The start of the journey

The start of the journey

In my first post I tell the story of why I have created the Progressive Education web site and the Agile In Education community group. What do I hope to achieve with the project?

Young boy with rucksackWhy am I so convinced that a progressive, agile way of thinking could have a profound impact on the education of todays young people? Why do I think it’s important?

I’m an IT geek. I’ve worked in computing for all of my adult life but for much of that time, training, coaching and helping others to understand and make the most of technology has been central. With a family full of teachers and educators I guess it’s seeped into my soul.

I was introduced to agile thinking in the form of Scrum just short of 10 years ago, although I’d been aware of various elements such as evolutionary delivery previously. It had probably occurred to me at some point that this would be a brilliant framework to introduce into education but it wasn’t until I read Jeff Sutherland’s excellent bible “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” that I learned of Willy Wijnands.

Willy is a science teacher (or was – he retired from teaching last week) at Ashram College in the Netherlands. In 2011 he began experimenting with using Scrum in his classes and eventually formalised an education friendly version of the framework called eduScrum. Not only is this now well established in schools in the Netherlands but it has spread to 30 other countries including Russia, China, India and the USA. Another agile based approach to education is taking off in Australia with wide participation.

So back to the questions. Why does anything need to be done?

The simple answer is that education of our young people is no longer fit for purpose – not a situation that is the fault of teachers, may I add. The current system, at least in the UK, has its roots back in the 19th century and particularly in recent decades, has effectively become a funnel leading to a narrow-minded focus on examination results.

Try a simple experiment. Ask the next 10 people you meet whether, since leaving school, they’ve used anything that they learned in order to pass their school exams. The school system trains people to pass exams. A skill that in the majority of cases is of little or no direct benefit to them when they get out into the real world. Teachers need to be better empowered to support and facilitate genuine learning in their classrooms. Children need to be more engaged in their learning and better prepared for their future. Businesses need young people better equipped to help them survive in a rapidly, perpetually evolving landscape.

We need to replace the existing system with something more flexible Рsomething that equips young people with the skills that they need to survive in a world that is radically different from the world of 100 years ago. A world that requires flexibility, initiative, creativity, trust, openness, respect, courage, teamwork, collaboration… and failure.

Failure is good. Failure is how we become better people. We (and our children) need to learn how to embrace failure and use it to our advantage. This is what businesses expect (because of agile thinking). Is it fair on our children to raise them without giving them the skills that they will need in the real world? Education should be about more than accumulation of subject knowledge – it should be about making us more effective (and happier) individuals.

I believe that learning to adopt an agile mind-set, through Scrum or a similar framework can provide the answer for our education systems – and there is a growing movement around the world that believes the same thing. The journey getting there is not going to be easy – there are enough ‘agile’ failures in the business world to tell us that – which leads me to one final point in my tirade.

‘Agile’ is not a magic bullet – a one-size-fits-all tick list of actions that if you follow will immediately solve all of your problems. Agile, or perhaps ‘agility’ is a mind-set; a way of thinking. The businesses that fail in their transformation journey typically ‘do agile’. The ones that are successful become agile. They take small steps. Sometimes they fail but always they reflect, learn and improve. Continuously. That is being agile.

So what do I hope to achieve?

Of course, it would be fantastic if after reading this, some high powered influencer gave Boris a call and triggered a revolution resulting in the immediate redefining of the entire structure, operation and meaning of education in the UK to the ultimate satisfaction and happiness of every man, woman and child in the country. I’d accept that, of course, but more likely‚Ķ

If I want agile to succeed, perhaps I should treat the challenge with an agile mind-set. That begins with a small step. Any step. We’ll see what happens, learn from it and take another step that will hopefully get us closer to our destination.

That first step is the creation of an online community at https://www.meetup.com/agile-in-education-uk to explore the whole arena of agile thinking in education. Through the community I hope to build awareness and an appetite to take other first steps on new agile journeys.

If I can influence one teacher who in turn improves the chances of one pupil to be happy and successful in their life, then every moment I spend on this mission of mine will be worth it.

I hope you will join me on my journey.

Andy Bleach