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TEACHING

This page summarizes my teaching experience.

 New! 

In Spring 2023, I will be teaching a course at Harvard College: PHIL 166 Ethics of Computing Technologies. Undergraduates at Harvard may apply to enrol by emailing me. Students in any concentration at Harvard may apply. Graduate students may audit the course with my permission. Applications to enrol or audit should briefly explain the prospective student’s interest in the subject and make note of any prior coursework, modules, extracurriculars, or other experiences that have prepared them for an upper-division computer ethics course. Click here or scroll down for more information.

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Writing About Teaching

I've published several professional blog posts on how I teach computer ethics. Visit the links below to read on:

Syllabus Showcase: Social, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Computer Science

In this syllabus showcase for the Blog of the American Philosophical Association, I discuss how I taught Social, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Computer Science at Dalhousie University, both before and during the first COVID-19 lockdown. I highlight some of the successes I had with team-based learning in a large classroom with fixed seating and how I managed the pivot to remote learning in the last weeks of the Winter 2020 semester. I also talk about some successes and difficulties of teaching a fully online asynchronous class in Fall 2020. Both versions of the syllabus are available to download as well.

Should Robots Have Rights? Lt. Commander Data v. The United Federation of Planets

In this post for the Blog of the American Philosophical Association, I discuss how I've used a clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation to introduce the topic of AI ethics to a large computer ethics class. I connect the arguments made for robot rights in the fictional context of this episode to a philosophical paper. I also discuss how I position this lesson in a unit on AI ethics to engage students with science fiction issues before setting aside speculative issues to focus on actual AI ethics issues arising from the technologies of today.

 

Unfortunately, for tedious and outdated copyright reasons, the official clip at left is not available in all countries. Use this link for an unofficial upload of the same scene that may be more widely available: https://youtu.be/ol2WP0hc0NY

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Instructor: PHIL 166 Ethics of Computing Technologies (Spring 2023)

    Course Description: From electronic surveillance to hacking, from driverless cars to autonomous weapons, computing technologies raise special ethical questions, and contemporary ethical and political theories can bear on these questions in ways that are sometimes complex and surprising. In this course, we will investigate varied approaches to some of the questions that arise in the ethics of computing technology. The philosophical themes we will explore include:

  • The value-free ideal in science and technology, as contrasted with the sociotechnical systems approach to understanding the values embedded in technologies.

  • The nature and value of privacy, and how technologies can undermine or protect privacy.

  • Moral responsibility and virtue in the technology professions and our personal lives with emerging technologies.

  • The ethics of attention and the impact of technology on attention.

  • Fairness, in/justice, and bias in computing systems and in access to technologies and technical skills, with a focus on gender, race, and disability.

  • The nature of artificial intelligence and machine learning, cultural perceptions thereof, and social & ethical implications of these technologies.

The class sessions will be discussion-driven and activity-based, with substantial pre-reading materials. Assessment will be through a combination of short- and long-form writing, as well as final projects that may take various forms.

Download the syllabus

Embedded EthiCS Module: CS 290A Seminar on Effective Research Practices & Academic Culture (Fall 2022)

Lead Instructors: Dr. Yaniv Yacoby, Prof. David Parkes, Dr. John Girash.

    Course Description: This is a reading and discussion-based seminar designed for entering Computer Science Ph.D. students. This course prepares students to manage the difficult and often undiscussed challenges of Ph.D. programs through sessions on: (1) Research skill building (e.g. paper reading, communication), (2) Soft skill building (e.g. managing advising relationships, supporting your peers), (3) Academic culture (e.g. mental health in academia, power dynamics in scientific communities), (4) Research and professional-oriented discussions.

    Module Topic: TBD.

Download the module write-up

Embedded EthiCS Module: CS 290 Ph.D. Grad Cohort Research Seminar (Spring 2022)

Lead Instructors: Dr. Yaniv Yacoby, Prof. David Parkes, Dr. John Girash

    Course Description: CS290 is a discussion-based seminar designed for entering Computer Science Ph.D. students. The goals of the course are three-fold: (1) to introduce students to research around the CS area, (2) skills building, and (3) cohort building. We will lead sessions on skill building (e.g. paper reading, presentation), soft skill building (e.g. managing advising relationships, supporting your peers), and academic culture (e.g. mental health in academia, power dynamics in scientific communities), as well as research and professional oriented discussions with a broad mixture of CS faculty members. We will also “visit” and discuss one or two CS colloquia.

    Module Topic: Value-sensitive design.

