Thursday, June 23, 2011

Favorite Past Time and Favorite Band!

This past week I was invited to go see my favorite band U2!! My good friend Mike called me on Friday, bought tickets on Saturday and off we went to the see the best band in the world! When we got there, we walked to our seats and they were literally in the highest section in the LAST row! My friend could not handle the altitude, so we went to exchange our seats. We were able to meet with the Ticketmaster representatives and they gave us seats on the floor level and only a few rows up from the floor! And it was for no additional charge! On top of that... I literally sat next to music producer Quincy Jones!!!
Then after he was seated, Marg Helgenberger, of CSI fame sat in the row in front of Quincy! We had a great time!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Scope Creep: Shoes For Kids

A few years ago, right after my school had finished the “Wishes” program (See Project Wishes post – May 12) another teacher had an idea. Her husband was in Afghanistan in the Army and reported back to his wife how most the kids there had no shoes and the terrain was awful to walk in without shoes. They decided to have a shoe drive at our school. It was her project but she enlisted my help since I had some experience with the other project.

The plan was for her to be in charge of the project but I would assist in any way she needed. I put a recording together to be played over the intercom system at the school and we even went to the principal together to submit the project. It was my understanding that my role was to be limited, but as the project progressed, so did my role. Scope creep entered by adding more of my time and resources to the project. Nothing was ever written down, but in some ways, it should have been. This is a typical way for scope creep to enter because a PM, “in an attempt to avoid bureaucracy, adopts an informal process of handling requests for change.” (Potny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, 2008, p. 346) Not only did the project require more of my time, but my classroom became a holding room for half the shoes that were collected. Students and teachers were coming to me asking for information on the project and were bringing me the shoes during class time. This was scope creep on two levels, the project and my actual teaching job.

Looking back, if I was the PM I would have done a few things differently. First, I would have enlisted more help from the staff. Second, I would have written out a plan that included a time frame of how long the shoe program would last, a list of team members and their roles and a set schedule of when the shoes could be collected and a place to store them. Third, we should have worked harder at getting more student, parent and community involvement. Fourth, when scope creeps entered, as Dr. Stolovich stated in the video, “Project Management Concerns: ‘Scope Creep,’” (Walden University, 2010) “let them know the idea is valuable, but not able to do it right now.” That would have helped alleviate some of extra time and resources required as the project progressed. Since this was not a large project it did not require a large amount of planning, but we could have done it a little better.

In the end, we collected over 300 pairs of shoes and sent them to Afghanistan. The kids were so happy and everyone involved felt good about this project. We put together a video and here is the link!

Shoes For Kids -


Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Video Program: “Project Management Concerns: ‘Scope Creep’” Walden University, 2010

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

There are many resources available to the Instructional Designer. There are books and articles available but there are also many websites and e-resources that an ID could easily use. Here are three excellent examples of these resources found on the web.

Big Dog & Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition:

This website has many resources for an Instructional Designer. At the top of the website there are many tabs that link to topics such as Leadership, Training, Learning and more. It also includes a professional looking Site Map. The attached link opens up to “Estimating Costs and Time in Instructional Design” that includes tips on budgeting, training cost guidelines and estimating development hours. It is well laid out with charts and graphs. These are good examples for IDs to use and learn from. It even sites research sources to show evidence that these are proven methods. At some places there are links to other resources as well. This site is helpful and easy to use. Even though the examples they use may not be project specific to my needs, they provide excellent examples to use as guidelines. The entire site offers resources and even a blog to read and comment on.

Design 4 Instruction:

The Design 4 Instruction website is also a valuable resource for an ID. The top tabs are arranged in order of ADDIE which makes it applicable for an ID to quickly view a specific area and get some good ideas. It also offers some practical tips for estimating costs and project management. Each link not only provides methodology but also risks involved with each phase. There are easy to follow charts and graphs as well. This site is valuable to any ID whether they are new or seasoned. I could see myself referring back to this site for tips and validation for the steps I am taking during a project.

Learn Entrix:  

The Learn Entrix site is an additional site that offers many tips and practical applications to ID. It provides best practices ideas, case studies tools and other areas of information that are extremely useful for an ID. It also shows graphs and charts that make the estimating tips easy to use. This site also has many links to other areas including e-learning sites and resources and e-learning news feeds. Learn Entrix is a place I would use to help find additional links and information on estimating and the entire ID process.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Communicating Effectively

Emailing is one of the best and current ways to communicate with someone. It is quick, non-invasive and, more importantly it documents the communication. In this email, my interpretation of it was that it was concise and informative. However it was difficult to get the tone of the email. Without knowing who the person is who sent it, it could be taken as somewhat condescending. Emails in general are sometimes difficult to perceive the tone and intention that the person is trying to convey and this one is no exception. The other challenge with emails is that you are never guaranteed that the recipient actually read and understood the message. The email itself can be tracked to see if it was opened, but there is no way of ensuring the message was read.

