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Past Curriculum Development

(Re)coding Society


(Re)coding Society is an experiential class that provides students theoretical foundations and practical tools to design for an inclusive future. We aim to bring together Stanford students from law, engineering and computer science, and humanities to:

  1. analyze and critically engage with existing technological models to understand their relationship with socioeconomic inequality in society;
  2. learn to prototype technology-driven tools that reimagine future realities by constructing robust structures against inequities in education and work opportunities, environmental deterioration, and asymmetries of information; and
  3. as a result, develop a (text)book that could transfer knowledge, inform future pedagogical methods in interdisciplinary teaching, and scale the course to lecturers within and outside Stanford.

Dr. Megan Ma and Jay Mandal will lead fellow Stanford lecturers and teaching assistants with rich backgrounds in law, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and software development to teach the content.

We hope to reset the rhetoric around the role of technology in society. As opposed to seeing technology as the solution, we see both emerging and current technologies as tools to work towards societally conscious solutions. We will expose students to different methodologies, histories, and designs relevant in building future societies, as well as understanding their anticipated societal and ethical impacts.

Eugenics & Ethics Sections in HumBio 2A&B


The Human Biology core has for more than 50 years taught at the intersection of science and sociology. Its mission is to challenge our students to learn biological concepts and extend that learning into how these concepts are applied in the world.  This mission, amid global warming, the pandemic, disparities in health care worldwide, and mounting new genetic technologies, is of fundamental importance today.   The Human Biology major requires students to complete two courses which are taught back-to-back.   The first focuses on the fundamentals of genetics, evolution, and ecology.  The second focuses on health disparities, eugenics, and ethics of medicine.   Both courses have a section which is taught by recent graduates of the program.  This grant will transform these sections in that we will develop curriculum that will bridge the fundamental aspects of genetics, both traditional and modern, with how they were used and continue to be used to exclude, marginalize, and harm peoples.   Our goal is to expand the learning of genetics and eugenics to have students clearly appreciate the connection both historically and today.   Eugenics has not been taught as part of biology and we propose that it needs to be integrated and fundamental in our science curriculum.

Redesigning Finance for Diversity (DESINST 245)


Natural disaster and pandemic risks exacerbate the economic and social disadvantages of already under-resourced and marginalized entrepreneurs: Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, Disabled and Under-represented (BHID&URs). The criteria and processes for loans, investments and insurance are too disconnected to rapidly strengthen and rebuild vulnerable lives and regions. Those processes require major redesigns and upgrades to be user friendly, fast and fair. 

Stanford students want their careers to be meaningful, and want to practice using the tools of their Stanford education to create positive impacts mindful of their ethical Codes of Conduct. Since 2019, Redesigning Finance has addressed post-disaster finance and financing diverse entrepreneurs. Our course reframes modern and historic challenges as new canvases of design, innovation and revenue for diverse small businesses (BHID&URs) who would dream up and provide the products and services required. 

Great inventions came from marginalized inventors: BHID&URs. Stanford teaches entrepreneurship through case studies of primarily Silicon Valley fundable technology leaders. An accurate history of modern inventions used daily (WiFi, GPS, cellphones, color TV and many more) would celebrate alternative pathways to entrepreneurship, how such entrepreneurs were financed and scaled, and what social barriers confronted BHID&URs. Redesigning Finance explores new ways to learn design principles by researching real-world examples set by virtually unknown BHID&UR pioneers of yesterday and today.

Exploring the ethical and mental health impacts of technology and social media design on youth and vulnerable populations


The supplemental lesson has the purpose of exploring the ethical and mental health impacts of technological innovation on youth and vulnerable populations. The lesson aims to cover topics related to today’s youth mental health crisis and the role of social media platforms, how AI and current technology designs pose risks to this vulnerable population, and how human experience (HX) and safety by design principles can support more ethical and healthier outcomes for youth engaging online. 

