#12 An Ethical Island: Week 3- Utilitarian Ethics (Night class)

The Night class has taken on a mind of its own.

Group Dynamics:

Cyber Island implored me to wait on their 4th member to show up before they began the group challenge. I reassured them that I would add up the Ethical Island Award points and then we would start an Island Survival Adventure. The Top Chefs had not arrived. The 3 Guys Island were all ready to go. The MA’s were missing an islander. It was 5 minutes to 6pm (the beginning of class). Smiley Island all appeared quickly and were ready for the Survival Challenge. Soon after 6pm the final member of Cyber Island appeared with dinner for the entire island (they are bonding so well, but are they learning).

The MA’s had 2 inhabitants so they decided to recruit the sole Top Chef’s island inhabitant to their group. T gladly moved over to join the MA’s. I needed him to make the decision of whether he was officially abandoning his island and whether the MA’s would have him. They agreed to have him and he agreed to stay.

The Island Survival Adventure:

The purpose of this fun activity was to address group dynamics and determine whether the students scored better when working as a group verses on their own. 2 groups Synergized while 2 did not. I asked the students to determine why they worked better or worse as a team. I presume it is the “Leader complex.” Many students think the loudest voice is the smartest person and therefore this person should be the “leader.” Many times quiet people have good and often critical reasoning to add. Hopefully this added insight so they could begin the night’s task of learning about Consequentialists.

The Class Agenda

I often over prepare. I learned, through my time in the courtroom, that I need to be prepared for many directions, but willing to change when the class needs change (or the Judge when I am in court). I had a plan and here it is:

  1. Island Survival Adventure (individual ranking and then group, then discussion)
  2. Addressing group dynamics and addressing not receiving homework (2 groups had members do homework but forget to submit it)
  3. Have each group Diagram on large paper everything they knew about Utilitarianism
  4. Group share on their ideas
  5. Short (very short) Lecture on Utilitarianism
  6. Introduce the Challenge
  7. Introduce resources for the Challenge

8.Use Clickers to evaluate the student’s ending knowledge of applying utilitarian ethics. (they performed well)

The Challenge was to judged by a Gallery Preview. What I mean by this was islands were to post their arguments on the wall (on giant paper) and each person was to vote (by sticky note) for the poster they liked best. The criteria which poster demonstrates the best Utilitarian argument. 2 teams tied.

Ethical Island Award this week went to The MA’s and Cyber Island.

#11 An Ethical Island: Week 3- Utilitarian Ethics (morning class)

This week we studied Utilitarian Ethics ( HIstory found at the Link). Basically, a Utilitarian wants the greatest utility for the greatest amount of people. This is such a basic definition that it does not do justice to the true Utilitarian. The Consequentialist determines their ethical decisions based on the consequences of a given action. An example is the organ donor dying in the hospital. Should we turn off the machine, harvest the organs, and save many lives? Or should we keep him on life support and only (possibly) save him? A consequetionist will say, “Harvest the organs. The greatest utility (aka good) for the greatest amount of people will be met.”

Morning Class:

I went in fully prepared to teach the class a certain way and then (while staring off into the floor) said, “You know what? We are going to change it up a bit today.” All the students who were present looked at me a little quizzically and then waited for this grand idea they thought I had. I was facing 2 problems in my morning class.

Problem # 1

  • The Ma’ Island had done well as a group week 1, but week 2 two additional new students were added to the group. These two new people drowned out the voices of the “original” Ma Island inhabitants. A new student arrived wh seemed quiet so I added her to this group. So, three quieter students could work out the problems better than a group with too strong of a voice.

Problem #2

  • The Culinary Island was made up of 4 people, 2 quiet, and 2 “leaders.” Week 2 the additional leader joined the group. What I saw week 2 was that the two leaders would get sidetracked arguing who would “lead” and not digging deep into the material. I addressed this issue week 3 by suggesting the group dynamics needed to change and that I needed one leader to start a new island. She was against this idea and said she had been called “overbearing” in the past. I reiterated that she was a leader and that sometimes a group cannot function with 2 leaders because the others get left out. The group wanted to remain together and asked to remain 1 united island. I allowed it- especially since 2 students from the other group never materialized this week and there would have been no one else in this new island.

