Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Expectations of doing much with little

I’m in the process of clearing out old files, and ran across the following quotation I heard from Luke Fox of Spring Branch ISD (Texas) awhile back. I can relate to this, as I am sure many educators can – particularly those in educational technology support roles, but other roles as well:

You’ve done so much for so long with so little, people expect you to do everything forever with nothing.

One thing I have consistently found challenging over the years is estimating how long a given technology project will take to complete. When asked by my boss, “Can you do this?” my answer has almost always been “Yes,” and often my answer to “Can I have this tomorrow?” has also been affirmative. It can be difficult to explain to supervisors (whether that is a principal, an IT director, a dean or a superintendent) that a project will take longer than they want it to take, and require more resources (human and financial) than they want to allocate to the initiative.

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Estimating the time and resources required to complete a given project is a VERY important skill, and certainly one I’ve found doesn’t “come naturally.” As students engage in project-based learning, estimating the time required for different phases of a given project should be a process in which students are involved. Often deadlines are externally imposed, but to meet final deadlines intermediate deadlines should also be set. The entire process of project management is complex, and the skills involved are very important. I wrote about (and received some good feedback on) different project management software tools back in April in the post “Tools for facilitating PBL?” I think online software programs which facilitate PBL and its assessment (Project Foundry is an example) are VERY important and should receive more attention and utilization by students and teachers in our digitally infused years ahead. XTimeline is a free, web-based timeline tool which I think is ideal for project management as well as use in students’ personal digital portfolios.

It’s ridiculous to work forever with nothing, and everyone needs to cultivate the professional social skills to effectively and reasonably navigate these dynamics where minimal resources are allocated by management with an expectation for maximum work output.

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2 responses to “Expectations of doing much with little”

  1. sylvia martinez Avatar

    Classic product management techniques talk about an “iron triangle” of functionality, money (resources), and time. Some people add one more factor, quality. You can’t change one without affecting the others, and some are out of our control, for example, the classic “nine women can’t make a baby in a month.”

    In schools, the time is often set, the resources limited, and the functionality prescribed. The only thing left to manage is the student progress and their ability to decide what to do next. The most important part would be the teacher working with each individual student on their tasks, what constitutes completion, and mid-course corrections.

    I still think that software management tools are WAY too complex for most students (and in my experience, for most engineers). Google calendar might be your best best. Set to-dos and tasks,and even then, it’s an individual teacher (or perhaps student mentors who’ve been trained to do this) who will have to sit down with each student and go over not only the projects they are working on, but the all the process. Software can’t do that. It’s not a shortcut, nor will it substitute for reflective practice and authentic formative assessment (personal feedback) that helps the student stay on track.

  2. John Avatar

    Accurate project estimating is a skill that takes time to develop. So it can be daunting for students. The key for us has been to track our time spent on projects so we have the historical data to reference when estimating. We’ve been doing this for years now and we are able to estimate projects very accurately.