An interesting post by Deborah Capras on the Business Spotlight blog relating to Microsoft’s recent billion dollar purchase of Skype.  She raises the question:

Which is a really good question and got me thinking….   How much are words worth?  It would be an interesting concept to play around with, particularly in the business classroom, but elsewhere as well I think.

You would need to define your parameters fairly clearly and this is an idea that probably needs a bit more work, but, if you limited the supply of a number of words, things could get interesting…..

So my thought is that you create a chopped up vocabulary set for a discussion topic.  So say you wanted to discuss the Microsoft / Skype deal, you’d highlight the most commonly used words in discussion about the deal (this could be done by using wordle over news story URLs) and create a set of vocab cards.  the higher frequency the word, the more copies you make of it – so while everybody might get a “Microsoft” card, or a “Skype” card, only one or two people would get a “deal” card or a “takeover” card.  Then in conversation, if they wanted to use the word “deal”, they’d have to negotiate the purchase of the word from someone who owned it.

The negotiation process could take place either pre-conversation or during conversation.  You could either allocate each participant with a set mythical amount of money (i.e. here is your thousand Euros), or people could swap words.  Though this wouldn’t really set the value of the words.

It would be a really interesting way of increasing learners awareness of the value of high frequency vocabulary.

Just a thought anyway…  I welcome any contributions from economists willing to help correct any fundamental flaws in the idea!

For more teaching ideas based on the Microsoft Skype deal have a look here: