Learning from a Project “Post-Mortem”

DSC_0309-2 (104x150) In my professional life I work as an instructional designer and often am required to manage projects which I am a part of as well. When I work as a project manager I typically am pretty successful. However, when I set out to plan my partner’s, Phyllis, and my first baby shower I should have approached the task more as a project manager and less like only a member of the project team.

As a first time parent, there were a number of people who had volunteered to be a part of the planning and throwing of the baby shower. The decision was originally made that my sister-in-law, my best friend and Phyllis’s best friend would work together to plan and throw the shower. We communicated with each of them and shared their contact information among them. We were told that we should step back and allow them to plan the party and just show up and enjoy the fun and festivities. But, when it came to less than a month before the shower should happen we began to get nervous and started asking some questions. It seemed that no one had communicated among the three of them. Two of them, separately had been looking into locations for the shower at completely different locations and types of facilities. Though the idea of being able to step back and let the team do the work seems wonderful, in this case, it was a disaster!

The outcome of the way this project was managed was that one shower became two and my sister-in-law ended up not only not planning the shower but not even attending. The two showers were planned and thrown by two people who were not one of the three original contributors and those who were original chosen became attendees who provided some of the food and/or decorations. The locations of the showers ended up being at the houses of the friends who threw the showers which had a good deal to do with the decision to have two showers due to the amount of space available at the houses. And the friends who volunteered to let us use their houses really took over most of the responsibility of the planning and throwing of the shower. Phyllis and I chose the dates and sent out the invitations as well as purchased the decorations and game prizes ourselves.

If I would have come at the planning of the shower as a project manager, still working as only a manager of the team, but allowing the team to do the work of the overall project I believe it could have been much more effective and would have avoided the drama and stress that resulted from the lack of communication and organization. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008) explain that successfully launching a project requires that “everyone associated with the project must understand the roles and responsibilities of project teams and stakeholders (p. 76). This just simply was not true with this project.

Greer (2010) says that “you need to meet with all of your stakeholders and conduct a brainstorming session in order to document, in “high resolution,” everything you are going to be building” (p. 13). We should have taken the time to meet with everyone at the beginning of the project and discussed what each person would be responsible for completing and how they would communicate with each other and with us. Also, timeframes should have been made much clearer from the beginning. The reason Phyllis and I took the reins and ended up doing a lot of the work is because we didn’t feel things were happening in an appropriate timeframe. Since we did not communicate our expectation of timeframe from the beginning no one had a deadline to hold them to and thus things did not get done.

Communicating expectations from the beginning both the role and responsibilities and timeframe would have made all the difference with this baby shower being planned more quickly and effectively. In the end we had two wonderful showers. However, not only was there a lot of stress, but relationships were strained from the lack of management of the project. This was a project that needed to be managed but unfortunately I didn’t approach it in that way. I will definitely look at it differently if ever I am faced with a “project” such as this one again in the future.

References:

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.

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Fitting the Pieces Together

“There is nothing so practical as a good theory, but a theory without the opportunity for real-life implementation will soon fade away” (Blythe & Gardner, 1990). As I am coming to the end of my course on learning theories instruction at Walden University, I read this quote with different eyes than I might have when I first started. Theory has always been a word that left me with little to no emotion or excitement. However, as I studied learning theory over the past month and a half, I have actually found myself excited at the prospect of, not just studying theory, but having the opportunity to implement it in real life.

When I first began this course and was asked which theories were most in line with how I learn, I pointed to the cognitive and constructivist theories. In the seven weeks since that time, after studying multiple learning theories, I would still agree that I learn through a cognitive and constructivist view. However, I would also have to include a connectivist and adult learning theory approaches.

I connect with the cognitivist theory as I believe that, for myself, it is extremely important to understand how I am learning just as much as what I am learning. Using metacognitive strategies is something I do regularly to check my comprehension of information. Before this course I did not have a name or definition for what I was doing, but this is something that I now understand as not just a concept that helps me to learn better, but one that needs to be brought to light with the learners I work with to help them to be more effective in their learning as well. Bransford and Donovan (2005) gave three principles of learning that are particularly important for teachers to understand and be able to incorporate in their teaching, the third of these three principles is that “a metacognitive approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them.” (p.2) This is true for me and for the learners I work with, and thus I believe the cognitive theory is in line with the way I learn best.

The constructivist theory is one that I connected with immediately when reading and learning about its basis. I think this stems from the fact that I grew up in an environment that required me to learn to do things on my own. My parents worked hard and were not always there to guide me in my learning. This meant I was constantly learning from watching others and applying what I observed. The social constructivist theory specifically stood out as how I have learned many skills in my personal life. I also described in my original post for this course that the constructivist theory is the theory that best describes my learning of instructional design before entering the Master’s program. I learned from observation of others and observation of design. I was put into the environment and learned by doing the work. Through this observation and practice I developed my understanding and beliefs about the field.

