“Make it matter” for students by experimenting with new and interesting topics for assignments and projects, and by using varied examples in your lectures and other materials. Students are more likely to persist in the face of a challenge when what they are learning is relevant to their life experiences and goals. Use examples that have broad appeal, place assignments in contexts that interest students, and explain how a particular idea is used in different contexts.

Some suggestions

Don’t assume what’s meaningful; find out! Don’t rely on your notion of what’s interesting and meaningful, and certainly don’t rely on stereotypes. Find out from your students--and from the students you want to recruit--what is meaningful to them! Surveys and clicker polls are a great tools for this.

Keep keeping it real. Don’t relegate the discussion of larger context to the beginning of a course. Keep bringing students back to the real world application of what they are learning. This can be as simple as showing how a concept is used in a familiar application or program (e.g., how hash maps are used in natural language processing to predict what a user will type into a search engine).

Highlight the people. To help students see the people behind the concepts, refer to the contributions of an individual or group. A great story is Grace Hopper and her team at Harvard University finding a literal bug in one of their machines.

Examples from the collection


Embedded Ethics: Pandemic Exposure Notification Systems and Giving Ethical Justifications

In this follow-up to "Embedded Ethics: Pandemic Contact Tracing and Ethical Trade-Offs" [6], students revisit a trade- off they faced in that first module. There, students brainstormed about the rich data one might collect to build a powerful app for contact tracing, discovered that this may facilitate violations of privacy, considered the harms that can come from this, and recognized the trade-off between protecting privacy and gathering data to support the fight against the spread of a disease such as COVID-19.

Passwords and Python: Introducing Security Concepts in Lower-Division Programming

One important concept for all computing students to understand is security—both their own, and for the technologies and systems they might eventually develop. This open educational resource provides an assignment to introduce to students in an introductory programming class to a foundational security concept: password security. The assignment begins with a basic introduction to security as an important concept in computing, drawing from real world examples of security breaches with a focus on the importance of good password practices. It then explains password strength as a concept and has students use conditionals, logical operators, and for and while loops to code a password strength checker and simple password management system.

ACM Digital Library Entry

Sandbox Data Science: Culturally Relevant K-12 Computing

Given an increased focus on computer science education as a valuable context to teach data science—due in part to the potential of computing for accessing, processing, and analyzing digital datasets—there have been steady efforts to develop kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) curricula that productively engage learners in these academic areas. Bootstrap: Data Science and Exploring Computer Science (ECS) are prominent curricular examples designed to support high school data science access in computing contexts. While these vital efforts have found success bridging computer and data science, there remain growing concerns about how we can ensure that such learning experiences support the demographic and intellectually diverse cohorts of students needed for field innovation, occupational attainment, and public literacy. Challenges to these efforts often persist because existing data sources and activities offered to students are typically shaped by others (e.g., curriculum designers, teachers, etc.) rather than by learners themselves.

Thinking Critically: Classroom Activities to Examine Ethics in Computing

There are many reasons why it is important for students to think about the ethical implications of computer science and the technology that they use and create. At the beginning of the Covid pandemic all teachers faced the sudden transition to necessary remote learning. The fast pivot to online learning required changes to existing lessons, or even creating totally new ones. Shifting to lessons about ethics proved to be a valuable substitution for lesson plans (LP) that required access to resources no longer available to students from home. Presented here are a series of lessons that could be taught in any modality that were adapted for middle and high school learners during the spring of 2020 for their science and AP CS Principles courses. Although the activities and artifacts that are described for students were originally created for online synchronous sessions, they could easily be adapted for face-to-face, online or hybrid classrooms. The subjects of these lessons focused on the ethical impacts of computing by looking at past, present, and emerging technologies.

Identification: A Teaching Moment for Privacy and Databases

This learning experience helps students gain experience and proficiency with issues regarding the ethical collection and use of data. Students will gain an appreciation for the risks associated with record-level identification, where data attributes, however innocently collected, can and have been used to violate privacy and lead to discrimination against individuals and protected classes of individuals.

ACM Digital Library Entry

Embedded Ethics: Pandemic Contact Tracing and Ethical Trade-offs

This course module, designed for use in a first-year programming course, gets students thinking about ethical issues that arise from the technology they will build. The module is on the topic of contract tracing, employed during pandemics and other disease outbreaks to limit the spread of
communicable diseases such as COVID-19. The module includes pre-class, in-class, and post-class components. As students learn how a graph can represent contacts and consider the data that a contact tracing system might record, they are guided through an active learning exercise to discover an issue: Private information can sometimes be inferred from a contact tracing system.
The ethical issue of balancing public health against individual privacy arises naturally from the technical discussion.

Web Accessibility Evaluations

This lab helps students gain experience and proficiency with alternative modalities for browsing the web (i.e., navigation using the keyboard and using screen readers). Students will learn how to perform a website accessibility evaluation using a keyboard and screen reader. Students will also gain an appreciation for the prevalence of web accessibility issues, and will reflect on what can be done to improve web accessibility.

ACM Digital Library Entry

OER for Ethics and Computing Open Access Collection

Coverage of ethics and computing is proliferating at universities, at both undergraduate and graduate levels. This includes standalone courses, and incorporation of ethics into technical computer science and related courses. Most of these courses, particularly the standalone ones, make extensive use of recent media articles, papers, videos, and other resources about issues related to ethics and computing. Thousands of such media articles alone are published annually. There is enormous duplication of effort by people who are teaching these courses, as discovering these resources is not always an easy process.

Usability Observations of Everyday Things

This assignment is designed for an introductory human-computer interaction course. Students identify usability issues in everyday things. For example, confusing light switches, street signs, mobile applications, gaming consoles, or microwave ovens. There are three learning objectives: 1) demonstrate the ability to notice the usability of everyday things, 2) correctly apply usability terms and concepts, and 3) design a solution that addresses an identified weakness.

ACM Digital Library Entry

Using Science Fiction Trailers to Teach Social Responses to Communication Technology and the Media Equation

This group discussion activity helps students to explore how people socially respond to communication technology by explaining and applying the Media Equation and the Computers are Social Actors (CASA) paradigm for the study of human-technology interaction. Students will learn how to evaluate and apply CASA to human-technology interaction by discussing agents and technologies portrayed in science fiction movie trailers containing examples of virtual agents with social characteristics.

ACM Digital Library Entry

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