many articles and will begin to accumulate information over the semester. They are the students who jump in as others are presenting, to add more information or to mention other related articles. We should encourage them! Some students will follow the lead of a peer before they will model themselves after the instructor. If we are both acting as Mavens, students will have the examples of both peers and the faculty member.

Finally, we can serve as salesmen. Our enthusiasm for our discipline and student learning can't help but spill out, and is displayed to a greater extent when we incorporate current events into class discussions. I am not saying that we have to sell the material to students, but using this vehicle can show the students just how interesting and applicable the course coverage is.

Next week: I have a few more lessons from "The Tipping Point" to share with you.