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Critical Thinking:  Interpretation, Assumption and Inference
Words like interpret and interpretation come from the French for explaining or translating. If someone says that "We initially accumulate knowledge in the form of simple interpretations of our surroundings." it implies that we do more than just observe our surroundings. In order to understand them, we have to explain them to ourselves.
Let us consider one example involving a person looking at a carrot (see figure to the right).  When asked to provide his /her interpretation, the following might be offered:
The person may see a carrot as something orange and pointed; as the root of a plant; as something he / she can eat; as a thin sweet potato; a symbol for the Easter Bunny; or even as a miniature space rocket.

Each of these interpretations contains some of his / her  imagination, as well as his/ her observations, although some of them contain more imagination than others. In addition, some of these interpretations are better than others.


Let’s consider another example.  Look at the photograph to the right of the mule :


Now, try interpreting this photograph, without having any background knowledge.


Are you stumped?  Well. Here are a few interpretations:


* This is an old home photograph of someone’s  mule in the family rocking chair (a gag photograph).


*This is a photograph of a scientific experiment trying to measure balance in equine subjects.


*This is a photograph of someone’s companion animal (pet).  The mule’s owner has constructed him/ her a rocking chair, allowing the mule and owner to spend cozy evening around the fire.


* This is a photograph of a potty-training device for farm animals.


*This is a photograph of a catapult designed to assist arthritic farm animals get their legs in the morning, after reclining in hay during the night.


*This is a missile launcher for the Supreme Commander of a species of superior outer space mules who plan to conquer the universe.


What is the point of this?  Two points, actually. 


The first:  Although all of these are interpretations, many of them are not probable.  Meaning:  some interpretations are more logical, reasonable, and sane than others.  


The second point:  It is difficult to interpret images, events, words, etc. when there is no context, no background knowledge to assist in the interpretation.


These two rules apply as well to your film interpretation.


In the film interpretation assignment, you need to bring out its logical and most accurate meaning, spefically, the portrayal of masculinity.  Furthermore, you need to interpret the theme of masculinity within the context of the film, along with real life.
Film Interpretation:
To interpret a film, you need to be logical and objective, but you also need to put something of yourself into the interpretation. One person's interpretation of masculinity in Fight Club by way of logical reason, for example, will probably not be the same as another's.
It is, therefore, necessary to show how your interpretation fits in with what the director / screenwriter  (or whoever) said.   In short:  provide evidence for everything you say.  
Critical interpretation:
Critical interpretation is a phrase teachers find easy to use but difficult to explain.
Being critical
  • May mean that you have said what you think about the issues the film raises.
  • It should not mean (or just mean) that you have made an attack on the film or that you have listed the film's faults.
  • It may mean that, as part of your full explanation of the film, you have asked questions about the adequacy of some aspects of the film’s presentation / techniques.
  • It may mean that you have drawn out implications from the film. It could mean, for example, that in discussing what Fight Club means by masculinity you have examined the implications for gender relations today.

The critical aspect of your critical interpretation should add to the reader's understanding of the film rather than detracting from or praising the film.


Let us switch gears a bit here and do some thinking about information, assumption and inference, as these all come in to play with the film interpretation assignment.


As thinkers and film critics, it is important for us to distinguish among information, inference, and assumption.  As I have mentioned before, we all make inferences throughout the day, and we come to conclusions about people or situations or assign meaning to people, ideas and situations through our interpretations.  These inferences and interpretations often result from the assumptions we make or hold from our past experiences.


Let’s consider a visual example we might encounter while watching a film.


Let’s say that, a scene in a film we are watching has black clouds in the sky.  Viewers logically infer it is going to rain, with the assumption being it usually rains when there are black clouds in the sky.  There is really no problem with this, right.  The assumption is logical and neutral in terms of bias or stereotype.


Now, let’s look at another example:


In another scene from a film, there is a woman in a wheelchair.  One possible inference that a viewer might make is that, the woman in the wheelchair must have a sad life.  Here, the assumption leading to the inference is that people in wheelchairs have sad lives, since they are handicapped or disabled.  Of course, it is possible that the woman in the wheelchair has a sad life; however, other interpretations are possible, too.  What is also possible is stereotype and bias are intruding on the inference made.  This is what we all need to be on the watch for.