Embedded EthiCS Module: CS 153 Compilers (Fall 2021)

Lead Instructor: Prof. Stephen Chong

    Course Description: This course introduces students to the design and implementation of compilers  for programming languages. Specifically, students will learn how to systematically translate modern, high-level, programming languages into efficient, executable machine code. The course introduces a number of important concepts, such as parsing and program analysis that are useful in many other contexts beyond compilers, such as software engineering and security. Perhaps the most useful outcome of the course is that students will deeply understand the capabilities and limitations of modern compilers, and how they can be used most effectively. This knowledge is important for aspiring language designers and implementors, but also for debugging and optimizing just about any application. This course is extremely programming intensive, as most of the understanding comes from constructing (small) compilers.

    Module Topic: Do the freedoms of free and open-source software come with ethical responsibilities?

Watch the lecture below! ⤵️

ATHABASCA UNIVERSITY

AI Ethics Micro-Credential

In summer 2021, I worked with Ethically Aligned AI, Inc., to co-design an AI Ethics micro-credential programme for PowerED™ by Athabasca University. This self-paced online programme introduces lifelong learners to basic concepts and tools in AI ethics, and features interviews with expert academics, professionals, activists, and creatives who work with or write about artificial intelligence, as well as AI-powered interactive roleplaying scenarios.

The micro-credential comprises four courses:

  • AI Ethics: An Introduction provides an overview of what modern AI is, how it is used, and some basics of responsible AI development.

  • AI Ethics: Data focuses on datasets, data collection, the rights of data subjects, indigenous data sovereignty, and the use of data in machine learning.

  • AI Ethics: Machine Learning Models dives into more detail on some technical aspects of machine learning, with additional ethical considerations that come from using these powerful AI tools.

  • AI Ethics: Roboethics concentrates on issues particular to applications of AI in robotics, including the role of robots in social life and the workforce.

For more information and to sign up to take the courses, click the button below:

You can also read more about the micro-credential in this interview with University Affairs: https://www.universityaffairs.ca/news/news-article/new- microcredential-focuses-on-the-importance-of-ai-ethics/

DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY

PHIL 2490 & CSCI 3101 Social, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Computer Science (Fall 2020)

Assistant Professor (Limited-Term).

     Course Description: Computers enable people to do things that our present laws and policies were not formulated to cover (hacking, sharing files on the internet, and companies sharing data). In such cases, people need to be able to decide for themselves the best course of action, and defend such decisions. This course aims at developing the ethical reasoning skills and sensitivities that computer professionals will need to make good decisions and to justify them. The course includes a general introduction to ethical theories and their use in making and justifying decisions. We then consider various issues and case studies, illustrating the kinds of problems that can arise from the use and misuse of computers and technology: the responsibilities of computing professionals; ethics on the internet (hacking, computer crime, netiquette); privacy and information; intellectual property; social and political issues (digital divide, computers and work, the internet as a democratic technology). Offered jointly as an elective in the Philosophy and the Law, Justice, and Society programs, and as a required course for Computer Science and Applied Computer Science majors.

     Teaching Method: Asynchronous online instruction. Students watched prerecorded lectures and completed readings on their own time, with a weekly synchronous session for supplemental discussion. Students also worked in teams of 5–6 on group discussion assignments.

Watch a sample lecture below! ⤵️

PHIL 2490 & CSCI 3101 Social, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Computer Science (Winter 2020)

Assistant Professor (Limited-Term).

     Course Description: Computers enable people to do things that our present laws and policies were not formulated to cover (hacking, sharing files on the internet, and companies sharing data). In such cases, people need to be able to decide for themselves the best course of action, and defend such decisions. This course aims at developing the ethical reasoning skills and sensitivities that computer professionals will need to make good decisions and to justify them. The course includes a general introduction to ethical theories and their use in making and justifying decisions. We then consider various issues and case studies, illustrating the kinds of problems that can arise from the use and misuse of computers and technology: the responsibilities of computing professionals; ethics on the internet (hacking, computer crime, netiquette); privacy and information; intellectual property; social and political issues (digital divide, computers and work, the internet as a democratic technology). Offered jointly as an elective in Philosophy and as a required course for Computer Science and Applied Computer Science majors.

     Teaching Method: Team-Based Learning. Each major unit of the course consisted of three class sessions: (1) An introduction to the topic for the unit through a 20–30 minute lecture, followed by a quiz on the reading. (2) A 20-minute lecture expanding on a specific aspect of the unit's topic, followed by a group exercise applying course concepts to a specific case. (3) A 20-minute lecture on another aspect of the unit's topic, followed by a group exercise to outline a philosophical argument on the ethics of a specific case.

     Team-based learning is founded on four principles: strategically formed, permanent teams; student accountability for completing preparatory readings and in-class work; team exercises that are designed to move from understanding the material to applying it to significant real-life problems; and frequent feedback on submitted work.

UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD

PHI 356 Philosophical Projects 2: Epistemic Injustice (Spring 2017)

Instructor.

