Designing a More Critical CS Education

Designing a More Critical CS Education

April 2

Welcome to the course! Let's get to know each other and understand how and why we are meeting here.

Our initial thoughts and reasons for engaging in this course focus on the challenges of designing a more critical computing education. (So we're all in the right place!) Painting in broad strokes, these ideas include:

  1. What we teach in our CS courses/curriculum, and what it would mean to integrate critical perspectives that include (but are not limited to) ethics, accessibility, equity, social justice, and cultural competency as learning objectives. What does this mean in practice for our approaches to evaluation and assessment?
  2. How we teach all of the above. Particularly, how do we attend to cultural differences between students as we teach this material in STEM spaces that have traditionally emphasized dualism—the idea that you can separate your logical thinking mind from emotional thinking.
  3. A key end goal of these efforts is to restory computing disciplinary identity—to engage critically with what it means to be a computer scientist or for a student to see themselves as a computer scientist.

April 9

The goal I'd like to set for this week is to chart a course for the rest of the quarter. That could mean we have a structured activity each week that we all commit to doing. Alternatively, I could image each of us could go in different directions and turn our weekly meetings into opportunities for connection and learning. I'd like to narrow down some of these different directions, so for this week, please engage with as many of these resources as you can before meeting on Friday. I think you could get a lot from spending 15–30 minutes on each of these three points.

  1. Learn about the ComputingEd@UW and broader Sound CS Ed communities. Review the research directions and goals of the Code and Cognition LabNiral ShahSucheta Ghoshal, and Consider attending two interesting upcoming events: the Sound CS Ed meetup 5–6pm April 15 and the DUB Seminar featuring Sucheta 12–1pm May 19.
  2. Reimagine our computing role models and course syllabi. Look into citeHER, the blackcomputeHER bibliography, with the goal of identifying researchers and their work that we could integrate directly into our courses. How about computing current event "news you can use"—I could imagine creating a repository of culturally-responsive narratives for discussing these events in CSE courses.
  3. Learn about the 3C Fellows and participate in our change planning. Several UW CSE faculty and graduate students are cohort 1 fellows (including myself), and we're currently wrapping up our "learning" phase and transitioning to organizational change. Two reads: the Deliverable Design Checklist (What would you like to see us design next year?) and Broadening Participation Beyond Diversity.

April 16

We're most excited to work in area 2: focusing on designing a more critical CS education at the level of restorying CSE courses and curricula, but also including and involving broader efforts in the K–12 CS education space. I can see these activities including design of course syllabi, grassroots efforts to educate our Allen School community, and engaging stakeholders in both processes.

  1. Survey the Allen School Justice, Equity, and DEI focused classes. Which classes are most interesting to you? What about classes not on this list (see the full CSE courses list)? Do your interests span multiple classes? Or maybe your interests are more in outreach. Think about the different dimensions of pedagogy, content, and assessment that we might want to reshape, speaking either from your personal experience taking the course in the Allen School or elsewhere.
  2. Learn more about critical pedagogy (how we teach), content (what we teach), and assessment (what we define as success). Feel free to research what you're most interested in with respect to point 1, or see some of these resources that I've been thinking about recently: Challenging Cultural Deficit Approaches in Communities & Schools, Introduction to CS through a Social History of Computing (attached) + CS ed in higher education (presentation for Microsoft but useful context and historical background), and our CS Ed seminar discussions (CSE login): 1, 2, 3.
  3. By our meeting on Friday, bring at least 5 ideas for how you want to impact courses or efforts in CSE. We'll take these ideas and turn them into action plans for this quarter. If you plan to make it to the Sound CS Ed meetup this week, reflect on one thing to share with everyone!

I encourage everyone to attend the IEEE Conference on Research in Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT 2021) May 23–27. Registration opens April 15. RESPECT is the primary equity-centered computing education research conference. The school can cover the $50 student registration fee for everyone interested in attending. Meeting people and integrating ideas from RESPECT 2021 would be a great way to round-out and reflect on our work toward the end of the quarter.

April 23

We proposed a possible structure for directing our work in the next half of the course: reviewing syllabi through the lenses of rubrics, objectives, pedagogy, etc—different slices of the course. In particular, we've roughly organized efforts into three curriculum areas.

  1. Introductory programming sequence. Read Infrastructures of abstraction: how computer science education produces anti-political subjects and process our current course syllabi.
  2. Systems curriculum. An idea that's been on my mind is to think about the affordances of models of computation. We could say that some systems are designed around centralizing data and processing—working against marginalized communities. How do these designs and this educational focus on these designs reflect the interest of a small group of technosocial elites? Consider the parallel comparison between nuclear power and solar power in Do Artifacts Have Politics?
  3. Theory curriculum. Robbie's been doing some interesting work in CSE 417—ethics assignments. Another thread that came to mind was to explore CS theory with a historical perspective—maybe by applying Pentecost's Social History of Computing syllabus ideas.

April 30


May 7


May 14


May 21

Prepare to attend the Annual Conference on Research in Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT). Identify a few presentations and events that you're most looking forward to attending and share them with us! What do you hope to learn and how might that learning change your existing work?

May 28

Reflect on the RESPECT Conference. Begin to work toward applying what you learned back to your work.

June 4

Course conclusion, activities TBD. Reshape your work in response to some learned ideas from RESPECT.

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