Project Management for Instructional Designers – Part I

Welcome back! After the last course I had a (very welcome but very brief) break, and now I’m back in the swing of things with a new class. EDU 627 focuses on project management – skills and knowledge in the field, and applying it to our own educational context. Today is the first in a series of four posts where I will share what we’re learning and offer my thoughts and reflections.

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What is a project? A project has three main characteristics:

  • It is temporary – there is a start and end date.
  • A project is undertaken to create a product or service.
  • Aspects of the project “develop incrementally over time” (Cox, 2010).

A note of clarification – there is a difference between projects and operations. While a project might be launched to create a new process or service, say a business developing a new employee directory, the daily functioning of the system falls under operations. The project ends when its objectives are met, then the process is turned over to operations (Cox, 2010).

What does a project manager do? The key word here is manager. The project manager is in charge of defining the problem that creates the need for a project, organizing and motivating a project team, keeping stakeholders up-to-date, assessing and mitigating risks to the project, and adapting to changes along the way (Haughey, 2011).

This video explains more about what happens in the phases of project management. He organizes the phases a little differently, and his language dives into business-speak quite a bit, but it is a good overview of what goes on for a manager during a project.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably have bells ringing in the back of your head. So much terminology in project management overlaps with instructional design (ID). See my ADDIE series posts for more on ID. The responsibilities of the project manager are very similar to those of an instructional designer. Even the steps of project management align with those of ID: definition of goals, objectives, success factors; initiation; planning; execution; monitoring and control; and closure (Haughey, 2011). Dorcas Cox (2010) combined the two processes of project management and ID into her Four Step Combo:

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This idea of the Combo was really helpful for me. Going into this course, I wasn’t quite sure why students of ID and educational technology would be studying a domain that frankly smacks of administration and business. I get it now. For public schools, the projects cold be anything from remodeling the building to the ubiquitous curriculum work. When curriculum needs to be revised, a team is assembled under a leader (the project manager), they are given a deadline, resources, and objectives to work towards. It is a perfect example of the union between ID and project management.

I have not had the opportunity to be a part of a project at work, either as a team member or manager. For a while I considered the organization, leveling, and upkeep of our intermediate book room as a project, but it fails to meet the first characteristic of a project: time. The book room is an ongoing process – no deadlines. Our big project for this class is to create a project for our educational context, one we could possibly implement in real life. I’m kicking around a few ideas: blended learning, BYOD, and a new 1:1 iPad pilot our school starts this year. Stay tuned for more!

Cox, D.M.T. (2010). Project management skills for instructional designers. New York, NY: iUniverse, Inc.

Haughey, D. (2011). Introduction to project management. Retrieved from


Final Reflection on EDU 625

Another day, another class over. I still find it hard to believe that it’s been a year since I started and I only have four more courses left! This once was perfect to take over the summer – I had plenty of time to explore the technologies each week. I’m looking forward to actually using some of the activities I created with my kiddos when school starts – in two weeks!

 , or OMG I can’t wait to use this!!!

These technologies I found to be easier to incorporate into instruction, both in the classroom and in intervention. They are appropriate for elementary and middle school, and they were fun to learn and use!

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PowToon – a presentation technology that is entertaining and easy to learn. Plus, who doesn’t love pandas? Here is the PowToon I created for this course (a brief into to Compare and Contrast). I also ran across a webinar that was really helpful for me as a newbie. You can access the webinar here.


Image courtesy of Jisc Digital Media

Mobile learning, whether on tablets, smartphones, or laptops, is perfect for bite-size learning that students need to access anywhere at anytime. By incorporating augmented reality, we can take learning out of the classroom and around the building, the grounds, and the community, making content relevant and meaningful.

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Games and game dynamics, to me, make learning a lot more fun. My kiddos know they struggle with reading, and as much encouragement and feedback as I give, as much progress as they make, they still don’t always enjoy reading (never mind coming to me!). Finding small, simple ways to include games or game dynamics can tap into that joy of learning that will help these kids go far. Story, choice and control over what comes next, immediate feedback, and scaffolding are all part of game dynamics, and fit easily into literacy intervention.



, or What I Won’t Be Using Any Time Soon…

Second Life. I found it inappropriate for elementary age kids and difficult to to figure out. I refer you to my hair debacle from the last post. Since everything in these worlds has to be created from scratch, the options are limited, and I couldn’t find islands that easily applied to my context (elementary literacy). Safety and anonymity for minors is also a huge issue. In my previous post I relayed the uncomfortable situation of continually running into a group of adults who were practicing Spanish – completely innocent, but I still felt awkward, and I won’t put my students in a situation like that.

How have the activities in this course changed my view of technology for teaching and learning?

It is much easier to incorporate than I initially thought. Coming into this class, I had a limited list of resources I used. Now, I have a much broader sense of the resources out there. Having the opportunity to experiment with several of them, using learning theory and good design principles, I’ve added to my “bag of tricks.” One of the most important lessons I learned about technology, is that the activity doesn’t have to be complex, it can be bite-sized and simple – and much easier to create!

What are my plans for incorporating technology into my instruction?

