Ethics in Undergraduate Education

For computer science to take ethics seriously, we need to define an ethics-inclusive computer science mindset that goes beyond computational thinking.  Every element of the development process must include this ethical mindset, including design, algorithm development, product review, usage policies, etc. Mindsets are learned. Students come to understand how a computer scientist thinks by watching experts and practicing the craft. At the College of Computing, we are systematically reconnecting ethics with the computing curriculum rather than leaving it to our undergraduates to figure out how, and whether, to connect the dots. Our approach recognizes that students come to the university to learn content and mindset and they are primed for social responsibility from their high school and lived experiences as teenagers. We leverage their sense of public social responsibility and their developing professional identity to foreground professional social responsibility as ethical mindset, drawing on the research literature for the underlying model of development. Here are ways we put it into practice:

Classes

 Students gather around laptops

With Threads, the revolutionary CS curriculum developed by the College of Computing, students combine regular computer science instruction with classes related to particular areas of application from the start of their education. The result is an intensely focused undergraduate program tailored to a student’s interests and real-world opportunities. Threads sets the standard for the future of computer science education in the United States.

Three students stand by river.

This course explores the role of technology in the development of sustainable communities, locally and internationally. We ask our students to consider many vital questions. We consider when technology improves communities and when it doesn't. We discuss what matters in the success or failure of technology-based projects. We explore how engineers and scientists improve their chances of having a positive long-term impact on communities. We look at how public policy and the social sciences can be integrated into technology development. We ask how designing technology for communities is different from designing technology for consumers.

Student teaches other student how to use VR.

Students in Computing, Society, & Professionalism learn basic ethical theories and standards of professional conduct, and study the social implications of technology. Students write a research paper on the social implications of a computing technology of their choice, for example on the privacy implications of RFID tags or the impact of violent video games on children.

 

 Students gather around map project for civic data science.

The Civic Data Science program at Georgia Tech is an NSF REU site that supports a 10-week immersive research experience for undergraduate students interested in contributing to the developing field of data science. Our focus is on the data, analytics, and user interaction aspects of data science in a domain that has not traditionally benefited from advances in computing — the civic sector. 

CS Education Week
 

The Constellations Center for Equity in Computing (Constellations) serves as a hub and national leader for research and advocacy at the intersection of educational equity and computing. It brings together the results of research and the experience of programs to construct a constellation that will light the pathway for all students to gain access to computing. Constellations was created with a mission to ensure that all students — especially students of color, women, and others underserved in K-12 and post-secondary institutions — have access to quality computer science education, a fundamental life skill in the 21st century.

Student teaches child how to use computer program.

Current and future science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals produce products and services that touch nearly every aspect of human life. Our research focuses on the ethical responsibility of STEM professionals to critically examine the role of technology and understand how its design impacts society at large. This research will inform the design of undergraduate STEM and other educational efforts. A key goal of the research is to determine which specific facets of student participation in community engagement help students become better attuned to promoting the public's well-being.