Class Activities*

Part I


In the following activity, you will consider a variety of situations (information).  For each situation, figure out what someone might infer, rightly or wrongly, in the situation.  Usually, there will be a range of possible inferences that different people might make, depending on their various beliefs. Then, having stated what you think someone might infer, figure out the assumption that would lead someone to make that inference.  As a suggestion, first figure out the most likely inference (whether rational or irrational). Then, and only then, try to figure out the assumption.  The assumption will be a generalization that led the person to make the inference.


Here is one example to help you along:


Information:  A police officer trails your car closely for several blocks

Possible Inference:  He / she is going to pull me over.

Assumption Leading to the Inference:  Whenever a police officer trails people, he / she is going to pull them over.


You try these  situations below.  Word-process your responses and submit them at the end of class.    If you do not complete these activities in class, please submit them on Wednesday.  Remember to include your name.


  1. Information:  You see a child crying next to her / his mother in the grocery store.

Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


  1. Information:  You meet an extremely attractive woman with blond hair.

 Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


  1. Information:  You notice a student in the college library reading a book by Karl Marx.

Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


  1. Information:  The writing instructor asks you to remain after class to discuss your writing and how you might strengthen it.

Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


5. Information:  While in a restaurant, your friend orders a steak cooked very rare.


Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


6.  Information:  A friend tells you she is pregnant and that she has decided to have an abortion.


Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


7.      Information:  Your roommate insists on listening to loud music while you are trying to study.


Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


8.      Information:   The telephone rings in the middle of the night.


Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


9.      Information:  Your significant other does not call you when she / he promised.


Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


10.  Information:  Your significant other would rather spend time at the library on weekends than partying with you.


Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


11.    You accept a ride home from a new friend.  As you walk up to her / his car in the parking lot, you discover that he/ she drives a Porsche 911 GT2.


Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


12.  Information:  Your best friend leaves a message on your answering machine telling you that she / he has quit school or his / her job and decided to join the Marines.


Possible Inference:

Assumption Leading to the Inference:


Part II

Using the same format we used in the exercise above, come up with ten “episodes “ yourself that include a situation (information) a possible inference for the situation, and the assumption leading to the inference.


                                                                      Situation, 1-10




ASSUMPTION  :         







Part Three


Go to our course in D2L and click on CONTENTS.  In Unit 5, select one of the topics in STUDENT EDITORIALS to read, "Men's Rights," or "Metrosexuality,"  Read the editorials in one of the topics and then interpret how each writer defines or handles the theme.



*Activities adapted from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, Critical Thinking:  Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life.


Image credits:


"carrot.jpg",302 x 601 pixels - 38k phillustrations.com/ art/carrot.jpg




Film Interpretation Questions
Critical Thinking:  Interpretation
Let us begin by reviewing a definition of interpretation:

