Computer Ethics Activities For Use In Introductory Computer Science Courses

Don Gotterbarn


The Association of Computing Machinery/s Curriculum 91 and the Computer Science Accreditation Board Standard’s recommend the inclusion of ethical issues in the computer science curriculum. One effective way to meet this recommendation is to distribute the discussion of ethical issues across several computer science classes. The ethical issues discussed in any class should be ones that are directly related to the subject area of that class. Examples of this include a discussion in the database course of data aggregation, or a discussion in the software engineering course of the potential conflicts between obligations to the customer and the user.

This paper is designed to help those with minimal experience discussing ethical and professional issues. The primary technique presented introduces students to ethical issues in small subject units within the context of existing computer science courses. We will explain ways to introduce these topics so that students can easily see how they are related to the technical subject matter of each class. We will them present complete examples which can be used in several of the standard introductory undergraduate courses. For each example we will: show how to introduce the subject, describe several anticipated student responses, suggest ways to respond to the student’s responses, provide sample exercises and grading standards.