Building a Rescue System and Providing the Safety Net
Click Here to view PowerPoint: Valuing Staff Development
Building a Rescue System and Providing the Safety Net
Click Here to view PowerPoint: Valuing Staff Development
As an online graduate student, of course I have grown to be supportive of technology for convenience, connection, communication, and the overall ease of access to knowledge and informational resources. Today’s learning opportunities are a far cry from the musty card-catalogue I grew up learning to use. As a teacher of electives and special populations, my least favorite use of technology is for cumbersome or intricate Learning Management Systems, which is why I rely on Canvas by Instructure when I am forced to use a tracking or grading portal for distance learning (http://www.instructure.com/try-canvas). Canvas is also a well know class-portal for posting podcasts, and for hosting live webinars and screen-sharing sessions.
But today’s technology is best prized for its accessibility, not it’s exclusivity, which is why Video Podcasting on sites like YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/) are creating learning-communities of its own. The interconnectivity of blog sites with social networks like Facebook, and Media-hosting sites like YouTube are creating amebic groups of learners more akin to a “school” of like-minded fish journeying together than a concrete box “school” where pupils are assigned a seat. Ted.com (http://www.ted.com/) and TedEd (http://ed.ted.com/lessons) are two other favorite sites for educational video. The use of Facebook alone, (https://www.facebook.com/) can act as a learning portal and classroom if individuals choose to Like Fabook Pages which offer educated content, and are encouraged to share educated ideas and discussions via the Comment feature.
On the other hand, live interaction between instructor and student have come a long way with technology, and now coaches, tutors, trainers, and mentors are capitalizing on tools like Skype (http://www.skype.com/en/) and Google+ Hangouts (http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/) to chat, demonstrate, and monitor individual participants and small learning groups remotely. UStream (http://www.ustream.tv/) is also one live-stream Broadccasting site I have had the opportunity to try in conjunction with a professional conference, which allows for faster and clearer one-way live communication, along with a live text-chat box for viewer response at a lower-bandwidth than other two-way video-conferencing requires.
Given the availability of mobile technology, blended learning is even more possible today in any setting. Mobile phones and touch devices with cameras and internet connection are at least as powerful as the pencil as a tool for education. Like many teachers, I have become reliant on useful and unique tools like Pinterest to visually organize not only personal interest items, but lesson ideas, project samples, and instructional information (http://www.pinterest.com/). The ease of being able to look up a photo and link to a video or written instructions for nature-craft idea, while on a hike in the woods with a group of children, is simply revolutionary in means of accessibility to both knowledge and creative inspiration. Educators are beginning to realize the value of such a tool, akin to using a traditional cork-board as a learning surface, rather than as just a display-space as noted in these two blog posts on Edutopia.org (http://www.edutopia.org/) written and shared recently:
Here is a video tutorial of how to use Pinterest, and how to incorporate it into lessons for visual posting and sharing of educational content like project displays, writing prompts, categories to share, and for topical discussions:
Surely the opportunity does not stop there. Between learning games, simulations, virtual worlds, and augmented reality, the technology of today’s mere blogs, wikispaces, and webcasts, will someday seem as musty as that old card catalog. More than offering mere pop-up advertising as you walk down the street, GoogleGlass is already finding it’s place in education and as a valuable tool with the disabled:
Regardless of whether a teacher enjoys incorporating technology into their lessons, it is already becoming incorporated into our world, and learners of all ages are utilizing it to aquire new knowledge and skills every day.
Helpertunity, our organization which supports recreation, education, and volunteer activities for elderly, disabled, and homeless persons, was recently welcomed to collaborate with a local informal organization of classic car enthusiasts. The group hosts a monthly car show they call “Saturday Cruise Night” at a local shopping center called “Victoria Plaza” in Apopka, Florida.
Classic Car Show attendees have long used their gatherings to provide a Social-Constructivist Learning Environment for novice car re-furbishers and owners, and enjoy the camaraderie of one another’s company as well as the Self-efficacy which arises from the chance to collect prizes for their attendance and participation in an event (Noe, 2013, p. 130). Helpertunity’s efforts, with the ongoing program, are to educate attendees and the public on the value of their Classic Car Hobby, as it relates to the Therapeutic-Recreation Interests of Elders who live in Nursing Homes and Care Facilities. Helpertunity also holds a Stakeholder Interest in overall Public Relations with the Plaza Owner who helps to cover event hosting expenses, and the Plaza Tenants, who hope to gain increased customer revenue. Helpertunity aids in providing a Non-Profit entity to the group and event, which can increase good-will, donations, and raffle participation.
