- 1. Using science fiction to teach science, fiction, and communications skills Daniel W. Koon, Jonathan Gottschall St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617, USA [email_address]
- The two courses Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and To Boldly Go form a year-long sequence of a science-fiction-based section of St. Lawrence Universitys First-Year Program [FYP].The FYP is a yearlong course required of all entering students, which teaches communications skills in a team-taught, multidisciplinary setting.The course allows the instructor to teach science -- from paleoanthropology to astronomy -- and fiction -- from Robert Heinlein to Philip K. Dick -- in the context of a general education course in formal written composition, oral presentation and academic research.
- Composition (rhetoric) instruction in North American colleges & universities
- St. Lawrence Univ.s First Year Program [the FYP]
- Using science fiction in the FYP
- B. Ladd, J. Weeks, J. Barthelme, M. Wenner
- J. Simon, Eli S. Koon, T. Gottschall
4. The First Year in North American Colleges and Universities
- Freshman Composition [Freshman Comp]:
- Focus: short essays through research paper
- Required of all incoming students at many/most North American institutions
- Required for most graduate programs (medical school, etc.)
5. St. Lawrence Universitys First Year Program [FYP]
- Equivalent to 1.5 courses per semester for two semesters
- Required of all first year students
- Class size: 15 students / instructor
- Has a residential component
- Team taught, thematic, interdisciplinary
- Single instructor, more focused (often more specialized) theme
6. St. Lawrence Universitys First Year Program [FYP]
- Skills component requirements (minimum):
- 3 short written essays (2-3 pages, ca. 1000 words)
- 1 research paper (10-12 pages, ca. 5000 words) or its equivalent
7. Why would a science instructor want to teach communications skills?
- True interdisciplinary exchange with a colleague from outside the sciences
- Pedagogical development opportunity
- Insight into what skills students bring into upper level courses (lab reports, etc.)
- Develop non-conventional course outside department
- Recruit students to science
- Teach science to non-majors
- Meet new students one would otherwise never meet
- Familiarize yourself more closely with student life (residential component)
8. SF in the FYP: Science Fiction in the First Year Program
- Challenges and questions:
- [How] can physicist teach writing?
- Less content than regular course
- Minimal content makes a true SF survey course unworkable. So how do you structure the course?
- Broad audience (from diehard Trekkies to the unwilling)
- Can one use the sf to inspire writing?
- Can one convey a sense of science as a process?
- Can one convey a sense of the speculative nature of science?
- Should one include scientific lab projects? How?
9. Do androids dream of electric sheep? (First semester)
- Instructors backgrounds: experimental solid state physics; interdisciplinary background in humanities and evolutionary biology
- Divided into 5 thematic units, including one for students favorites, one to concentrate on final project.
- Three local expert guest lectures
- Use of popular films, short stories, two novels ( Brave New Worldby Huxley andThe Inheritorsby Golding), technical readings
10. Do androids dream of electric sheep? (First semester)
Paper #2: 2-3 ppIndividual oral presentations: Science fiction that has become science fact Film:The Matrix Film:Mars Attacks! Radio broadcast:War of the worlds Whats your favorite? (Students choices) Brave New World-- Huxley Mr.Tompkins-- Gamow Film:Gattaca ,Lathe of heaven And he built a crooked house Heinlein Guest: Geometry of the Universe Whats in store? (The Future) Paper #1: 2-3 pp Invaders-- Kessel Lifeline-- HeinleinThe time machine Wells What is SF? MAJOR ASSIGNMENTS TEXT AND GUEST LECTURES TOPIC 11. Do androids dream of electric sheep? (First semester)
Syllabus: http://it.stlawu.edu/%7Ekoon/ classes/FYP/androids.html The Inheritors -- Golding I, Robot: Escape! -- Asimov Film: Blade runner Guest: Neanderthals Guest: Artificial intelligence What is human? Group oral presentations: 2-person oral presentation on some science topic Final written project: 10-12 page work of fiction, based on same topic. None Whats your idea? (Students original fiction) MAJOR ASSIGNMENTS TEXT AND GUEST LECTURES TOPIC 12. To Boldly Go: The science and fiction of space travel, time travel, and extraterrestrials (Second semester)
- Course has three thematic units: space travel, time travel, extraterrestrials.
- Students write a research paper on one technical aspect from one of these three thematic units.
- Students make three oral presentations: one on the topic of their research paper, one on a piece of fiction, and one debate.
- Each presentation also includes a short essay.
- Each presentation comes from a separate thematic unit of course.
- Students bear the principal responsibility for teaching content
13. To Boldly Go: The science and fiction of space travel, time travel, and extraterrestrials
Were the Moonwalks faked? Will humans ever leave the solar system? Baron v.Munchausen Cyrano de Bergerac Film:Contact The wind from the sun Clarke Generation ships Solar sails Wormholes Tachyons Warp drive DEBATES SELECTED FICTION TECHNICAL CONCEPTS Will humans ever travel backwards in time? Slaughterhouse V-- Vonnegut A sound of thunder-- Bradbury All you zombies-- Heinlein All mimsy were the borogoves-- Padgett Counterclock world-- Dick Fire watch-- Willis Film:Minority Report Predestination Gott time machines Tipler time machines Chronology protection conjecture Time branching and alternate universes Entropy and the direction of time DEBATES SELECTED FICTION TECHNICAL CONCEPTS 14. To Boldly Go: The science and fiction of space travel, time travel, and extraterrestrials
- http://it.stlawu.edu/%7Ekoon/classes/ FYS/ToBoldlyGo.pdf
Will humans ever contact intelligent life from outside our own planet? Film:Alien First Contact-- Leinster The Sentinel Clarke Non-carbon-based life Panspermia The Drake equation Life in this solar system Extrastellar planets Exotic communication Historical/Biblicalaccounts of extraterrestrials DEBATES SELECTED FICTION TECHNICAL CONCEPTS 15. Student responses:
- Material seen as engaging (mostly).
- Residential/social component very successful. Nerds found each other.
- Guest lectures, films popular.
- 5 of the 13 students enrolled in upcoming second-year physics course were in either the FYP or FYS.
- Instructor team seen as separate monodisciplinarians (e.g.The scientist couldnt teach us how to write, or grade our writing )
- Students report less sense of progress in their writing than those in other FYP sections
16. Looking ahead:
- Better incorporate writing instruction
- Publish Web guide to teaching composition for newcomers:http://it.stlawu.edu/%7Ekoon/classes/ classes/FYP/TeachingCommunications. html
- Continue to rely on students to teach content in Spring, but reduce content, focus more on research skills