Blogging

One of the  Agile Learning Center’s “Agile Roots” reads:

Accomplishment: The 21st century world demands the creation of visible, shareable value as evidence of learning.

Without tests or grades, it is the blog post that can best visualize learning. In ALC Everett we give students the responsibility to create this evidence of learning through reflective blog posts. Each student, parent, and facilitator has a blog through their AgileLearningCenters.org account. To add further accountability, we made weekly blogging an explicit requirement in the ALC Everett Student Agreement:

Sharing of your work and play through weekly creative and reflective blog posts.

Progression of Blogging

In the beginning, most student blog posts were short and lacking detail. As we got started we eased into blogging by setting specific goals for each post. Early in the year we had begun a role playing game, and I had all the students use the blog to describe their characters. Here is Jurr’s post about his river otter ninja. For another project we all volunteered to write blog posts about certain aspects of our web development project. Here is Ethan’s post about online code education resources and Tommie’s post about how businesses use social media.

As we got more comfortable we started writing more reflective posts about our days. These posts started out quite small–in many cases, only a few sentences. As we continued to improve in blogging, we implemented a daily blogging routine through our Change Up Meeting. When we moved to a daily blogging schedule, the number of posts increased but students were still struggling to write more than a few sentences. Here’s the full text of an October post from Jackie:

today jurr and i have completed almost all the design for our website and it feels great to finish it!!!

We collectively recognized our lackluster blog posts and came up with a way to improve our posts. We started by switching up our afternoon meeting to come before our end of day blogging so that we could talk about our reflections for that day and prime our minds for writing about it.

We added to this by ending our reflection sessions with a brain storm for a primer question to get us blogging. Before we started blogging we would answer a reflective question, such as:

  • What animal spirit most describes your day and why?
  • What offering do you wanna do the most?
  • What did you do today that didn’t use electricity?
  • What was your most excellent adventure today?

Soon after we started coming up with a blogging question we also added a list activity. So each post would, at least, answer a question and produce a list. Some list activity examples:

  • What are 5 thing you will most miss about Abe? (the day our guest facilitator left)
  • What are 5 things you are grateful for?
  • What are 5 emotions you felt most today?
  • What are your 5 favorite things you did this week?

The daily blogging practice along with the primer questions improved blogging across the board. You can see this improvement in Jackie’s January 21st entry.

Afternoon Meeting

This post is part of a series on Agile Learning Center tools and 2015 ALC Everett #debrief

Within our daily cycle the Afternoon Meeting closes the day. It is where we reflect on the intentions set in the morning meeting. The act of reflection is as important as setting intentions because it allows us to measure our success or failure to achieve what we set out to do so we can adjust our next cycle of intentions. The afternoon meeting, like it’s morning counterpart were the only required daily meetings in ALC Everett.

The ALC Everett afternoon has gone through a series of upgrades. In it’s early form we would meet at 5pm, our end of day, after cleaning up the space. With our kanbans out we would reflect on the intentions we completed and didn’t get done. We would move items from the Group Kanban to done or back into ready. After we reflected on our intentions we would move to a candle ceremony adapted from the NYC ALC.

Our afternoon reflection, check out my dad second to the left!
Our afternoon reflection candle ceremony

The candle ceremony or “Gratitudes Ceremony” was a ritual where we would light a candle and take turns reflecting on things we were grateful for that day.

On Fridays we would set aside time to blog about our week, as per the student agreement requirement:

> Sharing of your work and play through weekly creative and reflective blog posts

Upgrade to daily blogging

Through our Change Up Meeting we decided to implement a daily blogging routine. We would start blogging around 4pm then start clean up at 4:30 and move into end of day meeting at 5. After a few cycles of this we decided to change the whole process around. It made more sense to reflect first then write about those reflections in our blogs.

We upgraded the process to come together at 4pm for a reflective meeting where we would look over our kanbans, reflect as a group, then enter into focused blogging time.

After we finished blogging we would then clean and do the candle ceremony to end the day. Later, through another change up, we implemented a rule to stop blogging at 5pm.

Intentions and Reflections of the Sterling Family

What follows is the Sterling parent’s reflections on the ALC program which they hosted fall 2014 to spring 2015. This post is part of the Everett ALC Debrief

Jeff and I had the intention of creating a learning community while at the same time supporting the educational requirements for our boys. Prior to the creation of the Everett ALC, we worked for a year practicing and investigating Agile Learning principles.
Through our experience we came to understand that the agile process gives a framework to a more systemic need – that of building community. Our future is dependent on compassionate, sustainable, resilient, thriving communities where each person is acknowledged for the unique being that they are. Each person’s gifts are seen as important to the fabric of the community as a whole.

Starting each day with a circle process in which every participant’s intentions are acknowledged is vital. It is also important for community members to know what others in the community are interested in and working on. People are supported in asking for the assistance they need and are encouraged to offer their support for others. Closing out the day with reflections and ceremony completes the feedback process and sets up the community for the next day.

Although there were many successes with the Everett ALC, including creating a website, learning about web development, practicing permaculture, weaving cedar pouches, telling stories, and frequent park visits, there was a lack of extended community involvement. In retrospect, we believe that having more discussion and coming to community consensus on intentions, guidelines, expectations, commitments, and underlying/overarching  goals would have been very useful.

In January of 2015 we became aware of an existing Washington state educational alternative programs called Alternative Learning Experiences. We spoke with Everett ALC members and moved forward with the expectation that partnering with the local ALE (Port Gardner School) would provide a much needed curriculum base, larger learning community, educators and mentors for ALC participants. After two months of the combined ALE / ALC approach we found that there was not sufficient support in the ALC to keep both programs running this year.

In a truly agile fashion, we are moving ahead with the co-creation of a public school / agile program. The ALE communities throughout Washington state offer fertile ground for planting agile learning seeds. We are working with a local ALE school principle to create an integrated curriculum which will be developed by a student / parent / ALC community partnership. We are utilizing the concepts of a curiosume’ which will facilitate a co-creative learning environment for people of all ages.

Lisa and Jeff