1. interpretation, reading, version -- (a mental representation of the meaning or significance of something)
2. rendition, rendering, interpretation -- (the act of interpreting something as expressed in an artistic performance; "her rendition of Milton's verse was extraordinarily moving")
3. interpretation -- (an explanation that results from interpreting something; "the report included his interpretation of the forensic evidence")
4. interpretation, interpreting, rendition, rendering -- (an explanation of something that is not immediately obvious; "the edict was subject to many interpretations"; "he annoyed us with his interpreting of parables"; "often imitations are extended to provide a more accurate rendition of the child's intended meaning")
In this class session, we shall begin work in interpretation by asking a set of questions framed to your film. 
Why a list of questions?  Because  questions are the engines of critical thinking.
Indeed, applying a list of question frames to your work is the crucial beginning of critical thinking. As you progress through your major area(s) of study and become a more critical thinker, it will become easier to ask questions that are directly applicable to your work—without using an instructor’s question framework. This will partly be due to the development of awareness about the kinds of question your professors will be asking and partly the development of awareness about your discipline and how students (and professors) in that discipline are trained to think.
So, today in class, go on Microsoft WORD and key in answers to the following questions.  At the end of the session, print out a copy for me, please, and hand it in.  Be sure your name is on it.
Answer each question, making certain you provide evidence from the film and rationale for your views.
Film Questions (fill in the title of your film)
Fundamental Questions:
·         What is the director / screen writer basically saying here?
·         What is meant by "masculinity / manhood" in this film?
·         What does the film’s title mean? in terms of masculinity?
Part-Whole-Connection Questions:
·         Why does the film say what it says about masculinity?
·         How do the film’s ideas relate to the time period it is in?
·         What evidence or reasons does the director / screenwriter use to support his/her ideas?
·         How do the film’s views relate to those of its contemporaries?
·         How does the interpretation of masculinity in film fit into the course at this point?
Hypothesis Questions:
·         How might the film’s ideas be different if it was made twenty years ago?
·         What if we applied this to a discussion of masculinity in the future?   What might masculinity be like in the future?
Critical Questions:
·         Do I agree with the film’s message on masculinity?
·         Is the film persuasive in its presentation?   Why?
·         What would be the advantages of adopting the film’s views?
·         How are stereotypes about masculinity refuted or reinforced?
·         How is male sexuality presented? Masculinity is typically defined against femininity and homosexuality. How does the film work with this construct or does it challenge the us vs. them mentality?  How?
·         How is masculinity conjoined with race /ethnicity in this film?
·         How is masculinity conjoined with class/ socio-economic / occupations groups in this film?
Divergent Thinking Questions:
·         Hypothetically, assume the character of the main character / one of the main characters in the film.  What would you immediately start doing different in your own life, now that you are this character?  Be specific.
·         Hypothetically, assume the role of the casting director of the film.  Place a different actor (actors) in the main role(s).  Explain why you make the choice you do.
·         Hypothetically, assume that the main character in the film is your father, husband, best friend (you choose the relationship).  Write a short letter to him, giving him advice about a predicament he encounters in the film.
  Outrageous/ Devil’s Advocate Questions:
·         Create two brazen, outrageous questions related to masculinity in your film.  Your questions should be provocative and thought-provoking.  Use of expletives and” street” language is acceptable, if the language is appropriate within the context of the film and the question. But, please, no locker-room language just for the sake of vulgarity.
The Nomadic Worker's Manifesto

Carry Nothing

I think if you want to travel better, you have to understand that nomadic work is ultimately personal in nature. The most valuable thing you carry when you travel is yourself. Conversely, your most valuable take-away is that you've been there personally.

Because people don't focus on the real purpose of travel -- to interact in person, face-to-face -- they invariably carry too much with them. Think about it. You know you're going to a hotel where there will be plenty of tissue and soap, so you don't need to carry those things. Similarly, information is accessible virtually anywhere, anytime -- from hotel computers to Internet cafés. Knowledge workers' tools have evolved to the point where we can uncouple ourselves from the information itself.

Now that all the data you need can be placed on the Internet, you don't need to weigh yourself down with a computer. The only work tool you really need is your concentration, and then you can work from anywhere -- with tools that you find there. You can always scratch an idea on a napkin. Remember, you're traveling for the immediate experience of meeting someone -- not to exchange data.

Give Memory Gifts

I don't give souvenir gifts. I collect good stories, and when I return, I give the people I care about stories instead of objects. By doing so, I help them discover another way to see the world, and I transmit not only ideas but feelings as well.

In the end, objects are material, so they're difficult to carry. Objects weigh you down. They fix you in a place. Nomadic culture is an oral one; it's about speaking, communicating, exchanging cultural information -- not accumulating objects. Above all, nomadic work is about ideas. Ideas are by far the most valuable commodity on the market. I'm in the business of creating something that has value -- but that is completely intangible. So I've found that I offer the most value by giving immaterial gifts, both in work and in life.

Isolate Everywhere

When you're traveling, don't think of yourself as "away from home." Don't think, "I have a fixed place in space and society, and now I'm away from it." You aren't traveling, you're just moving. It doesn't matter where you are, because everywhere can be home if you consider it so.

