Project Planning in a Digital World

I should start out by mentioning this is not a sponsored post. This post includes experiences and a review of I was not paid by Trello to produce this blog, and I did not receive any funding from any other project planning software.

Project Planning

There are many ways in which professionals can plan their projects. Some people use a waterfall approach, where the project is linearly planned in chunks and advanced when milestones are achieved. 

While others rely on an agile method, where the project’s planning can become more responsive as things change or new things need to be implemented.

Personally, I’m in a unique situation with project planning. In the media classroom, backward design is my go to method, but for films and digital art, I focus on a design process method, a similar approach to the agile method.

Backwards Design

Backwards design is a form of educational planning that focuses on identifying what skills and abilities students should be able to achieve at the end of a unit. Then teachers can plan backwards, highlighting all of the smaller skills needed in order to be successful in the larger goal. Teachers can then build smaller engaging lessons that will scaffold and lead to the larger global skill.

For example, this year I want to introduce Adobe Photoshop into my Media Arts 1 class. There are lots of units that I can produce about this software, but instead, I’m going to focus on a much larger goal, I want students to be able to create a digitally illustrated animated GIF. To get there, I was able to plan backwards identifying the exact skills and tools needed for students to be successful, and what evidence can be used to demonstrate student learning. By knowing my end goal, this also allows me to specifically tailor my assessments and modifications.

The 5 week unit looks like this:

Learning Objective: “By the end of this unit, students will be able to use Adobe Photoshop and its tools to create a digitally animated GIF that portrays a human emotion.”

  • Lesson 1: Photoshop Windows and Layers
    • Assessment: “It’s Pizza Time!”
  • Lesson 2: Selection Tools
    • Assessment: Fruit and Vegetable Mashup
    • Media Literacy Embedded Assessment: Manipulated media around you
  • Lesson 3: Brush Tools
    • Assessment: “I see faces”
  • Lesson 4: Elements of Art and Design
    • Assessment: “Color Pallettes”
  • Lesson 5: Pixel Art Design
    • Assessment: “Pixel Self Portrait”
  • Lesson 6: Photoshop Timeline Window
    • Assessment: “Sprites!”
  • Lesson 7: Character Design
    • Assessment: “Introducing…”
  • Lesson 8: Basic GIF Animation, Tweening and Frames
    • Final Unit Project: “Endearing Characters”
  • Lesson 9: GIF Film Festival

Design Process

As a filmmaker and digital artist, design process planning is crucial for my success. This agile based method is ever evolving, and is designed as a cycle, as the process continually repeats itself

It’s incredibly difficult to produce a film or video without these steps. The past year, I’ve been working on developing a documentary film “Restart 2020.” The process looked like this:

Step 1 Define the problem
I was curious at exploring why New Bedford, MA was becoming a creative hub for artists, and how art has transformed the fabric of the city.

Step 2 Collect Information
I did a ton of research for this project, including accessing news paper archives, speaking with artists, and local state officials. I also created and mapped out a database of artists in the New Bedford Area, and researching their common link. Most of these artists all had a connection to UMASS Dartmouth’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. My research indicated the city and state invested 17 million dollars to renovate an abandoned building, and moved the school into the heart of the city.

Step 4 Develop Solutions, Prototype
I had to then reach out and interview people who I thought would best help me tell gather answers to my hypothesis. We secured interview times, and followed artists around for months, documenting their side of the story. We started editing sections, and started to cultivate a story. This process took months to construct.

Step 5 Solicit Feedback
We started holding watch parties, inviting friends, and people not from New Bedford to watch the film. We got valuable feedback, took lots of notes, and kept updating and tweaking the film.

Step 6 Design Improvements
With the feedback we had secured, we were able to make major adjustments, changing the entire narrative of the story.

Step 7 Reevaluate
Feedback lead us to add more additional interviews, and allowed us to see if these improvements made the story stronger, and got us closer to revealing our inquiry when we started. Our story didn’t match what was happening in reality, forcing us to include COVID-19 ultimately changing our entire story. Once this started happening, we started the process all over again. We’re still restarting and going through the various stages of this process.


When it comes to planning software, I don’t have much experience. At school, I usually would create a Google Doc, creating a curriculum map of events that needed to happen. I eventually would create a Google Form that made lesson planning extremely easier, allowing me to create a .PDF by simply submitting data. When it came to art and film, my trusty Moleskine is my primary planning device, scribbling notes and drawings with a Pilot G7 pen. (very picky about pens!)

A sample project- planning this blog post.
Remote Class Template: Produced by: Kelly E Theisen Trello Inspiration

While messing around with the app, I stumbled upon a teacher’s template for remote learning. It organized remote learning so nicely, and it was the solution I’ve been seeking with organizing my own remote learning for students. I’m especially excited that I can embed a Trello board to our class website. I’m going to test it for a week, and gather feedback from students and families, if they liked the organization and added to the understanding of class expectations.

Breakdown of weekly activities for students to navigate
A breakdown of weekly assignments for students

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