Evolution of Technology (TEC 154 2014S) : Assignments

Final Paper and Presentation

Summary: To synthesize the material we have covered in class and broaden our understanding of technology, you will write a a ten-to-fifteen page paper about a technology not explored in depth in class and present your findings to the class. You will do this work in groups of approximately three students.

Important Deadlines


You have now studied a number of technologies and, as importantly, a variety of perspectives on the role and purposes of technology. It is time to apply your knowledge to a new technology. You will apply this knowledge in two ways: You will write a paper about the technology and you will present the technology to your class.

Your paper will have at least three parts:

Note that by "primary authors", I mean Norman, Petroski, or anyone who appears in Teich.


Phase 1: Team and Topic Selection

You should begin by selecting a team of up to three students to work together on the project. (I'd prefer that you work in a team of three, but you may also work alone or in a team of two or four.) If you have trouble finding a team, let me know by Friday, 4 April 2014, and I will do my best to assign you to a team by Monday, 7 April 2014.

The team should then work together to identify a topic of interest. Your initial topics can be fairly broad. You might study recent technologies (e.g., the Internet, PCR), 50's technologies (e.g., silly putty), industrial-age technologies (e.g., the railroad), or even older technologies (e.g., the development of agriculture). If you found Petroski interesting, you might look at his other books for ideas (for example, he has written a whole book on the evolution of the Pencil). If you have a technology you use regularly with in your major (if you have a major), you may certainly write about that technology.

By Friday, 11 April 2014, you should let me know the composition of your team and the topic you have selected.

Phase 2: Annotated Bibliography

Once you have selected a topic, you should gather sources that will help you study the topic. I recommend that you make an appointment with a reference librarian for help identifying sources.

At least three of your sources should describe the history or evolution of the technology: What problem did the technology solve? What approaches did people take? And so on and so forth.

At least three of your sources should be more critical papers that reflect carefully on the benefits or drawbacks of the technology.

Compile your sources into an annotated bibliography. In that bibliography, you need only annotate three sources on the history and evolution of the technology and three critical papers. See the appendix to this assignment for information on annotated bibliographies.

This bibliography is due Friday, 18 April 2014.

Phase 3: Thesis

As you read and reflect upon your sources, think carefully about claims you can make about the technology. Your claims will likely synthesize the positive and negative aspects of the technology. If you have trouble writing theses, you may want to reflect on Erik Simpson's "Developing a Thesis", available on the Web at http://www.math.grinnell.edu/~simpsone/Connections/Writing/Thesis/index.html.

Turn in a draft thesis to me by Friday, 18 April 2014. You need only turn in the thesis, but you may find it more helpful to situate the thesis in an introductory paragraph or section.

Phase 4: Smooth Draft

As you have probably heard many times at Grinnell, experience shows that papers are significantly better when they are written in multiple phases, with at least one draft before the final version. To remind you of the importance of drafting, I require a "smooth draft" for this paper.

By "smooth draft", I mean a draft that has many of the problems worked out. Smooth drafts are spelled correctly and employ the rules of English grammar. Smooth drafts include most or all of the expected content of the paper, although perhaps not stated as perfectly as you might like. Smooth drafts can also include a few gaps (e.g., "We need to fill in more detail here") or metacomments (e.g., "We need to refine this argument"). A smooth draft should be something you would hope would earn at least a C once you fill in the gaps and metacomments.

I plan to distribute copies of your drafts to the class.

Turn in four printed copies of your smooth draft by the start of class on Friday, 25 April 2014.

Phase 5: Peer Review

Each student will be responsible for preparing brief comments on a draft paper from another team. Those comments are due Wednesday, 30 April 2014. Please send your comments in the BODY of an email to me and to the three members of the other team.

As you read, you should consider questions such as the following:

At a minimum, you should report back what you thought was the thesis and identify any parts you found unclear or unconvincing.

You are not required to proofread the paper for spelling, grammar, formatting, word choice, style, and other similar matters. However, if you are a compulsive proofreader like me, you are welcome to give your marked-up copy of the paper back to the authors.

Phase 6: Presentations

Your group will present its findings in class during the final week of the semester. I will assign the day and order of presentations. You should plan to present for ten minutes on your subject and allow five minutes for questions and answers. As we near the time of presentations, I will distribute suggestions on preparing presentations.

Phase 7: Final Papers

Finally, you will draw upon the comments from your proofreaders and your experience in preparing a presentation to develop a final paper. Your final papers are due Friday, 9 May 2014.

Appendix: Annotated Bibliographies

Bibliographies serve many purposes. They ground your work in a broader community. They tell your readers that you've read widely on your subject matter. They remind you to read widely on a subject matter. They can even provide reading lists for those interested in a subject.