Our notions about home are completely outdated. For example, if you call someone "homeless," you're using that person's lack of an address as a shorthand to say that person doesn't belong to proper society. But with mobile communications, it's possible to be "homeless" -- to be entirely mobile -- while participating fully in society. Home, as we conceive it today, is not a necessary construct. Ten years ago, people needed a home -- an address, a phone line, a mailbox -- in order to receive information. That is not the case today.

In fact, the idea of home could be erased entirely, except, of course, that families with children need a physical base. Maybe the next generation will grow up knowing that they can be entirely mobile, because home isn't so much a fixed location as it is an emotional state. When you banish the idea of home, you suddenly realize that you can work or live anywhere you go.

Consider Everywhere an Interior

Most urban places are like interiors -- they have incredible amenities. So be comfortable wherever you go. One of the principles in my manifesto is "concentrate everywhere." Another is "write everywhere." And "relax everywhere." You don't need sophisticated tools or offices to do any of those things. All you need is the ability to focus your attention, whether you're on a train, on a plane, or in a lobby.

I also think that people should consume. I don't mean gorge -- I mean take in small amounts of those things that set you at ease. Buy a coffee at a café. Pick up a magazine. Buy a pack of chewing gum. Make a telephone call. Consumption isn't bad -- it's normal. We live in a consumer society, and we need to consume in order to interact. Use the services around you when you travel. There are plenty of small comforts you can get with money, so do so.

Bridge Cultures

What is the one thing you really need with you at all times, particularly in generic spaces such as airports and hotels? Your identity. Identity is deeply rooted in culture, and one of the most enduring artifacts of culture is a sense of humor. It's like regional spices in food. You can speak English, French, or German; you can dress casually or formally; you can speak about the Internet, plastic, or plants. But in the end, the quality that makes you different is your sense of humor and your perspective.

If we were nothing but machines for doing business, we wouldn't need a cultural identity. But I think identity and humor give us an advantage in business and life, and benefit us by enabling a give-and-take that transcends the transfer of information.

If you're truly nomadic, you have to have some form of home. Your original home is where you come from, how you were educated, the culture in which you were raised: It's your identity. When you meet someone for the first time, one of the first questions you ask is, "Where do you come from?" If you have no home base, you reply with your cultural identity. You say, "I grew up in Barcelona." Your identity is the home you keep with you at all times, and it is private and unique to you.

Approach and Flirt

Speak with people casually when you travel. Don't be so focused on work that you fail to absorb other information that is equally important. Remember, in the end, the reason that you're traveling is to gain firsthand knowledge, to experience being there. You're traveling in order to bring another reality closer to you, and to share your reality with others.

Also, flirt when you travel. I'm not talking about the kind of flirting that involves physical attraction. I'm talking about playful human banter, the enjoyment of talking with a person in a more intimate and relaxed way. Objects can flirt too, you know. They can communicate playfully and intimately with you.

When I arrive in a place where I'm going to do business, I always make a point of chatting with strangers. Casual information about a place is incredibly valuable. If you understand a culture, you can break the ice in conversation, make a joke, or construct a speech better. Your negotiations turn out better, because you know the character of the people with whom you are doing business. The better you know a place, the more easily you can do business there -- and the more sophisticated your business relations can be. And the better you know people in general, the better you can navigate the world.

Crisis Simulation


This exercise is a simulation of an national crisis ( on a personal level ) in which participants work in teams (your small group) to set strategy, choose tactics, analyze and anticipate the reactions of other parties, and to resolve disagreements.

Goals of Assignment

--Application of critical thinking skills.

--Understanding the range of crisis management approaches and tools available to leaders or people in authority.

--Exploring and considering different models of decision-making and assessing which are best suited to resolving crises in different settings and contexts.

--Honing skill in formulating objectives and strategies under pressure and for complex situations.

Learning to organize and lead a crisis management team, marshall resources, and develop effective and ethically sound decision-making and implementation processes.

Develop strategic approaches for managing and analyzing information in high-pressure situations. Enforcing team-building, development, and decision-making abilities.

Guidelines for Assignment

--You need to assume the persona of a think tank analyst,and you need to "stay in character."

