I decided to undertake a project in which my professional learning community transitioned from archaic Scantron™ testing to Data Director™. Data Director™ is a fantastic tool that allows educators to evaluate student responses, see problematic questions, compare data across teachers, across years, and across subject matter. Sounds amazing, right? The problem is, Data Director™ is not intuitive to use. Without proper training, this is quite an undertaking. The project that was planned to take 2 weeks, took months and was not successful at its first attempt. As the informal project manager (meaning the person with the bright idea to change over), I was wholly unprepared, and undertrained for what I was about to undertake. I saw another teacher using the tool, asked a few questions, and thought I could implement the changes in my department. Scope creep took over. Educators cannot print student score sheets to any printer. I was warned about this, and chose appropriately. A test must be shared with colleagues. This took a bit of extra time, but was accomplished. A score sheet must be created online before administering the test, and shared with colleagues. Easy, right? The template score sheet for multiple choice responses has answers A-D, my department needed A-E. It is possible to change the score sheet, but it took hours to figure out.
Finally, the test was administered, the score sheets, so meticulously printed, were filled in, and ready for scoring. The scoring takes place on a different machine located in our staff work room. The machine was turned on, and I logged in. The score sheets were placed on the scanner. And I learned the hard way, you do not score a Data Director™ test by going to the same Data Director™ site you use to upload tests, and score sheets. Once that was figured out, and new logins secured, I learned the hard way (noticing a theme?) parameters must be fairly exact for score sheets to read. Mine had not been fitted to a printable area upon printing, and were unusable. Apparently, this is a common problem. Once fitted to a printable area, sometimes, there are exceptions that must be viewed and cleared by the educator. Is it an amazing tool? Yes. But proper training and support are essential for success. Most departments gave up before seeing the amazing possibilities this tool and resource could provide. It was humorous how many colleagues saw me struggling, and laughed, or worse yet, said “we are supposed to use it, but have no idea how, after a lengthy training session”.
Research, research, research. I could have avoided these pitfalls if I had done my homework. I heard about, and assumed much with few, actual facts. With a knowledge of project management requirements and techniques, this would have been a very different experience. This year my whole professional learning community used this tool without a hitch. Experience is valuable, and when there is a lack of it, research is invaluable.
Everyone on my team was on board, as long as I figured it out in advance. If I had identified risks, assessed potential impacts of risks, developed plans for mitigating the impacts of the risks, monitored the status of a project’s risks throughout performance, and kept others informed (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer & Sutton, 2008) this could have been a very different experience, the first time through.
Portny, S., Mantel, S., Meredith, J., Shafer, S., & Sutton, M., (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.