In adding to my original post, I would also include the connectivist theory approach as being in line with the way I learn best. This learning “theory for the digital age, where individuals learn and work in a networked environment” (Anderson, 2008) is one that makes sense in my world. As an instructional designer that has worked in a building where I am the only person doing what I do, the only way to learn is to connect to the network of instructional designers and information on the internet and social networking. I learn so much about the new trends and information of instructional design through these avenues, and now through my courses at Walden. I have a network of other students that I discuss the issues of the current world of instructional design on a weekly basis. This theory, though it has a lot of push back, holds validity in how I learn. And I think it also must be considered with the current generation of students that we work with as well.

And the final learning theory I want to speak of my connection with is the adult learning theory. Not only because I am an adult, but because of the basic principles of the theory, I think this is one that falls in line with the way I learn. I am a self-directed learner who wants to be involved in the planning and evaluation of my learning. I need to be able to apply what I am learning in my life and learn from my experiences with that application. I prefer to learn through a problem-centered learning environment rather than a content-oriented one. (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith, 2002) I also find that in being an instructional designer in the corporate world that these principles are key to being successful in my day-to-day work.

Lastly, I want to touch on how technology plays a role in my learning. On a daily basis, I probably use a search engine of some type, Google, Bing, etc., an average of 3-5 times a day. When I am looking for a new way to put people into groups, a new format to develop a lesson, or a new animation action in Power Point, I go to the internet. I have an iPhone and apps that help me to know the weather, my class grades, and keep up with my favorite internet sites. There is no end to the use of technology in my learning. When I think back to how learning occurred only 5 years ago, it is amazing the changes! With my knowledge of learning theories and the access to technology to aid in my continuous improvement, I hope to be able to always stay abreast of the latest trends and be the best that I can be in my field.

References:

Anderson, T. (2008) The theory and practice of online learning (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: AU Press

Blythe, T. & Gardner, H. (1990) A school for all intelligences. Educational Leadership.47(7), 33-37

Bransford, J. D. & Donovan, S. M., (2005). How students learn: History in the classroom. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.11100.html

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

My Learning Networks

“Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.” (Siemens, 2004)

In reading about connectivism I find myself fascinated with how it describes the clear process that so many people take now when there is something they want to learn. In every day conversations, when a question arises that no one knows the answer to, inevitably someone will say, “Google it!” This is the world we now live in.

The assignment this week in my Learning Theories and Instruction course at Walden University was to create a mind map of my network connections. Basically, break down how you learn and from what nodes I gain knowledge. I tackled this assignment from the same aspect that I typically attach writing my goals on an annual basis; I looked at the same areas of life as I set my goals: career, education, health, social, financial and emotional/spiritual. In looking at each of the areas I then started asking myself, how do I learn and grow in my ability to meet me goals in these areas. The resulting mind map can be seen in this post.

As I created the mind map, and thought about how technology has changed the way I learn, I see how even in the past few months through my courses at Walden University, I have become more equipped to learn in a vast, ever-changing world. I have been in the ID field for the past 5 years, and I have learned more in the past 4 months than in the rest of this time. Why? Because I have been introduced to the world of connectivism through blogs, online journals, and other technological resources, like mind maps, that have changed the way I look at how I learn. I would say that I have found the use of blogs and conversations with other ID professionals, even through the posts in my courses, the most beneficial. Learning from others and their experiences and having constructive conversation around the topics that are affecting my career and education has allowed me to grow in both my knowledge level and skills needed to be the best I can be at what I do.

As I look at my personal learning network through my mind map, I have to agree that connectivism is a part of the learning scene now and that cannot be denied. One of the principles of connectivism is that “learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions” (Davis, Edmunds, & Bateman, 2008). I can see this in my mind map as I notice that I learn so much from others. I believe that having my opinion is important but when I hear from others through a variety of resources, their opinions are able to affect my own and sometime change them completely. Another principle is that “learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources” (Davis, Edmunds, & Bateman, 2008). My mind map is pretty extensive and clearly shows this principle of many nodes or information sources being used to learn.

The clearest principle I am able to see by looking at my mind map of my personal learning network is that “nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning” (Davis, Edmunds, & Bateman, 2008). If I did not have the connections that I have, my learning would not be able to grow as effectively as it would with them.  The truth of the matter is that in this day and age, “the span of time between learning something new, being able to apply it, and finding that it is outdated and no longer useful continues to decrease” (Davis, Edmunds, & Bateman, 2008). So, not nurturing and maintaining connections would mean losing out on the new and improved ways of thinking and doing things. We must always be thinking and improving as instructional designers. Connectivism seems to give a clear picture of how we can do this.

References:

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Connectivism

Siemens, G. (2004, December) Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace, everything elearning. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Hello World!

Writing the first post is harder than any other I would imagine. I feel the pressure to make it interesting and entertaining since that is what I promise in my introduction of myself. I sure hope I can deliver. 🙂

I am starting this blog as an assignment for a class I am taking at Walden University where I am pursuing my Masters Degree in Instructional Design and Technology. I have always wanted to start a blog, and this is great motivation to do so! That being said, my posts here will sometimes be school assignments pertaining directly to my field of instructional design and technology. I love the work that I do and hope that I may be able to offer up some experience, knowledge, or just my two cents and that it might be helpful, or at least entertaining, to those who may come across it.

So, welcome to my page. I am glad you have come to share this journey with me! I sure hope its a wild ride!