Evolution of Technology

TEC 154
Grinnell College
Spring 2007
MWF 8-8:50, Science 2413
Instructor: Janet Davis (contacting me)


About this course

Welcome to the spring 2007 session of TEC 154, Evolution of Technology. As my own work revolves around considering the context and implications of information technology, I am very excited to be teaching this course!

As the semester progresses, we will consider technologies from stone tools to computing and biotechnology.  However, rather than surveying the full history of technology, we will reflect on a few particular technologies, their design, their context, and their effects.  To learn about these technologies, we will rely on several guest lecturers from around the campus. To develop a framework for considering these technologies, we will also engage with a variety of contemporary perspectives on technology.

We'll consider questions such as the following:

Learning activities

Although TEC 154 is nominally a lecture course, I want you to be active participants in analyzing and integrating the material.  Much of our work will involve reading and discussion.  Thus, it is imperative that you come to class on time and prepared to participate.

In reviewing the schedule for the course, you'll note that most weeks follow one of two basic patterns.  In some weeks, we will engage with one or more foundational texts; in these weeks you will be expected to do the reading and submit discussion questions prior to class.  In other weeks, we will have a guest lecturer visit on Monday and Wednesday and set Friday aside to reflect on the technology and its relationship to our foundational readings. You should still do the required readings before class and come prepared to ask questions; however, rather than submitting discussion questions each day, you will write a short reflective essay for our Friday meeting.

In addition to these weekly activities, you will undertake two exams and a research project. For the project, you will work in small teams to investigate a technology that is not otherwise addressed in depth in this course. You will complete a series of milestones in the second half of the course, culminating in a presentation and paper due the last week of the semester. You will also review another teams' draft paper.

I may also suggest activities for extra credit throughout the term. You may propose activities for extra credit as well.

Grading policies

Because of the timely nature of deadlines in this course, no late work will be accepted except under extenuating circumstances or by prior arrangement.  If you anticipate being unable to meet a deadline, contact me to make arrangments at least three days before the deadline.

To offset this policy, I will drop your lowest grade (including a zero due to missing a deadline) on a discussion question and on a reflective essay.

I will use the following scheme as a base for weighting grades for individual activities in the final grade:

Participation 10%
Discussion questions 10%
Reflective essays 15%
Research project 20%
Peer review 10%
Midterm exam 15%
Final exam 20%

I do not believe in "grading on a curve"; I would be pleased if you all earned A's in this course.

Academic honesty

I encourage you to discuss texts and ideas with your classmates. You are also encouraged to get feedback on your writing from a peer or from the Writing Center. However, the words and ideas in your writing should be your own (or that of your team for the final project). Direct quotations must be properly indicated, and both direct quotes and paraphrases must be cited. Guest lecturers should be cited when appropriate. If another student or I contribute an important idea to your writing, you should cite that contribution as a personal communication. By College policy, any evidence of academic dishonesty must be turned over the the Committee on Academic Standing.


If you have specific physical, psychiatric, or learning disabilities and require accomodations, let me know early in the semester so that we can work together to meet your learning needs.  You will also need to provide documentation of your disability to the Academic Advising Office, located on the third floor of the Rosenfield Center (x3702).

Janet Davis (davisjan@cs.grinnell.edu)

Created January 8, 2007
Last revised January 25, 2007
With thanks to previous instructors for this course