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What can aliens mean in SF texts? 


Learning episode 10:  


Purpose and use of this learning episode: Reflection, concept map and journal updates


The notes, below, were given to secondary students as their tenth and final learning episode in the 'enemy within' theme area. The focus for this learning episode was the tidying of administrative details, such as the completion of the Forum discussion notes in response to each learning episode.


This is also the learning episode when the alien creation task would be presented by students studying in face-to-face classes, or submitted for marking through the myclasses portal for students studying flexibly, online. The final evaluation of the theme area was also available online using the myclasses Survey tool but because of its dynamic nature, it is not included here.


Learning episode also includes the final concept map, done with the Windows software Inspiration or with Microsoft Visio 2003, depending on the options loaded to the school computers. The discussion occurred in the myclasses Forum area and some images and links from the original have been changed for the changed copyright guidelines for this space, outside the government school intranet, as noted in the page 'about the mySF Project'. This is a great shame, because there were plenty of images of terrible, venomous and tentacled aliens from a few, lesser SF films, as noted in the text, below.


Image of alien for learning episode ten of the 'enemy within' theme areaIndex

Forum topics for discussion

Reflections on aliens in SF

Comparing the texts with others
Completing the eLF exercises
Completing the Journal and Forum entries
Concept map task as a snapshot of learning
Concept task provided in text

Evaluation of the Enemy Within theme area

Readings and Links

Ongoing readings and links


The points at the start of these notes are to be discussed in the Forum area. You are asked to jump to the Forum area, using the link here and making a comment in the appropriate Forum thread. Please remember, your participation in discussions is expected in this study, as part of your overall participation.


Forum topics for discussion:



Compare the use of aliens in the SF texts studied in the 'Enemy Within' theme area


How do the uses of aliens in the texts you have studied compare with other texts, not covered by the 'Enemy Within' theme area?


What are your perceptions of the value of using aliens in SF to comment on social problems and society?


Reflections on aliens in SF


This week is an opportunity for reflection on the use of aliens in SF stories and texts. The last nine weeks have covered many ways in which SF texts use aliens:


The myclasses Forum  is the place to reflect on the aliens discussed in the Enemy Within theme area. The main texts are noted in the list of learning episodes to refresh your memory and you can jump back to that list by clicking here.


The selection of texts used in the Enemy Within theme area is quite short and these are chosen as representative, avoiding the texts that are probably well known already.



Comparing the texts studied with many others:


On the right hand side of this screen are images from several, other SF texts where aliens are used. Included are images from Alpha Force (Roth, 2004), the television series V: the original miniseries (Johnson, 1983), and The Day the World Ended (Gross, 2002). They are used because they represent so many others, with the inhuman, the reptilian and the insectoid alien posing a threat to humankind before its ultimate annihilation, just in time.


The aliens are entirely expected and silly and it may be fair to argue that they mean nothing at all except themselves. That is, they do not represent a theme or an argument, they are just used for cheap entertainment, as so many thousand SF films have done before them.


You are asked to avoid the SF films, stories and books that seem to be dependent on the shocking creature from beyond the stars in your discussion, but please make use of the more important SF titles in your final discussion.


There are many examples of well-known and important SF films and stories that use aliens as the central novum. These might include Cameron's Aliens (1984), Speilberg's ET (2002), and Zemeckis' Contact (1998).


These movies are certainly worthy of comment but are so well known that they were not chosen for study here, even though the aliens of the Alien Trilogy are excellent devices to criticise capitalism and the military-industrial complex, ET presents a Christ-like figure who reminds us that children will inherit the Kingdom, and Contact presents a peaceful, advanced and God-like alien hegemony. This is not to mention the many worthy satires of aliens as seen in Mars Attacks! (Burton, 1996), Coneheads (Barron, 1993), and Galaxy Quest (Parisot, 1999).


In the Forum area, look at the discussion starters at the top of this page and comment on these based on your work in the Enemy Within theme area, but you are also very welcome to bring in any of the major texts, including those major SF movies, stories and novels you have experienced and relate these also to the themes as discussed in our study, here.



Completing the eLF exercises:


This learning episode is also used for completing any of the assessment tasks as set in the myclasses portal on the Enemy Within portal page. Please check the descriptions of the assessment tasks and their due dates and submit your responses using the Submit button on the task. Please add a comment about the task as you submit it. This will assist your teacher in improving the Enemy Within theme area content and associated tasks.



Completing the Journal entries:


Please take time in this week to reflect on your learning in the myclasses Journal. The reflection in your personal Journal area is an important means for your communication to your teachers, but also for you to rethink and restructure your own ideas about the use of aliens in SF.


The mySF Project uses a Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environment (CSILE) and the Journal tool for individual and group reflection is vital for this. One of the  developers of CSILE, Carl Bereiter, says reflection can cause conceptual change, that is a "significant deepening and expanding of the conception" (Bereiter, 2002). The reflection in the Journal should be done over time, not straight after watching a DVD or discussing a text. The reflection should allow time to think, rather than needing to be finished under the pressure of oral discussion (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996).


The educational benefits from spending some time in reflecting on how aliens are used in SF is only one good reason. Another good reason is that students are assessed on their use of the Journal, reflection tool in myclasses. Please check your assessment details about the reflection task, looking through guidelines for the task carefully.



