Kathryn Bennett successfully defends her master’s thesis: Socially Conscious Software Development – A Case Study

Categories:  Kathryn Bennett, Socially Conscious Software Development

Congratulations go to Kathryn Bennett for successfully defending her Master’s thesis entitled “Socially Conscious Software Development – A Case Study”!

ABSTRACT:
What does it mean for software to be socially conscious? How can developers make software that avoids negative social consequences? This thesis seeks to answer these questions. Technology does not usually grapple with social or cultural divisions. When social identity is part of the technology’s subject matter, additional care must be taken to developing content in a way that does not exclude any particular group of users. The Darwin game is one such case. Initial work by our NSF Triple Helix team suggested that underrepresented students resist learning about evolution due to the associations with racism. The game is a teaching tool that hopes to teach the concepts of the theory of evolution while also raising the question of Charles Darwin’s abolitionist ties, with the intentions of keeping underrepresented students from feeling excluded from science and challenging the misconception of Darwin as a racist scientist. We hypothesized that exposing these connections would make students more receptive to the lesson. This game is but one of many instances in which special considerations have been taken to make STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) material more inclusive. This thesis will discuss underrepresented groups in computing and software development, explore several of the existing approaches to teaching sensitive material, explain some of the issues encountered while building the Darwin game, and present some initial reactions from students.

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Kathleen Tully successfully defends her Master’s thesis entitled “Social GIS: Creating a Mapping Tool to Engage Middle and High School Students with their Neighborhoods and STEM”

Categories:  Kathleen Tully, Social GIS Mapping

Congratulations go to Kathleen Tully for successfully defending her Master’s thesis entitled “Social GIS: Creating a Mapping Tool to Engage Middle and High School Students with their Neighborhoods and STEM”!

ABSTRACT:
Girls and underrepresented ethnic groups tend to disengage from STEM subjects throughout middle and high school. In order to increase their participation in STEM fields, something has to change before they’re deterred. Building on previous research showing individuals in these groups tend to respond more positively to STEM activities that connect to their lives or that can be used to help others, this thesis discusses the development of online GIS software created for use with middle and high school students that blends social justice, mapping and data science. We developed software and corresponding activities to spark an interest in math and computer science in all students. Activities ask students to compile and analyze real-world data to develop their own questions, critiques and conclusions with no wrong answers. The software was developed in a small team using mostly open source tools, including Django and AngularJS. Over one year, another student and I concurrently developed an interactive Google Maps GUI front end and a RESTful back end.

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Social GIS: Where we are and where we’re going

Categories:  Kathleen Tully, Social GIS Mapping
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SGISSocial GIS is software that allows students to examine census data and compare it to various data sets, like grocery store locations or fast food restaurants. This allows students to explore real-world data and learn more about their neighborhoods.

Currently, a website administrator can import data from various sources most APIs and capability to import new source formats, including unique batch files, can easily be added. Once imported, students can map the points, add tags, create their own custom tags (subject to teacher/administrator approval), filter points by tags, and overlay census tracts.

In the future, we are going to import data from James’ environmental sensors using a mobile application to collect and send the data to the Social GIS server. We are also planning to add new capabilities, including built-in analytic tools and the ability to export data to C-Snap for graphing and further analysis using C-Snap’s programming tools.