Those who use bibliographies as reading lists appreciate more than a simple citation as they decide where to read further. In particular, they benefit from your comments on each entry. When you add short comments to a bibliography, you produce a work we might call an "annotated bibliography".

On the subject of annotated bibliographies, the Chicago Manual of Style says

When a bibliography is intended to direct the reader to other works for further reading and study, an annotated bibliography is useful. This is a list of books (sometimes articles as well) in alphabetical order with comments appended to some or all of the entries. The comments may be run in ... or set on separate lines. [University of Chicago Press, 1993]

In order to prepare an annotated bibliography you first read each source carefully. (In a group project, each member of the group should make sure to read each source carefully.)

The annotation for a source is usually one or two moderate-length paragraphs that discuss


This assignment is based closely on an assignment I wrote for a previous offering of TEC 154.

Rebelsky, S. A. (2010). TEC 154 2010S: Final Paper and Presentation. Retrieved 30 March 2014 from http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~rebelsky/Courses/TEC154/2010S/Handouts/paper.html.

That assignment was based closely on an assignment I wrote for a previous offering of TEC 154.

Rebelsky, S. A. (2004). TEC 154 2004S: Final Paper and Presentation. Retrieved 3 April 2010 from http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~rebelsky/Courses/TEC154/2004S/Handouts/paper.html.

I borrowed some extensions to that assignment from Janet Davis's variant of that assignment. The section on peer review is based closely on Prof. Davis's work.

Davis, J. (2007). TEC 154 2007: Research Project. Online resource available at http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~davisjan/tec/154/2007S/project.html (last modified 4 May 2007; visited 3 April 2010).

The appendix on annotated bibliographies is based on

Rebelsky, S.A. (2004). TEC 154 2004S: Stewardship: Annotated Bibliographies. Online resource available at http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~rebelsky/Courses/TEC154/2004S/Stewardship/annotated.html (last modified 22 February 2004; visited 3 April 2010).


Rebelsky, Samuel (2003). Writing Assignment 4: Annotated Bibliography. Tutorial: Owning Bits. Online resource available at http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~rebelsky/Courses/Tutorial/2003F/Homework/writing.04.html (last modified 30 September 2003, visited 3 April 2010).

Those two documents draw upon a variety of sources, including the following.

Fischer, Gayle V. (2000). Web Project: Why Do Women and Men Wear Different Clothes? A World History Sourcebook: Annotated Bibliography. Online resource available at http://www.salem.mass.edu/~gfischer/abib102.htm (last modified 29 August 2002; visited 24 September 2003).

University of Chicago Press (1993). The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers, 14th Edition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Williams, Owen (n.d.). Writing an Annotated Bibliography. Crookston Library, University of Minnesota, Crookston. Online resource available at http://www.crk.umn.edu/library/links/annotate.htm (last modified 7 March 2003; visited 24 September 2003).


Who is the audience for this paper?

Students in a section of TEC 154, although not necessarily in this section. You can assume that your audience reads at the college level, has thought about technology, and has read and discussed many of the readings we've considered.

Why are we working in groups?

I expect that you will consider the technology in more depth if you work on it with peers.

Can we talk to other members of the class, too?


Do you prefer a particular citation format?

I prefer APA-style references, but I don't require you to follow the exact format.

We'd like to use a wide variety of sources for the paper. Do we need to write an annotation for every source?

No. You need only write six annotations.

I have a lot of work due at the end of the semester or other end-of-semester conflicts. Could I perhaps do the paper and presentation earlier?

Because we have guest speakers, there aren't a lot of good days to fit presentations in (Monday, 21 April 2014 would be best). In addition, we'll need to identify colleagues to peer edit your work earlier in the semester and we'll need to negotiate an accelerated schedule. If you want to do the work earlier, please send me a proposed schedule ASAP. I do want you to do all of the stages of the project.

What formatting requirements do you have for the ten- to fifteen-page paper?

I expect you to be reasonable. So, use something like: 8.5 x 11 inch paper; double spaced; font size between 10 and 12 points; font designed for running text, such as Times; one inch margins.

May we write fewer than ten pages?


May we write more than fifteen pages?

I'd prefer that you keep it to under fifteen pages. However, if you find that you need a few extra pages, I'll deal with it.

You said that we should write "a historical overview of the technology". Shouldn't that be "an historical overview of the technology"?

I don't think so. Traditionally, the use of "an" with words that start with "h" stems from the British pronunciation of such words, in which the "h" is nearly silent. This course is in the US, where most people pronounce the "h". Oh, in case it's not clear, you certainly should not write an ahistorical overview of the technology.

Copyright (c) 2014 Samuel A. Rebelsky.

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