May 13, 2012

Can All Students Students Be Treated Equal?

Can All Students Be Treated Equal?

I found myself asking these question, "Can students treat other classmates as though they are all equal?  Is there away that they can work together without a hierarchy.  Can students treat others as a whole and have respect for one another?".  Nowadays the big new word is Being Bullied.  Students hear it from social media and it's all over the place.  I don't think all students understand what it really means and hopefully they never have to experience it.  I hear students say "I'm being bullied" I ask them what does that mean?  The most common response that I get is, "I don't know but they are bothering me".  Is being bullied the wrong focus?  Should we focus more on how to teach students to respect each other and treat one another as a whole?  Don't get me wrong, bullying is a problem, but, maybe our focus is in the wrong place.  Maybe the key to solving bullying is to teach students how to work together, respect each other, and hold value for one another.

Is Scrum In Schools The Answer?

I have witnessed first had what Scrum has done to my students self esteem and respect for one another.  If you were to walk in my classroom during a Scrum session you would not be able to tell which students had disabilities or which students are gifted.  The students respect and value each other.  Last week I had a group of students that were working together.  They noticed that one of the students in the class didn't have any group to join.  With out hesitation or direction from myself, they went over and put their arm around him and said, "come on over to our group". Every day I am so touched and moved by what my students have accomplished and the compassion for others that they have gained by doing Scrum in the classroom.

A couple of weeks ago I started my Reading class using the Scrum framework, which consists of six homeroom students and the rest from other classrooms.  This was the first day working on their project.  I have students coming and going during this time because several go to resource.  One of my students came back in the middle of us already starting.  She did not have a group to go to.  She tried to go to one but the students were hesitant to let her in.  Another group saw this and pulled up a chair and said" Hey, don't worry about it, your with us now."  At that moment I could not have been more proud of my students.  It gets me choked up just thinking about it.

My Students Amaze Me Everyday!

My group of students is your normal make up of any class.  When this class was made, know one knew that I would be the teacher.  At that time I was a first grade teacher.  Before the last day of school in May 2011, I had the great opportunity to move up to 4th grade.  When I saw my class list I saw the normal make up of a class ranging from behaviors to all different ability levels and disabilities.  I am amazed with how much my students have grown this year from when they first came to me.  Any visitor coming into the classroom would not know the difference between any student.  I have seen the shy students come out of their shell and state their own opinions.  My students are not afraid to ask for help or let the other students know that they need help.  I believe this is because they have the trust and respect for one another.  My class has used a retrospective board and they post how they are feeling.  They are not afraid to say they are struggling in any area and they are eager to post their achievements and celebrate with each other. 

Last week I was reviewing a math problem with my students.  I had 25 students say that I had the wrong answer.  There was one student in the class that had the same answer as me.  This student is one of the shyest students in class.  He spoke up and said "Mrs. Mills, I got that answer too."  The other students listened to him explain how he got it.  Another student chimed in and said "I get it!"  Then the two of them ran the class discussion explaining how they got the answer.  Before I knew it, I was standing back just listening, then a third student chimed in and explained to the class how he "got it".  I was amazed!  I didn't show them, they taught each other, and before I knew it, they had every student in the class understanding how to solve the problem. This is the power of Scrum, to empower the students and amaze the teacher.

Anonymous, 4th Grade Teacher , CSM

May 12, 2012

Agile Principal Interview

Introducing Principal  3.0

Christopher R. Barnes, award winning principal of Cortes Sierra Elementary School in Arizona, is a different kind of  principal. He has lead his school to two A+ awards, is currently a finalist for the National Distinguished Principal Award, and has established an amazing shared culture with staff, students, and the community.  His greatest legacy may be leading a new way of thinking about how learning and school operations should be conducted in the 21st Century for a vibrant learning experience and a vibrant future. He is Principal 3.0, an Agile Principal, one that harness the power of Agile thinking to innovate education.

