Creativity In Education Part 3 Agile Methodology?

Creativity In Education Part 3

Over the last year I have been participating in an interesting study entitled PLPConnectU. Set up by the department of education and in co run by a group Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) it has been tremendous for my own thinking in regards to education.

I am placed in a group called Creativity (which suits me just fine) and as part of our learning we were required to set up a project for our students under the guidelines of a PBL (project based learning) structure.

Together with my colleague Kristen Swenson we developed a unit of work around game creation. If you are interested in reading about the planning for this unit and how we are trying to fit it into the PBL structure Kristen has written and excellent blog charting the planning our big question, learning aims and sub questions as well as and our own reflection.

But to quickly summarize the students had developed a criteria chart for what made a good game , they had rated a few games then we just let them loose on a couple of online game making sites (stensyl, gamesalad and scratch) and they started going for it.

The following week we had an expert come in from a successful game making company and present. His presentation enforced the notion that before and coding (or making of the game) happened everything had to be completely designed to the enth degree.

This approach not only disappointed the students but got me thinking.

In the corporate world there are 2 primary methodologies for software development.

Waterfall – a Sequential linear design process using the following methods.

Requirements, design implementation, verification, maintenance.

Agile is a relatively new methodology that many companies are trying to use to create product (mostly software development). Agile Methodology, came about after waterfall and was an attempt as addressing some of its shortcomings,

While there are many different Agile methods (eg, Scrum, XP, Agile Unified Process) they all embrace the following manifesto as their foundation:

Its manifesto is as follows

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. 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.

Its Principles are as follows

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer
    through early and continuous delivery
    of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in
    development. Agile processes harness change for
    the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a
    couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a
    preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work
    together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals.
    Give them the environment and support they need,
    and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of
    conveying information to and within a development
    team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development.
    The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
    to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence
    and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount
    of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs
    emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
    to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
    its behaviour accordingly.

The expert seemed to be presenting to us from a waterfall approach. I got to thinking how much my approach to education fitted so much more with the agile methodology. It encourages continual change, it encourages the idea that the imagination will develop with the approach and therefore the project needs to be adaptive to flow with the imagination of the creator. It also emphasises the need to work quickly and have many small victories – continuous creative work and searching is going to stimulate the mind allowing for the environment for the big idea to push out (see my last blog).

My personal favourites are principle 5. The environment and support and trust must be provided that in order to get the job done. If we are moving into a more creative education – one that moves away from the dominance of left brain centred literacy and numeracy, we must change our environment. I have spoken many times of the need to find time in order to enable students to develop creative thinking, we must trust them which means as teachers we remove ourselves from the position of authority and rather into one of facilitator – find the resources that the students are going to demand in order to get there ideas out. Help shape their learning but be aware that they will move into areas you have no idea about and be comfortable about that. (I know very little about game programming but am comfortable that I can help guide the students to places where they can find the knowledge they need.

Other points that the above principles talk about that appeal to my sense of good creativity are the use of collaborative teams, reflection and the pursuit of excellent design.

The Agile approach also speaks about the need to be fearless in the constant pursuit of ideas but it gives you the means to respond to change.

By breaking things down into smaller deliverable packages it makes itself adaptable. To use an Australian context, Myki and the Ultranet are two examples of Waterfall methodologies that might have had better success if they had taken more of an Agile approach.

In regards to education I like setting up creative projects for students that allow for ideas to develop, change, be dumped and ultimately, hopefully allow for a new creative thought to pop out.

I think in regards to the game making project we are working on we aren’t going to plan it down to the finest detail before letting kids get into the making – if nothing else it would bore the kids to death.

11 thoughts on “Creativity In Education Part 3 Agile Methodology?

  1. Thanks for the post.
    I think technology (especially 1 to 1) is the key to teachers and schools implementing a project-based curriculum. Re-imaging what this means, I think, will more likely resemble Agile approaches than Waterfall.

  2. I totally agree Kynan, it was so interesting how we had naturally adopted the agile theory before the corporate world tried to control our minds and the education system!

