Sample Discussion Posting

As WaldenU students we all know the value well-crafted discussion prompts can have on engaging students deeply in their learning. In the process of completing this assignment I created a sample discussion prompt that I would like to use with my sixth grade academic enriched class. I would like you to evaluate what I have created and help me improve it. Based on what you have learned in this class about creating discussion prompts, evaluate the sample discussion post below.

• Evaluate the proposed sample discussion based on what you have learned about creating engaging discussion prompts.
• How does the sample discussion meet or fall short of the guidelines provided in this week’s learning resources?
• Suggest at least one change to the sample discussion.

Resources

Use the resources from EIDT 6511 and any other resources you deem appropriate.

By Friday

Post your thoughts about the sample discussion prompt below. Use the prompt above as your guide. Remember the instructions state that you will not be graded on your responses to this prompt.

By Saturday night:

Look for follow-up comments.

The “rubric” for the EIDT 6511 Prompt

Can be accessed by clicking here EIDT6511WK7Rubric.

Sample Discussion Prompt
How Do Ocean Currents Impact the Earth’s Climate?

Oceans cover over 70% of our planet’s surface. Not only do oceans play a major role in our food supply, but also on our climate as you learned in this week’s resources. For this week’s discussion you will focus on the impact that three of Earth’s major currents have on the long-term weather patterns around the globe. Remember, these currents are generated by the global winds we studied in our previous section. While these three currents are not the only currents to impact climate around the globe, they demonstrate the impact that currents can have on climate and in turn on weather.

In this week’s discussion post you will describe the impact that the Gulf Stream, California current, and changes in the Peruvian current called El Niño and La Niña have on temperature, wind, and precipitation in different parts of the world. Review this week’s resources to help you answer the following questions.

• Describe how the Atlantic Gulf Stream impacts the climate of three different Northern European countries.
• Describe how the California Current impacts the climate of the costal regions along the west coast of North America.
• Describe two ways El Niño and La Niña impact on global climate when those currents replace the normal Peruvian current.

By Wednesday

Post your findings of the impact the currents have on different regions of the globe to the Discussion board. Be sure to cite the resources you use properly.

By Monday

Read the postings of the other students in your group.

Respond to two or more of your classmates’ postings by:
• Asking a probing or clarifying question
• Providing deeper understanding
• Sharing an insight you gained from your studies

Resources

Course Text: Holt Science and Technology: Tennessee, Grade 6
• Chapter 5 – Currents and Climate pages 130-133
How Can One Ocean Climate Affect the Whole North Atlantic? Exploring Earth. TERC, Visual Earth. Retrieved from http://www.classzone.com/books/earth_science/terc/content/investigations/es2403/es2403page01.cfm.

El Niño and its Effects. Retrieved from http://earthguide.ucsd.edu/virtualmuseum/climatechange1/11_1.shtml

El Niño – a warm current of water. Retrieved from http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/guides/mtr/eln/def.rxml

Ocean. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved from http://www.noaa.gov/ocean.html

The El Niño (ENSO) Phenomenon. Retrieved from http://biophysics.sbg.ac.at/atmo/elnino.htm

Are Cheating and Plagiarism a Problem? Is there are Solution?

Cheating and plagiarism have been around since earliest human times.  As long as there is something at stake, we will look for any advantage we can find.  If you doubt the veracity of that statement, invite a three year old to race you.  You should be prepared to be blocked, pushed, and tugged. Three year olds will look for and use whatever advantage they can.  We don’t change that much as adults.  We are subtler in how we gain our advantage, and we might give it a different label.  For instance, in business it is referred to as gaining a competitive advantage on the competition.  Not only does business have a term for it, the act of gaining competitive advantage is usually rewarded.    In classrooms there is the age-old battle between the instructor’s need to assess learning, and the learners desire to make a good grade.  This manifests itself as cheating on tests and plagiarism on written assignments.

