Evolution of Technology (TEC 154 2014S) : Handouts


Summary: To improve the quality of our discussions of the various readings this semester, students must submit discussion questions and topics the evening before each reading is to be discussed. This document summarizes my policies for reading discussions.

Citation: This document is based on a document by Henry Walker, which can be found at http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~walker/courses/223.sp02/discussion-questions.html.


Throughout this semester, I will assign readings from a variety of texts. I will do my best to assign each reading at least two days in advance, although I will usually assign them further in advance.

Rather than repeating this same material in lecture, I will use class time for clarifying topics covered in readings, bridging those topics, and expanding ideas introduced in the texts. Toward this end, students must read assigned materials before class and formulate two discussion questions.

Types of Questions

Appropriate types of questions include:

  • questions concerning terms not defined in the reading,
  • questions to clarify ideas,
  • questions about the relationships between ideas or approaches,
  • questions regarding assumptions behind approaches,
  • questions concerning the motivation or necessity of ideas or protocols.

Thus, questions should seek to clarify points of confusion or to expand ideas just introduced briefly. For the most part, you should avoid simple factual questions (unless the facts are in dispute). I will assume that students have a clear understanding of topics not covered in questions. You should be prepared to contribute to class discussions about topics not covered in your questions.

I will note that, in my experience, the best questions either help us think carefully about the article or otherwise expand our horizons.


You should submit at least two well-thought-out question for each day's readings. (If we read more than one article for a particular class, you need not ask questions for every article.) You may submit additional questions for support and for extra credit.

Please submit your questions via electronic mail before 8 p.m. on the evening before a discussion. For example, if a reading is due on Friday, discussion, submit your questions before 8 p.m. on Thursday evening. I will collate (anonymous) discussion questions into a document which I will then place online.

I will grade discussion questions on a plus/check/minus/zero scale. Most questions will receive a check. Particularly interesting or valuable questions will receive a plus. Particularly poor, trivial, awkwardly phrased, or otherwise inadequate questions will receive a minus. Students who fail to submit their questions on time will receive a zero.

I will communicate grades on questions in a variety of ways. I may send you a note via electronic mail. On the discussion page, I may group questions with regards to quality. (Doing so has the advantage that it gives you a sense of how I have assessed a variety of questions.) I may simply record them in my gradebook, which I will try to distribute to you weekly. I may find other approaches.

Some Other Issues

I expect that you are competent readers. Among other things, that expectation means that I expect you to be able to tell me the following about most works that we read:

  • What is the author's thesis or primary claim?
    • In your words.
    • In the author's words.
  • Where in the essay does the author state this claim or thesis?
  • Are there additional/subsidiary claims? If so, what are they?
  • What is the structure of the author's argument?

Since one of the central course goals is to develop techniques to assess and evaluate tecnologies, I am likely to ask the class to decide what strategies for thinking about technology we can garner from each reading.

Copyright (c) 2014 Samuel A. Rebelsky.

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