My first step is to get the actual devices. I’ve mentioned the issues with our mobile labs (and the fact that, as an interventionist, I only get my desktop) – their age and my somewhat limited access. Perhaps the best news I’ve received all summer is that my school will be piloting a 1:1 iPad program with 5th grade this year! This is a huge weight off my shoulders. So, now I’m back on Pinterest reading every iPad-related pin I’ve saved. I’m going back through my course materials and links to find some simple activities to try out first. One of the tools I will use is Google Drive. Since it is accessible online, the kiddos don’t need to download an app. Digital exit tickets here I come!

For the 3rd, 4th, and 6th grade groups, I will still use the mobile lab from time to time, but I’m most interested in infusing games and game dynamics to my instruction. In the first section I mentioned scaffolding and student choice as examples of game dynamics. I scaffold all day long, but I don’t allow my kiddos much choice. Something like “Read and Roll” is an easy way to give the kids some control in their work – and make it fun, too!

, or How Do I See Technology Changing Education in the Next 10 Years? 

Education – teaching, learning, even administration, will have to become more collaborative, if only to slog through the vast amount of shared resources and research out there. The teacher’s role will (and already is in some places) move from lecturer to facilitator, guide, and mentor. We don’t know everything about the technology that is in our classrooms, why not let the students take the lead in discovering and helping their peers? Make learning more student-directed with problems and projects that interest them. I’d like to see more elementary school-friendly virtual environments (Colonial Boston and Philadelphia, anyone?!), with security measures in place so we don’t accidentally overhear another class.

And now, faithful readers, the questions:

What are your tried-and-true, favorite technology-infused activities?

How does your school incorporate technology (what devices do you and students have access to)?

Have you run into any obstacles (funding, teacher attitudes, student or parent attitudes) in your quest to incorporate technology?

Virtual Environments and Mobile Learning

Virtual Environments

Virtual worlds, like Second Life (SL), are much more than games, although games do have pedagogical affordances. These environments are theoretically sound arenas for social learning: communication, collaboration, networking, communities of practice, informal learning, and building social relationships (Wankel et al., 2011). Environments like SL align with social constructivist, experiential learning, and problem based learning theories (Wankel et al., 2011). Users can role play, working out their identities and building relationships. Learners can visit locations that no longer exist, like ancient Rome, or would be too expensive or difficult to travel to in reality, like another continent, state, or museum. Unfortunately, since each location must be created by a user, the options are limited. Students learn about early American history in fourth and fifth grade (through the Constitution), yet I could not find a colonial or Revolutionary America island in the entirety of SL.

The activity for this unit was a toughie for me. I logged onto SL, and immediately realized it is NOT appropriate for elementary school – the avatars are WAY to grown up – the women are all very curvy with very tight clothes that are either too short or too low cut. Moving the avatar around was fairly easy, but deciding where to go out of the thousand of options was difficult. Then, realizing that many of the locations didn’t have much going on was a bit of a disappointment. Privacy and security are concerns, too. On the Spaceflight Museum island I happened to be exploring, I ran across three people who were having a live tutoring session. And I kept running into them, even though I tried to move around – they kept moving around. The experience was awkward for me, and I felt like I was intruding on something private. Now, imagine that those three adults were children or that my avatar was controlled by a child.

On a lighter note, at some point, when I was trying to change my avatar’s outfit, her hair disappeared and I could not figure out how to get it back!

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So that’s what I’d look like without hair…Is it weird that the flamingos are my favorite part?

So, while the ability to travel to distant, expensive places, and run intricate simulations are all positives, I will not be using virtual environments in my intervention groups. Most likely.

Mobile Learning

A topic that we have visited in so many classes is back again! This time, though I actually got to try creating something. More on that later. Like virtual worlds, mobile learning has the potential to be highly engaging, entertaining and connecting learners through the devices they already use so frequently (Stanaityte et al., 2013). Several concepts must be addressed for a successful implementation of mobile learning…

  • Ease of use – if the interface is too hard to figure out, no one will use it.
  • User perception of mobility end enjoyment – if they don’t feel they have control over time and location, or that the app is boring, no one will use it.
  • Self efficacy – ties in to perceived enjoyment, if the user doesn’t think they are able to reach the goals and objectives independently, usage decreases (mobile learning require autonomy!).
  • Compatibility – does the technology align with users’ values, needs, and previous experiences?

    In the zone. Image courtesy of Verizon Wireless.
  • Flow Theory – if activities engage users wholly, usage may increase (I think of Sheldon Cooper: “Can’t talk, in the zone.”)

I got to play around with some mobile app creators, and ended up choosing It was definitely easy to use, which was helpful given that lots of time should go into the ground work – analysis, planning, scripting/storyboarding, and sketching. Having a clear objective was a major help in keeping the app streamlined and clearing out redundant or off-topic content (Levert, 2006). I think my kiddos would get a kick out of mobile learning in school – being able to go around the room and use the technology they love so much. Unfortunately, the intervention room does not have any iPads, only my older Mac desktop. Yay.

Levert, G. (2006). Designing for mobile learning: Clark and Mayer’s principles applied. Retrieved from

Stanaityte, J., Washington, N., Wankel, L. A., & Blessinger, P. (2013). Increasing student engagement and retention using mobile applications : Smartphones, Skype and texting technologies. Bingley, U.K.: Emerald.

Wankel, C., & Hinrichs, R. J. (2011). Transforming virtual world learning. Bingley, U.K.: Emerald.