Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Denny Clifford Case

In this case we have a teacher and a business/military consultant facing off. First, the respective audiences that these two professions work are diverse versus homogenous. The businessman is used to working with clients who not only have a goal, but have similar goals. Cynthia is not saying the right words for Denny. Likewise, Denny needs to speak in the language his client speaks. Finding a common ground would have made for a smooth first impression, where both parties walked away confident in the project. Second, business and industry, like the military, foster traditional education styles, using direct instruction and standardized assessments. Teachers, especially constructivists, work with more variety in their lessons, creativity and in small groups. These barriers are difficult to overcome, but not impossible.
Denny must do his research based on the information Cynthia provided him, as well as follow-up with others in her field. He chose to step outside of his usual field (meaning business, industry and military) and work for an educator. He knows more about technology and its physical processes than Cynthia, whereas I think Cynthia can only speak in theoretical terms. From Cynthia’s point of view, it is not her responsibility to fully explain every step of the project because Denny is already an experience instructional design consultant.

Denny actually has many valuable resources at his fingertips. By asking relevant questions to any of the 24 teachers who had completed Cynthia’s workshops, he may gain valuable background knowledge. Once he had developed a design, he could have implemented and evaluated the design with these same teachers. Watching the videotapes of teachers engaging their students in problem-solving activities, and critiquing them against his own classroom experience and the teachers’ comments would sufficiently give Denny the relative direction for his desired delivery method. The videotapes would also give him a visual (maybe he is a visual learner) of what Cynthia wants, in terms of delivery and ideas for various assessment strategies. In Cynthia’s articles, Denny may find concrete objectives or types of assessment instruments previously used. In addition, Cynthia would have listed key objectives in her grant proposal. Lastly, by talking with local teachers interested in teaching science in a “new way,” Denny may ask of them the types of skills their populations needs. Since Cynthia is not interested in the “what” of the material, but only the “how” Denny must identify these problem-solving skills before he begins to design a new instruction model.

Online learning environments are an excellent avenue for distant teachers. Chat rooms and video conferencing are two perfect avenues for distant discussion and collaboration; something like Blackboard and webblogs are two examples for work to be submitted, reviewed and evaluated. Cynthia would have been pleased with a design that included any of these modes, especially since she did not want to host workshops and hold individual meetings any longer.

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