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Instructor: email hidden; JavaScript is required
Office: 435 Ross Hall, 294-8609
Class Email List: email hidden; JavaScript is required
Class hours: T/Th 12:40–2:00 p.m.
Class location: 406 Ross Hall
Office hours: T/Th 2:00–4:00 p.m.

Overview and Objectives

We are in the midst of a technological revolution that is altering the way we work, study, and play. Consider just a few examples that would have been unthinkable a decade ago: corporations announcing layoffs on a public blog, activists organizing political rallies on Twitter, and old friends keeping tabs on each other’s every movement via Facebook. What are we to make of these innovations? In English 411, we will use the lens of rhetoric to examine the historical roots of communication technologies and explore the economic, ethical, and social issues facing today’s workers, students, and citizens. By the end of the course, you will have a deeper understanding of how technology influences the decisions of technical communicators in an increasingly electronic world.

Grading and Evaluation

Evaluation Criteria. I will grade your papers using these criteria:

A — Superior Accomplishment. Shows excellent analysis of the assignment and provides an imaginative and original response. Successfully adapts to the audience, context, and purpose of the assignment. Reveals genuine insight into the topic and artfully synthesizes multiple sources. Contains no mechanical errors and requires no revisions.

B — Commendable. Shows judgment and tact in the presentation of the argument and responds appropriately to the requirements of the assignment. Has an interesting, precise, and clear style. Reveals sustained thought and effective research on the topic. May contain a few small problems in correctness.

C — Competent. Meets all the basic criteria of the assignment, and provides a satisfactory response to the rhetorical situation. There is nothing remarkably good or bad about the work. Contains minor defects in substance, organization, style, or correctness.

D — Needs Significant Improvement. Responds to the assignment, but does so in a superficial or inadequate manner. Reveals a lack of serious thought or research on the topic. Contains significant defects in substance, organization, style, or correctness.

F — Unacceptable. Provides an inadequate response to the assignment or shows a misunderstanding of the rhetorical situation. Contains glaring defects in substance, organization, style, or correctness.

Grading Scale. I will grade your assignments using the following scale:

  • A : 94-100
  • A- : 90–93.99
  • B+ : 87–89.99
  • B : 84–86.99
  • B- : 80–83.99
  • C+ : 77–79.99
  • C : 74–76.99
  • C- : 70–73.99
  • D+ : 67– 69.99
  • D : 64–66.99
  • D- : 60-63.99
  • F : 0 – 59.99


Because I do not differentiate between “excused” and “unexcused” absences (either you attended class or you did not), my attendance policy is simple: you may miss three classes (for any reason) without penalty. Each additional absence (for any reason) will lower your course grade by 1/3 of a letter grade (e.g., from C+ to C), and six or more absences will result in a failing grade for the course. Because our time in class is limited, promptness is important. Three tardies will be counted as one absence.


During recent semesters, I have noticed that my students are becoming increasingly more distracted during class. Not surprisingly, most of these distractions are technological in nature: cell phones, iPods, nonacademic websites, etc. As a result, I have decided to teach this technology-saturated course in a traditional classroom, and I am experimenting with a new technology policy: Cell phones (including texting), BlackBerries, and iPods should never be used during class. (If you are expecting an emergency phone call, please set your phone to “vibrate” and let me know in advance that you may need to excuse yourself to take the call.) If you bring a laptop to class, please use it only for note-taking purposes. IMing, checking email, web surfing, etc., are incredibly disrespectful of our time together. I suspect that many of you suffer from Technology Distraction DisorderTM (I certainly do), so it may be best to avoid any potential problems by leaving your technological devices in your backpack during class.


Plagiarism is a serious legal and ethical breach, and it is treated as such by the university. I do not tolerate plagiarism in any form. If you are caught plagiarizing, you will receive an automatic 0 on the assignment. Depending on the severity of the plagiarism, you may also fail the entire course. In addition, I will report the incident to ISU’s Office of Judicial Affairs.

Plagiarism occurs when a writer, speaker, or designer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, images, or other material without fully acknowledging its source by quotations marks, in footnotes or endnotes, and in lists of works cited. In this course, we will draw heavily upon text, images, video, and other electronic materials found online; the fact that such material is online does not lessen our obligation to give credit where credit is due.

All work you submit in this class is to be 100% your own work. As is true of all work done at the university, any secondary sources (articles, images, music, interviews, websites or other electronic media—any content beyond a student’s own) must be cited. Some cultures allow un-cited borrowing; in American education, each student must cite every source used. For more information, please read the library’s guide to Understanding Plagiarism.

Occasionally students will unintentionally plagiarize material because they have failed to keep track of their sources as they acquire them and use them. In such cases, students claim they were unaware of the university’s policies on academic dishonesty, feign ignorance concerning what constitutes plagiarism, or try to convince me that their motives were pure. I am not in a position to judge your intentions; as a result, I am obligated to report all cases of plagiarism (regardless of the circumstances) to the university. If you have any questions about plagiarism and how it relates to your work, please talk to me before you turn in an assignment. Once plagiarized work has been submitted for a grade, I have no choice but to enforce this policy.

Disability Accommodation

Please address any special needs or special accommodations with me at the beginning of the semester or as soon as you become aware of your needs. Those seeking accommodations based on disabilities should obtain a Student Academic Accommodation Request (SAAR) form from the Student Disability Resources office, located in the Student Services Building, Room 1076 (515-294-7220).