To instructors cheating and plagiarism are obviously undesirable.  Our goal is to foster learning of the subject matter in our students.  Instead, our students often learn how to become better cheaters.  As a matter of fact, I had a class a couple of years ago that was so intent on cheating that they would spend hours trying to develop better systems rather than spend ten minutes studying.  Extreme cases aside, frequent, low stakes assessments curb cheating in an online teaching environment by reducing the pressure on students (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).  Quiz software also allows instructors to randomize tests so that each student’s quiz is different.  This further reduces cheating by making it more difficult for students to copy each other’s answers.

Unfortunately, plagiarism is not as easy to deal with.  Plagiarism is can be defined as the copying other’s ideas with giving credit to the source.  Brown, Jordan, Rubin, and Arome (2010) claim that plagiarism is running rampant, as the Internet has made copying easier than ever before.  We live, learn, and work in a world of near instant access to information, and it can be difficult to distinguish between freely available information and intellectual property.  Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) found that most of the cases they came across in their study of plagiarism were unintentional in nature.  Their students simple did not understand that they were engaged in morally questionable behavior.

Given the cultural context of students who have grown up at time when artists are recycling old ideas and blending them in new ways, and when terms like “mashup” have entered our vocabulary, how do instructors deal with academic papers that include the works of others without proper credit?  Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) suggest education and electronic anti-plagiarism software as two possible solutions.   Unintentional plagiarism occurs when students fail to properly cite sources, because they do not understand how and when they should cite.  Every instructor must be prepared to spend some time teaching students the expectations and methods to properly cite sources (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006).  I’ll examine possible software solutions in greater detail in the next couple of paragraphs.

Basically, anti-plagiarism software compares a student’s work to any known work and flags anything suspicious for follow-up by the instructor.  Depending on the versions, this software can either be installed on local a computer or be web-based.  Since I fail to see any advantage for computer-based software, I will focus on web-based software such as Turnitin and PlagScan.  To be effective, anti-plagiarism must have access to a vast and growing resource library.  Preferably, the software is constantly updating, which is much simpler with web-based software that has many users.  Turnitin actually stores files and compares students’ work to previously submitted writings (Brown et al., 2010).  Brown et al. (2010) point out that this may lead to ethical concerns as Turnitin’s database, which contains students’ intellectual property, could potentially be used to distribute students’ work without their knowledge.  Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) point out that false positives are another problem with anti-plagiarism software such as Turnitin.

I do not mean to suggest there isn’t a place for this type of software.  Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) found it effective catching and preventing plagiarism.  When Turnitin was combined with proper consequences and good education, it was found to drastically decrease incidences of plagiarism for some instructors (Brown et al., 2010).  Anti-plagiarism software and education certainly have their place in preventing plagiarism.  However, I feel that those approaches only address unintentional plagiarism.

Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) offer a different approach to dealing with cheating and plagiarism that really appeals to me.  Dr. Pratt bases his assessments on collaboration and real-world problem solving.  He encourages students to collaborate and use outside sources on quizzes and tests (cheating in most professor’s eyes).  Written assignments are problem-based, shifting the emphasis from reporting the findings of other’s to applying learning to solve the problem (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).

There seems to be a disconnect between what many instructors expect and the rest of the world.   Trip Gabriel (2010) wrote on this subject in the New York Times.  He (Gabriel, 2010) notes:  “It is a disconnect that is growing in the Internet age as concepts of intellectual property, copyright and originality are under assault in the unbridled exchange of online information…”  If we are to address cheating and plagiarism, we must address this disconnect.  Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) seem to offer us a solution.

References

Brown, V., Jordan, R., Rubin, N., & Arome, G. (2010). Strengths and weaknesses of plagiarism detection software. Journal of Literacy and Technology, 11(1/2), 110-131.

Gabriel, T. (2010, August 1).  Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age.  New York Times.  Retrieved October 11, 2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/education/02cheat.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.

Plagiarism Detection (2013).  Wikipedia.  Retrieved October 11, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism_detection.

Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (n.d.).  Plagiarism and Cheating.  Presented for Laureate Education, Inc.  Retrieved October 8, 2013 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/

            portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3466249_1%26url%3D

The Impact of Technology on Distance Learning

The platform you use choose for delivering online instruction is going to be critical to shaping the learning experience of students.  Content management software (system) offers the equivalent to a physical classroom to online learners (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).  Often, the choice of content management system (CMS) is determined by the institution offering the course. Fortunately, there are many great CMS choices available to individuals and institutions.  Several companies even offer free classroom hosting.  My favorite CMS is Canvas by Instructure, a web-based CMS.  Canvas offers both free and paid accounts and will match the needs of their clients.  Moodle, which is an open source CMS, and Coursesites by Blackboard are two other commonly chosen options.  All three offer similar features and are relatively easy to use for both the learners and instructor.

As I noted previously on my blog, discussion forums are the centerpiece of the online classroom and are instrumental in forming online learning communities.  Learning communities in turn help students become invested in learning and help with student retention (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).  One of the keys features to look for when selecting a CMS is ability for students to engage in threaded discussion within the course.  Many content management systems also offer students chat features and other collaboration tools built into the software.  These tools foster a sense of community amongst students and aid learning outcomes (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).  Other common CMS tools are course announcements, assignments, file sharing, embedded multimedia files, grade books, and quizzes.  With so many built-in tools, new instructors may want to focus on learning the essential parts of the CMS first (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).  That doesn’t mean that those are the only technologies available to use with online classes.

There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind when deciding on which technologies to use in an online class.  Although Boettcher and Conrad (2010) note that meeting the needs of learners without overwhelming them is the primary concern in choosing which technologies to use, I would argue that the instructor’s comfort level with each technology might be even more important.  It does not matter how comfortable students are with the technology if the instructor does not know how to use them.  Conversely, a good instructor can build in time for students to learn new technologies.  Conlan, Grabowski, and Smith (2003) point out that the online learning needs to be learner centered.  This means that the technologies used must be user friendly to everyone in the class.  This is a big reason why Canvas is my favorite CMS.  Canvas is full featured yet simple to set up and to use.

So, what other technologies might merit inclusion in an online course?  Messaging systems with push technology, which update automatically, are great for keeping everyone updated on course events (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).   Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, and email all appear on our devices automatically.  I am old and am still stuck on text messaging.  However, I recently collaborated on a project using Facebook and can see the why many people are choosing it.  The near instantaneous nature of message exchanges and ease with which groups can be formed make collaboration easy for Facebook users.  To me there are no one size fits all choices here.  To ensure that every learner has their needs met multiple approaches should be used.  One is way to do this is to simply create the message in a document, then copy it to various platforms.  Plain old fashion phone calls are another tool instructors and students should consider using when the need for quick and clear communication arises.  These technologies cover the basic needs of an online course more than adequately (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

Group projects may require additional collaboration tools beyond those discussed already.  Real-chat offers multiple students the opportunity for rapid exchange of ideas and scripts can be recorded and shared with those who were unable to attend the chat session, as suggested by Boettcher and Conrad (2010).  Wikis and Google Docs offer students the ability to collaborate on documents online.  Skype and other services allow class participants to videoconference.  Prezi allows users collaborate and share presentations online.  I anticipate that YouTube Channels, which can host and distribute video presentations, will be increasingly used in online learning.

In this brief overview I have touched on a plethora of online technologies that can be used in online learning.  I am a big believer in sticking to the bare essentials when using technology in teaching.  Simple is better.  Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) agree with me on this point.  They advise instructors to only include the technologies that make sense and increase learning outcomes (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).  Although many of us enjoy great broadband Internet access, some parts of the country and many parts of the world still rely on dial-up.  Mobile technology is rapidly becoming the most popular way for students to access online learning (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).  Instructional designers and online instructors must be mindful that technology not become a barrier to learning.  The technology selected must be simple to use for both the instructors and learners and must foster the creation of an online community.  Of course the technology chosen should meet the learners at their level.  If chosen carefully, it can also engage and motivate the learner.

Thanks for reading.  Please share your feedback.

Marc

References

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on earning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Adult_Learning.

Canvas by Instructure.  Retrieved October 3, 2013 from http://www.instructure.com.

Coursesites by BlackBoard.  Retrieved October 3, 2013 from www.coursesites.com.

