skip to main content


Title: Role-Playing Computer Ethics: Designing and Evaluating the Privacy by Design (PbD) Simulation
Abstract There is growing consensus that teaching computer ethics is important, but there is little consensus on how to do so. One unmet challenge is increasing the capacity of computing students to make decisions about the ethical challenges embedded in their technical work. This paper reports on the design, testing, and evaluation of an educational simulation to meet this challenge. The privacy by design simulation enables more relevant and effective computer ethics education by letting students experience and make decisions about common ethical challenges encountered in real-world work environments. This paper describes the process of incorporating empirical observations of ethical questions in computing into an online simulation and an in-person board game. We employed the Values at Play framework to transform empirical observations of design into a playable educational experience. First, we conducted qualitative research to discover when and how values levers—practices that encourage values discussions during technology development—occur during the design of new mobile applications. We then translated these findings into gameplay elements, including the goals, roles, and elements of surprise incorporated into a simulation. We ran the online simulation in five undergraduate computer and information science classes. Based on this experience, we created a more accessible board game, which we tested in two undergraduate classes and two professional workshops. We evaluated the effectiveness of both the online simulation and the board game using two methods: a pre/post-test of moral sensitivity based on the Defining Issues Test, and a questionnaire evaluating student experience. We found that converting real-world ethical challenges into a playable simulation increased student’s reported interest in ethical issues in technology, and that students identified the role-playing activity as relevant to their technical coursework. This demonstrates that roleplaying can emphasize ethical decision-making as a relevant component of technical work.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1704369
NSF-PAR ID:
10283937
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Science and Engineering Ethics
Volume:
26
Issue:
6
ISSN:
1353-3452
Page Range / eLocation ID:
2911 to 2926
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    Providing learners with authentic ethical situations in a formal educational environment can be challenging. While we encounter ethical situations daily (e.g., how we treat those around us; temptation to illegally use copyrighted content), some types of ethical situations are high-risk, rare, and/or embedded into contexts that learners don’t typically inhabit. For example, learners studying user experience design may someday be pressured by a boss to implement “dark UX” patterns to increase sign-ups by deceiving users. Learners can benefit from the ability to practice recognizing unethical behavior, making decisions in ethically complex contexts, and learning from their responses. A new genre of highly realistic educational simulations, called Playable Case Studies, can provide a context in which players can experience ethical conundrums in a safe environment, helping learn from mistakes and successes. In order to make the experience authentic and not obviously about ethics, it makes sense to embed ethical experiences into simulations focused on other topics in which ethical issues arise. An example of this approach is described, wherein an ethical situation is embedded within a cybersecurity Playable Case Study called Cybermatics. Many questions remain about how to design and evaluate such experiences in ways that lead to effective learning. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    In conjunction with the increasing ubiquity of technology, computing educators have identified the need for pedagogical engagement with ethical awareness and moral reasoning. Typical approaches to incorporating ethics in computing curricula have focused primarily on abstract methods, principles, or paradigms of ethical reasoning, with relatively little focus on examining and developing students’ pragmatic awareness of ethics as grounded in their everyday work practices. In this paper, we identify and describe computing students’ negotiation of values as they engage in authentic design problems through a lab protocol study. We collected data from four groups of three students each, with each group including participants from either undergraduate User Experience Design students, Industrial Engineering students, or a mix of both. We used a thematic analysis approach to identify the roles that students took on to address the design prompt. Through our analysis, we found that the students took on a variety of “dark” roles that resulted in manipulation of the user and prioritization of stakeholder needs over user needs, with a focus either on building solutions or building rationale for design decisions. We found these roles to actively propagate through design discourses, impacting other designers in ways that frequently reinforced unethical decision making. Even when students were aware of ethical concerns based on their educational training, this awareness did not consistently result in ethically-sound decisions. These findings indicate the need for additional ethical supports to inform everyday computing practice, including means of actively identifying and balancing negative societal impacts of design decisions. The roles we have identified may productively support the development of pragmatically-focused ethical training in computing education, while adding more precision to future analysis of computing student discourses and outputs. 
    more » « less
  3. While the CS education community has successfully incorporated tech-ethics assignments and modules into computing courses, we lack a defined process for instructional design to create these materials from scratch across the curriculum. To enable the development of such a process, we explore two research questions: (1) What specific instructional design challenges emerge when creating ethically-integrated assignments for CS courses? And (2) what strategies might overcome them? We address these questions using Research through Design, a method for critically examining design processes. Applying this method to our own process of creating ethics-integrated CS assignments yielded four key challenges: identifying an ethical context, maintaining a technical focus, eliciting both ethical and technical thinking from students, and making the assignment practical for the classroom. Further, the Research through Design approach revealed process-level insights for addressing these challenges, which can apply across the computing curriculum. This paper also serves as a case study of Research through Design for CS education, highlighting the importance of the instructional design process and the behind-the-scenes challenges and design decisions that go into tech-ethics materials. 
    more » « less
  4. Ethics education has been recognized as increasingly important to engineering over the past two decades, although disagreement exists concerning how ethics can and should be taught in the classroom. With active learning strategies becoming a preferred method of instruction, a collaboration of authors from four universities (University of Pittsburgh, University of Connecticut, Rowan University and New Jersey Institute of Technology) are investigating how game-based or playful learning with strongly situated components can influence first-year engineering students’ ethical knowledge, awareness, and decision making. This paper offers an overview and results of the progress to date of this three year, NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) grant that aims to (1) characterize the ethical awareness and decision making of first-year engineering students, (2) develop game-based learning interventions focused on ethical decision making, and (3) determine how (and why) game-based approaches affect students’ ethical awareness in engineering and the advantages of such approaches over non game-based approaches. Now in its second year, the authors have conducted a preliminary analysis of first-year students' ethical knowledge and organization via a concept mapping approach and have measured students' ethical reasoning using the Defining Issues Test 2 (DIT2) and Engineering Ethics Reasoning Instrument (EERI). Further, the authors have developed a suite of ethics-driven games that have been implemented across three of the universities, engaging over 400 first-year engineering students. Evaluation data has also been gathered for further game development and to assess initial student engagement and learning. Year 1 has provided insight into where first-year engineering students “are at” in terms of ethical knowledge and reasoning when they come to college, and how game-based instruction can be effective in the development of these students into moral agents who understand the consequences of their decisions. Further results from this investigation will provide the engineering education community with a set of impactful and research-based playful learning pedagogy and assessment that will help students confront social and ethical dilemmas in their professional lives. 
    more » « less
  5. HCI scholarship is increasingly concerned with the ethical impact of socio-technical systems. Current theoretically driven approaches that engage with ethics generally prescribe only abstract approaches by which designers might consider values in the design process. However, there is little guidance on methods that promote value discovery, which might lead to more specific examples of relevant values in specific design contexts. In this paper, we elaborate a method for value discovery, identifying how values impact the designer's decision making. We demonstrate the use of this method, called Ethicography, in describing value discovery and use throughout the design process. We present analysis of design activity by user experience (UX) design students in two lab protocol conditions, describing specific human values that designers considered for each task, and visualizing the interplay of these values. We identify opportunities for further research, using the Ethicograph method to illustrate value discovery and translation into design solutions. 
    more » « less