Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


Practice Day, Part 3 (Due: 6/3, Midnight EST)

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Note: If you just registered for the class, go back and do the assignments here, here, and here.

Ongoing Discussions

Always keep an eye on ongoing discussions.  During a regular course week, Case Study discussions run from Weds to Fri, News discussions run from Thurs to Sat, and Debate discussions run from Fri to Sun.  While most of the discussing will, I suspect, be done during the week.  You need to keep an eye on all ongoing discussions.  Especially if you are a Group Leader.  Under the Assignments heading to the right, I always note what discussions are currently ongoing.

Make sure you've responded to all those who've commented on your post.  And if you commented, why don't you go check out the responses?

Reading Days>Lecture

Read Fundamental Concepts on the Readings site.  No Initial Comments or Responses required, but remember that they will always be required on Reading Days over the next four weeks.

Instead, comment on today's lecture.  On every Reading Day, Part 1, you will be required to make at least one comment--this can be a simple question, a general comment, an attempt to answer the questions posed at the end of the lecture, something else, or some combination of the above.  Go ahead and comment now.

Reading Days>Quiz

The night before each Tuesday, I will post a quiz on the week's readings.  The purpose of these quizzes is to test your textual knowledge.

Today's quiz is on this week's readings.  Please follow the directions before and after the quiz to get full credit.

Practice Debate

Last night, I posted a sample Position Post, like a Group Leader would post on a Debate Day.  Your job is to write a Response to the Position Post.  Post this Response as a comment on the Position Post.  This is the description given in the Learning Packet:

This is the negative element of each Group Leader’s contribution. Here, each Group Leader should argue against the other Group Leader’s position by accepting at least some of the assumptions of the other Group Leader. Do not try to defeat the other side on your terms. Instead, determine what perspective they are arguing from and what proof they put forward and use their own perspective and proof to defeat their argument.

Response WORD COUNT: 400-600 words

Use the questions in the Learning Packet to help you figure out what to write.

Coming Soon

Next week the course proper begins.


Practice Day Part 2 (Due: 6/2, Midnight EST)

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Note: If you have just registered for the class, please go back and do the activities from the last two days: here and here.  Otherwise, read on.

Yesterday, we did two kinds of assignments: the Initial Comments on the readings and an introduction post from each student (and me).  Today, we will comment on each of these assignments.

Response Comments

Each week there are two parts to the Marginalia assignment: the Initial Comments and responses to these comments.  Yesterday, each of you did an Initial Comment on one reading (although normally you would be required to comment on three readings).  Today, each of you should respond to at least two other student's Initial Comments, just like you will during the next four weeks.  As the Learning Packet says, "Build on, critique, correct, debate or something else entirely."  In other words, discuss the meaning and importance of the texts.

Introductions Cont'd

Find out more about your classmates by commenting on their introductory posts.

You can comment on posts on the main site in three ways: by clicking on the number under the date, by clicking comment count at in the footer of the post (x Comments or No Comments), or by going to the full text of the post (by clicking the title or "Continue Reading") and scrolling down to the bottom of the post.  In all cases, you will be taken to the bottom of the post.

Click in the text box and write your comment.  If you write multiple paragraphs (as you might on actual discussion oriented days) make sure that you put a line (hit enter twice) between each paragraph.  [Posts automatically format your writing this way, but comments do not.  Putting the space between the paragraphs makes them easier to read.]  When you are done, hit the gray "Submit" button below the text box.  Your comment will appear.

You are required to comment on two posts (but you can, of course, comment on more): the post by the people above and below your name on the "People" page.  If you are at the bottom of the list, the person below you is the top name of the list.  If you are at the top of the list, the person above you is the person at the bottom of the list.   Clicking on the person's name on the People Page will give you a list of their Posts and Comments.  This way you can find the post you need to respond to easily.

Your comment should include one question for the poster.  You can also comment in general on what they wrote.  Again, keep in mind that this is a public forum.

