Western Wyoming Community College unites rural communities with CS

About the organization

What they wanted to do

  • Improve teacher knowledge of CS
  • Encourage teachers to add CS into other disciplines
  • Prepare teachers for certification for new Advanced Placement CS Principles exam

What they did

  • In partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder and its Scalable Game Design project, developed workshop on incorporating game design into lesson plans

What they accomplished

  • 120 teachers attended workshops in August 2016 and January 2017
  • Inspired teachers to add CS and gaming to more classes
  • Helped students with learning challenges benefit from hands-on problem-solving classwork
Read the Full Case Study

Challenge

Wyoming is the country's least populated state, and many schools have scarce computing resources for teachers, which was affecting students’ ability to prepare for and compete in the work world. Carla Hester Croff, an Associate Professor Western Wyoming Community College (Western), knows that by improving CS education, schools can help sharpen students’ technical and critical thinking skills and set them up for success in any career.

Teachers in Wyoming schools often teach multiple subjects and many classes, limiting their ability to engage in training outside their specific subject areas. “I’m the only science teacher,” says Sharon Seaton, who teaches 10 different science classes at Black Butte High School. While Seaton had some background in CS from her years as a teacher in Iowa, she was unsure how to incorporate CS into classes that weren’t related to technology.

“The CS4HS funding gave us the freedom to make our workshops happen. We could advance professional development much faster than would have been possible otherwise, since we didn’t have ask for funds or wait for administrators to approve the program.”

— Carla Hester Croff, Associate Professor of Information Technology, Western Wyoming Community College

Solution

“I spent 18 years in the technology industry before teaching in academia,” says Hester Croff. “I’m a strong believer in training the trainers, or in this case the teachers.” Hester Croff established a relationship with the Scalable Game Design project team at University of Colorado Boulder to provide easy-to-learn techniques for adding more CS content to Wyoming classrooms.

Hester Croff also applied for funding from Google’s CS4HS program to offer teacher workshops that train Wyoming teachers from other STEM disciplines, who are new to CS, on incorporating CS fundamentals into lesson plans through game design. The workshops, which attracted about 120 teachers, included tutorials on teaching CS fundamentals to students by programming games, and gamifying CS to help students better understand concepts included in the new AP Computer Science Principles course.

“The CS4HS funding gave us the freedom to make our workshops happen,” says Hester Croff. “We could advance professional development much faster than would have been possible otherwise, since we didn’t have to ask for funds from our district or wait for administrators to approve the program.”

Benefits

Greater reach for CS learning

Teachers like Seaton are following Hester Croff’s detailed lesson plans to add CS to their existing curriculum. Students use CS skills to brainstorm different approaches to solving a problem, and their excitement about hands-on game development is infectious, Seaton says. In a biology class about invertebrates, Seaton created a lesson plan based on the classic arcade game Frogger. “When one student first programmed the game so that frog crossed the water, he screamed, ‘I did it!’” Seaton recalls.

Improved teacher confidence

“Our workshops have shown teachers that they don’t need to be afraid of computer science,” Hester Croff says. Hester Croff visits classrooms to provide one-on-one advice, ensuring teachers have the support they need to teach CS confidently. To build teacher expertise on the new AP Computer Science Principles exam, Hester Croff uses her workshops to explain how to connect hands-on lessons to concepts students need to pass the exam. “The training has made me more comfortable teaching computer science,” Seaton says.

Inspiration for further teacher training and programs to build on student enthusiasm

Hester Croff also used the CS4HS funding to implement “Do You Want To Think Like a Computer Scientist?” events. These events are conducted at various schools throughout Wyoming, where parents and children are invited to attend. “Many parents feel that their students have inadequate exposure to computer science as they enter high schools, much less college. As both parents and educators, we want to prepare students to be college-ready and career-ready; yet we are overlooking a key component of their educational future,” says Susan Dickman, Principal of Pilot Butte Elementary.

Group photo of Wyoming high school students and teachers participating in the computer science trainings provided by Carla Hester Croff Teachers and students in a computer lab, in front of computers, participating in trainings

Wyoming high school students and teachers participating in the computer science trainings provided by Carla Hester Croff (center front, left).

“With generous support from Google through the CS4HS program, we have been able to upskill in excess of 300 primary school teachers and pre-service teachers and 50 secondary teachers from across the south-east Queensland region. The change in the confidence and preparedness to rollout the new Digital Technologies curriculum has been dramatic.”

– Graeme Breen, Coding and Innovation Hub (CS4HS Australia workshop awardee)

“After the [CS4HS workshop] I'm becoming a 'Computer Science teacher' and I will grow every year. So, more of this CS4HS please.”

– Teacher, University of Canterbury (CS4HS Australia workshop attendee)

“Google's involvement in CS4HS in NZ has been a massive benefit to the country, and every teacher I have spoken too has been extremely grateful for the professional development made possible by Google's funding, due to the lack of other resources in the country.”

– Stuart Marshall, Victoria University of Wellington (CS4HS New Zealand workshop awardee)

“The [CS4HS workshop] provides a platform for the teachers to share and learn from each other. Ultimately, motivate interest in Computer Science in K-12 Environment, to make the students comprehend the principles of computers and sophisticated thinking of solve problems, fostering students computational thinking, to develop their problem-solving methods and self-access to knowledge.”

– Shaojun Qu, Hunan Normal University (CS4HS China workshop awardee)

“The [CS4HS workshop] won huge popularity with the participants as it could better meet the needs of their day-to-day teaching practice in terms of content and form. The goal is to achieve the idea of "Computer Science For All", which requires the teachers to spread the knowledge and skills they acquired in the program to their students as a whole.”

– Lili Wang, World Foreign Language Middle School (CS4HS China workshop awardee)

“This [CS4HS workshop] has greatly promoted the popularization of computer education, has pushed the development of the Educational Technology Education forward, and has helped to foster a great amount of IT talents in China.”

– Yue Li, South China University of Technology (CS4HS China workshop awardee)

“Our initial CS4HS grants were instrumental in gathering critical mass to form an operational CSTA chapter in Wisconsin. Furthermore, it laid the groundwork for a network of CS teachers around the state to begin sharing resources, advocating for state-level change in the capitol, and advising us at the university level.”

– Dennis Brylow, Marquette University (CS4HS US workshop awardee)

“Over the last four years, we have seen tremendous progress in computer science education and advocacy in New Jersey. I don't think we would have come nearly as far if it weren't for Google's support of CS4HS and the relationships and discussions initiated at the workshops. Thank you.”

– Daryl Detrick, Warren Hills Regional High School (CS4HS US workshop attendee)

“The response to CS professional development opportunities from Texas teachers has been outstanding. If you provide teachers with useful, high quality training and support teachers financially to attend, they will gladly step up to the plate to learn these new skills. Thanks to Google for helping The University of Texas at Austin to create this support network and build capacity to provide CS education to every Texas student.”

– Carol L. Fletcher, University of Texas at Austin (CS4HS US workshop awardee)