The Responsible Computer Science Challenge at MozFest

Von Kathy Pham and Jenn Beard | 6. Dezember 2019 | Fellowships & Awards

Responsible CS Challenge awardees Responsible CS Challenge awardees. Credit: Henry Kenyon

During MozFest 2019, Mozilla hosted the second convening of the 17 awardees of the Responsible Computer Science Challenge. See below for the list of attendees.

This was the second in-person meeting, following the summer kick-off in San Francisco. The goal of that first kick-off event was for awardees to meet each other, share ideas, hear from industry leaders in responsibility, ethics and tech, and plan for next steps of the Challenge. The goal of this second convening was for awardees to share ideas and challenges with each other, collaborate with the global Responsible Computer Science community, and learn from others within the larger MozFest community. We achieved this with a small group convening on Thursday, a Lessons Showcase at the University College London on Friday, and attendance with the global MozFest community over the weekend.

We are at a very exciting stage. The Responsible Computer Science grantees have started to implement concepts with their students this fall. We met to discuss critical topics like learning outcomes, wins and challenges, and the long-term goals of the Responsible Computer Science Challenge. The work is intended to lead to shifts in the way technology is built and considered in society.

Opening Check-In

Many of the Responsible Computer Science grantees have started to implement their new curricula and course changes. We kicked off the day with wins and challenges from each person. Common themes included: not having enough time to implement changes, convincing faculty colleagues to bring new content and approaches into the classroom, legal processes and IRBs, creative cross-disciplinary collaborations, and more.

Working Sessions

Throughout the past few months, the group has convened via remote working sessions, discussed over email, and worked through some of the challenges associated with their curricula changes. Two common needs that emerged were Assessments & Evaluations and Learning Outcomes. We used this time together to discuss both in depth. In addition, we created Responsible Computer Science task forces to focus on a few deliverables addressed towards the global community. The four task forces include:

Repository of Content: Create an online repository to host classroom content for integrating ethics and responsibility in computing

Team Members: Oliver Bonham-Carter, Augustin Chaintreau, Stacy Doore, Casey Fiesler, Helena Mentis

Edited Research Edition: A peer-reviewed book, journal, or collection on the pedagogical approaches for integrating ethics in computing.

Team Members: Stacy Doore, Elizabeth Edenberg, Casey Fiesler, Maggie Little, Sandra Matteucci, Jenn Winikus, Ellen Zegura

Online Handbook: An online handbook or guide on how we did this work at our institutions. Mozilla has funding to hire a designer to helped build this. A few inspirations: Digital service playbook, Ethical OS, MIT AI Blindspot

Team Members: Margo Boenig-Liptsin, Oliver Bonham-Carter, Cathryn Carson, Ron Cytron, Elizabeth Edenberg, George Gabb, Seny Kamara, Maggie Little, Xin Liu, Sandra Matteucci, Kathy Pham, Atri Rudram, Jenn Winikus, Ellen Zegura

White Papers: Produce white papers on our work integrating ethics in computing

Team Members: Augustin Chaintreau, Seny Kamara, Maggie Little, Helena Mentis, Atri Rudra, Marty J. Wolf

Lessons Showcase at University College London

Select winners from the Responsible Computer Science Challenge showcased their classroom lessons at the Integrating Ethics in Computing Symposium hosted at University College London. The event was open to the public. Many thanks to Professor Ann Blanford for hosting us. The following faculty members gave us the experience of being in one of their classrooms:

Margo Boenig-Liptsin (University of California, Berkeley)

This initiative integrates a “Human Contexts and Ethics (HCE) Toolkit” into the computer science/data science curriculum. The toolkit helps students discover when and how their work intersects with social power structures. Dr. Boenig-Liptsin's lesson was an example of a lecture that the HCE Team at Berkeley has developed for the DS 100 / CS c100 "Principles and Techniques of Data Science" course. The lesson combines 1) a scenario based on data sets and computing techniques students learn in the course with 2) relevant HCE tools that unlock social stakes at each step in the 3) data science design lifecycle. In addition to the Toolkit, the HCE Team is also building a public repository of case-studies with which to think about, teach, and advocate for ethics in computing. Find our more about Dr. Boenig-Lipstin’s and the Berkeley HCE Team's work at the Human Contexts and Ethics Program.

Augustin Chaintreau (Columbia University)

This approach integrates ethics directly into the computer science curriculum, rather than making it a stand-alone course. Students will consult and engage with an “ethical companion” that supplements a typical course textbook, allowing ethics to be addressed immediately alongside key concepts. The companion provides examples, case studies, and problem sets that connect ethics with topics like computer vision and algorithm design.

Casey Fiesler (University of Colorado)

This initiative integrates an ethics component into introductory programming classes, and features an “ethics fellows program” that embeds students with an interest in ethics into upper division computer science and technical classes. Dr. Fiesler created a Black Mirror Writers room as one approach to integrating an ethics component into classes.

