Professional Development

The Institute for Computing in Research offers several teacher and administrator professional development workshops. Here we give information on how you might engage us for your school or district, and below is a list of the workshops we teach. Please also refer to our pages with Curriculum Packages and our top level page for teachers and schools.

Structure and unique features of the Institute’s workshops

Our goals inform how we work with districts: we are a non-profit whose goal is to eventually teach your students to do research, and hire them to intern at the Institute. This means that we develop an enduring relationship with your teachers, schools, and district. In addition, we are passionate researchers, and our professional development is the result of researching the most effective way to prepare students for internships.

Flexibility and custom instruction: every workshop is reformulated specifically to address the situation of your school and its teachers: we spend much time with your teachers before the workshop, and cover topics suggested by those conversations. While we often teach remotely, in some situations we might arrange in-person seminars.

Pricing: our pricing is intended to be accessible to any district: we charge districts based on what they already pay for comparable training.

Instruction by authorities in the field: our community includes scholars and technologists in many different areas: people who publish regularly in that field. Our workshops are based on their combined experience and consultation.

World class guest lecturers: our professional development workshops usually include a guest lecture by a world-class expert in a relevant field. This gives participants the opportunity to ask questions at a much higher level, and to become aware of the open questions in a field.

Support: our instructors are always available for follow-on consultation after a workshop. We also offer tiers of support: our instructors can continue working with teachers on specific curriculum inspired by the workshops, and we can even provide one of our full curriculum plans.

Workshop topics

The list below is not intended to be a complete list: the scientists, scholars, and technologists at the Institute carry out research in areas beyond the ones we list here, and we do prepare custom workshops for schools or other groups.

Software Engineering

“Teaching computer science” has become a mandate in some school districts, but the mandate is often un-nuanced. This workshop, taught by Dr. Mark Galassi of Los Alamos National Laboratory, aims to give enough knowledge of the state of the art in software engineering that teachers and curriculum designers can make optimal choices. Galassi teaches this workshop in three 2-hour segments.

The first discusses curriculum and grand challenges in software engineering, along with a historical review of programming languages, with group work on how to gain insight into the role of each and what questions it answered.

The second segment opens with a discussion on specific recommended paths for students with given goals and aptitudes. There is no single path that works for all students, and we have a nuanced discussion of which students might benefit from which software career paths. In this discussion we also take a hard-nosed look at factors and conditions that keep some people away from the field.

The final segment starts with an accessible discussion of the details of how a programmer solves certain problems, and distills key elements from that. Then it explores the grand challenge area of the complexity of very large programs, giving an overview of the tools and methodologies being developed today to tame this complexity. The workshop then concludes with a discussion of the “bones of the world”: trying to understand the role of computing in various sectors of the world. This ties in to discussions of free/open-source software, servers, embedded systems, and high performance computing.

After the presentation, every participant describes the teaching of computing in their school, and the specific character of that school. The group then discusses optimal paths for each situation.

Writing in the Content Domain

Writing at the K-12 level often leaves out some key areas of non-fiction presentation. In this workshop we work three of them: modern linguistics-based academic style guides and modern typesetting technology (for writing research articles), writing grant proposals, and writing scholarship applications. Each of these matters has modern scholarship that feels “out of the box” to those familiar with traditional treatment, but it is crucial that students be taught these topics based on clear strategic and tactical principles.

The workshop starts with two academic segments, usually taught by Dr. Mark Galassi and Dr. Ed Fenimore of Los Alamos National Laboratory. It is then followed by a practicum, led by a published writer from our community, in which a join etherpad is used for participants to create sample proposals and other content. The proposals are then analyzed as a group, so as to reach a joint critical sense for possible ineffectual writing.

Addressing Underrepresentation
in Quantitative Disciplines

Teachers are often painfully aware that a good number of their students do not enter quantitative disciplines – not just science and computer science, but also the application of computing and visualization to social science, humanities, and the arts. Approaches that have been tried have failed in a variety of ways.

The Institute for Computing in Research offers this professional development workshop, together with its specific intervention in training students outside of school, with the goal of increasing participation in career paths that bring great personal satisfaction and high income.

This workshop is taught by a rotation of our community members, often involving Leina Gries, Allison Randal, and Mark Galassi. The bulk of the workshop consists of a discussion of the academic state of the field. Then we make a proposal and offer to have the Institute work individually with students, and we outline how that interaction works. Finally we have group discussions facilitated by specific people from underrepresented backgrounds, aimed at addressing patterns that the teachers describe from their schools.

Python Programming for Teachers


The Python programming language occupies a sweet spot: it is simple and a pleasure to learn, while also being used for hard industry applications and in almost all areas of research.

Our instructor, Institute co-founder and director Rhonda Crespo, has developed an approach to teaching Python to teachers which has three significant advantages:

(a) It welcomes teachers who have no programming experience and who want to integrate a bit of programming in non-STEM fields (as well as STEM teachers, of course).

(b) It offers a perspective on the current landscape of what skills employers (no only in STEM fields) seek in employees – our mantra here is that programming is not one career, it is part of every career. This perspective allows the teachers taking our workshop to then communicate the importance of programming to both STEM and non-STEM students.

(c) Participants can run on several operating system (linux, chromeos, windows, macos), but they learn to use a programming editor on their platform. This approach gives a vision of depth on programming workflows. Other tools like version control are also part of the workshop. Seeing all four operating systems at work also broadens their view of the industry.

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