  1. Retrieved October 3, 2013 from https://moodle.org.

Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (n.d.).  Enhancing the Online Experience.  Presented for Laureate Education, Inc.  Retrieved September 30, 2013 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3466249_1%26url%3D.

Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (n.d.).  Launching the Online Experience.  Presented for Laureate Education, Inc.  Retrieved September 30, 2013 from https://class.waldenu.edu/ webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3466249_1%26url%3D.

Essentials in Setting up an Online Course

As both a teacher and a student, I am very much a fan of teachable moments and experiential learning.  Some of my best teaching and learning has occurred this way. A student may ask a tangential question in the classroom that leads to better understanding of the point being discussed and then leads to deeper more meaningful real-life learning.  By simply paying a bit of attention we are continually exposed to learning experiences about the how(s) and why(s) and what(s) of life.  Experiential and curiosity driven learning does not take away from structured classroom experiences, rather those structured experiences deepen our understanding of what we observe, and curiosity in the classroom increases student engagement.  I believe it is our nature as humans to learn this way.

Online learning by its very nature seems to be diametrically opposed to real-world learning.  Students and teachers are often isolated from each other by both time and distance (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  Much of the spontaneity of the face-to-face classrooms simply does not translate to online classrooms.  This does not mean that teachable moments don’t occur.  They are less common, and, therefore, online learning requires more planning.  To compensate for this difference, Boettcher and Conrad (2010) point out that when planning for online classes virtually all of components of the class need to be in place prior to the begin of the course.

Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) note that the first week of a new course is critical in engaging and retaining students in the course.  As I discussed in my last blog post, creating online learning communities is essential for distance learning to be successful. Instructors must carefully plan how to build these communities when setting up their courses.  Many successful courses begin with some form of icebreaker.  Conrad and Donadson (2011) suggest that icebreakers be fun, non-threatening, and help the students and instructor to get to know each other.  This as a big part of the social aspect of the community building process, and it helps ensure that students are engaging in the classroom successfully.

As I noted previously, virtually all of the planning for an online class needs to occur prior to the beginning of the course.  There are many considerations for instructional designers to keep in mind when planning the course beyond the icebreaker activity.  Some of those considerations depend on the instructor’s personality just as they would in a face-to-face classroom.  However, there are some core considerations that are unique to online classes that cannot be overlooked during the planning phase.

The following list of essential planning considerations has been adapted from Boettcher and Conrad (2010).

  1. Technology considerations – What course management system will be used for instruction?  What other technologies will be required for students to successfully complete the course?  Are the resources such as library articles and textbooks available to the students at the start of the class?
  2. Syllabus – An online syllabus needs to be even clearer and more informative than for a face-to-face class (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).  It should provide students with a clear guide to every aspect of the course.
  3. Clear expectations – Since online classes do not have mechanisms to allow for immediate feedback when students are unclear of expectations on assignments, it is critical that those expectations be communicated thoroughly throughout the course.  Grading should also be clear to students at the beginning of the course.  This helps avoid misunderstanding and offers students with a clear guide on how succeed online.
  4. Online classroom etiquette – Clear expectations for how students are expected to interact online should be communicated from the beginning of the course.
  5. Discussion prompts – Discussion prompts should be engaging and require students to demonstrate deeper levels of learning.
  6. Contact information – Students need to know how and at what times to contact the instructor for course related questions.  It is also very helpful if students have access to resources for non-course related questions such as technology issues, library access, and academic advising.

– Adapted from Boettcher and Conrad (2010).

This is a very minimal list of topics that must be included when planning.  Yet, planning is not complete without addressing each item on the list.  I would add that it is important that the entire course structure be largely complete and in place by the time that students log in for the first time.  I do not consider 100% completion essential.  Some of you will disagree with this.  I do believe it is important to remember that adult students require flexibility in time and scheduling.  They need to understand what demands face them during the course so they work ahead when they need to.  In order to allow for this flexibility, components of the course must be in place at least in place three to four weeks into the future.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have a special interest in instructional technology.  I worked for five years as a school level technology coordinator.  One of the most common mistakes I saw people make when using instructional technology was not thoroughly testing it prior to implementation.  One of my least favorite things to hear was:  “It worked on my computer last night.”  These statements always seemed to happen about 5 minutes before the class was supposed to start.  From my experience, online classes work best when they only include those technologies that enhance learning.  Instructional designers and instructors must test all components of their class on multiple platforms prior to implementation.

