How Do You BEGIN A Successful 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!




Profile picture for user neil plotnick
Submitted by neil plotnick on Thu, 02/28/2019 - 11:07

I look for ways to bring CS to the classrooms that I co-teach in. In Algebra class, I had students work with a program to perform calculations using the distance formula. Four variables (X1, Y1,  X2, Y2) and the use of the math library for the square root calculation. It was a terrific way for the students to check the homework examples that they did manually. We found that students tended to make the same errors. Order of operations and using the wrong ordered pairs caused problems.

In Geometry, I had students create or use programs that were used to calculate area, volume and surface area for some objects. Since there are different formulas with varying complexity, you can use this approach for all students.

Chemistry provided similar opportunities to embed CS concepts. In our gas laws unit, I created a program to convert between varying units of measurement. Quickly moving between TORR, PSI and Atmospheres showcased how CS is a valuable tool in science explorations.

I did all of my programs in Python 2.7 but other languages should be fine. 

In reply to by neil plotnick


Profile picture for user boommen
Submitted by Bobby Oommen on Tue, 03/05/2019 - 10:47

These sound like great projects Neil! 

What I'm hearing from your post is the idea of finding connection points between the curriculum and CS...the "low hanging fruit", if you will. 

Excellent suggestion! 


Profile picture for user brendalb1989@gmail.com
Submitted by Brenda Burmeister on Thu, 02/28/2019 - 21:31

The trick for me in finding overlap with the other classes is a simple one: Go to their classroom.

The structure of our campus is that we have a wing with all the computer labs, a separate e science building, and another for the core classes.  So sometimes it feels like we are lonely islands connected via email only. 

When I stop by, I invariably see a poster, a book the students will be reading, or activity the students are working on that sparks ideas for collaboration.  
Sometimes I sit in during a lesson, or I just stop by with muffins for a chat with the teacher.  Baked goods are my other weapon in encouraging cross-curricular collaboration.

I am really curious about other teachers experiences, advice, or concerns about collaboration.

Brenda B

In reply to by Brenda Burmeister


Profile picture for user boommen
Submitted by Bobby Oommen on Tue, 03/05/2019 - 10:50

Hey Brenda, 

Great suggestion! This is quick and easy - stop by for a quick hello, scan their classrooms, and ask questions about areas that there might be a connection. 

The baked goods never fail as well ;)