The Curriculum as a Project Charter: Project Management for Teachers Part II

We can think of a teacher’s project as the fulfillment of a curriculum or a curricular component.  For instance, a project can be entitled “Seventh Grade English Language Arts.”  The lesson plan is a deliverable of that project and so it is tied to the curriculum and should contain elements of a project charter.

My lesson plans have the following headings:

Learning Outcomes – The learning outcomes were the standards I was following to create the lesson.  I was required to align my lessons with PA State Standards.  In later lessons, I would align them to the Common Core as well.

Learning Outcomes can be related to a project charter by thinking of them as some of the goals of a project – in this case the entire curriculum.  What do we want to do, not only in terms of the lesson, but the transfer of skills related to the standards the State has put forth for readiness for adult life?

Objectives of the Lesson – The objectives of the lesson are specific to that lesson.  By the end of the lesson, what should the students have done and be able to do in the future?

The objectives can be related to the project charter by thinking about project milestones.  What tasks should we complete successfully to reach that milestone in the curriculum?  What tasks will work toward fulfilling the outcomes desired?

Content – Project Charters often spell out what the components of the project are. Project managers explain what will happen during the project and what will not.  By explaining the scope of the project in detail, they are attempting to avoid scope creep, which is the addition of tasks and objectives over time.  Project Managers can refer back to the charter as these requests arise and decide if the request is valid, or can be deferred. Lesson plans can articulate the components of this part of the project, thereby also indicating what will not be included in the lesson.  I often plan too much, but have been told that was all right; too much is better than not enough.  The last thing I wanted was 25 students with nothing to do!

Characteristics of the Learners (“Where the Students Are”) – All projects should include a narrative about the stakeholders in the process.  What are their needs?  What are their strengths and challenges?  What problems are they trying to solve?  Your students are your primary stakeholders.

Prerequisite skills – Projects usually show what should be done before a project or milestone can start.  Lessons can show what skills students should have to complete this lesson, this part of the project.

Connections to the Curricular Framework – Answer this question: How is this project component related to the project?

Learning Theory Connections – I like to think about best practices when I make learning theory connections.  I like to answer questions such as

  • How will this lesson demonstrate the alignment to a particular learning theory or theories?
  • How will this lesson successfully implement suggestions provided by learning theorists?

Materials  – All projects and project components detail the supplies needed for the project and lesson plans should, too.

Learning Sequence – In project plans, which are often included in a project charter, the work breakdown structure sequences the tasks of a project numerically.  The learning sequence of a lesson plan would be a component of the overall work breakdown structure (WBS).

Culmination – This element describes what happens at the end of the lesson.  Think about the last task before reaching a milestone; that’s the culmination activity.

Extensions – The question that comes to mind here is: How can we take what we have learned here and transfer it to another lesson that is similar or to tasks in the future?  For projects, the question would be: How will this project component support future components?

Assessment Strategies – Project managers live and breathe metrics.  Assessments, both formative and summative are, basically, the same as metrics. Often in a project charter, you will find a reference to how the success of the project is determined by the metrics Project Managers will use.

Artifacts – These are the deliverables of the project or project component.

References – In a lesson plan, I always give credit where credit is due.  This bibliography component would probably not show up in a Project Charter, however.

The curriculum articulates the goals of a set of lessons and lesson plans reference back to those goals as teachers strive to explain what will happen during a particular lesson, why these tasks are important, what the students will produce during the lesson, and how the skills practiced will serve them in the future.

Your comments are welcome!

Check out this blog: http://blogs.pmi.org/blog/voices_on_project_management/ .

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Project Management for Teachers

budget
budget (Photo credit: The Survival Woman)

Teachers need project management skills just as much as those in business.  After all, a typical project definition is an activity that has a beginning, a middle, and an end; this sounds like a lesson or a unit.  A successful project will finish on time, on budget, and to all the stakeholders’ expectations.  Successful lessons will finish the same way.  If you think that teachers may not have to worry about budget, I disagree.  Often, the budget they are watching is their own budget; too many teachers have to purchase supplies without assistance from the school or district.

