Information Technology is now impacting most people’s lives in developed countries much more than ever before and many of you will be working in occupations that can have a significant influence on how people’s lives are affected by that technology. You will be working applying your technical or scientific knowledge that might affect the way that people communicate with each other or how they do their jobs, gain new knowledge and skills, participate in the global society at all levels etc. What you do in your working lives will matter to other people.
The description that has been prepared for this course is in the figure below:
This course has learning objectives that will help develop your understanding of this impact. These are:
1. Understand that scientific / technical work has a human and social impact. Your use of technology will impact others and has the potential to improve or damage the way we live. This may happen in big or small ways – your ability to choose what you do based on your understanding of it’s impact will allow you to be a more responsible citizen.
2. Understand that different people can understand this impact in different ways. In much of the social sciences there is argument over theory and practice and the impact that it will have. When Iraqi regime was toppled by the West many believed that the invading armies would be welcomed as saviours and that peaceful democracy was close at hand. Others argued that this was unlikely and we now know what did happen. In this sense there is uncertainty about how your activities as scientists and technologists will impact people and you will understand through this course that different points of view exist that you should consider before deciding on what you believe to be the appropriate way to act.
3. Understand some of the current issues in the social impact of technology. We will look at the social impact of technology in a wide range of areas that will help you develop your ability to critically analyse the impact that your scientific and technical activities will have. By looking at specific current instances of the impact of technology you will develop your knowledge in these areas that you will be able to apply in the next few years and your wider skills in understanding issues that will arise in the future and how to interpret them.
4. Develop your communication and debating skills. While this course will develop your understanding of the impact of technology it is also important that we help you develop your ability to communicate with others around it, to understand the points of view that others have and to persuade others of the importance of the impact that your activities will have. The course therefore has a debate component in which you will work in teams to develop and present arguments.
Your course will be supported by teaching assistants who will be introduced to you. They will provide guidance to you in your debate preparation, undertake grading of your assessed activities, manage tutorials and respond to any requests for assistance that you may have. A separate post provides a profile of your course professor, Peter Carr.
This course will apply information technology in its delivery in ways that are intended to enhance your learning experience. In LEARN you will find powerpoint slides of the lectures for each week of the course. You will also find links within the powerpoint slides to the videos that are shown during the lectures. There is extensive video material on the internet in the areas that this course covers and we will access this where appropriate.
An extensive literature review was conducted for this course and key readings selected that are intended to allow you to explore the topic further. A primary reading has been selected for each week and it is advised that you read this as the knowledge in the reading may feature in your final examination. Secondary readings are optional but will allow you to demonstrate higher levels of subject knowledge in your assignments, debates and the final exam. PDF’s of the readings will be posted in LEARN. There is no textbook for this course.
This blog is a beta tool for the course – it is a trial area that may be useful to you. Comments and suggestions on its use and development are welcome and encouraged.
Course Weekly Topics
In each week of the course we will look at a specific topic in the Impact of Information Systems on Society. In the first week of the course you will be asked to complete a survey to indicate the areas that you find of most interest and to suggest any areas in these topics that you might like to see covered. You will complete this survey in the first class and you will be able to view the results of the survey in real time.
The assessment for this course is in four parts:
1. The debate, 40 marks.
2. The half term written assignment, 20 marks.
3. The debate response, 20 marks.
4. Final individual written assignment exam, 20 marks.
These will now be explained in more detail.
1. The debate, 40 marks.
The debate will allow you to develop a deeper understanding of the range of opinions on the topics being debated and to understand that there is often no “perfect” answer to questions about social issues in information technology. Your debating teams will be posted in LEARN at the end of week 2 along with the schedule of which teams will debate in each week. Debates will commence in week 4 and two teams will debate with each other each week. One team will argue for the topic and the other team will argue against the topic. The topics will be allocated two weeks before each debate in order to ensure that each team has the same time to prepare.
The debating process will be subject to peer review by both the team and your class. Within your team you will be able to assess the contribution made by each team member and hence ensure that grades are assessed based on the effort made and hence contribute to ensuring that grades are awarded fairly.
At the end of each debate the class will be able to provide its feedback on the performance of each debating team which will allow you to better understand areas that you might like to focus on in your own skill development.
Of course the debate will have a specific format. You may be familiar with political debates.
The format for your debates is as follows:
1. Presentation of the for argument followed by presentation of the against argument. You can either produce a video of up to 10 minutes or use a live presentation. One presenter will present per team and each presentation will be no more than 10 minutes. You will be cut off if you exceed this time.
2. This will be followed by three questions from each team to the other team. The questioner and the responder from each team will be chosen randomly by your professor.
3. Each team will then have three minutes to present a summation of their case. You will select the person who will do this.
4. You should at all times act in a courteous manner to the team that you are debating with. Marks will be deducted if appropriate for discourteous behaviour.
5. You may prepare presentation materials to be used in your debate.
Please be polite in your debating activity (not like this):
2. Half term written assignment, 20 marks
Your half term written assignment is:
Consider the impact of technology on third world development. Overall, do you think that this has had a positive or negative impact? Explain the evidence to support your arguments and the possible criticisms that might be made of these.
You have a 1500 word limit and may add appendices above this limit. References should use an appropriate referencing system. Due date: End of reading week, Sunday midnight via LEARN.
3. The debate response, 20 marks
Select a debate from any of those that appear in the course and write a summary of the main arguments that were presented by each side. Consider these arguments and present your own conclusions.
Your word limit is 750 words and your assignment is due the week following the debate (10 days later) that you choose on Sunday at midnight via LEARN.
4. The final individual written assignment, 20 marks
Select a topic from weeks 6 – 12 of the course and consider the impact that information technology has had in that area. Outline the positive and negative aspects of this impact and draw your own conclusions. Critically analyse your conclusions. 1500 words. Due on Sunday at midnight on the week following the end of the course.
Your Course Participation
Your active participation in the course will strengthen your learning substantially. There are a number of ways that you can do this. First, you are encouraged to contribute in class discussion where we will consider the content of the lectures and you will have the opportunity to express your views in polls and surveys.
The debates are an opportunity to engage in discussion with your peers in your team and through the debate itself. There will also be online discussion in LEARN where there are two main areas. The first of these is Ask The Professor where you can ask questions on the course content or comment as you wish. Everyone will see your question and everyone will also see the professor’s answer which will add to the value you gain from the course. You are encouraged to ask questions of a non-privacy sensitive nature here rather than by private email.
The Coffee Shop (also in LEARN) is where you can talk with your peers about anything that you wish. Your professor and TAs will not be monitoring this area so please do not expect a response from them if you post in the Coffee Shop. You should be aware though that the professor has access to this area and it is not private. You may wish to use the Coffee Shop to share study advice and resources as you prepare for the exam.
Office hours for the course are by arrangement with the professor. The professor will also respond promptly via LEARN.
Tutorials will take place on Thursdays in the course lecture room at 3.30. They will be based on recorded video material and will be accessible online. The TAs will facilitate the tutorials.
Good Luck with the course and please do not hesitate to make any comments on how you might feel that it may be improved.