A new resource for teaching responsible technology development | MIT News

Understanding the broader societal context of technology is becoming increasingly critical as advances in computing show no signs of slowing down. As students code, experiment, and build systems, being able to ask questions and make sense of difficult issues involving social and ethical responsibility is as important as the technology they study and develop.

To train students to practice responsible technology development and provide opportunities to have these conversations in the classroom, members of computer science, data science, humanities, arts, and social sciences collaborated to create materials original educational material that can be integrated into existing classes. at MIT.

All materials, created as part of the Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC), a cross-cutting initiative of MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, are now freely available through MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW). The collection includes original active learning projects, assignments, classroom demonstrations, and other resources and tools deemed useful in education at MIT.

“We are excited to partner with OCW to make these materials widely available. In doing so, our goal is to enable instructors to incorporate them into their courses so that students can gain hands-on practice and training in SERC,” says Julie Shah, Associate Dean of SERC and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Over the past two years, SERC has brought together interdisciplinary teams of faculty, researchers, and students to generate original content. Most of the papers featured on OCW were produced by SERC Semester Program participants Active Learning Project Action Groups in which professors from the humanities, arts, and social sciences are paired with professors from computer science and data science to collaborate on new projects for each of their existing courses. Throughout the semester, the Action Groups worked with the SERC on content development and tested new material before the results were released.

Associate instructors who have created course materials featured on the new resource site are 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 Class 6.864 (Natural Language Processing), Dwai Banerjee for STS.012 (Science in Action: Technologies and Controversies in Daily Life) and Will Deringer for STS.047 (Quantifying People: A History of Social Science ). SERC has also hired a number of graduate students and postdocs to help the instructors develop the material.

Andreas, D’Ignazio and PhD student Harini Suresh recently reflected on their efforts together in an episode of Chalk Radio, the OCW podcast about inspired teaching at MIT. Andreas observed that students at MIT and elsewhere are taking courses in advanced computing techniques like machine learning, but there’s still often a “gap between how we train these people and how these tools are deployed in practice”. “What surprised me the most,” he continued, “is how many students said, ‘I’ve never done an assignment like this in all of my undergraduate training. cycle or second cycle.'”

In one second episode of the SERC podcastreleased February 23, computer science professor Jackson and graduate student Serena Booth discuss ethics, software design, and impact on everyday people.

Organized by topics, including privacy and surveillance; inequality, justice and human rights; artificial intelligence and algorithms; social and environmental impacts; autonomous systems and robotics; ethical computing and practice; and law and policy, the site also highlights materials from the MIT Case Studies on the Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing, an ongoing series that examines the social, ethical, and political challenges of current computing efforts. The specially commissioned, peer-reviewed case studies are brief and intended to be effective for undergraduate teaching in a range of classes and areas of study. Like new materials 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 issue, the third in the series which was published last month, features five original case studies that explore a range of topics from question whether the rise of automation is a threat to the American workforce on the role that algorithms play in redistricting. Written by professors and researchers from across MIT as well as Vanderbilt University and George Washington University, all cases are based on the authors’ original research.

With much more in the works, new content will be posted to OCW twice a year to keep the site up to date with SERC related materials.

“Computer science being one of OCW’s most popular subjects, this insight into social and ethical responsibility will reach millions of learners,” says Curt Newton, Director of OCW. “And by sharing how MIT faculty and students use the material, we create pathways for educators around the world to adapt the material for maximum relevance for their students.”

Ruby A. Robillard