Discussion

How Do You BEGIN Successful A CS Collaboration Project?

Hello MS World!

I’m starting a new data visualization project with the 8th grade math teacher next week (I’m super excited, but super nervous!), and wanted to take the next few posts to talk about CS collaboration projects with other teachers in your school. As CS teachers, many of us want to collaborate with other teachers because we want our students to see the power and application of CS in other subjects. We also know the power of project based learning for both students AND teachers (anyone else get a thrill from trying something new?!)

I acknowledge there are many constraints that prevent us from collaborating with other teachers. We may not have the time or energy, other teachers are not interested, having two cooks in the kitchen can be more of a stress, etc. However, I’d like to leave those constraints at the door and get us thinking about best practices around successful CS collaboration.

What I’m describing in this article is more about you, as a CS teacher, “pushing in” or co-teaching with another teacher. I’m not describing a situation where a math teacher and their class collaborate with a CS teacher and their class. I suppose this would work for folks whose primary focus is CS integration as well. 

So, for this week I’d like to focus on beginning a successful CS collaboration project. How do you even begin...like even before a project is decided upon?

I’ve found that when both teachers come to the table with an empty notepad, and just try to find an idea in that moment, it’s difficult. Often times, the other subject teacher isn’t really aware of what the CS teacher COULD offer, so they don’t know where to start. I remember when I was a self-contained math teacher, and the music teacher wanted to do a collaborative project, I was looking to THEM to show me where the connections in our curriculum were.

What I’ve found that works really well at my school is something I’ll call YOU, ME, WE (clever, eh? LOL).

  1. YOU - I ask a teacher if we can meet to see if there are some collaboration opportunities. No commitment. I tell them it’s a meeting where the focus is on YOU and YOUR curriculum. I try to ask a lot of questions. What topics do you discuss? What projects does your class currently work on?  Are there any places where you’d like to make changes to your curriculum? Are there any topics that you feel lend themselves to a good project? Are there times during the school year where you actually flexibility to try a project? If so, ideally how many days would the project be?  They are talking, and I’m listening and writing things down.

  2. ME - At the conclusion of the meeting, I let them know that I’d like 2 weeks (sometimes more, sometimes less) to try to brainstorm some project ideas. During those two weeks, I research online to see if I can find CS projects that connect to some of their units, CS tools that we could use within a project, or find additional connections between CS and their subject. .

  3. WE - When we meet again, I share with them 2-3 possible project ideas. I let them know how long each project idea would take, and other needs. I share ideas that take one class, and true projects that take multiple classes. At that point we’re both sniffing to see if there is an idea we both sense we can work with. If there is, we start talking brass tacks - dates, times, final products, etc. If there isn't, I let them know that I'll keep my eyes/ears open for places in the future. 

Of course, the process I described isn’t quite as segmented as that. It’s very fluid, and some of those conversations happen at various times. Sometimes we find an idea that we think will work, but ends up getting canned. Other times, we find an idea that feels just right, and we're even able to loop in other teachers. 

Again, in my experience, when the CS teacher is able to provide some ideas after hearing from another subject area teacher,  that serves as an easy launch into a successful collaboration.

What have you found to work best when BEGINNING a collaboration/integration project? Please share!

Have a great rest of the week!

Bobby