Cooper, S., Rodger, S. H., Schep, M., Stalvey, R. H., & Dann, W. (2015). Growing a k-12 community of practice. In Proceedings of the 46th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (pp. 290-295). New York: ACM.


Type: Practitioner

Purpose: In this article the authors describe their experience in growing a community of practice around the subject of integrated CS programming for middle school and high school teachers using Alice. They describe their professional development and follow-up models for keeping the teachers connected and supporting a community of practice (COP). They helped professionally develop over 400 K-12 teachers who had to teach CS besides their normal load. The authors helped them use technology tools in STEM.

Findings: Under the ITEST grant, although 6 regional COPs were initially created in 6 states, the focus was on 3 main ones: CA, NC, and NS. PIs from 4 universities were involved (Duke, Columbia College, the College of Charleston, and Stanford) and a project manager. They also worked closely with the Alice team from Carnegie Mellon. Many middle and high school teachers never had prior programming experience. Three to five PD workshops were run each summer (two weeks), with teachers living at a given university. Since 2011, more than 5000 students have been taught by these Alice teachers. The Adventures in Alice Programming website (for integrating computing in other disciplines) and the Alice programming curricular materials website (for computing courses curricula) have drawn thousands of visitors. Teachers developed lesson plans "on math, science, foreign language, language arts, ESL, history, art, music, theater, business technology, and computer applications" (p. 292) during workshops. There was also school support through CMU listserv and teachers could get any of their questions answered that way by the Alice team. In fact, listservs and email lists have been the most successful means of communication. Teachers developed models for animations. They had difficulties with decomposition (creating a storyboard/algorithm). Teachers were mostly wondering how one might know when the steps were simple enough, so they asked CMU Alice team for help. Some of the lessons learned were navigating administrative bureaucracies to let teachers attend the workshops. Competing interests were also in the way (e.g., CTE versus traditional teachers).

Recommendations: Follow up workshops are recommended. DOE support is essential. Forming local/sub-communities of practice is also important. Formative and summative evaluation should be practiced.