Understanding the broader social context of technology is becoming more important than ever as advances in computing show no signs of slowing down. As students code, test, and build systems, the ability to question and understand difficult issues related to social and ethical responsibility is just as important as the technology they are researching and developing.
To train students to practice responsible technology development and provide the opportunity to have these conversations in a classroom setting, members from computer, data science, humanities, arts, and science Social studies have collaborated to create original pedagogical materials that can be incorporated into existing classrooms at MIT.
All materials, created through the Social and Ethical Responsibility of Computing (SERC), a cross-cutting initiative of the MIT Schwarzman Computer College, are now freely available through MIT OpenCourseWare ( OCW). This collection includes original active learning projects, homework assignments, classroom demonstrations, and other resources and tools useful in education at MIT.
“We are delighted to be partnering with OCW to make these materials widely available. In doing so, our goal is to allow instructors to incorporate them into their courses so that students can practice and get hands-on training in the SERC,” said Julie Shah, SERC vice-chancellor and teacher aeronautics and astronautics said.
Over the past two years, SERC has brought together multidisciplinary teams of faculty, researchers, and students to create original content. Most of the material featured on the OCW is produced by participants in SERC’s semester-long Action Groups on Active Learning Projects, in which faculty members from the social sciences, arts, and humanities are paired with computer and data science instructors to collaborate on new projects for each of their existing courses. Throughout the semester, action groups worked with SERC on content development and pilot testing of new materials before results were published.
The faculty involved who created the course material featured on the new resource site include Leslie Kaelbling for class 6,036 (Introduction to Machine Learning), Daniel Jackson and Arvind Satyanaran for class 6,170 (Software Studio), Jacob Andreas and Catherine D’Ignazio for grade 6,864 (Natural Language Processing), Dwai Banerjee for STS.012 (Action Science: Technology and Controversy in Daily Life), and Will Deringer for STS.047 ( Quantifying people: A history of the social sciences. SERC also enlisted a number of graduate students and postdocs to help faculty develop the material.
Andreas, D’Ignazio, and PhD student Harini Suresh recently reflected on their efforts on an episode of Chalk Radio, the OCW podcast about inspirational teaching at MIT. Andreas observes that students at MIT and elsewhere take classes in advanced computational techniques like machine learning, but there is often a “gap between how we train these people and how the companies train them.” This tool is implemented in practice”. “What surprised me the most,” he continued, “is the number of students who say, “I have never done an exercise like this in my entire undergraduate or graduate training.”
In the second episode of the SERC podcast, released on February 23, computer science professor Jackson and graduate student Serena Booth discuss ethics, software design, and the impact on people every day.
Organized by topic areas, including privacy and surveillance; inequality, justice and human rights; artificial intelligence and algorithms; social and environmental impacts; autonomous systems and robots; computing and ethical practice; and law and policy, the site also highlights material from the MIT Case Study on the Social and Ethical Responsibility of Computing, an ongoing series that examines the social, ethical challenges and policy of current efforts in the field of computing. Case studies are specifically authorized and reviewed briefly and effectively for undergraduate teaching across a wide range of classes and fields of study. Like the new papers on MIT OpenCourseWare, the SERC Case Study series is freely available through open access publishing.
Several issues have been published to date since the series launched in February 2020. The latest, third issue in the series was released last month, including five original case studies. The first explores a wide range of topics about whether the rise of automation poses a threat to the American workforce given the role algorithms play in redistributing elections. Written by faculty members and researchers from across MIT as well as from Vanderbilt University and George Washington University, all cases are based on the authors’ original research.
With more content in the works, new content will be published on OCW twice a year to keep the site up to date with SERC related documents.
“With computers being one of OCW’s most popular topics, this focus on social and ethical responsibility will reach millions of learners,” said Curt Newton, OCW director. “And by sharing how MIT faculty and students use the material, we are creating pathways for educators around the world to tailor the material to best suit their students.” surname.”