Ellen Zegura (Georgia Institute of Technology)

This approach embeds social responsibility into the computer science curriculum, starting with the introductory courses. Students will engage in role-playing games (RPGs) to examine how a new technology might impact the public. For example: How facial recognition or self-driving cars might affect a community. Find more details about the role-playing games on Georgia Tech’s Responsible Computer Science page.

Maggie Little and Elizabeth Edenberg (Georgetown University)

Georgetown's Responsible CS team is a collaboration between Ethics Lab and the Computer Science Department to design active exercises that highlight the values embedded in the skills students are learning in their programming and AI courses. The team integrates multiple ethics workshops into each computer science course throughout the semester, with workshops featuring a variety of interactive exercises intended to help students develop responsible awareness of the values, rights, and interests at stake in the daily work of computer scientists. The team’s teaching demonstrations at MozFest 2019 illustrated two different exercises they have developed to unpack the ethical, legal, social, and technical conceptions of what makes a good algorithm -- and to uncover the hidden values in algorithm design. Learn more about their work at Georgetown’s Ethics Lab.

MozFest

During MozFest, several members of the Responsible Computer Science community facilitated sessions.

Ethics in Computing, Jeff Behrends, Margarita Boenig-Liptsin, Augustin Chaintreau, Casey Fiesler, Maggie Little, Marty J. Wolf, and Ellen Zegura

This session featured a conversation with Responsible Computer Science awardees to discuss introducing and integrating ethics early in the computer science and engineering education and careers. This includes rethinking classroom and engineering practices, working in an interdisciplinary manner, and rethinking our tech culture and principles.

Great Code, Great Responsibility, Kathy Pham, Bitange Ndemo How do we fix the internet? Teach the next generation of coders ethics right alongside computer science.

Hidden Values: Embedded Values in Algorithm Design, Maggie Little, Elizabeth Edenberg, Jonathan Healey, Sydney Luken

Philosophers and designers from Georgetown University’s Ethics Lab led a hands-on activity examining how algorithm designs embody the values of their authors. In particular, the effects of algorithmic optimization are familiar, from fitness-promoting wearables and comment-section flamewars. However neutral they may seem, algorithm designs are an expression of values, priorities, and assumptions. A newsfeed, for example, presents challenges both technical — “how might we present what we think people already like” — and normative — “how do we know what people like and what are we assuming about who people are?”

The Black Mirror Writers’ Room, Casey Fielser

Participants choose current technologies that they find ethically troubling, and speculate about what the next stage of that technology might be. They work collaboratively as if they were science fiction writers, and use a combination of creative writing and ethical speculation to consider what protagonist and plot would be best suited to showcase potential negative consequences of this technology. They plot episodes - but then also consider what steps they might take now (in regulation, technology design, social change) that might result in NOT getting to this negative future. They create plot summaries mocked up to look like Black Mirror episode decks, so that they can be shared widely. Casey Fiesler uses this exercise in teaching; here is a recent example: https://twitter.com/cfiesler/status/1144405445672497153

Next Steps

As part of the Responsible Computer Science Challenge, we launched the Global Responsible Computer Science Community of Practice. Those working towards integrating social responsibility and ethics into computing curricula around the world are invited to join. The goals of this community: Spark cross disciplinary insights, collaborate with a global cohort, provide a platform for sharing and scaling pedagogy ideas, and continue the work beyond the Responsible Computer Science Challenge. Mozilla also hosts a series of webinars applicable to Responsible Computer Science.

Two upcoming events: January 22 - 27th, 2020, Several members of the community will be at FAT* in Barcelona, Spain. March 11 -14th, we will host an Integrating Ethics in Computer Science pre-symposium workshop and Birds of a Feather session at SIGCSE 2020 in Portland, Oregon.

Continue to visit the responsiblecs.org page for links to curricula, syllabi, and classroom activities developed and published in the open from the awardees.

Attendees

Allegheny College | Meadville, PA | Oliver Bonham-Carter

Bemidji State University | Bemidji, MN | Marty J. Wolf, Colleen Greer

Bowdoin College | Brunswick, ME | Stacy Doore

Brown University | Providence, RI | Seny Kamara (In partnership with University of Utah and Haverford College)

Columbia University | New York, NY | Augustin Chaintreau

Georgetown University | Washington, DC | Maggie Little, Elizabeth Edenberg

Georgia Institute of Technology | Atlanta, GA | Ellen Zegura

Harvard University | Cambridge, MA | Jeff Behrends

Miami Dade College | Miami, FL | George Gabb, Antonio Delgado

Northeastern University | Boston, MA | Christo Wilson

Santa Clara University | Santa Clara, CA | Shiva Houshmand

University of California, Berkeley | Berkeley, CA | Margo Boenig-Liptsin

University at Buffalo | Buffalo, NY | Atri Rudra, Jenn Winikus

University of California, Davis | Davis, CA | Xin Liu

University of Colorado, Boulder | Boulder, CO | Casey Fiesler

University of Maryland, Baltimore County | Baltimore, MD | Helena Mentis

Washington University | St. Louis, MO | Sandra Matteucci

Mozilla | Kansas City, MO, Boston, MA | Jenn Beard, Kathy Pham


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