    I can see how the waterfall approach has some merit and can imagine that there are times when planning is an essential component of the design phase. In this instance however my concerns with the waterfall approach were whether or not the students would be able to replicate their ideas using the computer programs after the design phase. Would their skills be sufficient? And if not, does this matter? Can they then go back to creating simple games? Are we setting them up for a fall? And finally is the planning a hindrance to the creative process?

    Should we simply allow the students to experiment with the programs and create games “on the go” without the forward planning? To me this seems like a more natural creative process. It is how kids play and create outside of school and also how many artists create. The design phase seemed to limit and deter the students from the process.

  3. Pingback: The Agile Methodology | Creativity Quest

  4. Well, Waterfall or Agile? Love it. This takes me back Kynan…in fact, I guess I am still battling it. When I was engaged in some graduate cognitive science work, I was up to my eyeballs thinking about expertise. But, holeeeee, my view was so inconsistent with the prevalent perspective. It was assumed that when it comes to planning, that a ‘top-down’ linear approach was what define an expert. A ‘bottom-up’, organic, evolving methodology characterized a novice. Well, I disagreed vehemently. But, alas, I felt like I was UNDER waterfall!! LOL

    I felt that an expert had the whole repertoire at their fingertips! An expert would know HOW to plan from the top down or the bottom up or, in fact, anywhere in between. An expert could opportunistically slide from one style to the other depending on a whole pile of factors – past experience with material or processes, mood, type of task, goals, etc.

    Now I am involved in system change in the organization where I work. Many want to use the Waterfall approach of planning all rollouts of technology and social media in a staged, controlled fashion. Just shoot me!

    Yet, it is clear that the work on Complex Adaptive Systems (based somewhat on chaos theory) is suggesting otherwise – a more Agile approach. A Nimble approach.

    In fact, one of the main metacognitive strategies we teach kids is to be nimble (agile!) – to reflect on the efficacy of their strategies throughout their efforts and change strategies, goals, or plans as they proceed? Perhaps their original goal was too easy – so they need to ‘up the ante’. Or perhaps it was too hard, so they need to modify because of that. And so on. I think also planning ahead often limits the possibilities of where serendipity takes them.

    I think you are taking the right approach with your game project. Best to have the kids reflect on their processes and maybe say to themselves, “Ah, maybe I should have planned that differently” or “thank goodness I didn’t do it the way I first thought, it would have sucked”!

    Thank you Kynan for providing this model so that we may think more deeply about it all.

  5. Hi Kynan, Once again a great post and as usual it got me thinking… Could agile methodology be aligned to constructivist learning theory?

    People learn to learn as they learn. What I mean by this, is that one of the main tenants of constructivism is that people learn by actively learning (doing) to construct meaning as well as constructing systems of meaning. Making or what Seymour Papert would describe as construction, is an active process where the child is given the opportunity through a sensory process to construct their own knowledge. Your idea of the agile learning approach that encourages continual change and adaptation to the imagination of the learner aligns itself to this.

    The action of learning and understanding knowledge happens also in the mind and therefore thinking metacognitively through reflection and self talk are essential to the learning process. Learning also involves language whether that be through talking to ones self metacognitively or with others involved in the activity. Learning should also be a social activity where students are given the opportunity to ‘socialise’ old and new knowledge. These constructivist tenants also align with some of the agile methodological principles.

    There is nothing better than observing students who are motivated and are in ‘the flow’. There is nothing more disheartening to see it being disrupted by bells and rigidly structured timetables. Principle 8 of the agile process suggests an environment where sustained development and creativity can occur. I wonder if compartmentalisation of our school day stops the flow of learning. Students should be provided with the opportunity to maintain a constant pace of learning. I am not suggesting that every school day should be one continuous unstructured space, but I propose that there should be moments where students are allowed to work continuously without interruption. Proponent’s of constructivist theory such as Seymour Papert assert that students best learn when engaged over long periods of time in the construction of personally meaningful products – or products they truly care about. I am sure that given the time, space, direction, encouragement, discussion, thought and motivation that your students will create some amazing games.

    • Hey Andrew,

      One thing I love about Seymour’s notion of constructionism is that when kids are building artifacts (either independently or together), those artifacts mediate conversation and thus the social construction of knowledge.

