More on Electronics in the Classroom

Following up on my post from last week, I discussed the use of electronics in the classroom with each of my two classes, today.

I told students that I used to ban electronic devices, and why I thought I needed to do so, but noted that I lifted that ban when I switched to problem-based learning: the internet can be a valuable resource for groups grappling with practical problems . . . though the trick is to know when and where to look.

I told them they should make sure to bring some kind of internet-capable device with them to class, so it’s available if they need it. I added that we would try out and reflect on various ways of using electronic devices for collaborative work, since some are likely to be more fruitful than others.

I went on to say that there might be particular activities and assignments for which I would ask them to put away their electronics, but that there would be a good pedagogical reason for it. For example, I might want them to see what they can make of a particular problem using only the resources of their own minds and bodies, and perhaps of a paper book. Continue reading

An Ethicist Walks to Work

A few months ago, something that happened on my morning commute provided an example of moral perception I could use in class later that day: what it’s like to see the ethical texture of an entirely mundane situation.

I was walking along North Avenue on my way from the transit station to my office on campus. Alongside the stadium, I approach a driveway that leads to a parking garage.

There was a car on the other side of the avenue attempting to turn left into the drive, across two very busy lanes. I checked over my shoulder and saw a gap in the traffic that would allow the car to turn safely . . . at just about the moment I’d be walking across the drive. Continue reading

What’s Science Got to Do With It?

One of the last things I read online, yesterday evening, was a new column in The New York Times online, under the irresistible title, “Where Does Moral Courage Come From?

(The Times has been an unusually rich source for ethical inquiry and reflection, and not only because of the news reported in its pages.)

The author, David Bornstein, relates a number of moving stories of people standing up in the face of injustice, regardless of consequences to themselves.

In second paragraph, though, is a single sentence that, to me, seemed out of place. Continue reading

What I’d Like My Students to Learn

I’m just past the end of Fall term, refining my plans for Spring.

I have, for the past few years, been teaching ethics through an approach called problem-based learning (PBL): students work in groups to sort through complex, concrete problem situations, in response to which I ask them to develop and consider the ethical implications of several distinct options.

I am in the throes of revising the design of my courses, moving toward what I can’t help but call PBL 2.0.

One of the things that turned me away from more conventional ways of teaching was the realization that, although I’ve long recognized that I am not training students for careers in academic philosophy, my course materials, lectures, and written assignments still bore the vestiges of such a training program.

The first thing I had to do, then, was to throw out my old list of learning outcomes for the course, and to develop a new list focused on the development of particular cognitive skills related to moral imagination. Continue reading