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The Five Knowledge Units of the ImpactCS Curriculum

Read an in depth analysis of the Five Knowledge Units at the ImpactCS website sponsored by The George Washington University.

Responsibility of the Computer Professional

Personal and professional responsibility must be the foundation for discussions of all topics in this subject area. The five areas to be covered under the responsibility of the computer professional are:

  • History of the development and impact of computer technology
  • Why be ethical
  • Major ethical models
  • Definition of computing as a profession
  • Codes of ethics and professional responsibility for computer professionals
Basic Elements of Ethical Analysis

Three basic elements of ethical analysis that students need to learn and be able to use in their decision-making are:

  • Ethical claims can and should be discussed rationally
  • Ethical choices cannot be avoided
  • Some easy ethical approaches are questionable

Basis Skills of Ethical Analysis

Five basic skills of ethical analysis that will help the computer science student to apply ethics in their technical work are:

  • Arguing from example, analogy, and counter-example
  • Identifying stakeholders in concrete situations
  • Identifying ethical issues in concrete situations
  • Applying ethical codes to concrete situations
  • Identifying and evaluating alternative courses of action

Basic Elements of Social Analysis

Five basic elements of social analysis are:

  • The social context influences the development and use of technology
  • Power relations are central in all social interaction
  • Technology embodies the values of the developers
  • Populations are always diverse
  • Empirical data are crucial to the design and development processes

Basic Skills of Social Analysis

Three basic skills of social analysis appropriate for computer professionals are:

  • Identifying and interpreting the social context of a particular implementation
  • Identifying assumptions and values embedded in a particular system
  • Evaluating, by use of empirical data, a particular implementation of a technology

Give Students Concrete Examples

The ImpactCS panel suggests that the best way to teach these knowledge units is to provide students with the opportunity to identify stakeholders and ethical issues in concrete situations. In this way students come to realize that technology does not simply "impact" society in a one-way causal chain, but society also influences the shape and development of technology.

Students are made aware that social relationships have implicit and explicit considerations of power and that those power relationships may shift as a result of the new technology. This makes the situations in which a technology will be used, the people who will use that technology, and the uses to which it will be put, all more varied and diverse than one might first expect.