--You need to treat the situation as a serious problem, deserving intellectual and ethical diligence.

--You and your group need to do the utmost to make the best decision in a bad and limiting situation.

--You need to deal with "facts" as much as possible,even though this means the facts are not emotionally comfortable.

--Be conscious, while going through the exercise and the decision making process, of your assumptions, biases, stereotypes.

--Enjoy the exercise.

Crisis Situation

You and your team (class members in small group) are members of a government think tank, specializing in strategic planning. Assume that you are a professional in your late thirties to early forties, as are your colleagues, who are comprised of an historian; an economist; a psychologist; a military strategist; and a public health official. There are five men in your think tank and one woman. (Note: For the purpose of this exercise,it does not matter what the gender mix of your small group really is, nor does it matter how many people are actually in your small group. This situation is a simulation.)

In the middle of the night, you and your team members are contacted at your homes and asked to report to a "safe room" in a high security area. Once you are all in the safe room, an area approximately 30'X 40', with food, water, and supplies for approximately nine months, you are instructed to lock the door and allow no admittance. You are further instructed that your assignment is provided in the sealed envelopes(one for each person) on the meeting table in the room. You and your colleagues sit down at the table and read the directive.

Here is the situation: By the time you and your team are reading the contents of the envelopes, at least 3/4 of the United States has been destroyed by numerous nuclear detonations launched by an unidentified foreign power. The United States, responding in kind, has also launched nuclear weapons on all continents, except Australia and Antartica.

With food, water and supplies ( cooking; cleaning; medical ) for six people for nine months, your task is to strategize about how to regroup and reorganize survivors,if indeed there are any, once you open the safe room door nine months from now.

Stunned and agitated by the directive, you and your team set to work.

A month passes, and then a new situation arises that is the cause of disagreement and debate among you and your colleagues:

Six people, survivors of the nuclear detonation, have discovered your safe room, and they have asked to be admitted. (You can see each other and talk to each other by way of a small window in the safe room door and a battery-operated intercom system that works poorly, making it difficult to converse at any length.)From appearances, the people are uninjured and in relatively good health, considering the circumstances. The expectation is,though, that all six people are emotionally traumatized, malnourished, and have been exposed to radiation.

Here are the profiles of the six people:

--a twenty-seven year old high school social studies teacher, male;

--a twenty-one year old pregnant woman (six months pregnant);

--a fifty-five year old homemaker,female;

--a forty-three year old physician (internal medicine),male;

--a thirty year old police officer,female;

--and a sixteen year old gang member,male.

At first, your group does not want to allow any of the people in, as the directive instructions had specified. With time,however, people in your group begin to question the ethics of the directive, and soon all of you agree that one person may enter the safe room. The question is who?

Your Task

Your task is to make a group decision on who may enter the safe room. For the purpose of this exercise, you must admit one person and no more. Furthermore, for the purpose of this assignment, the decison must be unanimous.

--You may conduct online research to gather information that might help you make your decision. Time limit: twenty minutes for each group. *Assume your intelligence source is cut off in twenty-minutes.

--You need to determine how you will make the decision. What will be the determining variable(s)? How will you handle disagreement? Will there be a group leader? If not, then how does the group proceed to get the decision made? How do you build quality assurance into your decision making process?

--You also need to analyze consequences for the think tank group; for the person who is allowed entry; and for the goal set forth by the directive.

Here is a brief checklist:

--Determine how your group will operate to make the decision.

--Determine the emotional and psychological needs of your team. What is needed for you all to make the best decision possible here? What variables are impacting you as individuals and as professionals?

--Analyze your strategic options for survival and recovery, once you open the door. What is your basic plan? What will you do to achieve your directive?

--Analyze what the environment(social/natural world/ physical infrastructure/ technological/ psychological) outside the room will be like, once you open the safe room door. How will this environment pose obstacles to your strategic plan? How can you work around those obstacles?

--Which of the six people will you allow to enter the room with you? What ratonale will you use to make your decision? Remember: It is your job to be as dispassionate and judicious as possible. Consider the pros and cons for all the individuals. Consider if stereotype and assumption are intruding on your decision. Consider if bias is a factor.