Instructors and instructional designers must keep in mind that software is often browser and/or operating software specific.  That might be fine when you are presenting using your own computer and projector.  However, online classes must be accessible to students using a wide variety of browsers and devices.  Mobile devices are increasingly being used to access online classes.  About 98% of my own students access the online component of my classes using mobile devices.  The content management system used for online classes should be compatible with the widest variety of classes possible.  For example, neither Android nor iOS devices run Flash video.

Finally, many students come to online learning with little background in technology.  Just as the lack of connection to other students can lead to student attrition (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.), frustrations with the course technology can lead students to drop out (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  Instructors do not have to have all the answers to student’s technology issues (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).  However they should have a good basic understanding of all the course components.  More importantly they must know where to direct students for help when they are unable to assist any further.

Boettcher and Conrad (2010) note that online classes can require more work on the front end.  However, once all the components are in place the instructor can focus on student learning rather than on planning the next lecture.

Thanks,

Marc

References

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (n.d.).  Launching the Online Experience.  Presented for Laureate Education, Inc.  Retrieved September 17, 2013 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/

portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3466249_1%26url%3D.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Building online learning communities

Shana Tova!  Glad you could make it to my blog. Today’s blog is about online learning communities.

Engaging learners in instruction is not a new teaching strategy (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).  Student engagement is necessary to maximize learning.  The question is how do course designers and instructors engage students in an online environment.  While online learning offers many benefits such as flexibility in scheduling learning and reduced travel cost, online learning also presents new challenges for course designers, instructors, and students.  Instructors and students experience an increase in workload due to the additional effort required to communicate at a distance (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  The other major issue is a sense of isolation that many online learners and instructor feel (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.) when they first enter an online learning environment.  Creating learning communities can significantly reduce the sense of isolation and engage students in the learning process (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).

Learning communities increase student satisfaction and learning outcomes, while also decreasing attrition rates (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).  Planning is required to create online communities.  In a sense, online learning communities are like any other community.  The members of the community must get to know each other by interacting with one another to establish a sense of community.  Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) recommend several strategies for creating a sense community, including asking everyone to create a brief bio.  The course should be designed to provide and warm and supportive environment (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).  Conrad and Donaldson (2011) note that the instructor’s role during the first couple of weeks is to serve as a social negotiator.  It is critical that the instructor is present during the first couple of weeks.  Instructors should reach out to students to welcome them to the course during this period.  Ground rules and expectations for the course should be established  and modeled at the beginning of the course (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).  Dr. Pratt points out that students may experience many struggles during this period, including learning to navigate the online classroom and finding access to learning resources (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).  It is essential that students feel supported in their online learning endeavors, if we are expecting them to persevere.

If creating a sense of connectedness through thru social presence is essential to beginning a learning community, then keeping students engaged is the key to sustaining the learning community.  How students are kept engaged varies with the type of learning community.  In a straight forward course with pre-specified learning outcomes, such as a corporate training or college course, regular (weekly) student participation in online interactive discussions should serve to keep students engaged (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).  If students are supporting each other at this point, the instructor may begin to foster student’s sense of independence.  However, until that point the instructor needs to reach out to support those students who need help.  Less structured learning communities can be sustained by frequently posting interesting articles or fun activities that draw learners into the community on a regular basis.

One frequently overlooked area of online learning communities is technology.  A sense of belonging and interest in the community can overcome many hurdles.  However, even the most persistent students will give up if the technology hurdles become too great.  Courses must be designed to allow students sufficient time to become familiar with the technology and should not include technology that does not directly promote learning (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).  The learning management software should be easy to use.  An extensive one to two week orientation can help students become more comfortable with the technologies of the online environment (Palloff & Pratt, n.d.).

Creating and sustaining online learning communities takes planning and engagement.  Once they are established, these communities lead to greater learner satisfaction and increased learning outcomes.  The effort of creating learning communities is not only worth it, but an essential task for online instructors to promote great learning outcomes.