      This whole discussion of ‘agile’, and your bringing Papert into the discussion, reminds me of my time with Seymour at a conference in Israel. He had rented a car but asked me to drive. So we ended up in the ‘old city’ – but without a real plan. As we walked around, I looked over my shoulder and Seymour was gone! He had wandered into one of the ‘shops’. Not an uncommon thing – but, uncommon in its frequency and rapidity! LOL I learned quickly to keep my eyes open as he traveled like a butterfly – with intention but serendipitously – some might say with ‘agility’.

      Kynan, I think you already have read about my passion for ‘intentional serendipity’ as a methodology! This was it in action! 🙂

      I continue to wish Seymour Papert the best in his recovery so that he may continue to inspire us all as he has obviously done.


  6. Great post Kynan and great comments!
    I come up against the Agile vs Waterfall debate quite frequently, having working in software and digital development for the last 9 years for companies which have adopted both methodologies. I am definitely an advocate of the Agile manifesto. Provided that the key aspects of the manifesto are embraced and you have a talented, passionate team and well run project, I have seen greater success rates from Agile projects (by success I mean several things including time to market and time to recognition of a bad idea). Aside from that and more importantly for me, the projects have appealed to me on a personal level for several reasons. I can definitely see the relationship to the constructivist and chaos theories. I could go on all day about it but here are some reason I prefer to work under Agile…

    1. Agile projects are more fun! Taking a concept from idea through its different phases with a team is rewarding and exciting. Being able to embrace problems (rather than be afraid of them because we they weren’t in the original plan) and work toward as resolution is not only rewarding but promotes creativity and innovation. I’d often find when we hit a problem; we find a solution that took us into completely new territory away from the original paradigm but into a more interesting and relevant one.

    2. I’ve learnt more! One of the philosophies is we learn to do by doing (sounds a bit cringe worthy I know but it’s the simple truth). I also have had higher engagement during Agile project and therefore have increased knowledge of what’s being delivered, technologies involved and ways in which different personalities operate together to create.
    3. Rewards my short attention span and helps to maintain focus, energy and momentum, the flow that Andrew mentions. I don’t find reading a 200 page requirements document and waiting anywhere from 3month to 3 year (or more – a big problem in the digital world) to see the results (often to find it’s not how I understood it in the first place) is not very rewarding and doesn’t help with engagement. Which is a decent segue to my next point…

    4. I gained a better ability to communicate, understand and interpret others as well as my own head. Regular show cases of what you are building at each iteration along the way help to identify just how differently we all see, read, interpret things or how those things that work perfectly in our heads or descriptions actually translate into reality.

    Peter – I empathise with your just shoot me moment! I think I have one almost every day while either trying to explain how Agile is a lot more than a rapid prototyping technique that will fail due to lack of planning, process and vision, come up against people who are petrified and literally can’t adapt beyond the way they have always operated, so if something doesn’t fit the system it goes into a spangled loop and everyone puts there head in the sand. I also work in a company that tried to meld unsuccessfully the 2 methodologies or moreover shove existing waterfall like processes into an Agile project…ok end rant. Where I was going with that is almost everything I work on in the digital world requires the ability to adapt and respond quickly yet thoughtfully yet our work places on the whole (from what I have seen anyway) lack individuals with the ability to do that. It makes me excited and relieved to think of a new generation being educating using the foundations of some of these theories that you are talking about!

  7. Pingback: Ed Tech Crew » Ed Tech Crew 174 – In a state of cognitive flux with Kynan Robinson

  8. Hi All,
    I’m enjoying your discussions here about Agile vs Waterfall projects which are new terms to me, but they remind me of the concept of design-based research in education, whereby researchers can make changes on the fly as they work through research projects in real settings, taking into account the complex relationships and variables that exist within the complex nature of learning systems.

    Some folks consider this methodology to be non-scientific – to me it just seems more real. 🙂

    I think you are on the right track with this project Kynan and Kristen! Can wait to hear more!


  9. This AGILE workshop is designed to provide the most effective training on project management as it makes use of E-Learning as well classroom based training. The participants of this workshop go through the Online AGILE course content before attending the classroom sessions as this leads to more interactive sessions and better learning. Also the participants get better understanding of project management concepts discussed in the classroom by going through the online course content at home. Our AGILE training program structure leads to better learning and highly interactive training sessions as per the feedback by our previous participants.

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