Is Evil a Force (therefore, “It’s not my fault.”)!
Team Building: This is such a critical step in forming a good group bond. Many students ended up grouping together with similar disciplines. Cyber Island initially attracted IT students and then recruited someone outside their department that would increase their chances of winning the Most Ethical Island. Making a poster was just 1 aspect of team building. They now had an identity.
Here is the Challenge as they received it:
#1 Unify the Islands (Distributive Justice and Legal Rights)- 3 Parts
Part 1: Distributive justice and resource allocation
The Islands will all unify to have 1 national Constitution. This will not take away any of the individual island’s autonomy. When the islands unify they will be given a start-up budget of $1,000,000 (1 million $$). You must determine how to meet the needs of your United Island Confederation using this budget.
Some questions to ask:
The islands must all agree on a constitution. You must include certain legal and natural rights. Some questions to address:
When you come to class you must elect 1 person to represent your island in the confederation negotiations. Who will that be and what are they authorized to do without taking it back to the group.
The students were to think about Parts 1 and 2 at home, prepare for the class by reading and watching videos and then come ready to do Part 3. Most groups broke up the work and came back together with their portion completed. Here is a sample:
They got frustrated throughout the negotiations because one island was high-tech and the other island wanted to remain primitive. The Morning class decided that they would not and could not unite.
The night class had many different ideas about why they wanted to spend the money and were able to communicate that with al 5 islands. They came to a consensus on the budget within 40 minutes.
Has it really been 3 weeks since I have posted last? Wow, I almost failed at blogging. Like most of our students, I guess. They come in strong and then begin to lose interest. Not on the Ethical Island though. These students have absolutely blown me away!
Challenges are getting to be the most exciting thing. When the students first arrive, we go over who turned in their homework (aka Life Application) and who did the Discussion (a video prompt followed by a discussion amongst the students). We post the score on the board and move on to the challenge. My challenges have gotten longer and longer. The students have moved into a comfortable pace of spending the entire 4 hours working on the challenge in groups. They take breaks as they need them, but spend most of their time doing the challenge.
This weeks challenge was to decide whether each of their respective islands would allow or force voting on their island. They were then asked to analyze Australia’s philosophy of requiring everyone to vote versus the United States’ philosophy that voting is for everyone, but it is also optional to the person. The students were then to decide what their island would require and why based on a deontological argument.
The Morning Class:
9-1pm means that at 1pm you need to go home or to lunch or somewhere. However, the teams continued on until I told them it was 1:30pm and I needed to go eat lunch. They worked really hard and wrote a 5 page report.
The Night Class:
This class meets from 6-10pm. Each team worked individually scattered throughout the University in empty classrooms. Each team discussed what they wanted the voting rights to be on their island and why. I then challenged them to think deeper and apply the elements of the duty theory- Duty, Universalizability, and People are an Ends and not a means. I then gave them a template in Word of how I wanted the report to be written so that they wouldn’t get caught up on APA formatting and such. I wanted to see if they could analyze and think like a deontologist. Here is the entire challenge which they received:
You are creating a report to present to your Island’s Ruling Party. You either do or do not want to require voting and you must defend this position. It will involve 2 main parts:
The Night class has taken on a mind of its own.
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:
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.
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.”
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 morning class progressed and I think they understood the basics of Utilitarian ethics by the end.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.