Thanks,

Marc

References

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (n.d.).  Online Communities.  Presented for Laureate Education, Inc.  Retrieved September 1, 2013 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/

portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3466249_1%26url%3D.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Analyzing Scope Creep

A few years back I was asked if would be interested in leaving the classroom for one school year to become Technology Coordinator for the year.   The Technology Coordinator at that time had been asked to administer a new teacher grant for a year, and I was going to fill in for her while she administered the grant.  Six years later I returned to the classroom full-time when our school lost three staff due to budget cuts.  Scope creep is the bane of project manager’s existence.  Stolovich (n.d.) notes that all projects experience scope creep.   My project year started off with me teaching two classes and coordinating the technology needs of our school in the remaining time.  Before the end of the first semester, my principal decided I was overscheduled and cut my teaching load to one class for the second semester.  As the year started coming to a close I was looking forward to returning to the classroom.

In a situation that is not unusual for projects (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008) a staff change occurred, as the previous Technology Coordinator was asked to administer the new teacher grant for a second year.  The grant was not renewed for the third year.  However, by this time the previous Technology Coordinator transferred to another school.  Meanwhile, I remained as Technology Coordinator and was given every technology project in the school.  When it got to the point that I was no longer able to take a ten-minute lunch break, I finally had to explain to my boss that other tasks that I was assigned to were going to suffer when he would bring new projects to me.   Stolovich (n.d.) notes that individuals need to be informed of the potential consequences of scope change.  Budrovich (n.d.) notes that it is the project manager’s responsibility to prioritize tasks in a situation like this.  Dr. Van Rekom (n.d.) states:  “Saying no is a part of the project managers responsibilities.”

The five years I spent as Technology Coordinator turned out to be a tremendous learning opportunity for me.  When I first assumed the position I was readily available to school staff to help them with their technology problems.  As I was given additional projects such as monitoring students during their lunches in the cafeteria, conflicts began to arise between requests by staff for assistance and other obligations.  This was especially true for larger scale projects.  Stolovich (n.d.) notes that when internal personnel become insistent about change of scope request project managers should ask them for a written description of the proposed change.  There were a couple of teachers who consistently came to me with fanciful and extremely urgent requests.  In an ideal world we would have been able to implement their visions.  However, I eventually resorted to politely requesting written requests as Stolovich (n.d.) suggests.  This had a very interesting impact.  Their requests turned out to be much less urgent than their verbal communications had suggested.  As a matter of fact none of their requests ever made it to me in writing.  Of course any change of scope request from clients should be documented in a change of scope document, which outlines the request, and the potential impact of the change on the project (Stolovich, n.d.).  As with all of project management, communication is the key to success.

I would like to share two more points that I learned during my time as Technology Coordinator.  Budrovich (n.d.) points out that great can quickly become the enemy of the good.  I learned this lesson very quickly when our school system decided to implement a picture ID Card program for all of the district’s students.  Again, I was in charge of this project at the school level.  The first mandate was photographing all students.  This was needed before the IDs could be printed.  As I struggled to be great, I learned that every day a small percentage of students miss school.  Most of them are only out for one or two days.  However, some students miss large amounts of school due to illness or suspension.  To deal with this problem, I created a schedule that allowed me to photograph the vast majority of students within a couple of days.  I would then submit those photographs.  As the first set of ID cards were being printed, I would take pictures of the remaining students and submit a second request.  My school was among the first to receive the printed IDs.  Had I waited to be great, there would have been great delays to implementation of the program.  I was able to adjust to the demands of the situation, because I consistently monitored the status of the project as recommended by Portny et al. (2008)

Thanks,

Marc

 

References

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.

Stolovich, H. (n.d).  Monitoring Projects.  Presented for Laureate Education, Inc.  Retrieved April 10, 2013, from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps            /portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2652514_1%26url%3D.

Van Rekom, Achong, T., & Budrovich (n.d.).  Practitioner Voices:  Overcoming “Scope Creep”.  Presented for Laureate Education, Inc.  Retrieved March 10, 2013, from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?            tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2652514_1%26url%3D.