Agility in Education

Recently I was listening to a webinar speaking of agility in the organization.  It specifically called out the need to adopt agile in areas that have traditionally not been engaged.

There was a side effect to this webinar.  I started to look back over my children’s past school year; I started to rehash some of the challenges that teachers face (that I have heard), and I thought about the challenge of teaching 21st century skills.  Education as we know it has been a continual integration of some new ideas onto a centuries old framework.  What do the grade levels mean, actually?  Are semesters necessary?  Is nationalization of the system too heavy?  Where do we lead from – top down or bottom up?  Why do we still focus on an “output” (a grade on a test) and not an outcome (students abilities and understanding)?  If we are trying to grow students into leaders and learners, why do we simply team them to be good students?  It reminds me that as a father I am not trying to make my son a good son, but a great father.

As this is more of a thought exercise and not a strategic plan to implement change (but I am available to discuss if anyone wishes), please understand that some of this requires at least a working knowledge of Agile/Scrum – so Wiki it.

The agile manifesto completely applies!  Think about what it means to have a working knowledge and a love for learning over mastery of a test!  Think about creating collaboration between leaders, teachers, and students, rather than developing a hierarchy.  Individual interactions become higher priority with the tools and technologies supporting learning rather than being the basis of it.  And what does it look like for the curriculum to emerge based on the needs of the small teams of children rather than be a predefined, strict, and scripted plan?

Even think about bringing the pillars of scrum into this conversation! Can you imagine these being applied across the whole educational system – not just to the student?

  • Transparency
  • Inspection
  • Adaptation

And maybe we even have the same players:

  • Stakeholders (customer) = Administration/Leadership and the Parents.  What about the tax payers?  Should they not see return on their investment?
  • Product Owners = The teachers.  Setting the value based on the needs of the stakeholders and customers while also leading the students to success
  • The Team = The students collaboratively working toward goals in conjunction with the product owner.  What if there was an actual product?
  • The ScrumMaster = what better way to teach servant-leadership and service than to have student leaders act as a ScrumMaster?

I could go on with the product backlog, sprint, release, visualization of work, etc.   The point is that these “software development” ideas are not just for software development.  They are cultural transformers that question the value and validity of what we do and how we achieve success.  And it is ok.  But educational system – watch out!  Change is needed and maybe, just maybe, some teacher or administrator will get bit by the agile bug!

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