How will this person impact the preceding items on the check list? Be specific and concrete as possible.

So,what is your decision? At the end of class, provide a brief written statement of your rationale / decision making process.   Please submit your recommendation to Colette.

Now, Primary Research

In addition, between now and our next class session, conduct an informal survey (your first venture in primary research this term) of this crisis situation with five people, ages sixteen or older. Try to have a variety of ages and occupations, if possible as well as a gender mix.

Verbally layout the scenario for the people you survey, and ask them to make a logical decision, based on the perimeters of the think tank assignment.  Keep an informal log of the survey results to hand in to Colette. ***********************************************************

Critical Thinking:  MP3 Ethics
Simulation and Role Playing
Goal:  Interpretation,  Analysis, Evaluation, and Assumption Differentiation

One approach to critical thinking that is often used in business schools and political science classes is simulation, which can take a variety of forms. Simulations seek to mirror real-world situations such that, students can experience many of the same constraints and motivations for action (or inaction) experienced by real player in the real world.

Simulations and role playing can also be—
* a brain-storming device
*a method of actualizing a thought experiment
*a chance to pre-test behavioral assumptions in decision models prior to implementation
*a two-way learning device (learning from others)
*a way to open communication lines among players
*a  display of the 'gestalt' of a situation for efficient transfer of ideas and data

In the MP3 Ethics assignment below, we shall investigate the thorny problem of miscommunication and misinterpretation in a college setting.  You will see that communication, verbal and written, is not always interreted accuratekly by the parties involved.

Let me outline the complexity of the situation for you:

What the college official thinks she says.
What she actually says.
What the college student recipients thinks she says.

None of these are necessarily the same, and three chances already exist for a breakdown in communication.

As a result of what a recipient hears, she / he may make a reply, giving:

What she/ she thinks he/ she says.
What she / he actually says.
What the college officials thinks she / he says.

Now, multiply that by the number of recipients that may be listening to the number of college
officials involved in the MP3 problem, and you begin to understand the opportunities for misinterpretations that may arise.

Let's take a look at what the fuss is all about.

Campus MP3 Controversy

MP3 audio files enable users to exchange compact disk recordings digitally over the Internet. Music lovers use MP3's to search for rare recordings. They also can use them to copy an entire compact disk and transmit it to anyone at no cost. Recently, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has undertaken a major effort to combat copyright violations. The RIAA sends letters to colleges and universities whenever its researchers discover on campus servers offering copyrighted music. According to Frank Creighton, an RIAA Senior Vice President, when the Association began its monitoring efforts several years ago it discovered that about seventy per-cent of the infringing sites were on university campuses. "…We're willing to give individuals or students a first pass," said Mr. Creighton. "But if we catch you doing it again," he said, "we have no alternative but to take the stance that you're thumbing your nose at us, and you don't take us seriously, and there are potential civil and criminal remedies that we will invoke if we need to."

In the fall of 1999, network administrators at Elliot University, without prior warning, checked the public folders of two hundred and fifty (250) student computers connected to the University's network, and found seventy one (71) students whose files contained illegally copied MP3's. The students lost their in-room Internet connections for the rest of the semester, which meant they had to use a university computer lab to gain access to the Internet. All the students were given a right to appeal their penalties, and students who attended a ninety minute class on copyright had their penalties reduced by one month. Speaking of the investigation, Colette Wanless-Sobel, Elliot University’s Associate Dean for Student Affairs said, "It wasn't a big caper. All we did was go  in to take a look at the culture of our Internet." Ms. Wanless-Sobel noted that prior to the investigation, University officials had discussed whether it would be a good idea to step up efforts at educating students about copyright violations. "We now know it would be," she said.

Under the Digital Millenium Act, which Congress passed last year, on-line service providers, such as universities, can avoid liability if they take certain steps specified in the Act. These include, in cases when the university has been informed of an infringement, shutting off access to the infringing material, and notifying the user who posted it, so that he or she can take up the matter with the copyright holder. The user must be given the right by the university to appeal the shutoff. According to Mr. Steven Grayson, an attorney for the American Library Association, if a university meets the above requirements, in all likelihood, it will avoid liability for any given infringement.

