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Isaac Record



Current and Upcoming Teaching

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have.

In all of my courses, I employ an active, engaged pedagogy. I believe hands-on experience is the best teacher, and that my job is to provide the setting, inspiration, and scaffolding to enable students to succeed.

Courses I regularly teach

Isaac posing with a student project, the shed vending machine for women's reproductive health. Photo credit: Piper Cook, LBC

Technology and Society

In this class, we will critically examine our personal relationships with technology, take on group design projects supported by the Collaborative Experiential Learning Laboratory, and examine technologies from robots to medical records from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. To ensure that we have the requisite skills and information for our design projects, we will follow a “identify, map, research, reframe, respond, and critique” process, including interviews with members of communities of concern, reviews of relevant literature, and site visits of relevant existing facilities on and around campus. By the end of the course, we will be better researchers, writers, and team members.

Senior Seminar: Techniques of the Self

This course investigates how we organize our lives around work, spirit, and leisure. We will (1) engage in a shared research project (the topic changes from year to year); (2) conduct and discuss a series of personal challenges in order to examine aspects of our relationships with labor, exercise, diet, and spirit through the lens of “technologies of the self”; and (3) take on individual projects of interest selected from a menu of options.

Introduction to History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine

LB 133 is a class about the nature of scientific practice and what kind of scientist you want to become. My intention is to guide you through real cases to provoke you to reflect on your reasons for being here and to challenge you to become a responsible expert by showing you what is at stake in getting it right. We will practice and strengthen reading and writing skills in order to master the material and clearly communicate your considered thoughts about these matters.

What is science? How is science practiced? Why is some science controversial? As a class we will attempt to answer these questions by engaging with historical, philosophical, and sociological scholarship, making our own investigations into the practice of science, and examining the role of values in science. We will practice and strengthen teamworking skills in order to successfully complete these investigations.

Extended PDF of syllabus, schedule, and assignments (2018/19)

Maine Education Away

Join Dr. Record and Dr. Louson for three weeks in beautiful Vacationland for a three-week onsite exploration of downeast coastal Maine, an area combining natural beauty, tourism, and outdoor recreation. Check Summer Session listings!

Other courses of interest

Senior Seminar: Humane Computing

492 Senior Seminar is a “capstone experience” for Lyman Briggs students, intended to bring together the skills and knowledge you have developed during your time at MSU and apply them to a new and challenging problem. It is also meant to provide a space for you to reflect on your experience at MSU and to contemplate and prepare for your next step, whatever that might be.

In Humane Computing we confront the mismatch between the increasing influence of computerized algorithms in our lives and the low level of knowledge and control we as individuals have over these algorithms. There are four parts to the class.

First, as a class we will learn the rudiments of coding and algorithmic thinking through low-stakes games and group activities. No technical experience is needed to succeed in this class; in fact, I hope this part of the class will be fun! The aim is to gain some experience that will help us to understand some of the challenges faced by designers of algorithms in the real world.

Second, groups will study historical or contemporary cases of the application of algorithms or algorithmic thinking to broad issues in society: algorithmic curation of news feeds, high frequency trading, mortgage lending, policing and criminal sentencing, teacher evaluation, and health monitoring, to name a few that illustrate the breadth of influence this style of thinking now has. In addition, students will find examples of algorithmic influence covered in the media and share these with the rest of the class. In all of these cases, we will focus less on technical detail and more on ethical and social dimensions of algorithms, including fairness, participation and representation, data availability and ownership, responsibility, and governance.

Third, groups will design and prototype a new algorithmic approach to a problem they identify and characterize, perhaps inspired by part two, above. The aim of this project is not to create a comprehensive or even working solution but to use the process of designing a response as a lens for investigating the ethical and social dimensions of intervention.

Fourth, throughout the semester, individuals will have several opportunities to reflect on their time at MSU and to contemplate their next steps.

link to course on Google Drive (MSU login required)

students demonstrating how to use the sewing machine and serger. Photo credit: Piper Cook, LBC

Paris 2019 Study Abroad

Join Dr. Record and Dr. Parks for six weeks in Paris in Summer 2019 for "Paris in Motion", a study of the relationship between technology and medicine. We will examine such topics as the technology of cathedral and castle building and the medical ramifications of Paris's sewers and running water.

Program highlights:
• Seine river cruise,
• Paris sewer tour,
• Loire Valley tour,
• overnight trip to sea-side St. Malo,
• Tour of Mont Saint-Michel island,
• visit to champagne vineyard (with tastings!),
and much more!