In order to conduct a “Rapid Needs Assessment” for the event, Helpertunity must use what it already knows about the Baby-Boomer and Traditionalist Generations, in conjunction with what it already understands about Small-Business and Retail Property Owners (Noe, 2013, p 131). The goal of each stakeholder group is to create an enjoyable recreational-socialization experience, while also increasing the opportunity for financial gain. Current organizational development and performance issues relate to measurement metrics which focus on event attendance, and the desire for greater incentives which encourage and reward attendance and participation. Without expanding or complicating the event beyond the capacity of the volunteer coordinators time or the donating sponsors’ budgets, there are ways in which Helpertunity may be able to increase participant and sponsor satisfaction, across the board, by integrating observations, interviews, and surveys which are conducted in a recreational game-based manner (Noe, 2013, p 142-143).
By assisting as an intermediary non-profit organization, Helpertunity may also be able to work with the current event-coordinator, through a more in-depth interview process, to assess how the organization might positively impact such areas as: increased print and digital media; initiation of social-media presence and promotion, increased publicity; increased prize acquisition, distribution and variety; increased prize-satisfaction through award-presentation methodology; increased participation and satisfaction for the general public; and increased awareness and participation of Classic Car Owners in community-service and volunteer capacities which relate to their interest (Noe, 2013, p. 143). Early design ideas point to the possible inclusion of a “Plaza-Patron Scavenger-Hunt Bingo-Card Game,” which would unify incentives onto a one-page bingo board, and allow for additional recognition, incentives, and awards to participants. Such participation in this type of experiential-learning could further participants transfer of cognitive understanding and skills practice, in regards to Therapeutic Recreation and Activities as a professional service, for a learning outcome.
Noe, E. R. (2013). Employee Training and Development. Sixth Edition. New York: McGraw Hill.
The main reason we progressed as a human race, is because every time one human being figured something out, they became compelled to show and communicate their achievement to another human being. Over time, generations of humans began to teach the following generation a chosen selection of their collective best achievements; which came to be known as an education. Any human being should realize by now; that we are each just a momentary part of a continuing progression of achievements, and teachings, which incrementally will continue to build upon one another. This is the same in our individual jobs and our corporate cultures. Each person and business is meant to achieve, and progress, and evolve. Without training, each worker-being is forced to reinvent the wheel, through their own repeated trails and errors, and is led to stumble over the same mistakes as those who came before them. Training; solid and effective training which reduces learning times, cuts errors, and eliminates waste – is as essential for competitive progress of a business as it is for the growth of an entire society or the evolution of an entire civilization. Effective and optimal training has value today, and every day. Progression, regression, or stagnation are each a choice which ultimately hinges on how much effort and value we all place on individual training and collective education.
As I volunteer for the week at the beloved summer camp where I grew up, I begin to realize that my self-selected project assignment; of Re-vamping the “Nature Crafts” curriculum; was an effort that was nearly 33 years in the making. As a kid, I have always loved art, and had no shortage of school supplies from my school-teaching Mother, to entertain myself with as an only child. So the first year that I went to summer camp, I was thrilled with the fact that “Nature Crafts” was on the schedule. I recall the first counselor clearly imparting the camp ideology; that our craft be “made from nature,” but I also recall over the 8 years following, that there always seemed to be a shortage of other supplies, like paint and glue and scissors and brushes, with which we might artistically alter our rocks… or pine cones… or sticks.
As a counselor at the same camp in my 20s, I vowed not to suffer the same fate, of disappointing the kids who were craft lovers, so I worked hard to stretch my budget and research at the library for new and better ideas throughout the winter. I knew the scope stated that the items had to be “made from nature,” but I wanted to teach the kids how to do more than paint pinecones and rocks. I colored sand; soaked seeds to be strung; and dyed noodles to use as beads. I began to push the boundaries of the unwritten curriculum and scope. I began to question the curriculum when I found plaster molds, but no plaster… and scrimshaw cow horns, with no such tools to replicate the ancient art. I still wanted to learn, and was determined to know more so that I could teach more to the children. Natural objects and no tools… craft supplies and no nature…. picking up and collecting natural objects at camp… but seeing warning signs posted stating $100 or $1000 fines for doing the same thing at a State or National Park… the contradictions in the limited Scope of the Curriculum had perplexed me for decades!
