This Course at MIT

This Course at MIT pages provide context for how the course materials published on OCW were used at MIT. They are part of the OCW Educator initiative, which seeks to enhance the value of OCW for educators.

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course STS.004 Science, Technology, & World as it was taught by Rosalind Williams in Fall 2013.

This course is a very pragmatic kind of introduction to Science, Technology, and Society (STS). It covers the types of issues and methodologies for studying them that exist wherever science, technology, and society intersect. Depending on a given topic and desired goals, approaches used in STS may include: economic, historical, literary, ethnographic, anthropological, or sociological methods.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

Students should leave the class with an “elevator talk,” or brief explanation, about what STS is. They should also leave with a tool kit that contains various techniques used across the humanities and social sciences that can be applied to solving problems and looking at STS issues. They do not have to be a master of this tool kit, but they do need to be familiar with what is in it, so they can define a problem that is out there in the world and figure out which tools are the best to address it.

 

 

Curriculum Information

Prerequisites

None

Requirements Satisfied

HASS-H

Offered

STS.004 Science, Technology, & World was offered for the first time in Fall 2013.

The Classroom

  • A photo of a classroom containing four rows of seats with six seats to a row.

    Lecture

    Lectures were held in a medium/small classroom with chalk boards and a projector. This classroom accommodated up to 24 students.

 

Assessment

The students' grades were based on the following activities:

The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by participation. 15% Class participation
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by a quiz. 13% Quiz
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by the final report. 13% Final report
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by a photography project. 13% Photography project
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by writing assignments. 46% Writing assignments

Instructor Insights on Assessment

Students had the opportunity to rewrite papers even when it was not required. Some students did two revisions of a single paper.

 

Student Information

10 students took this course when it was offered in Fall 2013.

Breakdown by Year

  • 10% Freshmen
  • 10% Sophomore
  • 40% Juniors
  • 30% Seniors
  • 10% Graduate students

Breakdown by Major

  • 10% undeclared
  • 10% Materials Science & Engineering
  • 10% Architecture
  • 40% Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • 30% Biological Engineering

Typical Student Background

  • Upperclassmen
  • Not majoring/concentrating in STS
 

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

Seminar

3 hours per week
  • Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hours per session; 26 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • Several seminars featured guest speakers.
  • Students often engaged in discussions and gave oral presentations.
  • Students visited the Institute Archives & Special Collections and the Kurtz Gallery for Photography at the MIT Museum.
 

Out of Class

9 hours per week

Students completed readings, wrote papers, prepared for oral presentations, and studied for the quiz.

 

Semester Breakdown

WEEK M T W Th F
1 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
2 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled.
3 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT.
4 Assignment due date. Gues speaker; oral presentations. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled; quiz held. No session scheduled.
5 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
6 No session scheduled. Guest speaker; assignment due date. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
7 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. Field trip; assignment due date. No session scheduled.
8 No session scheduled. Seminar session; oral presentations. No session scheduled. Seminar session; oral presentations; assignment due date. No session scheduled.
9 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Field trip. No session scheduled.
10 No session scheduled. Guest speaker. No session scheduled. Field trip. No session scheduled.
11 No classes throughout MIT. Guest speaker. No session scheduled. Oral presentations. No session scheduled.
12 Assignment due date. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
13 No session scheduled. Guest speaker. No session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
14 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. Oral presentations. No session scheduled.
15 No session scheduled. Oral presentations. No session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled.
16 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
Displays the color and pattern used on the preceding table to indicate dates when classes are not held at MIT. No classes throughout MIT
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when seminar sessions are held. Seminar
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when oral presentations are scheduled. Oral Presentation
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when assignments are due. Assignment due date
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when no class session is scheduled. No class session scheduled
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when seminars feature guest speakers. Guest speaker
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when field trips are scheduled. Field trip
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when quizzes are held. Quiz
 

Instructor Insights

Citizenship education is as important as professional education.

—Rosalind Williams

Below, Rosalind Williams describes various aspects of how she taught STS.004 Science, Technology, & World.

Questions in STS come up all the time and to have some idea of how to approach them is important (for an MIT graduate). Citizenship education is as important as professional education.

Course Development

The STS Department at MIT did not have an introductory course. Instead, there were courses on specific topics that, combined, gave students the skills they needed to tackle issues in STS.

Students in STS.091 Critical Issues in Science, Technology, and Society developed the curriculum and syllabus for STS.004. They decided that the course needed to be based around case studies/units that fulfilled the following requirements:

  • One needed to be MIT related
  • One needed to be something artistic and/or aesthetic
  • There had to be an idea of imagination—opening up what is and what could be
  • There needed to be coverage of social issues

Additionally, they determined that key concepts and terms needed to be covered—the explicit introduction to the tool kit.

Speakers and Field Trips

During each unit, an invited speaker gave a presentation, which was followed by a discussion. People are the best source of knowledge, not a Wikipedia page. Telephoning, skyping, and (sometimes) e-mailing the right person can be very useful. Students took field trips to locations for primary research—some of which was based on discussion with experts.