Then, respond to those who comment on your post.  If they respond late, that's okay, respond tomorrow.

And, yes, I will be open to questions, as well.  So, if I am the person above or below you on the list, ask away.  I'll be doing the same.

Coming Soon

Tomorrow we have our first quiz, a practice debate, a lecture, and more readings.  Then we take a breather before the next week begins.


Practice Day, Part 1 (Due: 6/1, Midnight EST)

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Note: If you just registered for the class, go back and do yesterday's assignments first.  You can find them here.

Today we're going to cover two types of activities: doing an Initial Comment on the Readings site and Posting to the main course site.  I'm going to do very detailed instructions in case any of you are unfamiliar with the WordPress blog format.  For those of you who are familiar with the format, you won't need most of these instructions, but read them over once just in case.

Keep in Mind: During the Practice Week, I will be reminding you of due dates by posting specific assignments and instructions.  After this first week, however, you are expected to know what kind of assignment you should do doing each day and when it is due.  The Assignments section to the right will always list the current day's  assignments (I update it the night before) as a reminder.  Full assignment details are available in the Learning Packet.

Group Leader Assignments

Each Case Study, News, and Debate Days will have different students as Group Leaders.  I will assign you by the end of the week.  In order to do so, I need you to email your preferences in descending order--the topic you most want to work on at the top, the one you want the least at the bottom.  So, you might list

  1. Patient-Professional Relationship
  2. Health Care and Justice
  3. Euthanasia

Where the Patient-Professional Relationship is your top pick and Euthanasia your least preferred (of course, the one you don't put on the list is really your least preferred).

The four topics are: the Patient-Professional Relationship, Euthanasia, Health Care and Justice, and Abortion.  Please email me your choices by tonight.

Reading Days>Marginalia>Initial Comment

One of the main parts of Reading Days is what is called "Marginalia."  This is simply the technical term for the notes you make in the margin of a book.  On Reading Days, as you read the text, you are going to add your own marginalia for everyone in the class to read.  On a normal Reading Day, Part 1, you will need to make a substantial Initial Comment on three of the readings for the day (details here).  However, for today's practice assignment, you are only going to do one Initial Comment.

To quote the Learning Packet:

. . . comment on a paragraph that you think is particularly important, interesting, or both.  Explain why you chose this particular paragraph and identify any important concepts, premises, or arguments in the paragraph.  If other students have already commented on a paragraph, you may still comment, but make sure to say something new or different either by using the other student's comment as a spring board or by emphasizing a completely different aspect of the paragraph.

You can see an example here.

The goal of this assignment is to focus yourself on picking important information out of the texts and work on understanding that information.  Sometimes this simply means being able to explain and analyze the text.  Other times this will mean connecting it to other concepts in the text or other texts entirely or, perhaps, giving an external example.  Think about how you make sense of a text and translate to an Initial Comment.  On Reading Days, Part 2, other students will comment on and react to these Initial Comments.  However, we'll go over that tomorrow.

For today:

  1. Go to the readings site by clicking the "Readings" link at the top of the site (no link provided here, you have to get used to the layout of the site!).
  2. Click on the first reading, Instructions.  Follow the directions given there (if you didn't do this on the first day of class or earlier).  This will be your first comment on the readings site.
  3. Start reading the assigned texts for today: Introduction, Utilitarianism, Kantian Deontology, Rossian Deontology, Alternative Theories: Virtue Ethics, and Alternative Ethics: Care Ethics and Feminist Ethics.  Yes there is a fairly heavy reading load.  However, the rest of the class you should be able to spread it out leading up to when it is due.  There's nothing that says you can't starting doing an assignment ahead of time.
  4. Finish the readings.  Feel free to make additional side comments along the way.  (Although I recommend reading everything on the first Reading Day each week, if you benefit from a slower pace, feel free to split the readings between the two Reading Days.  Just make sure you finish all the readings by the end of Reading Day, Part 2).
  5. Figure out what paragraph you think is particularly important in one of the assigned readings.
  6. Comment on the paragraph.  See the example above and the grading rubric here.
  7. If you didn't finish the readings before making your comment, finish the readings now (or plan to finish the rest of the readings tomorrow).
  8. Take pride in a job well done.
  9. Stop taking pride and do the next assignment (if you haven't already).


