D. Gordon 1, M. Collins 1, P. Gibson 2, D. O'Sullivan 1

1Technological University Dublin (IRELAND)
2Télécom SudParis (FRANCE)
In the second semester of the academic year 2020-2021 (January to May 2021), a group of 175 first year computer science students in the School of Computer Science at Technological University Dublin, Ireland, were presented with four case studies on programming-related ethical scenarios, which was assessed using a combination of continuous assessment and examinations as part of the Erasmus+ Ethics4EU project (O’Sullivan and Gordon, 2020). The goal of these cases was not to tell the students the “correct answer” to an ethical dilemma but rather to get them to explore in groups and reflect themselves on what they would do when presented with a particular scenario and what they think is the right thing to do.

The approach to teaching this content represented a shift of teaching paradigm from Behaviourist approach to a more Constructivist approach (Ling and Ling, 2016), which was supported by a three-part lesson structure:
(i) teaching by lecturers,
(ii) discussion in break-out room by groups of students, and
(iii) sharing key ideas discussed using a chat tool and the Padlet notice board. Based on feedback from the students, they found the lessons extremely enjoyable and engaging and they felt the break-out rooms were essential in allowing them to see the content through others perspectives.

In this follow-up study six months later, the students were asked to recall the content they could remember from the lessons as well as the key ideas they learned from those case studies. The outcomes were as expected, i.e., some students have almost no recollection of the case studies but remembered general ethical themes, whereas others had detailed recollection of both the content of the classes and the key ethical issues discussed. This supports Grosz’s notion of a “distributed pedagogy”, where ethics needs be infused throughout the Computer Science curricula to remind students of some key ethical ideas, as well as to give the students a better understanding of the ethical impacts and possible harmful effects of the technologies they implement (Grosz et al. 2019).

[1] Grosz, B.J., D.G. Grant, K. Vredenburgh, J. Behrends, L. Hu, A. Simmons, and J. Waldo. 2019. Embedded EthiCS: Integrating ethics across CS education. Communications of the ACM 62 (8): 54–61.
[2] Ling, L. and Ling, P. (eds)., 2016. Methods and Paradigms in Education Research. IGI Global.
[3] O’Sullivan, D., Gordon, D. (2020) “Check Your Tech – Considering the Provenance of Data Used to Build Digital Products and Services: Case Studies and an Ethical CheckSheet”, IFIP WG 9.4 European Conference on the Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, 10th–11th June 2020, Salford, UK.