Now in its fifth year, the Socially Responsible Computing (SRC) program at Brown CS, which helps aspiring technologists keep individual and societal interests at the forefront of their work, has received some significant new support: a grant from the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) that will promote curricular changes with wide-ranging implications for CS education. Directed by lead investigators Kathi Fisler and Julia Netter, both Brown CS faculty members, the grant will be managed jointly by Brown CS, Brown’s Data Science Institute, and Brown’s Center for Technological Responsibility, Reimagination, and Redesign (CNTR). PIT-UN is a partnership of 63 colleges and universities convened by New America, the Ford Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation. It’s dedicated to building the field of public interest technology through curriculum development, faculty research opportunities, and experiential learning programs in order to inspire a new generation of civic-minded technologists and policy leaders.
“This grant is an evolutionary milestone,” says Kathi, also faculty advisor for the SRC program. “It lets us take our prior work on developing SRC modules and learning objectives customized for individual courses and weave them into an integrated curriculum that will extend from a student’s initial exposure to computing in high school all the way through an undergraduate degree in computer science.”
This new curriculum will include detailed standards for the knowledge and skills related to responsible computing which students should acquire over the course of a CS degree, as well as instructor-facing introductions to topics that explore technological impacts through perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. It will also contain sample materials and methods for assessment that align with this framework. It will be designed for transfer so that other institutions can tailor it for computing programs in a range of educational settings.
The investigators will also supplement the college-level curriculum with a curricular framework designed to fit the educational needs of high-school instructors and students. It’s intended to prepare students for more sophisticated engagement with the social impacts of computing in college while instilling early habits of thinking about the public interest as part of CS practice. Finally, the grant will allow Brown CS to engage high-school students through a two-week summer course aimed at students from historically-underrepresented groups and also offer professional development for high-school data-science teachers in partnership with Bootstrap, a national-scale outreach program developed by Brown CS faculty and their collaborators.
“At the heart of any true engagement with public interest technology is how we engage with students,” says Brown CS faculty member and CNTR director Suresh Venkatasubramanian. “At the Center for Technological Responsibility, Reimagination, and Redesign, we are proud to partner with Brown CS's pioneering Socially Responsible Computing program to solidify and structure education around the broader societal ramifications of technology so that the next generation of computer scientists can reimagine how technology can truly serve the public interest.”
For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communications Manager Jesse C. Polhemus.