About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2235-2243
Publication year: 2014
ISBN: 978-84-616-8412-0
ISSN: 2340-1079

Conference name: 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 10-12 March, 2014
Location: Valencia, Spain

CLASSROOM EXPERIMENTS AND COMPUTER PROGRAMMING FOR LEARNING ABOUT ECONOMICS: THE CASE OF THE MOAI GAME

M. Schaffernicht, S. Rivero

Universidad de Talca (CHILE)
In a freshman economics course, students have to get used to and understand many basic concepts and methods. This is usually done by going to lectures and reading a textbook. In some cases, learning is enriched by classroom experiments, which can be carried out in the real world or by using computer software which has been programmed such as to replicate the essential characteristics of the real world situation (Holt, 2005). In other cases, simulation models are used in order to make students inquire the causal structure of an economic situation and to explore its behavior under varying circumstances (Wheat, 2007).

In other realms, pupils and students have been made available computer environments like NetLogo in order to design digital replications of complex situations and explore them by programming. In such cases, the program development environment is very simple (such as to avoid syntactical errors) and one can say that a program that is semantically correct represents a validated chunk of knowledge: the programmer knows that he understands how the represented system works, and in general he did not need correction on behalf of a lecturer because the successful program run validates the knowledge.

However, in economics education, usually the courses include classroom experiments but not the development of computer programs to validate the knowledge abstracted from the concrete experience.

At the University of Talca, we develop a game where students play the role of producers and have to achieve a stable pattern of goods exchange. Some produce bead, some produce wine and some produce Moai statues (like in the Easter Islands), but each one produces only one good. However, in order to survive everyone needs sufficient bread and wine – and to win the game, they all need the greatest possible number of statues. We call this the “Moai game”. The essential topic is that every agent has to figure out rules which allow to make, accept or reject offers (they have to generate real prices), but everyone is autonomous in their decision making. Will there emerge a market price? Will they survive? This is a strategy (or rule formation) challenge which implies coming to grips with the concepts of opportunity costs.

We have started to use a procedure which operates in three phases:
1. A classroom experiment is carried out using only paper and pencil and the blackboard;
2. Conclusions drawn from the analysis of the experiment are put to work in NetLogo to analyze possible implications for strategy design
3. In the final stage, each students develops a Java based program which is inserted into an execution shell of Java code and the whole situation is simulated over a previously unknown number of iterations.

In doing so, we believe to have found a very motivating way for students to learn how to “do” economics and, additionally, we generate a huge amount of transaction data what can then be used for data analysis.

To our knowledge, such procedures have not been published yet, so we believe we have an original contribution to learning in social science.
@InProceedings{SCHAFFERNICHT2014CLA,
author = {Schaffernicht, M. and Rivero, S.},
title = {CLASSROOM EXPERIMENTS AND COMPUTER PROGRAMMING FOR LEARNING ABOUT ECONOMICS: THE CASE OF THE MOAI GAME},
series = {8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference},
booktitle = {INTED2014 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-616-8412-0},
issn = {2340-1079},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Valencia, Spain},
month = {10-12 March, 2014},
year = {2014},
pages = {2235-2243}}
TY - CONF
AU - M. Schaffernicht AU - S. Rivero
TI - CLASSROOM EXPERIMENTS AND COMPUTER PROGRAMMING FOR LEARNING ABOUT ECONOMICS: THE CASE OF THE MOAI GAME
SN - 978-84-616-8412-0/2340-1079
PY - 2014
Y1 - 10-12 March, 2014
CI - Valencia, Spain
JO - 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
JA - INTED2014 Proceedings
SP - 2235
EP - 2243
ER -
M. Schaffernicht, S. Rivero (2014) CLASSROOM EXPERIMENTS AND COMPUTER PROGRAMMING FOR LEARNING ABOUT ECONOMICS: THE CASE OF THE MOAI GAME, INTED2014 Proceedings, pp. 2235-2243.
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