By now you have, of course, done the Profile assignment from the first day of class.  [If you haven't go here and read the instructions listed under "Your Profile."]

We're going to use what you wrote in the Bio section to write your first post for the course site.  Go ahead and go to your Profile following the same steps as yesterday (hint: gray bar at the top of the screen).   I recommend right-clicking (ctrl + click for a Mac) and opening in a new tab or window, so you can keep these instructions open.  Go to your Biographical Info and copy what you wrote.  Once you've done that, go back up to that convenient gray bar at the top of the screen.  Hover your cursor over "Add New" and click "Post" in the menu that drops down.  This will take you to the "Add New Post" page.

The first thing you should do here is make sure you are in the visual editor.  This is indicated by the tabs at the top right of the text editor.  The "Visual" tab should be a darker gray, while the "HTML" tab should be lighter in color.  You shouldn't have any reason to use HTML in this class.  Next, if you don't have two lines of buttons on the editor (one beginning with Bold, the other beginning with Paragraph), press the button on the far right of the row (if you hover over it, it will way "Show/Hide Kitchen Sink") or press Alt+Shift+Z.  Every time you go to create a new post, the editor will now have these settings.

Press the Clipboard/T button (Paste as Plain Text).  This is not actually necessary for this particular assignment, but if you write your posts in Microsoft Word to be on the safe side, you will need this to make sure the formatting of the post is okay.  A pop-up will come up.  Follow the instructions and press "Paste."  Voila!  Your bio info is now in the post.

Write an appropriate title (your choice) in the text box below the word "Edit Post" at the top of the page.

Write a greeting to the class to introduce your bio.

Now, look to the right.  You will see a box that reads categories with a list of options with check boxes.  This makes it easier to search the site.  Whenever you write a post, you will want to add the appropriate categories to it.  So, if you are Group Leader for a Case Study Day in the week on Health Care and Justice, you would check the categories that read "Case Studies" and "Health Care & Justice"--the type of assignment and topic of the week.  This week's category is "Introduction" and the assignment type is "Profile," so go ahead and click the box next to that category.  To bring up all posts of a topic or all posts of an assignment type.  You can click the appropriate link under "Categories" in the side bar (to the right when you are on the site).

When you're done, double check your post for any spelling or grammar errors.  Hit the blue "Publish" button to the right.

You've just posted for the first time.


A lecture on today's reading was posted last night (as it will always be before Reading Day, Part 1).  Please read the lecture.  No comments are required today, but feel free to ask anything you would like.  We will have another lecture on Friday where comments will be required.

Coming Soon

Tomorrow we'll go over commenting on the main site and responses to Initial Comments on the Readings.


Day 01 (Due: 5/31, Midnight EST)

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Hello all and welcome to the first day of Medical Ethics.  My name is Brandon Davis-Shannon and I'll be your instructor for the next five weeks. We'll have more in depth introductions tomorrow, but let's just jump in for now.

If this is your first time taking an online course, there is going to be a bit of a learning curve.  If this is not your first time, there still may be a bit of a learning curve depending on the courses you've taken and the instructors you've had.  Either way, this week we're going to slowly go through the process of learning all the different ways of interacting in the course.

My first suggestion is that you review the Syllabus, Learning Packet, Schedule, Rubrics, and Examples (if you haven't already).  You can reach these sections by clicking the links along the top of the site, below the title of the course, or by clicking the links in this post.   If you have any questions, feel free to email me or--more usefully for the class--comment on the page (if you are logged in a comment box appears at the bottom of most of the course documents).  Take some time to get acquainted with the layout and location of all the different resources.   Click on Reading and take a look at that site, look over the texts.  Feel free to practice commenting on the text in the "Instructions" section of the site.