"I'm no fan of the recording industry," said Ms. Wanless-Sobel of Elliot University, "but our students need to understand they're probably going to be out there creating software some day that's going to make them a million dollars." If that software winds up in some shared community," Ms. Wanless-Sobel observed, "their livelihood is jeopardized." "So why should we not afford the same opportunities to make a living to other members of our community?," asked Ms. Wanless-Sobel.

Many students at Elliot University are outraged at the violation of their privacy by the university officials.    Letters of protest, student demonstrations, and campus-wide E-mails have been sent to the entire academic community at Elliot University, including the Board of Trustees.  The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, has also been notified, giving Elliot University bad press for employing “Nazi  and police-state tactics.”  (This phrase was used in the campus newspaper and quoted in the other metropolitan newspapers reporting on the incident).
To quell the campus discord, the Dean of Students has allowed a student subcommittee (you) to form and discuss the situation and make recommendations that will be passed along to the university president and the trustees.

Your task is as follows:


--First of all, interpret as objectively as possible the actions and words of all the players/ stakeholders.  What did each group really mean / intend?  Why / how has each group misinterpreted the other groups' words / intentions/ motives?

--By way of analysis, using the information provided above, determine whether Elliot University did, indeed, violate students’ rights.  Why / why not?  Focus:  Breach of ethics.

--Determine whether university officials were right to pull student’s computing privileges.  Why / why not?  Focus:  Breach of personal rights.

--Analyze statements made by music industry officials as well as university personnel. Evaluate the weight of these statements, ethically, legally, and rationally.

--Likewise, determine whether students’ use of MP3 placed the university at risk for litigation?  Why / why not?   Focus:  Legal breach

--Determine whether students’ use of “Nazi and police state tactics” in the college paper was responsible journalism of inflammatory speech that damages the university’s reputation.  Focus: Responsible, ethical journalism.

--In addition, suggest how Elliot University and students might formulate a realistic policy regarding MP3 usage in the future that is respectful of students’ use but also does not place the university at risk  of  litigation from the music industry.

Note:  Assign one person to act as recording secretary for the student subcommittee.  Submit your “report” to  Wanless-Sobel, Student Affairs Big-Wig, at the end of class.


The Qualities of Good Writing

1. Voice- one person talking to another; consistent tone in the writing; style of the writing is appropriate for the purpose; makes the reader believe in the writing.

2. Movement- words build and pull the reader along; sense of order.

3. Light Touch- the writer does not take himself/herself too seriously; even tempered.

4. Informative- information is important; it says something & adds to our experience.

5. Inventive- unique experience; the ideas are something new or something old but presented in a new way.

6. Sense of Audience- makes contact with the reader; anticipates the readers needs; compliments the reader with meaning.

7. Detail- the writing is concrete, photographic, and selective; puts the reader there.

8. Rhythm- words that sing; effortless reading.

9. Sentence fluency- sentences are correct & establish a cadence (similar to rhythm).

10. Ideas (Focus)- useful details; logical development, finds and maintains focus.

11. Organization- finds an internal structure that is consistent with the main idea (e.g., if the main idea is about time then the writing is organized by some time sequence).

12. Word Choice- phrasing is precise and original; avoids clichés; eliminates repetition except when deliberately planned.

13. Correctness- mechanical correctness; spelling, grammar, punctuation.


Education for the 21st Century

1. Learning is fundamentally about making and maintaining connections: biologically through neural networks; mentally among concepts, ideas, and meanings; and experientially through interaction between the mind and the environment, self and other, generality and context, deliberation and action.

2. Learning is enhanced by taking place in the context of a compelling situation that balances challenge and opportunity, stimulating and utilizing the brain's ability to conceptualize quickly and its capacity and need for contemplation and reflection upon experiences.

3. Learning is an active search for meaning by the learner -- constructing knowledge rather than passively receiving it, shaping as well as being shaped by experiences.