The morning class progressed and I think they understood the basics of Utilitarian ethics by the end.


Khan Academy

I have been in search of more information on Flipping the Classroom. The idea of flipping is that you get all the content out of the classroom and challenge the students to do everything they would have done (lectures, read, videos) in the classroom to do it at home on their own. The end result is that you do projects, solve problems, and get more one on one learning in the classroom. It is not a new idea, but one that can revolutionize my department. Khan Academy is based on this theory. Khan Academy has tons of videos and such that encourages learning at home.

I tried some physics videos on my own children. After they did their math homework for the day, we applied it. Before we could apply it, we had to learn about how long that darn runway needed to be to land a plane safely. This in turn needed physics learning first. So, a few of the kids learned this on Khan Academy. The best thing about kids is that they are interested in learning. The worst part about kids learning is that they get bored easily. That is… unless electronics and hands on activities (that matter) are involved.

Even though the kids are not of age to land a plane like their uncles, they at least know how mathematically. Thank you, Khan Academy.

Team Based Learning Resources FOUND

I think this is pretty cool! I had the basics before stumbling upon the website Team Based Learning Collaborative. But, I was experimenting with how to implement my team based learning. I knew I wanted to teach in fun new ways that put the learning back on the students and freed me from the noose of lecturing. I didn’t know about things like:

  •  How do I grade the group vs. individual work?
  • How do I get the students to come to class prepared?
  • How do I create dynamic groups?

Now, I have found others out there in the college setting who truly are like-minded and believe in team based approaches. So excited!

Let me know what you think about this site and the concept of Team Based Learning and not just group work!!!

9. Week 2: Good and Evil (Night Class)

Class Agenda:

  1. Welcome and review (with Clickers)
  2. Pre-Test (with Clickers)
  3. Define Evil
  4. Introduce: Good People Being Evil in 2 Experiments (Milgram and Dr. Zimbardo)?
  5. Present day Evil (Abu Ghraib Prison)? Same or different from experiments?
  6. Challenge: PETA v. Matadors: Is Bull Fighting Evil?
  7. Presentations
  8. Wrap Up- Has your definition changed?

There are currently 16 students in the course (after the add drop period has ended). Last week only 15 students were present and 1 missing, so each island contained 3 inhabitants. This week, I walked into the classroom and noticed Cyber Island had 2 milk shakes sitting on their table sitting far from the 2 students present. I asked, “Are one of those for me?” They said that they were recruiting new members to their Island.

Additionally, before class each student must cast their VIN diagram vote. Today’s question was, “Do you think People are evil, Is it a force, or both?”

Cyber Island

Cyber Island was originally made up of two students. They quickly realized that in order to win the “Most Ethical Island Award” they would need to even out the groups and recruit one more student. They proceeded to the MA’s Island and asked their 4th inhabitant to consider joining their group. She did agree and moved over.

This week all teams were even with 3 inhabitants, but Cyber Island knew a student was missing the previous week and had a plan. There were 2 inhabitants sitting in their seats on their island when I walked in. The 2 milk shakes were sitting all alone across the table where 2 other students could sit.

The new student arrived and began to sit at the closest table to the entrance. The 2 Cyber Island inhabitants started to eye the new student, so I intervened. I asked her to pick another table to sit at (without sending her straight into their trap). Quickly the 2 Cyber Island inhabitants waived her over and offered her the milk shake. Cyber Island now had 4 inhabitants and the possibility to earn an extra 50 points each week (25 if the new inhabitant did her homework and 25 if she did her Journal). I pointed out the possible issues involved in adding an unfamiliar person to the island, but they figured they would take the chance. All this happened before the class began.

1. I introduced the class using 5 question

  • How do you get an A in HUM110: Ethics?
  • Are you happy with your island mates?
  • Does the Most Ethical Island Award factor into my grade?
  • What does the Most Ethical Island Award do for me?
  • What percentage of my grade is based on the Ethic’s Officer?

I cleared up any misconceptions about the division between the student’s grades and the accumulation of Most Ethical Island Awards getting them out of taking the final.

