Our school hosted the Vietnam Technology Conference this past February.
(Yes, I’m just getting around to talking about it. Don’t judge.)
One of the sessions I attended was about agile development in education, specifically as a way to organize the classroom into a room of independently functioning teams that are all trying to reach the goal of learning content. The full details on the philosophy can be found at http://eduscrum.com. I most certainly am not following the full implementation described there.
My interest was piqued by the possibility of using a Trello board to organize tasks for my classroom. I always make a digital handout for each class that consists of a series of tasks, links, problems, and chunks of information. Within the class block, I weave these together in a mix of direct instruction, group tasks, PearDeck activities, Desmos explorations, and so on. I advise students not to just do every problem on my handouts from start to finish because there is an order to my madness. I have a plan for students to go through the different activities, but I don’t always clearly indicate that plan on these handouts.
This is where Trello came in. For my past two units in PreCalculus, I broke up the tasks on my digital handout into tasks on a Trello board. This consists of a list of tasks, and then three columns labeled ‘to-do’, ‘in progress’, and ‘completed’.
I put students in groups, and then shared this Trello board here with them. Their group needed to make a Trello board for their group, and then copy the day’s tasks onto their group’s board. I told students how long a ‘sprint’ (an agile development term) was going to be, and the group would decide which tasks they would collectively (or individually) do during that time. They moved these tasks into the appropriate column of the board. As I continued to use the system, I realized that I could color code tasks according to the learning standards, and identify them according to the day of class. This helped students to understand the context of individual tasks later on.
The thing I liked the most about this experiment was that it actually enabled students to take charge of what they were doing during the lesson. I sometimes said that I was going to go over a concept at a particular time during the class block, and that teams could pay attention or not depending on their needs. This could be replaced by videos of this direct instruction to allow for more asynchronous learning for the students that weren’t ready at that time. There were some great conversations between students about what they did and didn’t understand. I could circulate and interject when I saw the need.
This put me in the position of curating interesting and productive tasks related to the course content, which is a lot more fun than planning a lecture. The students also liked being able to talk to each other and work at their own pace. Here’s some feedback from the students:
What they liked:
- “I think it was nice how I could do things by whatever pace I felt more comfortable with to an extent since we did things as a small group rather than as an entire class.”
- “It kept me working and thinking the whole class. It also helped me work out problems independently which helped my understanding.”
- “I liked the ability to keep track of all my work, as well as knowing all the problems beforehand. I also like being able to have more time to discuss with friends to understand how we each came up with various solutions.”
What could be improved:
- “Maybe I rather stick with traditional teaching methods. This is borderline self-taught and it’s not so much better with group of people that I don’t know well.”
- “I think it would be better to go through the theory and concepts of the standard first, meaning how to do a problem as a class before splitting into smaller groups for individual/team work.”
- “For future classes, I would also like informative videos to be included so that we can learn new topics this way.”
This feedback made it easy to adjust for the next classes, and I continued to tweak in the next unit. The students really like the act of moving tasks between the different columns on the Trello board too. I really like the ease with which students can copy tasks, move them around, and plan their time independently. There are some good habits here that I’ll be thinking about expanding to other classes later this semester or for the next school year.