4. Learning is developmental, a cumulative process involving the whole person, relating past and present, integrating the new with the old, starting from but transcending personal concerns and interests.

5. Learning is done by individuals who are intrinsically tied to others as social beings, interacting as competitors or collaborators, constraining or supporting the learning process, and able to enhance learning through cooperation and sharing.

6. Learning is strongly affected by the educational climate in which it takes place: the settings and surroundings, the influences of others, and the values accorded to the life of the mind and to learning achievements.

7. Learning requires frequent feedback if it is to be sustained, practice if it is to be nourished, and opportunities to use what has been learned.

8. Much learning takes place informally and incidentally, beyond explicit teaching or the classroom, in casual contacts with faculty and staff, peers, campus life, active social and community involvements, and unplanned but fertile and complex situations.

9.Learning is grounded in particular contexts and individual experiences, requiring effort to transfer specific knowledge and skills to other circumstances or to more general understandings and to unlearn personal views and approaches when confronted by new information.

10. Learning involves the ability of individuals to monitor their own learning, to understand how knowledge is acquired, to develop strategies for learning based on discerning their capacities and limitations, and to be aware of their own ways of knowing in approaching new bodies of knowledge and disciplinary frameworks.


The Seven Principles

(Read the following short article. As you are reading, keep your own educational experience in mind.)

SEVEN PRINCIPLES FOR GOOD PRACTICE IN UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson From the Wingspread Journal-- special edition.

SUMMARY Following is a brief summary of the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education as compiled in a study supported by the American Association of Higher education, the Education Commission of States, and The Johnson Foundation.

1. GOOD PRACTICE ENCOURAGES STUDENT FACULTY CONTACT Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students' intellectual commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and future plans.

2. GOOD PRACTICE ENCOURAGES COOPERATION AMONG STUDENTS Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one's own ideas and responding to other's reactions improves thinking and deepens understanding.

3. GOOD PRACTICE ENCOURAGES ACTIVE LEARNING Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.

4. GOOD PRACTICE GIVES PROMPT FEEDBACK Knowing what you know and don't know focuses learning. Students need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses. In getting started, students need help in assessing existing knowledge and competence. In classes, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At various points during college, and at the end, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how to assess themselves.

5. GOOD PRACTICE EMPHASIZES TIME ON TASK Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time on task. Learning to use one's time well is critical for student and professional alike. Students need help in learning effective time management. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty. How an institution defines time expectations for students, faculty and administrators, and other professional staff can establish the basis for high performance for all.

6. GOOD PRACTICE COMMUNICATES HIGH EXPECTATIONS Expect more and you will get it. High expectations are important for everyone -- for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well motivated. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy when teachers and institutions hold high expectations of themselves and make extra efforts.

7. GOOD PRACTICE RESPECTS DIVERSE TALENTS AND WAYS OF LEARNING There are many roads to learning. People bring different talents and styles of learning to college. Brilliant students in the seminar room may be all thumbs in the lab or art studio. Students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well in theory. Students need to opportunity to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to learning in new ways that do not come so easily.


Intercative Story-Telling / Fact Selection


An Excercise in Interactive Story Telling?

"The method is simple," wrote William Burroughs. "Here is one way to do it. Take a page. Like this page.
Now cut down the middle and across the middle. You have four sections: 1 2 3 4 . . . one two three four.
Now rearrange the sections placing section four with section one and section two with section three.
And youhave a page."

[(William Burroughs, quoted in Benjamin Woolley, Virtual Worlds: A Journey in Hype and Hyperreality
(New York: Penguin Books, 1992)154.]

Woolley continues by stating that this is the "cut-up method of writing, which novelists like Burroughs developed
to destroy the control of narrative. Why, he and those like him wanted to know, should z follow y, day follow night,
two follow one, hangover follow reckless indulgence?" (Because it does???)

Is Wooley right in stating that Burroughs developed this cut-up method?

To find out what happens to narrative in an interactive context repeat the part of the exercise to the point of
cutting up the pieces. However, instead of assembling them yourself, hand them to your neighbor and let
him or her assemble the parts of your story. What happens?



Source:  http://claudiaherbst.org/burroughs.html


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