2. The Pre-Test:

I next used the clicker technology to give them a 26-question quiz on ethical theories, ethicists, and fun vocabulary like eudemonia. The clicker technology then graphed the results and demonstrated that the students on average scored between 30% to 50% accuracy.

Partially, I needed a starting point to see what they knew. Partially, I wanted to reiterate that this class would be about learning some deep theories and such. I think both were achieved.

3. Define Evil

Each group was asked to discuss and define “evil.” Many definitions were about “bad” or “unacceptable” behavior. A few added that it might be possession by something or a disorder. Most agreed that even if it was one of those things, the person who commits bad acts should still be held accountable.

4. Introduce: Good People Being Evil in 2 Experiments (Milgram and Dr. Zimbardo)?

The students then watch short video clips on Milgram’s electrical shock experiment that tried to see if “good” people would do “evil” things if someone else took responsibility for their actions. The second film, “Quiet Rage,” was Dr. Zimbardo’s prison experiment.

The student’s reaction to this was curious. Overall, they agreed that if this were real life, it could be considered evil. Except that, it was not real life and therefore cannot be considered evil because it was “acting.” I asked if they thought this could be real? Could they be in a real life Zimbardo Prison and they did not think so.

5. Present day Evil (Abu Ghraib Prison)? Same or different from experiments?

I then introduced them to Zimbardo’s prison in real life. They still found distinctions and were not completely willing to give in that there was “evil” occurring. They could not separate the act from the person even though they predominantly voted that evil was not the person, but an act.

6.Challenge: PETA v. Matadors: Is Bull Fighting Evil?

The Challenge (which would earn them weekly points not for their final grade, but for The Most Ethical Island Award of the day) was to step into the shoes of both sides of an argument and accurately give each side’s argument. They were forced to assume PETA thought bull fighting was evil and that bullfighters thought it was not evil. They researched and then created their presentations (PowerPoint and Prezi) in about an hour.

7. Presentations

The teams were then asked to present and each other team was to score them on a 1-5 rating system for 4 categories. 5 is best and 1 is worst.

  • Define Evil
  • PETA’s view
  • Bullfighter’s view
  • Overall presentation appearance

The students voted and the 2 teams I thought would win (Cyber Island or Smiley Island) did not.

The Smiley’s Island

An interesting perspective came from this island. I was called over and the team (which only had 2 inhabitants tonight) asked, “Do we need 1 definition for evil?” I asked how many would they like and why. The inhabitant answered, “Well it seems like the matadors and the PETA people might define evil differently and therefore we need 2 definitions.” I was quite impressed and said, “I only asked for 1 but I see your perspective. You can write 2 definitions.” Later, during the presentation, they only presented 1 definition and I was very disappointed.

8. Wrap Up

The students were sent home to finish watching the 3 videos and asked to discuss them in an online discussion in Moodle. The students were also asked to do their Life Application. The Life Application this week was to list a time when they were (or acted) evil and a time when they were good. I got many confessions. I am surprised by the openness so far. 1 student claimed he had never do anything evil- interesting…

Using Games in the Classroom

I recently watched a video advocating the learning through games in the classroom. I was already a believer, but was even more inspired to incorporate games and fun. There are several board games and powerpoint games. The only red flag is: focus on the learning and not the game. I don’t want to just be F-U-N. I want to educate my students. I do truly believe games, competition and other techniques can enhance the learning environment. Next week I will use clickers and incorporate games. I’ll let you know how it goes… Check out some of the links!

8.PreTest and Assessments

The initial pretest will be in the form of the game Balderdash. I have created cards with ethical theories, ethicists, and other common ethics vocabulary words. I have also written the correct definition on cards. Each student will create their own definition on a card. They should write the real definition if they know it. The students will use clickers to vote on the correct definition.

7. The Theories

The course will run 10 weeks. Each week we will look at a different ethical topic or theory. Here are the topics and theories for the 10 weeks.
1. Introduction
2. Good and Evil
3. Utilitarianism
4. Deontology
5. Rights and Justice
6. Virtue
7. Religion
8. Gender
9. Diversity
10. Wrap up

6. How was the first Night?

Night Class:

My first impressions:

My Night class was very different from my day class. Most students had much more energy and many more opinions. The class was composed of 16 students from many different disciplines. There were 5 groups of 3 people each. 1 group started off with 2 students and then quickly recruited another students to increase their points to win the Most Ethical Island Award. 2 students were missing and the established islands discussed how they would recruit or not recruit the missing students.

