02 Nov 2014

Agile Learning

Category: Alternative EducationAdmin @ 1:05 pm

“Agile software development” has been in the tech world since before the term was settled upon in 2001. As a former (and now very part-time) software developer, I have some understanding of the issues. For people involved in education that is truly centered on children (as I am), applying “agile” to “learning” makes sense.

In 2001, seventeen people involved in software development, “sympathetic to the need for an alternative to documentation driven, heavyweight software development processes convened.” The problems they sought to overcome included days or even years spent on design and procedure manuals that often not only became largely obsolete by the time the project was supposedly finished, but also failed to address numerous details fundamental to the organization. The result was, all too often, software that was unusable as delivered. The process had allowed for neither changing requirements nor timely feedback from stakeholders. There was no assurance that the project would be based on the real needs as they would exist when the project was finished.

Some in education saw a similar situation: The idea that procedures and documents, including textbooks, standardized testing, and top-down regulations, should form the backbone of education was undermining the needs of real children and leaving them unprepared for the world they would step into upon graduation.

In the words of The Manifesto for Agile Software Development:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

– From The Manifesto for Agile Software Development at http://www.agilealliance.org/the-alliance/the-agile-manifesto/

Similarly, “agile learning” suggests developing better ways to learn by doing it and by valuing:

  • Individuals and interactions over predefined processes and tools
  • Learning that works for the students, as measured by the students themselves, over textbook-driven, teacher-driven or politically-driven curricula and tests
  • Collaboration between students and teachers, between students and community (including parents), and between teachers and community over preconceived roles and contracts that did not include student input in the first place
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The great news is that one vision for “agile learning” already exists. The model is called, aptly enough, an “Agile Learning Center,” where:

  • We activate explosive learning
  • Children design their education around their passions and strengths,
  • We leverage leading-edge practices for self-organization and intentional culture creation.

– From What are Agile Learning Centers? at http://agilelearningcenters.org/

Check out the Agile Learning Centers’ website.

By the way, if anyone is interested in starting one in northern Sonoma County or southern Mendocino County, California, USA, I would love to help!

Comments are closed.