Fast Facts:
6 weeks in Paris: May 16-June 28
8 credits from: LB 323A, 323B, 492
2 professors: Dr. Richard Parks, Dr. Isaac Record
$4500 program fee (estimate)
Information session: October 9, 3pm, Holmes W25E
Preferred deadline: December 7. Final deadline March 1.
Decisions: December 14.

Teaching resources

I have developed some fun assignments over the years. Please reuse, remix, and have fun -- but do please credit me! Thanks.

Digital Detox

Assignment description:
In this project, we will reflect on what is important to us and assess how we spend our time, with a focus on electronic devices. Although digital technologies have much to offer, there is something worrying about the compulsive checking, fear of missing out, and other anxieties they occasion. The aim of this project is to become more aware of our actual use of these technologies and to experiment with controlling their grip on our lives. You should modify the challenges to better fit the specifics of your life, but you must explain the reasoning for each change in your journal.

PDF of assignment description

Black Box Investigation

Abstract for presentation:
In 2014, Hardcastle and Slater shared “A Novel Exercise for Teaching the Philosophy of Science” in Philosophy of Science (81:5, 1184-1196). I am hopeful it signals a growing movement to take teaching seriously within our field. At MSU, my colleagues and I have adapted their “box” exercise — which we now call the “Black Box” — to a set of introductory HPS classes for STEM majors. In this hands-on workshop, I share lessons gleaned from half a dozen or so courses, with particular attention on how to structure course activities to resonate with and reflect various aspects of scientific practice drawn from history, philosophy, and sociology of science. While Hardcastle and Slater note the advantage hands-on experience with the box confers to non-science majors, I emphasize the strengths of the box for teaching STEM majors. Rather than science on training wheels for non-majors, the Black Box becomes an occasion for radical reflection and self-discovery for budding scientists. Hardcastle and Slater discuss a few applications of the box, including realism and antirealism, Kuhnian puzzle-solving, and science funding. I focus on the social and ethical structure of science. In particular, I suggest some ways to modify the structure of the project to align activities and evaluation to explore and trouble particular models and values for science, such as communalism, diversity, objectivity, and openness. I hope that my examples and experiences inspire conversation among the attendees and I expect to learn a few new variations along the way.

PDF of conference presentation


I ask my students to reflect on their participation, including modes that may be less visible to me, and to provide evidence of what they have done.

PDF of description and rubric (note I use a single-column rubric)

Short Essay

Assignment description:
Write a 5-page research essay.

PDF of assignment description

Oral Exam

Assignment description:
Conduct a 20-minute conversation with me on a topic we mutually agree on (must connect to the course). Convince me that you have achieved scholarly mastery of that topic (this is easier than it sounds). You must share with me your research question and research plan before scheduling the exam. Expect to do the same amount of work and incorporate the same number of sources as for a short essay (i.e., 2-3 excellent sources or 4-5 decent sources).

PDF of assignment description

Lightning Talk

Assignment description:
A lightning talk is a highly structured presentation strictly limited to exactly 20 slides and delivered in class in exactly 5 minutes. A good lightning talk takes a good deal of preparation. The objective of this talk is to give students an opportunity to build presentation skills, exercise their creative abilities, and to work within a strong constraint. You must incorporate research into your talk. 2-3 quality sources beyond those discussed in class should be sufficient. Include the citations on a bibliography slide. See also the sample “lightning talk lightning talk” for additional tips.

PDF of assignment description

Book Project

Assignment description:
Study a book and create a short (3 page) mini-essay. The object of this assignment is to show you how to read effectively and with a purpose. ​You must turn in documentation of each stage of the process, ​compiled into a single PDF file.

PDF of assignment description

Lesson Leader

Assignment description:
Each student may, individually or in a pair, act as the discussion leader for a course resource, (1) defining lesson ​objectives; ​(2) ​presenting ​a précis and clarifying key concepts (10 minutes); (3) conceiving and leading the class in an ​activity ​designed to extend or deepen our discussion and understanding of the resource (20 minutes); (4) ​assessing​ learning; and (5) submitting a 1 page ​reflection​ on the experience of leading discussion (one reflection for each time, please). The lesson leaders will be judged on clearly and concisely reflecting the argument and evidence of the resource and on the effectiveness of the activity in engaging the class in the topic.

PDF of assignment description