As years passed, I moved away and began my teaching career, married and continued to work in art and recreation, but a few years back, something drew me home again from Florida to Pennsylvania, and I went back to visit Camp again, only to find the crafts lodge in its usual state of disarray. The responsibility and accountability for the program handed over to a short-term summer-employee each year, as a 7-week project, with little time to plan and limited access to any budget. It didn’t take long before I wanted to make a lasting change, and so I began my annual pilgrimage to prepare the crafts program for the summer. I started by making new signs for the lodge, with individual letters that could be repainted, but not “erased” over time…. A new scope that stretched the Nature Crafts theme to “From… With…. About… For… Nature” and a separate set of signs that read: “Reduce… Re-use…. Recycle…. Replenish” and affixed them securely to the wall. Inside the supply cabinet, new “Curriculum Posters” were hung, explaining the definition of each word, as well as “Tribal Arts… Heritage Arts… Fine Crafts…. and Decorative Arts” which raised the bar from “kid’s crafts” to Arts and Cultural Studies. But in order to support this new and expanded scope… I had to supply the resources to make it possible! I bought new supplies; made new laminated lesson and photo-idea pages; and provided new training times set aside with the summer staff. Together we began such advanced projects as feather quill pen making, candle dipping, mandala weaving, macramé, soap making, paper making, felt & suede sewing, leather crafting, colored pencil sketching, plaster casting, and decoupage…. all somehow still keeping a “Nature” focus.
The beauty of the long and slow “Scope Creep” that took place, at a tortoise pace, over decades of project and program evolution, is that from this process, came a new surprise: gone now are the days of budget-tight camp programs. Over the winter months, the Camp Leaders kept a surprise for me until my arrival: a brand new program area had been built! A “Frontier” theme program had been constructed in Honor of Fr. Larry who passed a few years ago, but not before coming to visit me as I toiled away in the craft lodge, and shared my decades-old dream and vision of being able to stretch beyond the “Nature Crafts” scope restrictions, and share with the children a love of the Heritage Arts. That evolution, and that blessed conversation, has now found a home! As leather & jewelry crafting is being co-taught with the skills of rabbitry, pioneer gardening, and mineralogy/gold panning …. It is now in a space that will have its own ability to grow and evolve over time: as a suitable home for the Heritage Arts and Pioneer Skills for decades of children to come (CND, 2013).
The Moral of the Story: Scope that creeps as slow as a tortoise – can evolve into hare-raising miracles!
CND (2013) Camp Notre Dame. Retrieved from http://CampNotreDame.com Facebook Photo Post: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=605101122842273&set=a.200562066629516.63251.200186030000453&type=1&theater
When you take the time to try and communicate, miracles can happen: http://www.wimp.com/helenkeller/
In a recent activity, this blogger was asked to review the same statement presented in three different modalities: a text/e-mail, a phone message, and a video clip. Of course, how each one was interpreted was slightly different. The email/text message could easily be interpreted as kind, pleading, and polite but rambling. The Phone message came across to this listener as being much more firm and direct, with an emphasis on time and deadlines, all based on the timing and tone of the voice (Laureate, 2010). The video clip shared the same exact statement, but came across as friendly, understanding and patient, based on the speaker’s body language, even if her smile might have been a mixed signal which downplayed the importance of her statement. As the Project Management mentor, Dr. Stolovitch, points out in his training video; everybody knows that 93% of communication is not what you say, but how you say it (Laureate, 2010).
Each Team Member’s, Stakeholder’s, and Project Manager’s INTERPRETATION of what is said is quite another matter, and can often be a reflection of their own situation, cultural training, agenda, outside interference, or emotional state. Even the best and most well-practiced diplomat can be challenged with getting a message clearly across to a listener, from time to time (Laureate, 2010). The value of communicating over the phone in our example exercise may have been the most effective way for the speaker to stress the importance of their message, without rambling or sending mixed diplomatic signals to a visual learner, but inevitably, it is best for a manager who is intending to communicate clearly, to understand the preferred and effective communication styles of their audience, if not each audience member uniquely (Laureate, 2010).
Knowing each stakeholder’s best communication modality is a bit like knowing each student’s learning style and preference. The most effective diplomats are able not only to communicate clearly and effectively, but are also able to treat each stakeholder as if they were a dignitary from a unique culture, and communicate with them by “mirroring” their unique vernacular and body-language cues (The Communication Help Center, 2013). Depending on a project’s time-table, the luxury of “figuring out what makes each stakeholder tick,” can be a both a challenge and highly rewarding. As the Golden Rule teaches; treat others how you would want to be treated… however, the “Platinum Rule” raises the game with; “Treat others how THEY would expect to be treated.” While this may be equally difficult for kind-hearted as well as ultra-demanding Project Managers, it may actually be essential for Project Management Success. “Know Thy Stakeholders,” is the First Commandment when using this technique, while at minimum, a leader should know how to communicate effectively to their intended audience as a cultural group. (Portney, et al, 2008 & Laureate, 2010).
