Sunday, September 11, 2016

A flop from the past...

A flop from the past…

Looking back into the past can be difficult sometimes.  I have very little experience as an official Instructional Designer or as a Project Manager.  But, I do have experience as a teacher creating lessons on a daily basis for an elementary school classroom.  When asked to think of a project that wasn’t successful, it made me think of a project that I tried to complete when I was working in an online school teacher English Language Arts to Kindergarten through 6th grade students.  This was a difficult year to begin with.  This was my first teaching job outside of my student teaching and had only been a student in the distance learning environment.  During the first quarter, our school saw the importance of communicating with the families from a distance.  Up until that point, we were trying to just communicate with the families via email and telephone.  This was in 2009 and Skype had just been introduced the year before.  As a staff, we wanted to be able to have access to this technology to be able to communicate with the students and families on a daily basis.  Our principal wanted to speak with the district to get approval for using this new Skype technology for communication.  Looking back on this project, there were some things we did well as a staff and some things that we failed on to make the project unsuccessful.
Well, let’s start out with what we did well as a staff during the project.  From the beginning, our principal was well organized and had a team of three of us to present this idea to our district.  The team consisted of our principal and three teachers.  I was one of the teachers and the other two were the math elementary teacher and a middle school math teacher.  Together, we put together the proposal for the district to allow skype usage for our school.  We presented to the district the importance of communication to our families while teaching in a distance learning format.  The presentation was well organized and made it clear how important it was to communicate when we had no face-to-face contact with the students.  In the presentation, we also focused on making connections with the students to motivate them to work from a distance.  As a team, we also worked well together and never really had any arguments during the project.  The project came together cleanly and was well rehearsed for the presentation to the district higher ups. 
Looking back on the project now, I can see where we dropped the ball as a team as well.  First of all, we forgot to discuss the technological side of using this new technology.  We didn’t present an idea to the district about what technology would be needed for each staff member.  We didn’t mention that each staff member would need a webcam, microphone and program licensure to use on our computers.  This was a huge mistake because it showed that we didn’t look into what it would take to use the program on a daily basis.  We were so focused on just getting the program to assist in our communication that we failed to see the technical side of the implementation.  We also didn’t speak to the district about what each student would need to have on their side of the communication to be able to Skype with their instructors.  The students would also need a webcam, microphone and licensure.  The biggest mistake we made as a team was that we neglected to think about the security it would take to run this program on computers in the schools network.  Speaking with IT of the district prior to the meeting would have helped us speak of security during the presentation.  After our presentation, one of the people asked about security and how we would make sure our network stayed secure while using Skype.  None of us, not even our principal had an answer for this question.  This was detrimental to our project.  This made it very clear to the district that our staff wanted to use the program, but didn’t do our homework to make it a reality. 
Now I can see how important it would have been to have a subject matter expert on the team to help us with the technology side of the presentation.  A technology expert could have given us the logistical information that we were lacking in our original presentation.  They would have also been able to discuss with us and the district committee about the security issues that Skype could bring to our network.  We assumed as a staff that we could just convince our district to allow us to use it for its teaching impact.  The subject matter expert could have helped us succeed in the project.  In hindsight, we were doomed from the start by not putting our egos aside and bringing in someone who could help use with the technology part of the project.  Now I can see how important it is to make sure we have everyone we need on the team to ensure we are covering all of the bases.  Technology is a big part of these projects in education and having someone involved with technology expertise will help be more successful in the future. 


  1. Hi Andrew,
    Your skype proposal is a great example of how to review a post-mortem project. Just out of my own curiosity, how did the actual proposal go? What was the reaction of the District? Did the plan get implemented, or did the technical requirements put a stop to it? What was the process of funding or how did the implementation get funded?
    It seems to me that an approval process would have to be in place in order for the project to move forward. The district would be the client in this case and it looks like the principal could be the project champion.
    I like your solution to the post-mortem of using a SME to figure out the technical specification that skype needed in order to get the project in place. The proposal for your skype initiative could have used a Project Charter and Statement of Work. The SOW or project charter need approval. According to The Project Management Minimalist :
    “If you can’t get your Charter formally approved , the you should abandon your project – Plain and simple”(Greer, 2010).
    Sounds like a great learning experience. It seems in my day-to-day workings, I always have to fail at something before I get it right. Learn by doing.
    Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

  2. Andrew,
    My post is a series of questions to consider.
    1) Now knowing what you know, needing an IT person on the team, how would you revamp your presentation to meet today's technology?
    2) Would your IT person be the one on campus or for the district or both?
    3) Is this a project that is still needed?
    4) With the technology being more inexpensive now than 7 years ago, is this now a manageable project?
    5) Why would there be a need for a license for Skype? Why not just use the personal copy?
    6) Did you consider talking with Skype, seeing that it was just a year old, to see if they would be willing to sponsor at least your school so a license wouldn't be needed?

    I don't believe that your team let their egos get in the way. I believe that your brainstorming, with additional people, just didn't uncover this issue.

    Nice Post-Motem. Thanks for sharing!