2020 Summer Reading List

I haven’t published my summer reading list in a few years. This summer, for some reason, I seemed to have more time for reading. Most of my reading centered on potential new books for the Technology, Society, and Ethics book study unit in my Software Engineering class where students analyze these texts through a lens that combines the technological, societal, and ethical perspectives. Small groups of students explore the question “How does technology affect change from the critical context of privacy, social justice, economics, education, politics, culture, security, or warfare?”. I did read a couple of books for my awesome biweekly Zoom book club.

Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War by Paul Scharre

I’ve been wanting to read this book and evaluate it for class for a couple of years. It will fit well in the software engineering unit and provide an easier to read and analyze alternative to The Hacked World Order. It is very balanced and does an excellent job presenting the challenge of even defining autonomous weapons. Personally, I found it a bit repetitive and long for my students; so, I will probably suggest groups read a subset of the chapters.

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble

This was a powerful read. This book had also been on my list for a couple of years. I read it hoping it could complement Weapons of Math Destruction with a more direct focus on racism. Dr. Noble strongly illustrates how algorithms perpetuate racism. While I found the book excellent, I fear that that complexity of the text and concepts may be too much for my students. As a warning to others, some students and especially parents may be uncomfortable with the language of some of the search examples. My search continued with…

Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin

This was the book for which I was looking. It presented diverse examples of what Dr. Benjamin has coined “the New Jim Code”. In addition, it didn’t resign us all to technology perpetuating engineered inequity as it presents “these forms of resistance are what I think of as abolitionist tools for the New Jim Code.” I had the pleasure of watching Dr. Benjamin’s keynote at this summer’s CSTA conference. After all of this, and the events of this summer, I decided to focus the critical context for this year’s Software Engineering book clubs to social justice. My school district has already approved the purchase of enough copies of Race after Technology and additional copies of Weapons of Math Destruction such that every student will read and analyze one of these two books. We will then have a more focused panel discussion focused specifically on how technology affects change through the critical context of social justice.

Computer Science in K-12: An A-To-Z Handbook on Teaching Programming by Shuchi Grover

This was my surprise read of the summer. I noticed a lot of discussion about this book in my Twitter. Checking the table of contents, I was surprised how many of the authors were familiar. (Grover is the editor and author or co-author of several chapters.) This book should be required reading for all computer science education programs. As I shared on Twitter:

I started with Ch 14: Naive Conceptions of Novice Programmers by Juha Sorva in @shuchig’s book Computer Science in K-12. It captured and distilled misconceptions (preconceptions per #modphys) that I have been struggling to identify. I wish I had this book 8 years ago!

I truly wish I had this book eight years ago when I started teaching computer science. I hope to convince my computer science PLC to make this book part of our work this fall semester.

Braided Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I’ve started reading this book before the start of summer. It was the book that I selected for our book club. It is a book best read one chapter at a time with sufficient time between chapters to savor each. Dr. Kimmerer’s words heal you as you read them. This book connected my childhood home (near where Dr. Kimmerer lives), science, spirituality, and my love and respect of nature. My mom gifted me a signed copy of this book with the inscription “for Geoffrey, in honor of our teachers, the plants”.

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

Since we didn’t take a long road trip this summer, which is when I usually get in a Stephenson audiobook, I was pleased when another member of our book club selected a science fiction book. A classic that is as relevant now as ever.

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