Sunday, February 12, 2012

Scope Creep

There are many times in my professional life when scope creep has occurred, thankfully I have not been in the capacity of an instructional designer or even the project manager.  I can recall one "team effort" in which we were supposed to create a professional learning community for our grade level teams in our school environment.  Our expected output was supposed to be a product that would be useful to our colleagues.  In any educational setting, you will find lots of buzzwords, and concepts of the moment.  "Best practices" happened to be one of those buzzwords at the time, and we decided to determine the best practices for increasing attendance in the virtual environment, as well as increasing the participation level of the students within that environment.  Not surprisingly, this rapidly got out of control!  We ended up taking out the "best practices" terminology, narrowing our subject mater to increasing and keeping attendance.  As we began working on this, data was required, and our data was leading us in all sorts of different directions.  It was snowballing, so we had to rein it in quickly.  We could have saved ourselves quite a bit of trouble if we had simply followed the advice of Shelly Doll "Break the approved deliverables into actual work requirements" (Doll, 2001).  If we had kept our focus on the actual deliverables, and actually delegated our product in parts to different members of the team, we would have avoided an awful lot of project creep issues. 


Doll, S. (2001).  Seven steps for avoiding scope creep.  Retrieved from on February 12, 2012.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Resource Allocation
This website is fantastic, giving lots of good advice on allocating resources and common pitfalls.
This website gives you quite a few steps to resolve resource allocation problems.'
This is a fantastic resource that gives a bunch of resources to help in the asset allocation process.

It's fascinating to see all the different resources available online to learn more about allocating resources and problems with that. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Communicating Effectively

Amazing how the same piece of information changes drastically in the way it is perceived through different modalities, isn't it?  When someone gets a message via email or text, it lacks a personal touch.  The reader is unable to gauge tone, intent, or emotion because the mode of communication is simply flat.  The phone, and leaving a voicemail, is a little bit better because your tone of voice can convey a certain amount of your emotion and tone.  However, depending upon the person's mood, the voicemail may be perceived as quite different in tone than you intend it to.  The best way to communicate whenever possible is face to face conversation.  When the recipient can see your facial expressions, matching them with your tone of voice and the information being delivered, the true intent and tone come through.  Obviously, the best way to communicate is face to face, that way your true intent can be read.  This would also be the way to communicate to your team members as a project manager, that way your true intent is apparent as well as making a personal connection with your team members.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 whole life is a project

In thinking back about the projects I have been a part of in my career, I can think of many projects.  The harder part is finding one that was not successful!  I tend to be a bit of a bulldog about things, and will keep plugging away, fighting until the bitter end to succeed.  That's part of what makes me a really good teacher.  That's probably also what would make me a terrible project manager.  I tend to work fast and hard, doing my project to the exclusion of all else.  That certainly is not going to work if I take a position as project manager. 

Okay, projects that weren't successful...I can't think of many.  There was the ill fated portable word wall project, so I shall focus on that.  I had done some research about the use of world walls in elementary classrooms.  Lacking some space, the idea of portable word walls certainly caught my eye.  I spoke to several of my colleagues about it, and we all agreed that in theory it was a great idea.  However, none of us were very experienced teachers, and some of the finer points of word wall use eluded us.  Particularly since the district we taught in was so hyper-focused on the buzzword of the year and we had tons of activities based on that which we were expected to attend and use in our classrooms.  There should probably be a serious course in time management and creative ways to fit in all of the foolish whims of a school district when we are trained as teachers, but I digress.  We planned (in theory) how these were going to work, decided upon a fairly common thread, prepared various materials (spent hours on that in fact), and figured out how we were going to introduce these to our classes.  It started out great!  The kids were excited to have their own portable stations to record interesting words to share with the class, the stations were working wonderfully, everything seemed to be going according to plan.  That worked for a couple of weeks, and we all found ourselves having too much on our plates to spend the countless hours preparing the materials for the word walls, too much "school stuff" intruded upon our use of these great tools, and they all sort of fell by the wayside. 

In retrospect, we obviously didn't plan ahead very well, and should have considered the time it took to make the initial materials when deciding to go into this project.  We didn't budget our time very well, or do nearly enough research to discover how other teachers used these tools in their classrooms.  We certainly should have assigned someone (or at the very least taken turns) to create the materials having to do with the lessons of the week, and even planning the materials we were going to need based on the week's lessons would have been a job better served by having some one person in charge of it.  We didn't realize all of this when we jumped into the project, and without direction the project soon failed.  From a project manager's point of view, so many of these pitfalls could have been avoided just by some more careful planning, and following the ADDIE process in developing the project to its fruition. 