By embedding the supplemental lesson into the “Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction Design” course, in addition to learning the fundamental methods and principles for designing, implementing, and evaluating user interfaces, students will gain knowledge and understanding in how to ethically approach the design process with awareness of the potential impacts on youth mental health. Students will integrate and understand their responsibility as technology designers to develop products that will minimize harms to vulnerable populations, consider developmental differences, benefit the overall health and wellbeing of a diverse society and support healthier outcomes from online engagement. Students will develop an understanding of the power technology has on youth mental health and how the different facets of the online world could have prolonged impact on youth psychological development.

Environmental humanities: Finding our place on a changing planet


The rapid degradation of our planet threatens communities and ecosystems around the world. How did we get here? What emotional, philosophical, moral, and spiritual challenges underlie the separation of humanity from nature – and precipitate unprecedented ecological destruction? How can we make sense of this, and how can we reimagine a more connected future?

Comprehensive environmental solutions require thinking beyond policy and technology to also address the fundamental cultural paradigms and ethical challenges that underpin humanity’s relationship with nature. Through engaging the work of environmental philosophers, cultural ecologists, artists, Indigenous scholars, and others with land-based knowledge, this course will prompt students to think deeply about humanity’s place in the world – and explore strategies to change our course.  

Environmental questions will be examined through lenses of history, philosophy, anthropology, economics, psychology, art, and Indigenous ways of knowing – as well as outdoor experiences and immersive storytelling. Students will engage in rich discussions, write, and organize final projects that involve an external audience in environmental inquiry or action. Overall, this course emphasizes the cultivation of humility, open-mindedness, and intellectual curiosity – qualities that are central to future learning, critical thinking, ethical integrity, and environmental solutions.

Whose Ethics?: Integrating Diverse Cultural Perspectives into Ethics Training for Global Technologies


Technologies are cultural products. They are developed and designed by humans. They also shape the beliefs and behaviors of the humans who use them. Technologies therefore not only reflect designers’ values, beliefs, and normative understandings, but also have the potential to shape and even disrupt the values, beliefs, and norms of users. As digital technologies increasingly structure and connect people’s daily lives across the globe, it is imperative that developers and designers consider: how their own values and biases shape their products, how their values and biases may differ from those of their users, and how the technologies they create may be used—intentionally or unintentionally—to promote, disrupt, or undermine cultural values.

Our project seeks to expand how cultural perspectives are considered and taught in ethics courses. Our team will survey and synthesize approaches from ethics and society courses currently offered at Stanford, and will suggest content, exercises, demonstrations, and case studies to consider the question: “Whose Ethics?” We will bring together scholars whose courses and research focus on ethics for global technologies with those who focus on culture, race, and inequality in society. Our goals are to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and develop materials for an educator toolkit.

Race in Science, Technology, and Medicine (Race in STM)


The current moment in our national and global history calls for deep, lasting, and ongoing listening, introspection, and action on the role of race and racism in our society. This project will create three 1-credit undergraduate courses (STS 51A, B, C; one per quarter) in which leading scholars from across the country will speak to how scientific knowledge and practice; technology design and use; and medical research and treatment both affect and are affected by conceptions of race, racial bias, and structural racism.

Speakers will include scientists, engineers, and medical professionals as well as anthropogists, sociologists, historians, and STS scholars. Formats will include interviews, panels, and conversations in addition to full-length lectures. Organized by the Program in Science, Technology & Society, Race in STM is co-sponsored by 18 other campus units. All talks will be online and open to the entire Stanford community.

We hope to help cement Stanford’s commitment to an anti-racist, positive environment of equality, respect, and opportunity for all, especially in STEM fields historically dominated by white practitioners. STS also intends momentum from this series to catalyze a permanent STS course on Race in Science, Technology, and Medicine.

Roleplaying Workshops for “Principled Entrepreneurial Decisions” and Other School of Engineering Courses



In 2019, Management Science & Engineering lecturer Jack Fuchs debuted a new Stanford Technology Ventures Program-affiliated course titled “Principled Entrepreneurial Decisions” (ENGR 148/248). Students in this class develop a set of personal and organizational values and principles designed to guide future decision-making in their careers and lives. The course proposes that if entrepreneurs are thoughtful about developing, refining and communicating their values and principles, they will make better decisions. Debates about what decision to make become principled-based discussions.

The course relies on a series of new case studies, focusing on how leaders in entrepreneurial ventures define and use principles in their decision making. The case protagonists discuss both the decisions they made and how their values and principles drove their decisions. There is tremendous demand to develop materials that will allow students to stress-test their principles against difficult situations in a workshop format – both in ENGR 148/248 as well as in other classes across various School of Engineering departments. The EST Hub grant will provide funding for graduate students to develop and test new interactive workshops that will be used in ENGR 148/248, in other School of Engineering classes, and by organizations throughout the university.

Developing an Online, Self-Paced Version of the Stanford Future Bay Initiative’s Ethical Urban Data Analytics Curriculum



The Stanford Future Bay Initiative offers a three-quarter, interdisciplinary, community-engaged practicum course sequence entitled “Shaping the Future of the Bay Area”. Traditionally, students take the Autumn skills course, then participate in projects in Winter and Spring. This past Spring, the Initiative’s experience pivoting to COVID-19 rapid response projects highlighted the need for a more flexible curricular structure that would allow the program to respond swiftly to shifting stakeholder priorities and engage new students who are inspired to contribute to urban problem-solving but did not take the Autumn skills course. The pandemic itself, and its continued impact on in-person teaching in the 2020-2021 AY, only further exacerbates the need for flexibility.

Future Bay will use grant funding to support the development of a self-paced, online version of key curricular components from the Autumn course, namely the instruction on data analytics in R and accompanying data exercises that include written responses focusing on ethical reasoning. These components will be packaged into online programming tutorials, videos, starter code, and discussion forums, and will specifically empower students who enroll in Winter or Spring with more equitable access to core ethical and technical training material that elevate their achievements in the projects. 

Chocolates Heads: The Ethics of Using Digital Ecosystems for Training Performance Artists



In the world of Peloton, exercise-at-home apps, and dance classes on zoom, is physical co-location necessary? We suggest that co-presence is increasingly a “truth test” for human connection. As the body becomes subjugated by technologies in service of commerce on TikTok and YouTube, does the mass mediated instruction of dance become limited by a need for popularity? Our hunch is that dance and performance continue to hold technology accountable to the human spirit.

The curricular innovation in this fall’s TAPS class, The Chocolate Heads Performance Project, is to create a visceral reality on a virtual platform. As we investigate the translation of visceral dance choreographies into mediated environments, we ask: how is performance impoverished and to what degree is quality sacrificed? What are the ethical implications of using remote technologies that are quickly becoming the standard in universities? What are the consequences of digitally communicating a physically, intellectually, and emotionally complex performance art such as dance? 

In the outcome of this experiment, students will be able to accomplish two key competencies. First, they will create and perform dance choreographies for the digital age in remote collaboration across distant places without co-location. Second, they will reflect on the effects of digital practices on the well-being of performers

Nucleating Ethical Materials Research in All Facets of Academia, Industry, and Society


Materials are the foundation for all technology, and the impact of materials production spans the communities which produce raw materials (e.g., mining or chemical synthesis), to those that house manufacturing plants, to the user, to the disposal of goods, and to subsequent recycling efforts. Often, industrial production and disposal exert a disproportionate negative impact upon disadvantaged communities. Understanding these impacts is critical for the next generation of scientists, engineers, and leaders in academia, government, and industry. These concepts dovetail with research ethics and responsibility taught in general Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) coursework.

With this seed grant, we will produce a RCR graduate-level course which incorporates DEI topics, as well as social and environmental justice. We intend to produce live lectures and online interactive exercises that convey the unique role that materials play in every facet of society, and the profound impact that materials production, refining, processing, utilization, and disposal have on communities. We will also discuss best practices for empowering underrepresented communities in the sciences, building on the core RCR mission. When complete, this course will become part of the core curriculum for MATSCI PhD and MS students.

