Research Picks – September 2017

Are smart phones educational?

Smart phones, tablets and other mobile information and communications devices are now almost ubiquitous in business, leisure, and even education in many parts of the world. Researchers in Greece suggest that we need a new perspective to help inform parents and educators as to how such devices can help children learn but also what might be the pitfalls. It is, for instance, difficult to assess the multitude of self-styled educational apps (software) without a major review of their pros and cons. With thousands of such apps in the online markets it is difficult for parents and educators to know which might be of genuine educational use for their children and students. With primary school aged children and even toddlers regularly using such gadgets, there is an urgent need for a holistic assessment.

Papadakis, S. and Kalogiannakis, M. (2017) ‘Mobile educational applications for children: what educators and parents need to know‘, Int. J. Mobile Learning and Organisation, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.256-277.

Degrees by value

Now that universities in England can charge students tuition fees, there is a pressing need to measure value of any given degree. UK researchers have now assessed a standard tool and applied it to a case study of degrees on offer at their own university. In grade point average (GPA) terms their principle finding is that less quantitative degrees – which might include marketing and international business – register a higher value added than the more quantitative degrees, such as economics and finance, on offer.

Dabir-Alai, P. and Oliveira, A. (2017) ‘Adding value by degree: a case study‘, Int. J. Education Economics and Development, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.78-84.

Digging for economic stability

The shockwaves of the 2008 global financial crisis are still resonating with ongoing poverty and austerity initiatives still commonplace, a resurgence in extremist political opinion, a growing financial gap between rich and poor, significant unemployment, and tense international relations, perhaps being the side effects of this ongoing problem. European researchers have carried out a global econometric study and suggest that agriculture is the buffer that protects nations when the world is in the midst of economic downturn. Indeed, the weight of agriculture within a national economy correlates well (across 151 countries studied) with national resilience and a lower variation in economic growth and unemployment during times of financial crisis, the team found.

Mare, C. and Dragos, C.M. (2017) ‘Agriculture – a possible lifesaver in times of crisis? A worldwide level econometric study‘, Int. J. Economics and Business Research, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.61-72.

Disruptive technology

Ever since early humans used twine to attach a hand axe a piece of wood and give it a handle, we have seen disruptive technologies. The printing press, the steam engine, even the ballpoint pen, all usurped earlier technology and caused varying degrees of shockwaves throughout society. Researchers from Brazil have focused on that latter invention the ballpoint pen to show how it disrupted the much older “fountain” pen technology and use this case study as a model of how innovation underpins technological disruption. The lessons learned from this case study could help inform our understanding of current innovation and disruptive technologies.

Ferasso, M., Pinheiro, I.A. and Schröeder, C.d.S. (2017) ‘Strategies of innovation in an ancient business: cases of the fountain pen industry‘, Int. J. Economics and Business Research, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.73-84.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.