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August 14, 2006

Prepare for the beginning chaos of group design!

Yes, group design is messy, it’s crazy, and it’s sometimes chaotic. I was reminded of this recently as I worked with a group of school librarians charged with designing a 2 hour in-service to teachers in their district about new technologies they needed to know about. Our first challenge was to figure out exactly what we were trying to do in the 2 hours alloted for workshop delivery. The organizer who had brought me in to facilitate the beginning of the process had a loose idea, but wasn’t really too sure. This was really for the group to figure out.

This is where that first step in the process – Needs Assessment – is so vital. I encouraged the group to figure out just who their client is and if this client was mandating anything in particular. Thankfully, a district level administrator was on hand and brought up on the web a high level document that that identified about 8 key areas of technology that teachers should know about. There was some of the direction that the design group needed to focus their thoughts.

Identifying a client and getting a specific as possible about what they need and expect is so often gives much needed direction to a seemingly wide-open workshop. I really encourage you to push to identify a client.

In the Needs Assessment step we also worked long and hard to find an over-arching goal for the workshop. What’s the workshop’s overall goal and purpose? The group began thinking of this as the title for the workshop.

These two things- 1) identifying what the client wants out of the workshop and 2) identifying a succinct over-arching goal for the workshop, takes a lot of time and energy. And – be prepared – it can be a total mess!

Since I was only there for the first morning of a week design process, the school district organizer I worked with emailed me to tell me that the first couple of days were “extremely chaotic? but about mid-way through the process everything seemed to crystallize. The group is now designing a “Tech Quest? for teachers to work through at their own speed. “Everyone will be on a computer and we’re going to introduce a topic, give them 10 minutes to do the Tech Quest, and then move on to the next topic.?

So have faith! Expect the chaos in the beginning but look forward to the “click? when everything seems to fall into place and the design process finally picks up steam.

Remember -- it all hinges on the Needs Assessment step so please give it the time and energy it deserves!