Your Profile

By now, you should have received an invite to become a member of the site.  You must be a member to comment and post to the site and to read the course texts.  Before you follow the link in your site invitation, however, read these instructions.  I recommend keeping these open in a different tab/window after you follow the link.

After you follow the link, you should be taken to your Profile page.  If you are not, you can reach your Profile by going to the gray bar at the top of the screen, hovering over your name, and clicking "Edit My Profile."  If you can't get to your Profile, please let me know immediately.

On your Profile page, there are several different sections: Personal Options, Name, Contact Info, About Yourself, and Avatar Upload.  Leave the sections under Personal Options alone.  Our focus is on the other sections.


Fill out all of the sections under Name.  After doing so, you can choose what you want your name to appear as using the drop down menu next to "Display name publicly as."  Choose how you want everyone else to see your name when you post and comment.  I highly recommend using your first or whole name (keep in mind that the main site is public when you decide what to use).  However, I am not strict about this and so long as your are easily recognizable, you may use whatever nickname you want.

Contact Info

You may fill out any of the contact info you like.  An email is required, but if you do not use your Binghamton email, you may change it to your preferred.  Beyond that, no other info is required.  Again, keep in mind that any info you put may be displayed publicly (all that is set to be displayed at this time is "Website").  Your email will never be viewable by anyone who is not a member of the site.

About Yourself

Now we get to the more interesting part.  In "Biographical Info," tell the class a little about yourself (as always, remember that this is public).  Your info must be at least 75 words, but it can be any length above that.  This information will be displayed on your personal author page, which will be linked on all of your posts, and on the list of people accessible, curiously, by clicking the "People" link at the top of this page.  Tell us about your major, your interests, something about your life, why you are taking this class, or anything else you would like to share.

Important: Make sure that you fill out the "New Password" section the first time you visit your profile.  Your initial password is gobbledygook--you should choose something that you can remember.

Avatar Upload

Finally, it's time to upload an image that will represent you to the class.  It can be a picture of you or an image that represents something important about you.  Put some thought into what image you would like to be attached to every comment and post you make on the site.

If you are using Twitter, you can simply input your user id in the "Twitter ID" field and your image from there will be used here (if you have one there).  Additionally, if you have a Gravatar avatar, you can do nothing here and the avatar will default to that image (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it).

However, if you have neither of those things, or would like to use a different image, click "Browse" and choose an image from your computer.  As the section says, small, square images are the best, but the site will make do.

Extremely Important: When you are done, click "Update Profile."  If you don't do this, nothing you changed will be saved!

Check out the "People" page and click your name to see everything you wrote!


If you've decided to do the extra credit for the course and you don't already have an account, it's time to sign up for one.  Head on over to the Twitter site.

I highly recommend doing this. It is easy extra points and it provides a steady flow of unmediated information for the class.   Remember, you can use it to share links to bioethics stories and information you have found or just to ask the class questions or make random comments.  Always include the hashtag #phil148 (no spaces) in your tweets.  Otherwise, they won't show up on the course site!

Go ahead an tweet anything (something personal, something about bioethics, something about the course).  Be sure to include the hashtag #phil148.

If you are registered for the course from Day 01, you should try and complete your Profile and Twitter account by midnight 5/31.  Stay on top of the assignments and material from the very start!

Mobile Device Access

The main course site (not the readings) is available in a mobile version, so if you are out and about, you can check in on the class on your phone or iPod--you can even comment!  Please keep in mind that when commenting from a phone, you should still use proper grammar and spelling.  After all, these are graded assignments.

Note: Although the mobile site should work on Android and iOS enabled phones, I have only tested it on iOS.  Please let me know if you have any problems accessing it from an Android phone.

Coming Soon

This week, you'll be introduced to the  foundational concepts and basic ethical theories that you will be using throughout the other four weeks of the course.  As you learn this material, we'll practice commenting and posting on the site and do sample Reading Day and Debate Day assignments to give you a feel for the form of the class.