Using voicemail is also direct and an effective means of communication. Even though the words were exactly the same as the email, the voice delivered a pleasant and professional message. As with the email example, I might not know the person but she sounded sincere and amiable. She was able to convey the same message without it sounding condescending or with any hint of irritability. It was easy to perceive that she needed the information but was not angry or overly pushy. The challenge with the voicemail is similar to the email since it is impossible to know if the recipient actually listened and/or understood the message.

The face to face message was very effective. The words were exactly the same as the two previous forms of communication but this was form was probably the most complete in terms of delivering the full intent of the message. The person who gave the message stood in a non-threatening place, smiled, used very few hand gestures and kept the tone of her voice in a friendly and professional manner. She also maintained good eye contact with the person she was talking to as she delivered her message. In this form of communication the sender can guarantee that the recipient received the message and get immediate feedback from the recipient. The only con to this form is that it does not have an immediate way of documenting the exchange. The sender must document the conversation in some form at a later time.

When working with a team it is important to use the most effective means of communication for each team member. All three are appropriate and useful, but not always the best for an individual person. People vary in their manner of receiving a message so it is important to find out either by asking the team member or even through trial and error which is the most effective. At times someone may need to use multiple forms of communication to get the message delivered. However in all cases, documenting the exchanges is critical and key to keeping everyone on the same page and properly informed.


Multimedia Program: "The Art of Effective Communication"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Project Wishes

     A few years ago, I came up with an idea to do something special at my school. I was teaching second grade at a school in Riverside, California and we were noted for being a large elementary school (1,100 students) but low income levels and low test scores. At the time, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “Three Wishes” were television programs that were popular. After watching these shows, my idea was to somehow grant wishes to as many students and staff members as possible. The challenge was…well, everything! No one had done anything like this before and there was no money for a project like this either.

     My first step was to talk to my principal. She in essence was the main stakeholder that I needed full support and approval from. I put together an audio “commercial” that introduced the program with music, sound effects and a voice over. I also created “Wish Papers” that the students and staff could write down their wishes. Then I met with my principal, described the project, showed her the “wish” papers and played the commercial. She immediately had buy in and was ready to support and approve the project.
     The next step was to inform and invite the school staff to be part of this project. The principal and I presented the idea at a staff meeting and it was not well received. Many had questions and concerns, but mostly doubts. They thought the project would fail and very few were willing to help us carry out this project, but they all agreed to pass out the wish papers to their students. They were to give the students the wish paper and tell them to write down anything they wished for and not to limit their wishes.

     The students and staff wrote down their wishes and I collected them all in these pre-made envelopes that I put together for each class. Once I collected the envelopes, I went through and read all the wishes. The wishes ranged from simple items such as a toothbrush to the extremes such as a new roof or new car as well as requests for new siblings and even a husband for a mom!
     Since there was no budget for this project I decided to start the wish granting with my own money. I purchased some of the easier requests and started granting them. Slowly word was getting out and more wishes started to get granted. Then our principal talked to a local newspaper reporter and she came and did a story on us. From the moment the story hit the paper the school was inundated with calls and visits from people all over the city. In the end, we granted around 400 actual wishes, were given over $2,000 in cash and were able to give every student some kind of gift. There are so many amazing stories that happened during that school year and how individuals, offices and even another school participated in this project.
     In retrospect, there were parts to this project that were successful and parts that could have been improved. In essence, I was the Program Manager and my principal was the client and key stakeholder. Identifying her as the key supporter and stakeholder was important to this project. My first meeting with her we actually created an “oral” Statement of Work. We discussed the “Purpose, Objectives, Constraints and Assumptions” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, 2008, p. 43) of the Statement of Work. We should have written it down and signed off on it to make it official, but this project was such uncharted territory and not expected to be so successful that we did not think to do that.
     As the PM, I did fulfill many of the responsibilities of that role. According to the video, “Project Kickoff” (Walden University, 2010), Dr. Stolovich listed nine PM responsibilities. As the PM, I did “Launch the project, managed all the pieces, identified and engaged the stakeholders, allocated the resources and closed out the project.” (2010) However, at one point and for a few months, our principal decided to take on the role as PM and I was unable to “manage the activities” or “plan and execute follow up support” (2010) for some of the wishes. In time, our principal gave back the PM responsibilities to me which is why I was able to close the project, but many of the smaller details and activities were overlooked and not handled properly. It was during this time that my principal even offended a local office group that was heavily supporting our project. If I was taking care of the PM duties at that time, this would have been avoided.
     According to the article, “The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects!” (Greer, 2010) it lists steps to managing a project. The first step, “Define the project concept, then get support and approval” (Greer, 2010) was accomplished. The second step, “Get your team together and start the project” (Greer, 2010) was also met, even though the “team” was really only principal and myself at first. This is where we should have improved the success of the project. We should have gotten more support from other staff members at the very start of the project. As the project gained momentum, the office staff and some of the teachers jumped in to help, but we should have gotten more involved at the beginning. The third step, “Figure out exactly what the finished work products will be” (Greer, 2010) could have been better. We really had no idea where this project would lead us or even if it would grant any wishes, so we did not plan out what we wanted the finished project to look like.
     In the end, hundreds of students were granted their wish, an elementary school was the center of incredible blessings, and the project was not only successful but took on a life of its own. Years later I still run into families and other staff members that remind me of how amazing that year turned out to be.

