This post by Valerie Barr (How We Teach Should Be Independent Of Who We Are Teaching) really resonates with me. A lot of what education is about is helping students develop into the people they need to be to make society better. While content knowledge is usually seen as the big piece, if not the whole piece, helping students see how that knowledge can be used for good needs to be part of it as well. We need to help students see computing as inclusive and as a force for making the world better. And not just as a force for making money.
We need to teach everyone that computer science is for everyone. It is not enough to teach girls that they can do it. We need boys to understand that girls can do it as well. In fact that part may even be more important in order to create a culture and environment where women can succeed as well as men. We already know that the big reason why women drop out of engineering and computing isn’t in the classroom. But I think that in the classroom we can start building for change if were teach our students, especially the boys, the right way to live. That starts with teaching my example even more than by words.
The more I learn about how computer technology is being used and misused the more convinced I am that ethics is an important part of teaching computing. I just ordered a copy of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy which I heard about this morning via an interview with the author. We’re using algorithms that people assume are unbiased but which actually support unconscious biases.
My first degree was in Sociology and maybe that makes me more sensitive to the societal aspects of computing. Then again the societal aspects of technology was a big part of the undergraduate Systems major I also completed. Today though it sees as if technology and its impacts are not always given the attention that it should get. The more technology influences society the more we need students to understand that just because something can be done does it mean it should be done. The consequences and the people aspects have to be taken into account.
As teachers we need to think about that and help our students to also think about it.