Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Thinking Christianly about Computing

This morning I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion with my fellow colleagues Scott Ragsdale and Dana Steil during chapel. The topic was how we teach computer science from a Christian perspective. You can watch the discussion on iTunes U (if the link doesn't work, search iTunes for Thinking Christianly - Computer Science Faculty. March 8, 2011). The part you might find most interesting was on strong AI somewhere in the middle.

This was a difficult topic for the three of us to tackle, primarily because we think of computing primarily as a tool. Tools can be used for good purposes, and of course they can be used for evil. When you're teaching someone how to write an algorithm, there isn't necessary a "Christian" way of doing it. When you are testing software for vulnerabilities, a Christian is not likely to approach the problem any differently than a non-Christian. However, the broader picture of purpose is what I believe distinguishes how we teach CS at Harding from how it's taught somewhere else. To what end are we going to use these computing skills? Is it just to entertain ourselves or bring home a paycheck, or is there something much more important at stake?

There's a lot more I'd like to say on the topic, but it will have to wait... I'm heading to Dallas in the morning for SIGCSE 2011 where I'll be leading a workshop on Android application programming.