Concept Map task:


Just as there is very good evidence to show that students deepen their understanding of SF through the reflection, there are also good reasons to finish the Enemy Within theme area with another concept map, using software like 'Inspiration' or 'Visio'.


In learning episode one students in the mySF Project were asked to create a snapshot concept map of their understanding of the particular theme area, in this case the use of aliens in SF. In learning episode ten this process is done again, based on prior discussion of all the texts studied over the weeks, and reflection on discussions and learning. The Enemy Within theme area uses what is called a modified Constructivist approach to this learning environment, and part of this way of working includes the creations of concept maps at regular intervals, as noted by academics Jonassen and Marra (1998), to see a sort of series of snapshots of student learning over time.


Please check your eLF property on myclasses to see what is required of the last concept map for the Enemy Within theme area. It should be submitted during one of the last days of the mySF Project, so start thinking about it and planning what you want to represent!


Again, please submit a comment about your making of the concept map as this will assist your teacher and others in improving the mySF Project.


Concept map task in full:


mySF Unit, 'Enemy Within' theme - final Concept Map task - worth 5%



This is the last task in the mySF unit, the'Enemy Within' theme area of the mySF Project. This task is designed by academics called Jonassen and Marra and it links to the first concept map you completed in learning episode one of the mySF unit.


The idea of this task is to see how your ideas about 'aliens' as used in Science Fiction (SF) may have changed in the time since you started the unit.


In this task you are asked to start the Inspiration (or Visio) program from the Start/Programs button and open a new concept map.


  1. Select the main, central icon and put your full name in that central icon
  2. Create another, linked icon with rapid fire for 'Inspiration' or in Visio use the palette of diggerent brainstorming choices and call it 'Aliens in SF'
  3. Create linked points and sub-points based on your own ideas of the role of Aliens in Science Fiction
  4. You may, if you wish, make the idea nodes into icons using Insiprations shape menus


You may want to consider such things as:

  1. how aliens in science fiction short stories comment on contemporary family life of their times
  2. how aliens can be used to represent fears of the Other
  3. how aliens may be used for political purposes, to offer an alternative political solution to society's problems
  4. how aliens can be used in fiction to criticise the way one gender oppresses the other
  5. how aliens can comment on current social situations
  6. how aliens may comment on religious beliefs
  7. how aliens are used to criticise technology itself
  8. how alien narrative stories may confront the reader with the unknowable Other
  9. what SF critics have said about the purposes of aliens in SF, based on the Podcasts, and
  10. your own understanding of how aliens are used in SF may have changed, if at all.


If you can remember them, please link the texts you studied and remembered to the various nodes. Use the whole space, make spaghetti if you like, but please represent your understanding of aliens in SF. Make it complex and show all your ideas on the concept map. Experiment and discuss the task with your friends, if it helps.


This task is due at the end of the lesson but can be submitted up to the deadline. The task is worth 5% of your total for the mySF unit, so take it seriously. It is designed as a detailed snapshot of your understanding of this topic at this time.


Your concept map will be used to improve the mySF unit for future students.


Please be careful with your spelling and expression.




mySF Project - Enemy Within theme area evaluation:


Finally, it is vital that the Enemy Within theme area by evaluated by students. This online information and assessment system can be improved rapidly and effectively if there are citicisms and feedback from students about the Project.


Please check the eLF Property in the myclasses portal or take the Survey for the end of the ten week Enemy Within theme area, also found in the Enemy Within portal page.




Resource List:


Barron, S. (Director). (1993). Coneheads. Written by Tom David and Dan Akroyd. DVD Version Warner Home Video, 2004.


Bereiter, C.  (2002). Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.


Burton, T. (Director). (1996). Mars Attacks! Written by Len Brown and Woody Gelman. DVD Version, Warner Home Video, 2003.


Cameron, J. (1986). Aliens. Directed by J. Cameron. (DVD). Fox Home Entertainment. 2003.


Gross, T. (Director). (2002). The Day the World Ended. Screenplay by Enscoe, M. & de Young, A. Creative Feature Productions. DVD Version.


Johnson, K. (1983). V: the Original Miniseries. Warner Brothers. DVD Version, 2002. Warner Home Video: Sydney.


Jonassen, D. & Marra, R. (1998). 'Concept mapping and other formalisms as mindtools for representing knowledge'. Retrieved 5 August 2004 from


Parisot, D. (Director). (1999). Galaxy Quest. Written by David Howard. DVD Version Paramount Home Entertainment, 2004.


Roth, P. (Director). (2004). Alpha Force: the last line of defense. Screenplay by Patrick Phillips. Peacock Films. DVD Version.


Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C.  (1996). ‘Computer Support for Knowledge-Building Communities’. Retrieved 30 June, 2005 from


Zemeckis, R. (Director) (1998). Contact. Written by Carl Sagan. Warner Home Video. DVD Version, 2002.



Ongoing readings and links:



Electronic text of 'The Father Thing' by Phillip K Dick


Electronic text of Damon Knight's 'Stranger Station'


Electronic text of Octavia Butler's 'Bloodchild'

  Electronic text of David Rade's 'The Ticket Whisperer'


Podcast 1 of overview of Aliens in SF, 5M mp3 file for download and playing

  Podcast II of overview of Aliens in SF, 4M mp3 file for downloading and playing




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