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
“Project Kickoff” Walden University, 2010

Monday, May 2, 2011

Welcome... Again

As the song goes... we are back in the saddle again! After a whole week off, we are galloping off together on another adventure! Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to reading your comments and reading your posts! See you all on the trails this next 8 weeks!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflection: Bridging the Gap

In the video “Future of Distance Education,” (2010) Dr. George Siemens stated that we need to “bridge the gap of comfort,” when it comes to online learning. That is the key to gaining more acceptance and participation to all distance learning. People know distance learning exists. They know that people use it. They also know it is different than what they grew up with in terms of a learning environment. However, they don’t always know what it is really like even if they took an online course within the past five years. Distance learning has changed, improved and is bridging that gap of comfort.

There are several factors that will encourage bridging the gap of comfort for the future of distance learning in the next 5 – 10 years and beyond. According to the video, “Distance Education: The Next Generation,” (2010) Dr. Simonson stated that “Today, distance education is widely adopted and approaching critical mass in society.” (2010) In addition to wide spread acceptance and use today, Simonson also believes that, “If we look at past patterns in educational technology, we can expect exponential growth of distance educational schools.” (2010) In addition, there is the emergence of other distance learning opportunities such as virtual schools. Although there is actual learning and teaching occurring in these formats, the term generally refers to an online school for students in the K-12 range. These schools have the benefit of being available to students as long as they have a current computer and internet access. The phase “Any time, any place, any path, any pace,” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009, p.36) from the Florida Virtual School sums up the teaching and learning philosophy of most virtual schools. It is a viable alternative to an in-class school for students with disabilities, students in rural areas or ones that have not been allowed to remain in regular classrooms for behavior issues. As more and more people enroll in these virtual schools, and other distance learning, there will be even more people who are willing to try a similar learning experience. If the economy continues to struggle, then I can foresee even more academic institutes and corporations turning to distance learning to offset the costs of training. The ease of use and costs will continue to shape the quality, quantity and perceptions of distance learning in the coming decade and beyond.

The saying “Success breeds success” is probably the best way to be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning. When others I meet ask where I got my master’s degree, I will be able to say that not only was it through Walden University, but it was an entirely online program. Already I have made connections with others who have done the same and have discussed the program with curious friends and family. They have heard about my experiences and the benefits, and challenges, of a distance learning program. When people hear about the success I have had with earning a master’s degree online, they may not only be interested, but also may commit to a similar program and thus closing the gap of comfort even more.

Secondly, success can improve society’s perception with the incorporation of a distance learning experience within my own class. If I added a distance learning experience along with a regular face-to-face education, then, not only will the students be more comfortable, but so will my colleagues and parents of my students. By getting the students at a young age to become comfortable using a blended online program they will be more open and likely to commit to other distance learning environments either at the high school, college level or even in the corporate world.

There are several ways I can be a positive force for the continuous improvement for distance learning. One way is through the aforementioned example by having a blended program within my own classroom. Secondly, I can continue to use and promote new technologies. My school district is already making the transition from regular text books to providing students with a mini-laptop with all the textbooks on the computer. This is not directly related to distance learning, but it is another use of technology in which students can become more comfortable using which would help when or if the students does indeed take an online course. Third, I could also stay up-to date with the current instructional design programs and research. This will help me to know how to encourage and help others when they enter a distance learning environment.

As with all new concepts or ideas, it takes time for people to become comfortable with its challenges and benefits. My role with all of it is to be the next link in that bridge that closes that gap between those whose level of comfort can be increased by my encouragement and success.

Video Program: “Distance Education: The Next Generation” (2010), Walden University

Video Program: “The Future of Distance Education”( 2010), Walden University

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a
distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.