Cartoon (2013). Facebook: Timeline Photos: The Secret to Humor is Surprise Fan Page. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=501013959972651&set=a.126895770717807.28294.126894987384552&type=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf
Laureate, Inc. (Producer). The art of effective communication, (2010). [Interactive multimedia exercise]. Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html
Laureate, Inc. (Producer). Communicating with stakeholders: Dr. Stolovitch discusses communication strategies and managing client expectations. (2010). [Video Podcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2823017_1%26url%3D
Laureate, Inc. (Producer). Project Management Concerns: Communication Strategies and Organizational Culture: Dr. Stolovitch gives Carole Kramer advice on adjusting her communication style to fit her client’s culture. (2010). [Video Podcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2823017_1%26url%3D
The Communication Help Center (2013). Mirroring: A communication tool for generating rapport. Retrieved from http://work911.com/communication/skillsmirroring.htm
Helpertunity is a 501c3 Public Charity that supports recreation, education, and volunteer activities for elderly disabled and homeless persons. The charity relies on two small fundraisers done in collaboration with the founder’s church, in which small crafts and gifts are sold at low prices to the private-school children, during lunch, on the Tuesdays before Mother’s Day and Christmas.
The event has served to educate the church and community about the public charity, as it attempts to grow and become sustainable in its efforts. The recent Spring Sale was the third time Helpertunity had hosted the event, which had been adapted from an earlier version of a sale which was an “after-thought” to get rid of left-over items donated to the church’s regular Craft Sale Fundraiser for their Adopted Sister-Church in Haiti.
Certain processes, artifacts, and activities that Helpertunity instituted when first creating the Spring Sale for the children had led to a pattern of success, including:
Having repeated the event for the third time, some unexpected frustrations evolved which blind-sided the organization. Discontent aired by one teacher, to her colleagues and a key volunteer and prior project Champion, created an un-expected, and possibly unintentional, passive-aggressive “boycott “ from some teachers, leaving their students un-prepared with monies for the sale. This action created a back-log of the previously functional “Credit Pay” system.
The anomaly simultaneously highlighted other segments of the project that had improved, including other teachers that had taken on the opportunity to make the event a teachable moment about local/domestic charity efforts and students role in social justice/philanthropy. The anomaly also highlighted the oversight of one preparation step that had been forgotten in the third repetition of the event: The reminder e-mail that had always been sent to the Principal, (which had generated her reminder to include a note about the sale in her weekly parent email) had been omitted.
That one slight omission of a “reminder e-mail” from the process, product, and artifact which was not included during the third hosting of the sale, had created a gap in student and teacher preparedness, and may have compounded teacher and volunteer frustrations. The anomaly was only seen among the younger children, since the 4-6 graders had become capable of reminding themselves via sign postings. Previously, the 4-6 graders had reported themselves as not being well informed, via the use of only the ignored e-mails sent to parents and the forgotten book-marker ads distributed two weeks prior to the event. In reflection, the use of the e-mails, book-markers, and reminder signs, used in a triple combination, should generate better education/communication coverage of the event.
In post-mortem reflection; the process, products, and artifacts that should help to further improve the preparation, hosting, and instructional value of the next upcoming sale will include:
Project Management Process Analysis:
Clearly, the part of the full Project Management Process which has helped the project to become more and more valuable at attaining it’s multi-purpose goals, has been: a strong emphasis on the determination of project need and feasibility; an ongoing reliance on the ever-changing test and implementation of both educational/marketing and product deliverables; and a very strong post-project analysis and evolution of applied improvements. Further improvements will be tied to the new focus on a written planning-documentation phase, and the designing of specification for future deliverables, which can include printed project instructions for facilities and disabled crafting volunteers, or an online hub of links to project ideas and patterns, as well as printed and online supplemental education and activity resources designed specifically for teachers who chose to use the sale/project opportunity as a social justice and philanthropy character-education topic.
Greer, M. (2010). The Project Management Minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects!. Edition specially created for Laureate Education. Minneapolis Minnesota: Laureate Publishing.