Where Global Impact Fits in a CSP Syllabus
Global Impact cuts across all of the other content in AP Computer Science Principles, touching on all the other Big Ideas in the CSP framework. (And even if you’re not teaching CSP, you’ll find that the social impacts of computing can easily intersect with whatever major concepts you’re organizing your class around!)
There is no single prescription for where in a CSP course to teach Global Impact, any more than there is a single prescription for how to teach it. If you’re following a specific curriculum, you’ll find that each takes a different approach to sequencing. For example:
- CS Matters largely frontloads the Impact content, as motivation for the course (then circles back in later lessons focusing on other objectives).
- BJC includes separate, focused Impact lessons (“labs”) in each unit throughout the sequence.
- Code.org CSP and Mobile CSP combine focused Impact lessons in several units with including Impact content in lessons on other topics.
- UTeach CSP incorporates Impact into some lessons on other Big Ideas (especially Data), but mostly focuses on Impact towards the end of the course, to tie the other content together.
“Many examples of how advances in computing enable advances in other fields are actually about data science.”
Relationship to Other Big Ideas
There are lots of ways to bring social impact into the conversation (or the assignment!) when you’re covering other Big Ideas in computer science. Code.org CSP provides a handy chart that shows how Big Ideas are connected in their syllabus; it can also serve as a jumping-off point for drawing connections in CSP in general.
Data and Information, and Algorithms
Social impact very frequently comes up in relation to Data and Information (Big Idea 3). In fact, many examples of how advances in computing enable advances in other fields are actually about data science, for example, computational biology and natural language processing. In general, many teachers of CSP (and CSP curricula) tie Algorithms (Big Idea 4) very closely together with Data and Information — and likewise, exploring the Global Impact of algorithms is usually approached in terms of the global impact of data mining and data analysis.
Data mining in particular has myriad applications that nearly everyone views as positive (epidemiology, climate modeling, supply-chain planning…), but also raises many concerns about data privacy, especially for health and financial data and data about online behavior. For example, exploring how targeted online advertising works can give rise to a spirited discussion about its pros and cons — which in turn provides extra reinforcement for understanding targeting algorithms.
Another major crossover area for Global Impact is in talking about The Internet (Big Idea 6). After all, the most obvious impacts of computing — on how we communicate and interact — are largely enabled by the connections between computer (and smartphone) users.
Conversely, some of the most obvious examples of how computing impacts differ across geographic and economic contexts are closely tied to the availability and affordability of Internet access. In addition, the nitty-gritty Internet topic of cybersecurity is closely tied to the Impact issues of privacy and censorship.
“The most obvious impacts of computing are largely enabled by the connections between computer (and smartphone) users.”
Because Programming (Big Idea 5) is where you’re really getting into nitty-gritty procedural learning, it’s not necessarily the first place you look for tie-ins to Global Impact. However, potential impacts can shape programmers’ choices about what to create and how to create it, and building in this context from the get-go can provide an extra spark of interest for those beginning to learn how to code.
Activity and Lesson Types
While exploratory learning — project-based, problem-based, or inquiry-based — is generally encouraged as the primary mode for AP CSP, it can be more difficult to implement in practice for Global Impact than for other content. Teachers (and curriculum developers!) may find it easiest to explore social impacts by providing expository content (via readings, videos, or lectures) and then using discussion and reflective writing to engage students in responding to that content. This isn’t a bad thing! These will be common learning modes throughout students’ educational careers, and when used well, they have great results.
However, exploratory-learning enthusiasts will find that there are a number of ways teachers are already applying this approach to Global Impact. The best opportunities for bringing in a more activity-based learning experience are often through its intersections with other parts of the curriculum. In particular, because Data and Information is particularly well-suited to an exploratory format, it provides opportunities for inquiry-based learning about Global Impact topics like data privacy, trend prediction, and public health and epidemiology.
“Exploratory-learning enthusiasts will find that there are a number of ways teachers are already applying this approach to Global Impact.”
Many of the Global Impact activities that have been developed so far focus on online research and writing, in order to prepare students for the Explore Performance Task. (Article coming soon!) These may not be the types of activities students expect in a CS class, but if they are already engaged with the idea of analyzing and evaluating the impacts of computing innovations, that interest can be leveraged to make the prospect of research and writing seem more exciting.
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