The Responsible Computer Science Challenge at SIGCSE

Ethics and social responsibility have existed in computer science curricula for decades, and have become even more critical in recent years due to the many ways technology affects individuals and societies. Prior to SIGCSE being canceled, in accordance with the Governor of Oregon’s mandate for canceling convenings of certain sizes related to COVID-19, we held a pre-symposium titled “Integrating Ethics and Social Responsibility in Computing Curricula Symposium.” Our goal was to share some mini-lessons and updates on the Challenge with other computer science faculty, teachers, and community partners interested in advocating for and integrating ethics into computer science education. Despite many institutions implementing travel bans prior to the gathering, we hosted an engaged group of twenty-two individuals. Four of the Responsible Computer Science Challenge team members presented, representing three of the 17 Challenge schools: University of Colorado, Boulder, Allegheny College, and University at Buffalo.

This convening was modeled after a series of events we held in London in October 2019. At this Lesson Showcase, select winners from the Responsible Computer Science Challenge showcased their classroom lessons to the group.

University of Colorado, Boulder, Casey Fielser

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.

University at Buffalo, Atri Rudra and Matthew Hertz

The first part of the mock-class showcases activities from the undergraduate algorithms course related to high speed Internet access. The first activity would be an in-class exercise where students think about the technical and ethical issues related to increasing access to the Internet in a Western New York county. Follow-up assignments include a video and coding project where students go through various routing problems related to working for a high-speed internet service provider. The remainder of the mock-class showcases an activity from the undergraduate capstone course. This activity has students think about the ethics of data and how they would respond in the workplace.

Other Presentations and Group Discussion

In addition to the mini-lessons, Janyl Jumadinova from Allegheny College shared more about their approach to the work, along with some of the teaching values of their institution. These include a heavy emphasis on writing, reflection, and proper documentation from the very beginning of the students’ education. Their website contains links to repositories with their work and will be updated continuously.

Following the presentations, the group had an informal 40-minute chat about things on people’s minds. There were discussions about how schools were engaging Fellows (or students) in their work, the role of existing codes of ethics, how to balance teaching required material with new ideas and content (like ethics), and more.

You can learn more about the Challenge and awardees at http://responsiblecs.org. If this sounds like a community or conversation you would like to be a part of, we encourage you to join our Global Community of Practice. As tools and curriculum are made available to the public, or we have other relevant information to share, we will contact people that have opted into this mailing list.