Ethical Tech: Addressing Racism and Bias through Performance-Based Engagement


What role do science and technology play in the creation of a just society? How do we confront and redress the impact of race within the history, theory, and practice of these disciplines?  These important questions are essential for students to grapple with as they seek to become scholars, researchers, professionals, and more.  The proposed project is a creative engagement with the study of race in science, technology, and society that seeks to develop sophisticated and nuanced ethical participants in these disciplines.  Building from Paul Edwards’ year-long undergraduate course “Race in Science, Technology, and Medicine,” this project undertakes research into performance-based methods for addressing racism and exclusion in the STEM fields as the basis for a recurring undergraduate course, STS 51, beginning in 2021. 

The project will include working alongside BIPOC performers and STEM innovators as we develop workshops, curricula, and assignments that assist participants in developing strategies for identifying and addressing racism, bias, and exclusion.  Essential to this course would be an ethics of engagement that builds trust among all members of the class, especially those traditionally underserved BIPOC students.  Undergraduates, graduates, and affiliated faculty will be involved in the development of the course from the beginning.  

Peering into Darkness


“We were peering into this darkness, crisscrossed with voices, when the change took place: the only real, great change I've ever happened to witness, and compared to it the rest is nothing."   -Italo Calvino

'Peering into Darkness' is an interdisciplinary art/curricular project that provokes new ways of seeing and researching across art, astrophysics, and social justice/critical theory. In summer 2020, we piloted our interdisciplinary curriculum through Stanford's STEM to SHTEM program, an interdisciplinary research experience for high schoolers across the country. We are currently incubating our work as an undergraduate seminar through the program in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. We will use seed grant support to develop a meaningful prototype of our work that can live adaptively across contemporary art, science, high school, and undergraduate education contexts.

Incorporating Quantitative Neuroethics from a Technology Perspective into "Materials Meet the Mind"


In this project, I aim to modify my current course “MATSCI 384: Materials Meet the Mind” by incorporating quantitative neuroethics from a technological perspective. Modern neurotechnologies are enabled by advances in materials science and engineering. The rapid development of neurotechnologies is placing an increasing ethical impact on society, due to their decreasing invasiveness, reduced size and weight, expanding throughput and bandwidth, and increasing accessibility and affordability. My proposed curricular innovation will provide a unique means to transform the learning experience at the intersection of ethics, science, technology, and society. 

Specifically, I plan to revise the course content by building quantitative models to evaluate the potential risks and benefits of each neurotechnology. In addition, I will invite world-leading neuroethicists and neurologists for guest lectures and schedule lab tours to observe advanced neurotechnologies in action. With the proposed curricular innovation, students will grasp the ethical implications of new neurotechnologies and critically consider the ethical and societal consequences of neurotechnological developments. Moreover, students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to proactively design technologies to prevent potential neuroethical issues.

Innovate for Planet Health: Purposeful Entrepreneurship to address global challenges in the health of society and planet


The Bioengineering department is developing a series of new courses to inspire, educate, and equip the students to tackle global challenges in the health of society and planet through purposeful entrepreneurship. 

While Silicon Valley has made tremendous success in entrepreneurship in technology and biotechnology, the areas related to planet health, and societal health have not received the attention they deserve.  Moreover our systems, culture,  and processes of entrepreneurship such as ownership, governance, and capital need to evolve to serve the 21st century needs of equity, inclusion, and sustainability. We hope our new course series will be a step towards that change. 

In our course, we introduce topics such as purposeful entrepreneurship, system thinking, and challenges and opportunities to innovate for Planet and Societal Health. We discuss entrepreneurship as an impactful lever for change in tackling global challenges. We also have inspiring founders and impact investors, share their journeys and work in these areas.  

