Saturday, June 23, 2007

Foundations of Technology Online (MCPS Course)

I was honored to be asked to help with the devlopment of the Foundations of Technology online course for Montgomery County Public Schools. It was my first opportunity to do real development on a real online course. So I was very excited to get started. I traveled to the Department of Online Learning in Montgomery County to work with a team of 3-4 other teacher specialists who were each performing a role for the course development. My role was to develop hands on activities which were directly connected to the technology standard of ITEA that students would do to demonstrate understanding of the concepts and material for the lessons. All together I would create about 20 hands on activities with assessments.

View NBC 4 Report about Student Online Learning in MCPS.

Working on this course was a challenge because we were under a tight deadline. In fact, the course went live the third day I was there. So we were always trying to stay at least one day of the students. What I discovered was there was a tremendous amount of disconnect between the project manager and the supporting teachers. It seemed that none of the supporting teachers had produced the products they had promised to produce. That was one of the reasons I was called in to work. They needed the help and I have worked with them in the past and they have relied on me and been satisfied with my work.

There were also communication problems between the project manager and myself via email. After the first week in the office, I worked from home since I had other obligations. We would check in via email and discuss the development of the activities. I found that a meaningful phone call was much better than email because words sometimes are misconstrued in an email when spoken language is often better understood.

I would classify the climate working there this summer as somewhat toxic. There didn't seem to be a lot of mutual respect when it came to meeting deadlines. People seemed to short with each other or smile and say what the other person wanted to hear and then ignor them. It seemed that a few people did the bulk of the work and since I was an outsider, I tried to keep a low profile.

My experience lasted about 200 hours in total but I chose not to count all of them toward my internship since most of it was task oriented. I had to use my interpesonal skills many times to help defuse tense situations and I frequently relied on my democratic reasoning to help find common ground when there was disagreements. But this experience definitely put my leadership skills to the test so that I could produce a product that Montgomery County could be satisfied with.

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