Blog Post

HASTAC2015 Student-Centered Pedagogy and Technology: Computer Science Case Study

HASTAC2015 Student-Centered Pedagogy and Technology: Computer Science Case Study
Members of the Futures Initiative team organized the Student-Centered Pedagogy and Technology panel at the HASTAC2015 Conference at Michigan State University in East Lansing last month. This was an interactive long-table discussion-style session, where audience members were as much a part of the conversation as those of us who organized the panel. Staci Stutsman wrote up a blog post almost immediately following the session with a focus on pedagogy take-aways, and our panel was also part of Amanda Licastro's roundup for The Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy.




Danica Savonick, Michael Dorsch and I presented some brief case studies while Cathy Davidson and Katina Rogers helped to guide the panel and the productive dialogue. 


Below are the notes for my contribution to the panel, along with some images I used as slides, about disrupting the Computer Science through technology-avoidance. To see more of what we were up to in our class, also visit our HASTAC group, Computer Science Ethics


This past semester I taught Ethics in a Technological Society -- an upper-level Computer Science course at a small liberal arts college in the New York suburbs. Given the subject, there was a little more scope for humanities-driven work than there typically is in Computer Science courses. For example, we were able to consider a plethora of ethics-minded questions, including how to user-test a cat robot that hunts rodents but is affectionate toward humans. Classrooms for these CS courses were typically labs where computer monitors functioned as barriers for face-to-face engagement, and also served as ripe spaces for distraction -- all of the Internet beckons! As my learning goals were to foster collaborative discussion and critical thinking about issues surrounding ethics and computing, I actively avoided technology in the Computer Science classroom. 




Logic, the foundation of computer programming, need not be located within Java-based algorithms after all. I therefore designed projects that could tap into some of the for-loops, if-else statements, and object instantiation outside of our machines. I could achieve this readily with Information System and UML class diagrams, a way to map computer programs prior to actual coding. These would be designed by hand and later polished with a digital tool, such as the open-source ArgoUML (with UML, we have objects, types, attributes, methods -- all of the algorithmic thinking required prior to writing code). And then blogged on HASTAC.




Think-pair-share with real paper and real pens (when my CS students brought them!) worked great in this course, and I also had students design their own software lifecycles prior to learning what lifecycles are used in the real development world -- a way for them to make sense of different software phases in a critical and results-driven way.



Finally, we also engaged in peer-driven learning, the results of which were posted on our HASTAC Computer Science Ethics group. Students worked on a topic of their choice to teach to fellow students, ranging from programming in PERL for bioinformatics, to cyberbullying, to virtual machines. Students decided not only how to deliver the content to fellow students -- but also how to construct their follow-up blogs for the web -- some chose to offer tutorials, while others were more reflective. These group-based skills are most applicable to their future roles as software developers who will be working and building skills in teams. Of course, we did use technology throughout the class, but I tried to keep it in a supplemental role that would not serve as a disruptor, but instead be integrated at key moments after students have already had time to think through the issues at hand.


1 comment

      I must say, that this class was one of the best I've had at STAC. The ethics-minded questions/ topics that we pondered and debated over in class made it that much more interesting.