Scrum as Game Changer in Education

Chris was so inspired by the success of Scrum in one of his 4th grade classrooms, he invited me to help him transition his entire school to Agile thinking, from leadership council, staff professional learning communities, Principal leadership, and classrooms.  He has always believed in a culture where students and staff are empowered, passionate, and innovate to reach their unique destiny. This Principal 3.0 has witnessed firsthand how Scrum is the ultimate framework to bring these values to maximum fruition. 
Chris exclaims, "Scrum is a game-changer in education!". Spearheading through the 21st Century" is his powerful vision for the school, and Scrum is what powers that spear. He sees that Agile is making a great school into the innovative leader in education, developing real life skills for students to thrive and lead in the world, a true love of learning, mastery of standards, and character development for the 21st Century (Character 3.0).

Flip the Economy

Agile is the business framework of the future. For the first time, schools have the opportunity to be in the lead with the world's most innovative businesses. Rather than business telling schools how to run, schools that adopt an Agile transformation will flip this equation on its head, being the model for business to emulate. Cortes Sierra Elementary, with Agile, will not be benchmarked against other schools, but, will benchmark themselves with the most innovative organizations in the world, such as Google, Yahoo, GE, and Ericsson. The students and staff from Cortes Sierra Elementary can walk into Agile team at one of these businesses and feel right at home. Better yet, these students could be unleashed into the business world and teach and transform businesses stuck in old management paradigms. Imagine, a concept I call the "reverse internship", where Agile students are placed in business to transform the business.  Perhaps businesses will start placing their leaders into internship programs at Cortes Sierra Elementary to learn from students and teachers the power of Agile cultural transformation.

Principal 3.0 Interview

Here is the interview I did with Mr. Barnes, perhaps the first Agile Principal, recently after his Common Core workshop. Pardon the bad production quality, I am not a skilled videographer or interviewer. You will witness how he is spearheading through the 21st Century as a pioneer in Agile Based Learning Environments (ABLE). l.  Note: You will mention he references his "interview" in the video. Mr. Barnes is referring to his interview as a finalist as a National Distinguished Principal he had recently.

May 11, 2012

Can Scrum Change The World?

A great article, "Can Scrum change the world?" , by Melanie Webb from on my Scrum in Schools presentation at the Atlanta Scrum Gathering this week. She makes me sound so much better than I actually was : )  And yes, Scrum can and will change the world for a vibrant future.

The Scrum Alliance Gathering was amazing! The best part was meeting the amazing folks that work behind the scenes at the Scrum Alliance. They are the most friendly, warm, and passionate people you could meet. I know they are taking the organization to amazing places.

Trailer for presentation:

Prezi for Presentation: Just pics. I was requested to accompany this with a speaking video or voiceover.  Coming soon!

John Miller
Vibrant Lives, Work, Communities, and Schools

May 10, 2012

Scrum Alliance Gathering Atlanta

I had the honor of speaking at the Scrum Alliance Gathering in Atlanta this week. Honestly, I was not sure how the Agile community would respond, fearing I would be presenting to an empty room. The session was very different from the others, where they were to deepened the Agile proactive, while, mine was why to be passionate about Agile and broaden Agile to transform the world. I was very surprised by the interest and buzz around the of using Agile for learning session! I was so excited to share what we are doing at Litchfield Elementary School District at the Cortes Sierra Elementary School, with the passion and leadership of an awesome teacher, Mrs. Kimberly Mills, the most charismatic and innovative Principals in history, Chris Barnes, and a class of 4th graders who have grown close to my heart and have grown so much this year. I did have some technical difficulties that prevented me from playing some of the videos, my computer experienced some corruption the night before. I apologize to the attendees they did not get to see everything. We performed a live video feed to the Mrs. Mills classroom doing Scrum to talk about how they love Scrum and to answer questions from the audience. This was a big hit, despite some of the issues from a bad network connection. The students were awesome and so was Mrs The audience burst out in applause on many occasions, especially when they saw the video of one the students state during a Sprint Review, "I think we overestimated". So many attendees approached me afterwards, stating how they left with goose bumps. Two people even told me tears came to their eyes (tears of joy I hope). The students and Mrs. Mills are an inspiration. They are what one would consider and average classroom in a Title 1 school. A "Title 1" school is a school the Department of Education has determined to a significant population "disadvantaged" students. Mrs. Mill class ranges from resource students (students with Special Needs) to gifted students, diverse races & backgrounds. The beauty is you can witness how these students work together so well and how the students self-organize the strengths and passions of each. I had little to do with, what I consider a big success, I owe it all to this ordinary classroom, with a teacher bold enough to listen to my crazy idea that Scrum would be wildfully successful for learning. A learning experience based on Scrum can and does transform an ordinary classroom into an extraordinary one. Perhaps, what it really does, is remove the impediments for the greatness already in each student and teacher that is suppressed by the usual classroom experience. I have some great lessons learned on presenting at a big conference, especially about relying on a conference's network. I was happy that people left being inspired. Agile can transform the world for a vibrant future. You can find my Prezi here .

