Accessible Design

Teaching How All Technologies Are Accessible in Data Structures and Algorithms

An Invitation to Reimagine

Empowering Students to Redesign Computing Problems and Artifacts​

This year, my invited talk series will argue how we should teach students not only how to answer questions, but also what questions to ask. This work will be presented to the UW CSE faculty, the broader UW faculty through the 2024 Teaching & Learning Symposium, and as a lightning talk in the 3C Fellows Spotlight. Contact me at to arrange a talk.

Many undergraduate computing courses teach concepts using simplified models that are carefully aligned with learning objectives. But these models often encode design assumptions in both problem definitions and resulting solutions. When we choose to leave assumptions unexamined, we also choose to teach that it is not disciplinary practice to question them in their future work. This not only has a societal cost given the outsize impact of computing technologies, but also a personal cost to students’ capacity to identify and address issues they care about in their computing work. How can we empower students to redesign computing problems and artifacts?

In this talk, I will share how I teach design assumptions in undergraduate computing courses through “an invitation to reimagine” the simplified models presented during class. When designing autocomplete, we might assume that search results should exactly match the search query—but real autocomplete systems might make suggestions that closely but not exactly match the search query. Or, when selecting a plot title, we might assume trends in the data tell the whole story—but there could be more nuanced explanations that require more engagement with the data setting. By redesigning problems and artifacts to address these assumptions, we make space for students to demonstrate proficiency in traditional learning objectives while also empowering them to create better technologies.

Discussion may include prior work and connections to student identity, attitudes, and expectations; limits of this technique as a method for empowering students; and future directions for research and practice.

If you would prefer to present, adapt, or extend these ideas yourself, the slides are licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.