     Course Description:  These are optional inquiry-based learning modules. Each semester a variety of topics are set. For each topic, a short list of key readings is provided. Having chosen a topic, students are expected to master the readings, and to supplement them with at least two others pieces of relevant literature that they have used the available library and web resources to uncover. Then, having agreed an essay plan and title with the tutor assigned to them for the module, they write an extended essay that identifies the central issue (or issues) under discussion, relates the various responses to that issue found in the literature, evaluates those contributions, and goes some way to identifying a satisfactory resolution of the issue.

     Teaching Method: Directed study. I assigned a reading list on epistemic injustice, facilitated discussion of the readings, assisted students in defining their research projects, and provided feedback on outlines and draft papers.

PHI 125 Matters of Life and Death (Fall 2016)

Co-Lecturer.

     Course Description:  What is so bad about death? Is life always as good? Is it always wrong for someone to take their own life? Would it be wrong to help someone to die painlessly who was already dying of a painful illness? Is abortion ever, or always, morally permissible? Do animals have rights which we infringe by killing them or making them suffer? What, if anything, do we owe to the starving of the world? This course is designed to encourage students to think carefully and constructively about range of life-and-death moral dilemmas, developing skills of analysis and critical reasoning. Topics discussed will include: death; suicide; euthanasia; abortion; animals; and famine relief. Arguments for and against various positions on these questions will be looked at; and some use will be made of moral theory to illuminate the issues.

     Teaching Method: Lectures supplemented by weekly tutorial seminars. As co-lecturer, I wrote and delivered two weeks of lectures (on the ethics of capital punishment, killing in self-defence, and killing in war).

PHI 114 History of Philosophy (Spring 2016)

Graduate Teaching Assistant.

     Course Description:  This is an inquiry-led module aimed at providing you with a general overview of the history of Western philosophy and a more detailed picture of some part of that history. You will be working collaboratively in groups of five or six, randomly assigned, to produce an encyclopedia article that explains some period or movement in philosophy, and will also be required to read and assess such articles written by other students. Most of the group work will take place through online discussion boards, though you will also have a series of meetings with your group. Your inquiry will involve both internet and library research, and the module will involve some training to improve the skills you need for this.

     Teaching Method: Inquiry-based learning. Taught by a team of postgraduate students. As the Lead TA, I co-ordinated meetings between TAs and students and moderated the students' peer evaluations. I and the other TAs met with the students' groups throughout the term to discuss their projects, teach research and library skills, offer feedback on outlines and drafts, and assist with teamwork difficulties.

PHI 118 History of Ethics (Spring 2016)

Graduate Teaching Assistant.

     Course Description: This module offers a critical introduction to the history of ethical thought in the West, examining some of the key ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Nietzsche, Rawls and Gilligan. It thus provides a textual introduction to some of the main types of ethical theory: the ethics of flourishing and virtue; deontology; utilitarianism; contractualism. The close interconnections between ethics and other branches of philosophy (e.g. metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics) will be highlighted, as will the connections between ethics and other disciplines (e.g. psychology, anthropology).

     Teaching Method: Lectures supplemented by biweekly tutorial seminars. As a TA, I designed activities for and facilitated discussion in the seminars.

PHI 125 Matters of Life and Death (Fall 2015)

Graduate Teaching Assistant.

     Course Description: See above.

     Teaching Method: Lectures supplemented by weekly tutorial seminars. As a TA, I designed activities for and facilitated discussion in the seminars.

PHI 121 Knowledge, Justification, and Doubt (Fall 2015)

Graduate Teaching Assistant.

     Course Description: An introduction to the basic questions of epistemology, which is the philosophical study of knowledge. Centrally, what is it to know something? Do we know anything? And how is it that we know what we do?

     Teaching Method: Lectures supplemented by biweekly tutorial seminars. As a TA, I designed activities for and facilitated discussion in the seminars.

PHI 113 Key Arguments (Spring 2015)

Graduate Teaching Assistant.

     Course Description: This is an inquiry-led module, aimed at helping you to isolate and assess a key argument from a text. You will work collaboratively in groups of five or six, randomly assigned, to produce two presentations. In the first, delivered half way through the semester, you will explain the work and significance of a particular figure from the history of Western philosophy and identify an argument central to their thought. In the second, at the end of the semester, you will analyse that argument and provide a detailed reasoned assessment of it. You will also be required to assess such presentations given by other students. Most of the group work will take place through online discussion boards, though you will also have a series of meetings with your group. Your inquiry will involve both internet and library research, and the module will involve some training to improve the skills you need for this.

     Teaching Method: Inquiry-based learning. Taught by a team of postgraduate students. As a TA, met with the students' groups throughout the term to discuss their projects, teach research and library skills, offer feedback on outlines and drafts, and assist with teamwork difficulties.