Thank you for all the Agilists at the Scrum Alliance who inspire me to keep moving forwards.

May 3, 2012

Agile Learning Communities

 Schools have a great concept called Professional Learning Communities (PLC).
PLC's are "An ongoing process through which teachers and administrators work collaboratively to seek and share learning and to act on their learning, their goal being to enhance their effectiveness as professionals for students’ benefit" (Hord, 1997)

Often than not, many PLC's are ineffective. A lot of talk and no action is the complain I hear from many teachers. I am sure there are some action packed, results oriented ones out there, but, I fear that may be the exception.

Kim Mills, our famous 4th Grade Certified ScrumMastering, thought of this concept while attending Certified Scrum Master class to use Scrum as an inspiration to make quick collaborative progress in their Professional Learning Communities at her school. Let's call the idea, Agile Learning Communities.  It takes a PLC and focuses on rapid feedback, fast results, and iterative improvements.

The ALC Sprint

Each grade level forms an ALC team.  The team works in a one week Sprint, in which planning, doing the work, and reviewing the results occur for quick feedback and iterative results.

The ALC Sprint Board

The Agile Learning Community Board is divided into these columns: Goals, Task, Intensive, Strategic, Benchmark/Done.  Intensive, Strategic, and Benchmark are the level categories based off of Dibels scores. Each student is on  on their own sticky color coded and placed in the column of their level.  

The ALC Sprint Planning

Each grade level teams has their own product backlog.  This Sprint has 3 stories developed in this ALC Sprint Planning:
  1. "As a second grade team, we want to move our strategic student to make benchmark". Moving survey students up a grade level. These students are reading at another grade level below the grade that they are in, 2nd story moving intensive students to strategic, and 3rd story moving strategic students to benchmark(on grade level).
  2. "As a second  grade team, we want our intensive students to gain 10 words"
  3. "As a second  grade team, we want our survey students to move up a grade level"

The tasks are the interventions to be undertaken with the students for that Sprint.  Tasks are developed by autonomous teams of teachers.

The ALC Sprint Review

At the end of the Sprint, there is a ALC Sprint Review, where the team revisit the students results by using our data from progress monitoring based on the stories or goals for that Sprint.  If the students have scored out of their area three times, the student sticky is moved to another level.

During the Sprint Review, the team updates the ALC Burndown chart - Each team has their own chart with the total number of students needed to move to bench.  Every week we discuss the data collected and move the students if they made their goal 3 times in a row.  We then burn them down for the week that we are on and talk about our goal until we meet the following week. This helps the teacher team gauge progress and detect trends early. There is something very powerful about having a visual graph posted on the wall for the team to review.

The ALC Sprint Retrospective

Teachers then preform a Retrospective, collaborating on  "What Went Well, What Did Not Go Well, and What One Thing Should We Commit to Changing Next Sprint". With Agile, teachers get faster and more open feedback from their results and their team members. It provides a rhythm for rapid feedback which is the fasted road to mastery

The teachers have gained excitement and celebrate their success with other teachers.  They also made time in their day to progress monitor to make their goals.  Teachers feel their time in ALC's are highly valuable since they quickly move to action and use Agile to empower themselves to help students grow. Through Agile, teachers are more autonomous, collaborative, creative and see obtain results faster.

Kim Mills has done an amazing job on this and continues to iterate and improve the ALC concept.