Last winter, Code Haven hosted our third occurrence of TeachTech – a meeting of teachers, administrators, and policymakers in the world of education – which started with an activity that always gets everyone thinking. “Why should we teach Computer Science?” we ask, and everyone writes down three of the reasons they find most important. We place seven sticky notes around the room, each with a specific overarching reason to learn Computer Science, and ask our attendees to sort their ideas along their lines. The biggest categories (as you might expect) are always something like “Industry” and “Problem-Solving,” but there’s one that I think doesn’t get enough love: “Democracy and Social Justice.” Code Haven’s mission is predicated on increasing access to Computer Science, but even a more equitable STEM has some innate issues that need fixing.
While we’d love to include more ethical conversations into our Code Haven classrooms, right now our curriculum doesn’t have too much: On Demo Day, we discuss accessibility in computer science when designing apps with specific disabilities in mind; and many of our guest lecturers come to talk about the progressive work they’re doing with computer science. While we keep working on this, we have two other open-source tools that work great in conjunction with our online curriculum to share! Let us know if you find these useful, and if you have any questions on how to implement them, drop us a line – we’d love to talk!
One fantastic tool that we’re figuring out how to implement is MIT’s AI Ethics curriculum, which is designed for Middle School technology classes with the goal of introducing ethical computing. It’s a great first step towards responsible computing: starting by introducing the idea of what an algorithm is, and then talking about where they can go wrong by making faulty assumptions. Find the entire manual right here: https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/ai-ethics-for-middle-school/overview/
Another great tool (and be sure to be on the lookout for a future post on how to make the most of the entirety of this website!) is the CS for Good curriculum hosted by CODE.org: https://code.org/csforgood#articles. It’s equally good for technology classes and science classes, since it has a huge focus on environmental justice from a technology perspective, while also discussing AI in an approachable, interesting way. Not only does it describe and teach the concepts behind AI, but it asks students to question them in a novel, scientific way. In general, this is a great first step for students who are interested in AI, and helps to bridge the gap between those who enjoy history/social studies and computer science.
We hope these are useful tools for all the educators and students out there, and we'd love to hear how you utilize them in your classroom!