Edu 627: Planning and Communicating the Project

This is the third blog post of a four part series for edu627 Managing Instruction & Technology. In the first part we examined how instructional design and project management overlap as well as essential elements of project management and how it relates to technology.  The second post emphasized the initiation of the project and designing the document as it pertains to PM and ID.  Today’s blog post focuses on some of the key components to consider when planning a project as well as how healthy communication can enhance the overall experience of planning and participating in any project.

In our 3nd unit, I became familiar with the process of planning a project while identifying concepts and sequence of events through the lens of my own actual project. I’d like to share the background of this project and provide the scope for examination.

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(picture taken from creativecommons.org)

My Current Project:

Currently, the district I work in, Lyme-Old Lyme, is attempting to address the following question as it relates to the ISTE technology standards for student achievement: What type of digital learning environment does LOL want to offer its students?  With a multitude of questions revolving around types of devices, accessibility, learning management systems (LMS), professional development and overall technical support, this district is at a critical juncture to implement a new instructional design plan for how technology will be used with its students and teachers. An attempt to thoroughly address this question will serve as the purpose of this paper as the project manager will be collaborating with the director of technology as well as the director of curriculum to ensure project completion.  A strategic planning committee has been created to allow for ample discussion and testing of applicable technologies in response to the leading question of this project. The end goal is to develop a course of action that can be implemented at the start of the 2014-2015 academic year.

Scope includes:

  1. Formation of Strategic Planning Committee representative of teachers, administrators, technology staff, board of education members, parents and community members.
  2. Analysis of current technology used within district.
  3. Familiarization of ISTE (national technology standards)
  4. Identification of gap between how we currently use technology and the ISTE standards we are trying to meet. 
  5. Budget considerations and direction on spending pending results from planning committee analysis as it pertains to devices, human resources, software and professional development.
  6. Costs may include:
    1. Sub coverage for teachers during meeting time (to be determined)
    2. Evaluation of technology (to be determined and dependent upon trial software and hardware costs and products to be selected).
    3. $45K earmarked within 2014-2015 budget directly related to findings of this committee (i.e. software, tablets, etc.)
    4. Potential visits to other districts to learn from them (sub coverage, travel expenses-all to be determined).
    5. Time Frame: 6 meetings with Strategic Planning Committee have been planned already as our findings need to be determined and presented to board of education in March.

Scope Statement: This project will determine the optimal technology environment for Lyme-Old Lyme school district by March of 2014 with a cost of $960 and 534 man-hours of work (cost of man-hours to be determined).

In our 4th unit, we focused on creating an effective communication plan.  Components of such a plan consist of project credibility, outline creation, providing evidence and elaboration as well as providing information, instruction and persuasion. Making information available to all stakeholders and participants in a particular project is probably the most common form of communication. Objectives, scope, project expectations and individual or group responsibilities are part of this type of information that is communicated (Post, unit 5).  Instruction communication refers to the relationship with stakeholders and ensuring they assume ownership of the project, not just the project manager or a select few. Being able to communicate in a persuasive or influential manner can also be an asset to any project manager or instructional designer involved in a team project. Rather than dictating tasks and micromanaging, participants can increase comfort level if they feel part of the same team and have an opportunity to communicate their opinion or ideas (Charvat, 2002). Good project managers however will not allow for too much communication or too much information to be disseminated to the team (Charvat, 2002).

Image

(picture taken from creativecommons.org)

Credibility of the project hinges upon how information is shared with individuals and in what manner. The ability to display expertise by the project manager is crucial to gain trust from the group or learners involved (Cox, 2012). The ability to be polished and dynamic also has an impact on how information is communicated and perceived. Further, there must be a clear progression of stages or parts to a particular learning process and the ability for communication to occur verbally, visually and even psychologically. Cox (2012) points out how evidence communicated via statistics, charts, graphs, examples, analogies and details can only strengthen and enhance the purpose of the project.

Instructional design project managers also face many challenges that can impede the progress of their communication and overall project. As information is shared at the inception of any project, there are participants and outsiders that will perceive this information in a particular way. Individuals pre-existing attitudes, beliefs or values may also influence how well communication occurs.  This ‘noise’ can be detrimental to any process or part of the project as well as a lack of ‘noise’ or silence as Cox explains. When there is no feedback or communication in return, the only course of action could be for the manager to check for understanding as much as possible throughout the entire process.

Reflection

The past two weeks have not only helped me learn to plan for every detail of a project but to really think more critically about how important it is to convince those in authority that your project is important enough for them to make it a priority.  If you can gain the support of an administrator, your efforts and message will carry much more weight with the group you are trying to convince.  In the case of my project, we are trying to convince our Board of Education that we will need more resources to better prepare our students for the technological challenges they will face in college and the workforce.

I also learned the value of providing a clear avenue of support for when the project is over. Receiving training can be a beneficial experience but the learning needs to be able to continue well down the road after the learner goes through training.  A repository of pertinent training materials (handouts, screenshots, videos, links, etc.) could be centrally located on a network where all have access.

References

Charvat, J. (2002, November 13). Project communications: A plan for getting your message across. Retrieved from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/project-communications-a-plan-for-getting-your-message-across/

Cox, D. (2009). Project management skills: A practical guide. New York: iUniverse.

Unit 4 Lecture, Post University, 2014.

Unit 5 Lecture, Post University, 2014.

Additional Resources to consider:

ISTE National Technology Standards for students, teachers and administrators: http://www.iste.org/standards

The 8-Step Process for Leading Change: http://www.kotterinternational.com/our-principles/changesteps

Using PowerPoint Effectively-What Research Tells Us: http://www.sicet.org/journals/ijttl/issue1101/2_Berk.pdf

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