Introducing the “Project”
Campus safety is a high priority for all schools, my high school is no different. We were fortunate to have two staff members, our assistant principal and our school health technician, who were highly certified in FEMA emergency response and management. We have had numerous drills for a variety of possible emergency events. One category, however, needed extra training and development because of the unique problems that surrounded it: the intruder alert/lockdown drill.
Our staff had been well-trained on how to respond to the alarm that initiates the lockdown, but as we progressed to more complicated scenarios, it became evident we needed more tools. One of the situations we practiced was a lockdown during a passing period, lunch period, before or after school. The problem that arose was that teachers needed to take attendance on students who were not on their roll. We used an electronic system which only supplied each teacher’s class list, and there was no way to enter a roll for students who were pulled into a classroom willy-nilly.
The stakeholders, (the administrators and safety team) wanted a system which would report and then eliminate all the students present or absent for the day, leaving only the students who were unaccounted for. An outside party, (an SME), created a pivot table spreadsheet that would do this calculation. The stakeholders then turned to me to help train the staff on how the spreadsheet worked, how it interfaced with the district’s data software, and how the reporting procedure would take place during the lockdown.
The result of the project was mixed. The training for the teachers and office staff was only partially what was needed. The teacher training went smoothly, and everyone seemed to understand what they needed to do, (it was complicated, but I had sent out digital instructions that they would have access to on their laptop to help them remember.) The office staff also needed to be informed of the process as they had to work the attendance data the teachers sent in. As I observed the primary trainer walk them through the process, I realized many of the office staff had no idea how to work on a spreadsheet, let alone a pivot table. The training was difficult because the knowledge gap hadn’t been identified. To help, I had created an illustrated Quick Reference Guides designed to help the staff navigate their way through the process of getting the daily attendance data from the software and integrating it into the pivot sheet.
If I Had My Druthers. . .
After the initial training, we had a passing period lockdown drill. The issues became apparent right away. Some teachers didn’t follow the instructions because they didn’t understand why they needed to enter the information in a particular order. The office staff was busy trying to re-enter the data and shuffling between the different worksheets for the calculation was confusing. Overall, the drill was successful, but the process was still very rough.
Working on this project was great experience in the long run. I learned that we could have avoided some of the problems and ultimately the anxiety the staff felt by planning it more thoroughly. No one had ever considered project management, as so much in education is more of a “git ‘er done” approach due to time, money and personnel constraints. If I had had my druthers, I would have done quite a bit differently. I would have asked to be included in the initial planning meeting with the administrators. Generally, the admin focuses on the big picture and only think to include the technology personnel at the last minute. If I had been included in the initial meetings, I would have been able to give input on what needed to be done with the technology elements and training. However, Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) comment that there are times when the project manager enters after the conceive phase and when the project begins. They stress how important it is to revisit the reasons for the project and gather the existing information. After the beginning phase of the project, creating a Work Breakdown Statement would have been helpful. As Greer, (2010) notes, “You can’t manage what you can’t see” (p. 13). As I have stated before, this project was never identified as a “project”, but if we had, we could have progressed much more smoothly.
If I Knew Then What I Know Now
As we had never heard of ADDIE, we left out what Lin (2006) observes is a crucial step; analysis, and therefore our project resulted in the very outcomes she describes: poorly designed training. While I was aware of the extent of training the staff needed, I have to admit I was just as surprised as the trainer that the office staff was inexperienced with spreadsheets. Good analysis would have indicated that if I had had the background I have now. The reference guides I created were very helpful during the drill and helped each person manage their part of the process. However, the training could have been designed to build more effectively rather than the buck-shot approach the learners actually received. We had no project manager, and this change in drill procedure truly was a project. It would have helped to begin with a meeting with the stakeholders, (district wide) to really flesh out what needed to be accomplished. Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, n.d.) describes how to kick off a project and I think if we had had a clearly written Statement of Work and assumptions as well as constraints defined we could have avoided some of the headache. A project manager could assemble a team and based on a timeline develop a plan for how to approach this task. I worked through Greer’s (2010) “Project Post-Mortem” and found that even though this was a very ragged project, for not knowing what we were doing we did accomplish some good results, but because we didn’t know project management guidelines, we were flying blind and figuring it out as we went. This method made it more difficult to establish a clean line for what needed to be done. It made it difficult to see what the pitfalls might be, and it made it more stressful for the participants. Too bad I can’t turn back the clock. It would be interesting to do it again knowing what I know now.
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Project kickoff. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Lin, H. (2006). Instructional project management: An emerging professional practice for design and training programs. Workforce Education Forum, 33(2). Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/USW1/201460_04/MS_INDT/EDUC_6145/Week%201/Resources/Week%201%20Resources/embedded/Lin_W1_6145.pdf
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008).
Planning projects. In Project Management: Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling Projects (pp. 75–116). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.