Autism and Technology

FYW-1217-01 Spring 2014

Course website and syllabus:

Quick Links: Moodle | Library Research Guide


Andrea Tartaro

General Information

Course Goals

  1. Develop academic, research and writing skills you will use (and further develop) throughout your Furman education: critically reading and discussing sources; using information from different sources to develop and support new ideas; developing a research question; formulating an argument; finding and using evidence to support an argument; writing in different contexts; peer review skills; working with others and division of labor; oral presentation; revision, revision, revision...
  2. As a context for developing these skills, design a technology for individuals with autism, or other stakeholders, such as parents, siblings or caregivers, that addresses a specific challenge they face. This design will be based on your evaluation of the strenghts and weaknesses of current approaches, both technical and non-technical, used to support those affected by autism.
  3. Understand autism, the triad of impairments, and how autism affects individuals' behaviors and experiences across the lifespan as well as impacts other stakeholders.

Books and Readings

The following books are required and available at the bookstore:

Joseph M. Williams & Joseph Bizup, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (Eleventh Edition)

Uta Frith, Autism: Explaining the Enigma (2nd Edition)

Temple Grandin, Emergence: Labeled Autistic

Diana Hacker, A Pocket Style Manual, APA Version (Sixth Edition)

Additional Readings are on Moodle.

There are a number of readings each week. Those labeled for a specific class are required. Most of the readings labeled "Articles" should be "skimmed." What does that mean? It means you should look over the article to get a sense of the argument the author is making, though not necessarily the details of the evidence they are using to support that argument. All readings should be completed for the class specified, and articles should be skimmed by the first class of the week.

Assignments & Grades

Assignment descriptions, detailing requirements and deliverables, will be available on Moodle. Read each carefully, as they may include additional due dates. I will also hand-out and discuss each assignment in class. These assignments include: (1) a short introductory assignment where you will find, summarize and reflect on three popular press articles on autism from the past two years; (2) a group conceptual design paper where you will describe a design idea you developed using various conceptual design activities we will learn in class; (3) an independent paper that will involve choosing your own topic and audience; and (4) a final research paper written in two parts - (a) a literature review on a challenge individuals with autism or their caregivers face and a critical analysis of current intervention approaches for that challenge; and (b) a detailed description of a proposed technology design idea for that challenge. Completion of the final research paper will involve multiple revisions.

In addition, each student will give one presentation and lead a discussion on an article. The presentation should be about 20 minutes (including discussion) and prepared by Tuesday's class (although it may be given on Thursday, depending on the schedule for that week). Your presentation should include: the research question; the author's argument; an overview of the evidence the author uses to make this argument (Did they evaluate a technology? How?); reflection on how the article relates to other things we've read in the class; and discussion questions. In addition, all of the articles describe a particular technology. When describing that technology, you should discuss both positive and negative aspects of the technology (& their evaluation of the technology) based on what we have been learning about autism. I STRONGLY recommend you meet with me during office hours, or schedule an appointment, to go over your presentation prior to class. We will select which article you will be presentating during the first class. You are welcome to find an article on your own that you would like to present, though this is not required. However, your article must be related to your assigned week's topic and approved in advance.

You will write three 1-page (single-spaced) article reflections. The schedule lists articles from which to choose. Similar to the presentations, your reflection should include: the research question; the author's argument; an overview of the evidence the author uses to make this argument; reflection on how the article relates to other things we've read in the class; reflection on positive and negative aspects of the technology described and the evaluation of the technology; and questions you have after reading the article. In addition, you should evaluate the strength of the article - how well does the evidence provided support the author's argument? One of your article reflections will be on the article you presented. ARTICLE REFLECTIONS SHOULD NOT BE LONGER THAN 1 PAGE!

You will submit a "journal" three times during the semester. Your journal includes various writing activities you will be doing in class, though you may need to complete some activities after class. You may bring a laptop to class for working on these activities or complete them with pen and paper, which ever you prefer. However, when you submit your journal, you must submit BOTH an electronic copy on moodle as well as a hard copy. Your journal must also be legible. This may mean typing up activities you wrote by hand or scanning/taking a picture of neatly hand-written pages.

Handing in assignments: ALL assignments (including journals and presentation slides) must be handed in on Moodle AND as a hard copy in class. All moodle submissions must be made by 15 minutes prior to class the day they are due (9:45am).

Late Assignments: Due to class scheduling, presentations must be given on the day they are due. Missing a presentation for an assignment (eg. literature review, conceptual design, technology design or final paper) drops your grade for that assignment by 10%. Late article presentations will not be allowed, and you will receive a 0. Assignments turned in late will drop your grade for the assignment 10% the first day, and 5% for each additional day. For example, assignments handed in after 9:55 on the due date, but before 9:55 the next day have a max grade of 90/100. Assignments handed in 2 days late have a max grade of 85/100. Late article reflections and journals will receive partial credit.

Attendance and Participation: Finally, class attendance and participation is a critical component of the course. Contribute to class discussions, ask and answer questions during class, and participate in activities.

Note: many assignments have additional due dates to those listed below!!

Assignment Goal Grade Weight


Popular Press Articles Find, summarize and reflect on 3 popular press articles on autism.
Th 1/23
Literature Review Describe a challenge individuals with autism or their caregivers face and critically analyze existing intervention approaches for that challenge. 10%

Topic: Th 2/6
Bibliography: T 2/11
Outline: T 2/18
Paper & presentation: T 2/25
Peer reviews: Th 3/6

Group Conceptual Design Project Work with a group to develop a design idea using various conceptual design activities. 10% Th 3/27
Technology Design Propose a technology design for the challenge from your literature review. 10%

1-2 paragraphs on idea: T 4/1
Paper & presentation: T 4/8

Independent Paper Choose your own topic and audience. 10% T 4/29
Final Paper Revise your literature review and technology design. 15%

Paper & presentation: M 5/5, 8:30am

Article Presentation Present a research article to the class. 10%

Tuesday the week of your presentation

Article Reflections Analyze research articles. 10%
Th 2/20; Th 4/3; Th 4/24
Journals Complete various writing and revising activities in class 10% Th 2/6; Th 3/6; Th 4/3; T 4/29
Class Participation Contribute thoughtfully to class discussions and in-class activities 10%
each class

Policies, etc.


Class participation is a critical component of the course and attendance is mandatory. Please discuss any necessary absences (eg. athletics, religious holidays, emergency, illness) with me PRIOR to the class meeting. You may be asked to make up for missed material.

Email Policy

It is a course requirement to check your email at least once per day. Important announcements regarding assignments and class meetings will be sent via email.

Students with Disabilities

It is the policy of Furman University to make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. I encourage students wtih disabilities to make an appointment to meet with me as soon as possible to discuss accommodations that might help facilitate your learning. You will need appropriate documentation from the University's Disability Services Coordinator. All discussions will remain confidential.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is misrepresenting someone else's work as your own, which is a form of stealing, and will not be tolerated. Plagiarism is a serious offense, and its penalties are severe, including possible failure of the course and/or dismissal from the University. Please consult the booklet, Plagiarism and Academic Integrity at Furman University if you are unsure of the definition of plagiarism. We will be discussing how to use sources in your writing. If you need help understanding how and when to cite sources, please see me.


Available on Moodle.

Note: Schedule subject to change! Be sure to check Moodle for updates!