Thursday, January 20, 2011

Communicating Effectively

My assignment today is to blog about how I perceive a short message when it is delivered in an email versus over the phone and in person. The message states that a report is missing and that data from that report is needed. It requests an estimate about when the report can be ready, or more specifically, when the data that was to have been in the report could be provided. (“Communicating with stakeholders”)
Possibly because I have a minor learning disability, I did not perceive a difference in the message when it was delivered in different ways. I prefer email over the other forms of communication in this exercise, because I can get a general idea of the message at a glance, and I can re-read the details as needed for precision. I generally read everything this way, summarizing and outlining material on first glance, then going back for detail, the second time skimming over some paragraphs while focusing intently on others. I also prefer email because it presents the least interruption if I am in the midst of a project. Emails are often easier to handle quickly.
The voice mail example was my least favorite vehicle of delivery because I generally have to listen to voice mails repeatedly to catch all the details. Depending on the voice mail system, they can be tedious to use. Gathering the details from a voice mail can require replaying the message several times. I prefer a message I can interact with, like an email or a live person.
The last vehicle of delivery in the assignment was person-to-person. I have mixed feelings about person-to-person communication. One-on-one communication is effective for me, but I find formal meetings distracting and inefficient. If I need information from a meeting, I usually have to take additional time reviewing meeting notes and researching gaps in the notes to get the complete information I need.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

As a means to learning “best practices” on future projects, I have been assigned to write a project post-mortem about a personal or professional project that was not successful. (“Defining the scope of the project: Blog assignment”)
I decided to write about an instructional design project that I have discussed previously in this blog. The project actually went quite well, but it definitely had its rough spots. The need for the project became apparent when I decided to try using Facebook as a tool to give ESL students experience using English. The attempt to use Facebook failed because the students lacked the basic skills to use a computer. I created a seminar to teach basic computer skills to adult ESL students, with a focus on using computers for social networking. (Lloyd, 2010)
In his eBook “The Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects,” (Greer, 2010) Michael Greer suggests conducting a project “post mortem” involving asking of team members to find out their opinions of the success of the project, and brining respondents together for a “lessons learned” meeting. Greer suggests general questions that are appropriate for a post mortem, and then suggests “phase-specific questions.” 
Below are my answers to some of Greer’s questions related to the seminar I created for my students:
The single most frustrating aspect of the project was the amount of material I wanted to cover, versus the time that was allowed to cover that material. In the future, I would plan a series of at least three seminars to cover the material I attempted to cover in one evening. However, the primary objective of giving students the confidence to continue to learn to use a computer was clearly achieved. Students who had never used computers previously, expressed the intent to purchase computers and to continue learning to use them on their own. The “hands on” activities that were planned to give students immediate experience using a computer worked well. Students who attended the seminar left with new skills that will benefit them for life. The discussion portion of the seminar was difficult to evaluate because discussions happened in Spanish, and I do not speak Spanish. The interpreter participated in the discussions and concluded the discussions by interpreting summary comments.
The planning of needs and feasibility tended to err on the side of providing too much material for a one-session seminar, however the material that was planned was necessary in order to accomplish the goals of the seminar. The only change I could recommend for the seminar would be to allow for more sessions in order to cover all of the material. I would not change the seminar content.
Original estimates of the time required to accomplish project goals were not realistic. The focus on physical skills effectively overcame much of the potential communication difficulty of an English-speaking teacher working with Spanish-speaking students. Materials were effectively translated, and although the language barrier hindered classroom discussion, the social learning aspects of the plan worked effectively with the use of a translator.
The time estimate was off because the educational diversity of participating students, and the effect of that diversity on the flow of classroom activities was not anticipated. Testing and timing of classroom activities was done with students who understood instructions, and were already familiar with using a computer. None of the actual students had ever used a computer. Some of the adult students had less than three years of education in their own language, while other students had some college-level training. More focus on knowing the students would have enabled more accurate planning of time required to complete the seminar.
Greer, M. (2010). The Project management minimalist: Juest enough PM to rock your projects (Laureate Education Ed ed.). id=636
Lloyd, David. (2010, June 26). Reflection on EIDT-6110 Advanced Instructional Design [Web log post]. Retrieved from