About The Project


Embedding Ethics in CS Classes Through Role Play

Team: Ellen Zegura, Jason Borenstein, Benjamin Shapiro, Amanda Meng, and Emma Logevall

Computer Scientists hold powerful roles as technology innovators and leaders, their work impacting lives and communities around the world. Computing technologies are increasingly embedded in daily life and society, and their impacts are not always positive. Misdeeds involving unethical computing practices (both intentional and unintentional) are unfortunately prevalent, and as a result, it is more important than ever that computer scientists develop robust senses of professional social responsibility and strong foundations in ethics through their education.

Our research team posits that role play can be a particularly useful method for broadening student perspectives and meaningfully integrating ethics into computer science classes (for example, helping students to empathize with others and consider the social complexity and value-laden process of introducing technology in society). As a participant team in the Mozilla Responsible Computer Science Challenge (an initiative supporting teams across the country with promising approaches to embedding ethics in CS curricula), our research team designed two role play activities. The first scenario asks students (role-playing stakeholders at a committee meeting) to decide whether to introduce autonomous buses into a community.  The second scenario asks student to determine whether an artificial intelligence (AI) app should be used to assist a university admissions office with decision-making.

Support for this project was provided by the Mozilla Responsible Computer Science Challenge, funded by the Mozilla Foundation, the Omidyar Network, Schmidt Futures, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies.