Agile Learning Tools

In this post, I’ll describe some of the tools we are currently using to facilitate community and learning.  First a little bit about why these tools.

If you are in software development, or know anybody who is, you might have guessed that the term “Agile” means a lot of things, and also references the software development process of the same name.  I encourage you to look into what Agile is, but in the briefest summary it is about developing software quickly in rapidly released small parts, rather than trying to get a huge piece of software planned, developed and released in one chunk.  The reason agile is better is that with small releases and the feedback that comes with it, you can constantly make small course correction so that the finished product is closer to what the user actually needs, instead of what the planners thought the user needed.

At Philly ALC, we are not developing software.  We are also not developing children.  Like a good Agile process, we are developing a team (or in our case, a community), and facilitating collaboration.  The tools used in Agile take what individuals are thinking and make those internal thoughts external.  Everyone’s brain is shared into one large thinking organism but writing things out where everyone can see them.  The tools also take what is implicitly happening, and makes it explicit, so everyone can see and agree specifically what is happening, instead of guessing, which significantly improves collaboration and the strength of community agreements.  Making the internal external.  Making the implicit explicit.  Making in invisible visible.

An Agile space is filled with visual cues, collections of intentions and processes, and agreements spelled out and shared.

A quick word about tools – these are not the heart of an ALC, they are an expression.  These tools I will describe are the tools being used right now, common in ALC’s around the world.  These tools are all works in progress, and a community might choose to use them or not as helpful.  You yourself might incorporate these practices wherever you collaborate.  Your work.  Your family.


Instead of voting and majority rule, we use consensus seeking as our primary tool fro group decision making.  The group seeks to find a solution we all agree to, even if some people have small reservations, and as long as nobody has any deep, blocking concerns where they cannot move forward if this decision is made.  This eliminates an either/or, us/them dynamic in the group, and instead puts the focus on seeking a solution that works for everyone, and also releasing some of your own tightly held convictions for the good of the group.


Imagine a white board, where everyone can see it, with three columns.  The columns are labeled To Do, Doing and Done.  In the To Do column are a number of cards, each with a task.  We can easily see everything that needs to happen.  When someone decides to take on a task, they move it to the Doing column. At any time we can see how many things are going on right now.  When a task is complete, we move it to the Done column.  We can see what already has been completed.

This is a powerful, flexible tool for personal or group task management.  Students can use it to lay out a plan for the day, to capture all kinds of things they hope to do today or in the future, and have a record of things they have done.  Meeting participants can use it to set an agenda, and to run the meeting and focus the topic on what we are talking about, and mark what we have completed.  The school can use it to keep track of tasks, or community agreements (the Community Master Board mentioned in my last post).

You can use Kanban for any process that has steps.


Gameshifting is a technique used to facilitate a meeting so that everyone stays on the same page in terms of how the meeting is being run.  It involves a person whose job it is to decide on useful meeting parameters, which are shared with the group, and then are also changed during the meeting to reflect what is happening, or to change up what is going on to something more useful to the group.

I invite you to follow the Gameshifting link above to learn more about it, and see some examples of a game shifting board.

In the next post, I’ll describe some of the key meetings that make up a week at an ALC.





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