I haven't taken on any more major projects lately, well, except for the study skills class I am currently offering to my online students.  However, I have years worth of background in this subject, and a ton of resources at my fingertips.  Not only that, I am also the only teacher on my "team", so I can take on whatever role suits my needs!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Annotated resource list
This website gives some extremely useful advice for maximizing your distance learning experience.
This website provides links to help you as a distance learner to find resources to make your distance learning experience a positive one.
This blog gives an ongoing list of good ideas to help make the distance learning experience effective and useful.
This website sees things from your own perspective as a distance learner and gives valuable information to assist you in making the experience worth your while.
This website seeks to help you maximize your study skills to get the most effectiveness out of the least effort. It is well written and easy to read.
This particular website seeks to give you practical advice to make the distance learning experience as easy to understand and efficient as possible.
Four super easy and practical tips to make sure the distance learning environment can be successful for you.
Valuable resource for all aspects of distance learning.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Virtual Tours

Interactive Tours

"Example 2: Interactive Tours

A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a "tour" of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?"

This scenario caught my eye because I have seen firsthand the excitement this type of interactive tool can create. In the school I currently teach at, the history and art students get those very opportunities within the scope of their coursework, even as elementary students! The ultimate goal is of course “student-centered learning, because it strongly promotes active learning, collaboration, mastery of course material, and student control over the learning process” (Simonson et al., 2009, p. 231). What better way than to allow students to experience (albeit virtually) the wonders of a venue that is nowhere near where they are located physically? I watched as my own son was introduced to the virtual tour of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History as part of his fossil unit. He not only got to experience the fossil portion, but the entire museum. What a wonderful experience! Using this tool, a visitor can experience some of the key exhibits, use an interactive map of the museum, and explore areas that they might previously not have considered.

Another fabulous virtual tour site for students is that of the American Museum of Natural History, specifically the butterfly exhibit. This tour allows for identification of various butterfly species, exploration of a butterfly garden, and even a butterfly cam to allow the students to see through the eyes of a butterfly!

Both sites have sections for further educational value, and provide amazing insight into the behind the scenes aspects of these wonderful museums.


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

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Located at

American Museum of Natural History. Located at

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Defining Distance Learning

Defining Distance Learning

I have used the distance learning mode of education for a number of years now. I have watched the definition of distance learning evolve and change, adapting to changes in technology and our culture. Distance learning used to mean mailing the assignments completed on paper to an instructor in another city or state. Slowly it has evolved to the point where we can now interact with people in different time zones and different parts of the world instantaneously. In fact, according to the resources this week, “distance education is one of the most dramatic of the recent technology-based innovations influencing education.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2011).

I began using the distance learning model when my son was only a year old. My husband of ten years had just been killed in a car accident, and I found myself behind the times in the job market. I set out to increase my marketability, and the only feasible way to do that at that time was using the distance learning model. I began attending Walden University at that time, and set about earning my first Master's degree. Once that was completed, I found myself hooked and began a second Master's degree program. The tools I have gained through this mode of learning have proven invaluable in my own brick and mortar teaching environment.

Several years passed and suddenly I was faced with my own child needing this environment in order to continue his education. He was diagnosed with some special needs and it became evident that the regular brick and mortar model was no longer going to work for him. I moved him into the virtual environment and have not regretted it for a single moment. He has blossomed and will truly be better prepared for furthering his education when he completes his schooling! I saw what a difference this made for him, so I set about moving myself into employment in this environment as well. Hence, this degree. I decided that getting this degree and understanding of how the whole distance learning concept worked from start to finish would help me get the job I had now set my sights on. I was right! I got my job this year, and was able to leave the brick and mortar environment behind forever. My son and I enjoy working "together" daily and the education I get to provide and he gets to master is phenomenal.

As schools run into more and more funding difficulties, and class sizes grow exponentially larger, the distance learning model is growing into a more and more popular choice for children as young as kindergarten. As more of these programs are offered, the competition aspect becomes more prevalent. The race is on to be the one that offers the largest choice, most dynamic curriculum, and the broadest scope available. The company I teach for is a national company, with schools in a growing number of states. It's amazing to see the options available to our students and I am constantly astounded at the quality of the education our students receive.

Like any other school, particularly one so dependent on technology, our school is constantly adapting and evolving to meet the ever changing needs. Our text said "the day is coming when the work done by correspondence will be greater in amount than that done in the classrooms of our academies and colleges; when the students who shall recite by correspondence will far outnumber those who make oral recitations" (Simonson et al., 2009, p. 37). In my opinion, this day is coming much sooner than anyone could possibly have anticipated!


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

Acces my mind map here: