Integrating Ethics into Computer Science Education: Multi-, Inter-, and Transdisciplinary Approaches

Proceedings of the 54Th Acm Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education V. 1 (Sigcse 2023) (2023)
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Abstract

While calls to integrate ethics into computer science education go back decades, recent high-profile ethical failures related to computing technology by large technology companies, governments, and academic institutions have accelerated the adoption of computer ethics education at all levels of instruction. Discussions of how to integrate ethics into existing computer science programmes often focus on the structure of the intervention—embedded modules or dedicated courses, humanists or computer scientists as ethics instructors—or on the specific content to be included—lists of case studies and essential topics to cover. While proponents of computer ethics education often emphasize the importance of closely connecting ethical and technical content in these initiatives, most do not reflect in depth on the variety of ways in which the disciplines can be combined. In this paper, I deploy a framework from cross- disciplinary studies that categorizes academic projects that work across disciplines as multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transdisciplinary, depending on the degree of integration. When applied to computer ethics education, this framework is orthogonal to the structure and content of the initiative, as I illustrate using examples of dedicated ethics courses and embedded modules. It therefore highlights additional features of cross-disciplinary teaching that need to be considered when planning a computer ethics programme. I argue that computer ethics education should aim to be at least interdisciplinary—multidisciplinary initiatives are less aligned with the pedagogical aims of computer ethics—and that computer ethics educators should experiment with fully transdisciplinary education that could transform computer science as a whole for the better.

Author's Profile

Trystan S. Goetze
Cornell University

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