Computer science education for social good

Abstract

Mathematics was once dubbed by Carl Gauss the "Queen of the Sciences." Given how pervasive computing has become, what should we say about it? In 2001, a New York Times column declared that "All Science is Computer Science"[7]. Since that time, computing has made tremendous inroads in the Humanities as well. Given the ubiquity of computing's applicability; physical science, natural science, social science, the Arts and the Humanities, it is worthwhile to reflect on how computing is conveyed to those electing to study computing. Buckley[1], back in 2009, after conducting an informal survey of the introductory computer science textbooks he had in his office, concluded that textbook authors were convinced that students studied computing because they were interested in animals (e.g. counting ducks, separating cows from horses), games (e.g. Tetris, Checkers), and food (e.g. donut counting, lemonade stands). Being a bit more generous, it may be fair to say that computing instructors are attempting to capture student interests by focusing on motivating examples and programming projects that deal with games, animations, robotics, mobile app development, and (e-) commerce. Sadly, this rather narrow presentation of the discipline misses out along two key aspects: • It fails to present the discipline in all its fullness with respect to its ubiquitous applicability. • It ignores the growing body of research that indicates that students wish to pursue careers that have the potential for having a positive effect on their communities [2, 8]. This result is particularly relevant for women and other under-represented minorities in computing. For far too long secondary students labored under the misconceptions that computing was boring, tedious and irrelevant [6, 10]. While these perceptions may be changing, as evidenced by growing enrollments in computing programs, students still do not see the connections between computing and pursuing a field that has the potential for social relevance. Nor do our computing curricula illustrate such connections. Computing for the Social Good: Educational Practices (CSG-Ed) is an umbrella term meant to incorporate any educational activity, from small to large, that endeavors to convey and reinforce computing's social relevance and potential for positive societal impact[5, 4]. Ben Shneiderman first wrote about this back in 1971[9]. More recently there is the Humanitarian Free Open Source Software (HFOSS) in education initiative [3] in addition to the attention brought to this issue by two recent ITiCSE Working Group reports [5, 4]. In the Spring of 2015 SIGCAS hosted a Mini-Symposium on Computing for the Social Good: Educational Practices. The goal was to bring together current and future CSG-Ed practitioners, to share best practices, discover new collaborators, review common pitfalls (and how they can be avoided), and discuss how SIGCAS can support the many varied individual and group CSG-Ed efforts. From a robust set of applications, ten CSG-Ed practitioners were selected to present their work at the Mini-Symposium. What follows are the position papers describing the work of the ten selected presentations. They range from activities designed for the K-12 space, through a CS0 course, courses throughout the introductory computing sequence, in addition to the software engineering course and the capstone experience. Read, Enjoy, and hopefully, be inspired...

DOI: 10.1145/2809957.2809963

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Goldweber2013ComputerSE, title={Computer science education for social good}, author={Michael Goldweber}, booktitle={SIGCAS Computers and Society}, year={2013} }