ET 690 is a discussion and issue oriented class. 30% of your grade will be earned for class participation. Students are expected to attend all classes and participate in discussions both in class and online. In addition to class participation, students will write two, three, or four papers for the class: one paper about each of the major textbooks (except Wagner), and one final paper, synthesizing material from all the readings in the class. Students may opt out of one paper by volunteering to lead a class discussion one week. Students will sign up for days and topics to lead discussions. Students will earn grades for their leadership of discussions in lieu of the grade for the paper. In addition, students will earn grades for their participation in discussions that others are leading. Failure to participate in discussions will significantly impact the class participation grade (hint: read the assigned readings before class).


There are three major textbooks for this course: Postman, Turkle, and Toyama (there is no paper for the Wagner book). Students will write one paper for each of these books. These papers will be 5 - 10 pages and answer specific questions posed by the instructor. Papers will be assigned at least one week before they are due. Additionally, each student will write one final paper, 10 - 15 pages, synthesizing all the readings from the semester.

Book Discussion Leadership

For the discussions of the Turkle & Toyama textbooks, there are 6 discussions (3 for Turkle and 3 for Toyama). Students may opt to lead one discussion in lieu of the paper for that book. That is, if you lead a discussion of part of the Turkle textbook, you do not have to write the Turkle paper; if you lead a discussion of part of the Toyama textbook, you do not have to write the Toyama paper. Each of these discussions will be led by a student or pair of students in the class, and each student will lead a maximum of one discussion. If there are no volunteers to lead a discussion, the instructor will select a student to lead the discussion (including possibly splitting up students who signed up to lead together).

Discussions will begin each class and should last between 2 and 2 1/2 hours. While these are discussions, not presentations, you might wish to begin your discussion time with a brief presentation. At a minimum, you should have enough thoughts and ideas about the chapters to keep the discussion going for over two hours. If you wish, you may design activities related to the chapters to help promote discussion. You should expect that all class members will have read the chapters so any chapter summaries should be extremely brief.

In addition, you must find at least one supporting article (two if you are leading a discussion in a pair) related to the topic of the chapters. If you have one or more articles available before your scheduled discussion, you may wish to distribute copies of the additional articles, but you should not expect the class members to have read anything more than a brief article beyond the assigned chapter. Supporting articles should be either book chapters or articles from peer-reviewed journals. You may bring in newspaper or magazine articles, Web page printouts, or other non-scholarly articles, but at least one article per leader must be a book chapter or from a peer-reviewed journal.

Do not feel constrained to a typical discussion. Be creative. Think of ways that your classmates and instructor can explore the material in fun and interesting ways. Don't forget: everyone has read the readings.

When you lead a discussion, you should hand in a list of references that you used--this list must have at least one academic reference per leader beyond the assigned reading--and a one-two page list of major points you plan to discuss during class.

Grading for discussion leadership is primarily based on digging deeply into the reading and not spending the whole discussion skimming the surface. As an example, if we spend the entire time talking in a Turkle section about annoying teenagers on cell phones and never think about the deeper issues to an individual's humanity or to society, that would tend to earn a grade less than an A. That's not to say that we can never talk about annoying teenagers on cell phones, just that we should use that as a starting point, not an ending point.

Online Discussions

This is a hybrid class. Some of our discussions will take place online incuding at least one discussion for each of the Postman, Turkle, and Toyama books, and two discussions for the Wagner book. Watch email and Moodle for details about how to fully participate in the online discussions.

There is a possibility that our schedule will be adjusted due to inclement weather. This might include some planned in-person discussions taking place online. If you are leading an in-person discussion, pay attention to the weather. You should plan for an in-person discussion but be prepared to shift it online. For online classes, discussion leaders should send the instructor details of the discussion, and the instructor will post that to Moodle. Let your instructor know if you have any questions or technical problems when leading. Leaders need to be sure to check back regularly in Moodle to help manage the discussion and keep it going. Your instructor will try to do the same. Participants should try to participate as they would in class, but they can do so over the course of the week.

If you are leading a discussion online online, get in touch with your instructor as early as possible so he can facilitate putting your discussion online. If an in-person discussion gets moved online, do your best to post questions by the night of class. For discussions scheduled to be online, your discussion questions must be posted by the night of class, preferably earlier.

Example Online Discussion

You can see an example of an online discussion led by students here. Note that this example of a discussion for a book from a previous semester shows a lot of creativity and promoted deep discussion. However, everyone agreed that it was a bit too much for one week's discussion and would have been better if it were honed down a bit. Also, note that you will not be able to access any of the Moodle links (such as to read the actual forums), but you should be able to access any external links.

Class Debate

On the last night of the class, we will have one or two class debates. Participants in a debate will be exempt from writing a final paper. Details of the debate will be discussed in class and time for debate preparation may be allotted during one or two classes at the end of the semester. Each debate will focus on some of the additional reading for the class and/or themes from the primary texts.

Debates will follow the following strictly timed structure:

Debates will follow the following rules:

Debate teams will be organized in the following way:

Students choosing not to participate in debate will complete the final paper.

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This page was prepared by Dr. David M. Marcovitz.

Last Updated: August 9, 2016