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Social topics in intro to programming

I am teaching Introduction to Programming for Information Professionals, online, for the University of Maryland this semester. My colleague, Bill Kules, has taught this class (in person) several times and has included social justice/critical perspectives aspects in at least one prior semester (docx). We talked about including it in each of our sections of this semester’s course, and, obviously, I was enthusiastic about the idea.

It’s worth mentioning that Bill wasn’t the first person I’d heard of, combining the teaching of practical coding skills with readings about technology’s place in our society, about who is (and isn’t) writing the code that runs our lives, why that matters, and how to fix it. Dorothea Salo teaches a course called “Code and Power,” which looks like a fantastic course, from the syllabus (which, yes, I mined for ideas).

I want to share the readings I’m planning to assign for the “critical perspectives” portion of my class. (Bill’s readings overlap with mine, but we did make a few different decisions.) I’m open to suggestion on swapping some of these out for newer/better options, beyond the first week’s worth, which I’ve already assigned.

It’s worth noting that each student has made a 5-minute video for their peers, and some of those dealt with social aspects of computing, too. There was one on impostor syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect, one on gender and computing (which also mentioned GamerGate), one on algorithmic bias, and one on mental health and computing (though that one has not been shared yet).

I’ve also assigned or suggested the following readings (which have more to do with fighting one’s own impostor syndrome than with systemic issues), at various points in the semester so far:

My plan for “critical perspectives” readings:

Week 1 (week 10 of class, Nov 1)

The Core Belief Keeping Marginalized Groups Out of Tech

The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations (just the abstract and the literature review)

Hacking Tech’s Diversity Problem

Week 2 / Week 11 / Nov 8

Selections from CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, streamed through the LMS (which is a nice service offered by the UMD library!)

Researcher reveals how “Computer Geeks” replaced “Computer Girls”

When Women Stopped Coding (also the source of the title image for this post)

Being Trans in the Tech Industry

And, based on some of the comments I’m seeing on week 1 (“lack of interest” and “the pipeline” being two that came up really quickly), I’m also thinking of adding some combination of the following, as soon as I can fit them in:

Better Decisions Through Diversity and/or The Business Case for Diversity

Something about STEM drives women out, perhaps in combination with a link to this (this seems rough; I probably will not do this)

Women in IT: the facts

Debunking Myths: Race & Gender in Tech

Week 3 / Week 12 / Nov 15

What Search Engines Say about Women

When Discrimination Is Baked Into Algorithms

Machine Bias

Week 4 / Week 13, Nov 22

Theorizing the Underrepresentation of Black Males in Information Technology (IT) – I don’t like the dehumanizing language this uses, but I think that might be A Sociology Thing™? … anyway, finding a replacement for this article would be good

Black Women in Tech Debunk the Pipeline Excuse

The Other Side of Diversity

Week 5 / Week 14, Nov 29

Building Accessibility Culture

Assistive Technology By People with Disabilities, Part I: Introducing Team Free to Pee

I’ll make another post, later in the semester, about what I’ve learned from the experience of teaching this course (spoiler: I’m not convinced intro to programming should be taught online, ever), including what I’ve learned from sharing these readings with my students. I also hope to make a post with a curated list of activities and readings for people who want to teach themselves to program in JavaScript. (Pulling it all out of the LMS and translating it into blog format will be a lot of work, so that is a goal, not a promise.)

Published in#libtechgenderdisabilitydiversitygendersocial justiceteaching and learningtechnology

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