Evolution of Technology (TEC 154 2014S) : Home

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Welcome to the Spring 2014 session of Grinnell College's TEC 154, The Evolution of Technology, which is described briefly in the official blurb and the unofficial goals distributed by faculty who previously taught this course.

My own take on the class is that we will consider the nature and effect of technology from several perspectives. Rather than simply considering a history of technology, we will instead reflect on a small number of technologies, their design, their context, and their impact. To help us reflect, we will rely on a number of guest lecturers from across campus.

In an attempt to provide up-to-date information, and to spare a few trees, I am making this as much of a “paperless” course as I can. Hence, materials will be in a course web, available at http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~rebelsky/Courses/TEC154/2014S/.


Meets: MWF 8:00-8:50, Science 3821.

Instructor: Samuel A. Rebelsky (rebelsky@grinnell.edu), Science 3824. I also tend to follow an open door policy: Feel free to stop by when my door is open or to make an appointment for another time. Check my schedule for more details.


This grading system is tentative, and may change.

  • Class participation (10%).
  • Questions and comments on readings (20%).
  • Class Notes (10%).
  • Final paper about a technology not covered in class (15%). You may work on this paper alone or in a group of size two or three.
  • Responses to classmates' work (5%). E.g., Edits of classmates' papers and comments on classmates' presentations.
  • Presentation (10%).
  • Midterm (15%).
  • Final (20%).
  • Worst of (midterm, paper, final, readings) (-5%). That is, whichever of the major components of your grade is weakest has a lesser impact on your final grade.

My experience shows that students who turn in work late learn significantly less than students who turn material in on time. (I'm not sure about cause and effect.) Hence, I strongly discourage late assignments. Unless prior arrangements have been made, assignments are due within five minutes after the start of class. After that they are considered late. Late assignments are penalized one letter grade per day late (or fraction thereof).

Extra Credit: I will often offer one unit of extra credit for attending a specified academic event (e.g., a computer science talk or College convocation) or for supporting your classmates in their public endeavors (e.g., attending a concert, dance recital, or sporting event). Each category is capped at four units of extra credit, which count as one point toward your final grade. So, if you attend four academic events and four peer support events, you will receive an additional two points toward your final grade. For any activity you wish to credit this way, you must send me a short (one paragraph) note about the activity within two days of the activity.

Books and Other Readings

Norman, Donald A. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things, Revised Edition. Basic Books.
A (now revised) classic reflection on the way in which things are designed and how those designs affect the way in which we use the things.
Petroski, Henry (1992). To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design. Vintage.
An engineer's reflections on technology.
Rebelsky, Samuel (2014). The TEC154 2014S Course Web.
The hypertext that you are currently reading.
Teich, Albert H., Ed. (2005). Technology and the Future, 10th ed. Wadsworth.
A broad range of articles on technology. Although this text is now in its 12th edition, we will rely on the 10th edition because it contains the primary readings we will use. (I'd prefer that you use the 10th edition so that we all have the same page numbers.)

We will also read a variety of additional articles, some suggested by our visitors and some added in forthcoming weeks.

Copyright (c) 2014 Samuel A. Rebelsky.

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