In our follow-on courses we will include real-word projects in collaboration with our industry and non-profit partners to provide experiential learning opportunities for students. We plan to be working closely with other groups on campus including STVP, BioDesign, and Center for Global Health to develop the coursework. 

Adding Ethical Material to Undergrad Introduction to Text processing, Web search, Chatbots, and Social networks


This project is designed to add material on ethical and social implications to CS124 / LINGUIST180, "From Languages to Information", a course that introduces natural language processing, machine learning, dialogue, and social network methods to mainly sophomores and juniors.  Most of the material will be added to the "group discussion" days, when the students work together in small groups. We hope to add problems and discussion questions on bias in computer models of text ( especially the natural language processing models called "word embeddings"), dealing with biased or problematic search engine responses, introducing the Belmont principles of justice, beneficence, and respect for persons, adding material on recommendation engines (tools that recommend content on the web)  to discuss issues like how the algorithms lead to radicalization spirals, and work on detecting, modeling, and avoiding  toxicity or sexism in chatbots.

Ethical Considerations for nano@stanford Researchers


In modern nanofabrication and characterization shared laboratories, education is heavily weighted towards practical hands-on knowledge about the methods used to make myriads of devices. Education in regards to ethics, even though it is very important to how researchers interact with the world around them, is not common. We believe this to be due to the lack of  generally available, targeted ethics educational materials that specifically address the concerns of  nanotechnology researchers. To begin addressing this gap, we will establish an educational program to train and familiarize our nano community with the broader concepts of ethics as applied to nanotechnology. We hope this program can eventually be propagated to other nanotechnology sites including our counterparts in the NSF National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI).

In order to engage our lab members, we will include programming which will be mainly generated by their peers, including round-table discussions, instructional lectures, and online content. By starting at the grassroots level and focusing on scenarios and topics commonly encountered in our shared lab and research spaces, the content will be applicable to our lab members. 

Enhancing Ethical Thinking in Undergraduate Life Sciences Education


Ethical reasoning is a critical skill for future scientists and engineers. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has asserted that “new engineering graduates need substantial training in recognizing and solving ethical problems.” Students in the interdisciplinary field of bioengineering must navigate dilemmas that intersect life sciences and technology. However, training in ethical thinking is often limited and little class time is spent to develop empathetic decision-making.

Ethics training for STEM majors is isolated to singular "ethical reasoning" courses like BIOE 131: Ethics in Bioengineering, which most undergraduates take late in their degree program. A lack of practice in ethical reasoning across the major may underemphasize the importance of this skill and undermine application of this knowledge to relevant disciplinary issues. We will characterize whether bioengineering undergraduate students are meeting our learning goals in the area of ethical thinking. Through our courses, we aim to motivate students to perceive ethical reasoning to be skills of value and foster their ability to rigorously reason through complex dilemmas. Our project also aims to create course materials that will foster easy adoption by instructors in our department using our research to determine what educational interventions will be most effective.

Preparing Future Physicians to Navigate Social Justice Ethics: Assessing a Novel Critical Consciousness Curriculum


Physicians play a critical role in society not only as healthcare providers but also as arbiters of science and technological advancements, often playing the liaison role of bringing advancements to the public through the patient care they provide. This role of physician as arbiter is particularly evident during the ongoing pandemic in which doctors play a key role in rationing care, whether it be hospital beds or vaccine doses, in a time when resources are limited. These decisions hold moral and ethical implications that influence health outcomes for patients and necessitate that physicians commit to a lifelong process of self-examination and reflection to combat bias and prejudice, a process known as critical consciousness.

Our team has spent the last three years applying principles from critical pedagogy and intergroup communication to develop a novel curriculum to teach medical students critical consciousness. This curriculum is currently being implemented as part of the required coursework for all Stanford medical students. Through the proposed work, we will evaluate the impact of this curriculum on students’ learning and professional development. We plan to conduct both qualitative and quantitative research by conducting interviews and focus groups with students to better understand their experiences and implementing validated survey measures to objectively evaluate the curriculum.