In this post, I am proposing a short course on project management for teachers.  Learning the principles of project management might help them to organize their thoughts, resources, and tasks.  It would be an interesting course to design.

Perhaps there is already such a course out there.  I have not checked, since I just wanted to get my thoughts down in this post at 6:20 in the morning.  On that note, I will end this one here and pick it up again at another time.

Have a great day!

-Heather

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Reaching and Teaching Digital Natives

SketchUp
SketchUp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Sunday morning as I write this.  My son is at his computer doing homework for computer class.  He is creating a 3D model of a bus depot and its environs using SketchUp.  Although the assignment is not really due until Friday, he has worked on it consistently since he got the assignment this Friday.  Why?  He simply loves working with software of any kind.

Did I mention that Lucas is 11 and in sixth grade?  Kudos to his computer science teacher, who decided to harness his students’ love of computers and software to create what I consider challenging assignments.

I am proud of what he has been able to do with programs such as Minecraft, and now I am proud of his latest efforts with 3D modeling.  Whether the realizes it or not, he is learning geometry – and liking it.  This morning, he told me that he wants to be a programmer and go to an institute of technology after he graduates high school.  That makes me so proud!

This may sound obvious to you, but the reason that Lucas’ computer science teacher is succeeding with him is because his assignments are interesting, in Lucas’ opinion.  Daniel Willingham, in his book Why Don’t Students Like School? wrote that one of the important aspects of any activity is the context and its ability to intrigue the learner.  He wrote:

We are naturally curious, and we look for opportunities to engage in certain types of thought.  But because thinking is so hard, the conditions have to be right for this curiosity to thrive, or we quit thinking rather readily (2010).

Again, this seems obvious.  However, it has many implications for curriculum, lesson design, and content development.  It solidifies the need for  differentiated instruction and makes it that much more complicated.  Lucas’ computer science teacher does not have to worry about standardized tests and the like.  How does an English teacher make sure that her students are not checking out at the first opportunity?

Starting from Where the Students Are

Anyone who has read anything I have ever written (that’s about ten of you :)) know that “starting from where the students are” is one of my favorite phrases.  It brings lesson planning back to reality.  For the purpose of this blog, it brings us back to the title.  How do we reach and teach digital natives like my Lucas?  We meet them in their territory and almost trick them into engaging the content and thinking about it.

For those of us who are not digitally inclined (Dare I say ‘digital immigrants‘?), the question becomes: “Where do I start?”  We do not like teaching what we do not know.  It is important that we try, though.  Teachers – the adults responsible for the education of young people – need to step out of their comfort zone and meet their students on common ground.  It is not enough to know what they should know; they also need to know what the kids already know and use that knowledge to build an environment that lures kids to it and keeps them interested.  There are ways to teach Gatsby (a novel unit that haunts me to this day) that involve technology and contemporary culture while still teaching the content.  We are more likely to reach and teach digital natives when we step outside our familiar environs and take a look around the environs created by our kids.

There is a terrific song by the Indigo Girls called “Closer to Fine.”

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

The less I seek my source for some definitive, they say, the closer they come to being OK in the world.  Seek from other sources, step outside of what you have always known and explore the unknown.  Bring that back to the classroom – and you’ll be fine.

Related article: http://www.sketchup.com/industries/edu/primary.html

Reference

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Well, I Guess I Can’t Get Out of It Now…

Upcoming Event at Barnes and Noble, Neshaminy Mall
Upcoming Event at Barnes and Noble, Neshaminy Mall

Just kidding, Elizabeth.  🙂

On April 14, 2013, I will be at Neshaminy Mall’s Barnes and Noble store to present to teachers.  The topic is “Finding Technology Resources.”  Until the presentation, I will be using this blog to gather my thoughts.  Your comments and suggestions are welcome!

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Reflections on a MOOC

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If you listen to this audio blog, you will understand why I say that the word of the day is:

revel

Here is a link to the MOOC I just completed: http://class2go.stanford.edu/db/Winter2013.