4 of the islands were comprised of students from the same discipline (1 culinary island, 2 health science islands, and 1 IT island). There was one team with a mixture of disciplines.

Most students were very vocal that they did not need a Code of Conduct and voted No on the diagram. Some students voted Maybe. And, even fewer voted Yes.


There were 2 teams that played by Traditional rules and 2 teams that made up rules to the game. One of the teams that made up the rules, made the rules so “unfair” and ridiculous, that the Traditional team quit after the score was 219 to 43.

The other teams played longer, were more friendly, but still agreed it was boring and unfair.

Not very many students changed their vote to needing rules. But, of the students that did change their minds, were on the Traditional Scrabble teams.

Syphilis Video:

This outraged many students and they were closer to changing their vote, but were still resisting the need for rules.

Island Flags: The students all participated in creating flags that created a collected identity for their island. The team names are: Cyber Island, Three Guys Island, Smiley Island, The MA’s, and The Chefs.

Code of Conduct: The Islands then proceeded to make a Code of Conduct that would control the conduct on their island by the islanders and all visitors. The night class completed their Code.


I asked all the students to go home and answer a few “exit” questions. These are the questions:

  1. What did you think about the first class?
  2. Answer any or all of the following:
  • What did you think about the island theme? Why?
  • What did you think about the scrabble game we played with 2 islands? Why?
  • What is 1 thing you learned today? Explain.
  • What is 1 thing you want to learn? Explain.
  • What did you think this class was going to be before Day 1? Did it change?
  • Anything else that came to mind during the first class?

The responses blew me away! I will update when I get more in- it’s only been 20 hours and they have a week.


The night class is so different. They are much more resistant to changing their minds.

5. How was the first Day?

Day Class:

My first impressions:

The Day class arrived sceptical. I first asked the students to organize the room into islands. The students (now islanders) joined the islands. The make up of the islands were random in the morning class. The islanders were then asked to decide whether they needed rules. The morning class was mostly maybe’s and a few No’s.

Scrabble: The goal of the Scrabble game was to get the students to realize a game is more fun when everyone plays by the same rules. To achieve this goal 1 team played by traditional Scrabble rules. The other group was asked to make up their own rules. Each Island played Scrabble by their rules on their island and then the Traditional Scrabble island came over to the Our Rules Island nad played each other. The Our Rules Island won by about double the other team’s score. The Our Rules Island was very kind and cordial only changing some traditional rules. These minor changes frustrated the Traditional Scrabble Island. At the end of the game, the Traditional Scrabble Island changed their vote on the diagram to YES and added, “we needed the same rules.”

Syphilis Video: The goal of the video was to demonstrate the need for rules and rules that follow the person and not just the “Island” (or country). The video demonstrated that when it became unethical to do human experiments in the US, some medical professionals may have taken these experiments to a “friendly” nation where the rules didn’t apply. At the end of the discussion after the video, many students were outraged and changed their vote to, Yes (we need rules). Although some students thought that there was plain evil taking place, an evil that rules couldn’t control (this is next weeks topic- good and evil).

Island Flags: The students all participated in creating flags that created a collected identity for their island.

Code of Conduct: The Islands then proceeded to make a Code of Conduct that would control the conduct on their island by the islanders and all visitors. The Day class did not finish and will continue next week.


I asked all the students to go home and answer a few “exit” questions. These are the questions:

  1. What did you think about the first class?
  2. Answer any or all of the following:
  • What did you think about the island theme? Why?
  • What did you think about the scrabble game we played with 2 islands? Why?
  • What is 1 thing you learned today? Explain.
  • What is 1 thing you want to learn? Explain.
  • What did you think this class was going to be before Day 1? Did it change?
  • Anything else that came to mind during the first class?

The responses blew me away! One said she thought this was going to be the most boring class, that she might reconsider, and that she was shocked that she could learn from Scrabble. Another student said she didn’t realize how important rules were.


I shared that rules are not what ethics is, but that ethics is the why behind when we follow our rules. I need to instill this more.