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Using The College Science Fiction Class To Teach Technology And Ethics: Themes And Methods

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Conference

2010 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Innovative Courses/Pedagogies in Liberal Education I

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count

11

Page Numbers

15.1341.1 - 15.1341.11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/16693

Download Count

385

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Paper Authors

author page

David Layton DeVry University

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Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using the College Science Fiction Class to Teach Technology and Ethics: Themes and Methods

Abstract

This paper proposes that one educational opportunity to enhance understanding of technology comes from the liberal arts. This opportunity is the teaching of ethics related to technology, science, and technological change, using science fiction for these themes. The course is proposed as part of a general education program in colleges and universities, given by Literature and Humanities departments. The paper proposes an alternative approach to teaching science fiction classes, one that treats the class as an interdisciplinary subject, not a primarily literary one. Such a course would focus on the scientific and technological themes of science fiction rather than on the literary technique. The paper includes some ideas for class themes, in-class assignments, essays, and team projects, all of which will have students use critical thinking methods for assessing how technology affects their lives.

Introduction

That the human world has become more global and more technical has long been recognized. A persistent problem from this change has been how to harmonize personal lifestyles with technological change and the increasing global reach of technology. Human society may be rapidly becoming Marshall McLuhan’s “global village” or the world may be getting “flat” as Thomas Friedman says, but the majority of people remain bewildered by these changes and how the changes affect lives. Generally speaking, people embrace popular devices well marketed with promises of “convenience,” and then find themselves often frustrated and bewildered by how these devices unexpectedly change their lives. How can college liberal arts courses address these problems? What sorts of educational opportunities exist for enhancing general understanding of technology and its ethical uses?

One educational opportunity to enhance understanding of technology and related ethical concerns comes from the liberal arts. This opportunity is the teaching of science fiction. The class could be part of a general education program in colleges and universities given by Literature and Humanities departments. It also could be a class that Science and Engineering departments offer for general education credit.

Teaching Science Fiction in the US

Many institutions of higher education offer classes in science fiction. Usually, the instructors for these classes are English and Literature professors, better versed in discussing plot structure, symbolism, characterization, and other primarily literary matters than they are in discussing science, technology, technological change, and social development. Because English and Literature professors perceive that the emphasis is on the “fiction” part of the name “science

Layton, D. (2010, June), Using The College Science Fiction Class To Teach Technology And Ethics: Themes And Methods Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/16693

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