It might be free but it ain’t cheap – UPDATE

UPDATE: I wrote this post in haste while upset and worn out after a meltdown of a system I’ve been caring for for a long time. After talking to some people in the network, who I insulted with my brashness, it’s clear that I’m burnt out and much of this response comes from that. I’m sorry and also not sorry for this public display. Humans are emotional creatures, we are real and we mess up. I’m in a challenging place in my life right now and I let it get the better of me. For that I forgive myself and I hope you’ll understand dear reader.

Look, it’s not as dire as I make it out to be. Actually things are amazing, power is drawing to the edges of this network away from the center, away from me. I fear that what I’ve created for the network will break and leave people behind, and while we have much word to do, it’s not as bad as it seems to me. There are new excited people who are taking up the slack. This network is full of amazing people who will handle the mess of wires I’m leaving behind.

While I still believe that the recent failure should light a fire, it’s also true that even if all this tech stuff disappears tomorrow ALC and the network of people doing the work wont. What I’ve created, with the help and support of many fantastic collaborators is doing an amazing job 98% of the time. I’m proud of what I’ve built here. Things are changing, that’s all, and I’m changing, my involvement is changing.

From where ever it is in the world I am behind a screen the good things can seem so small and far away while the problems near me so big. It’s a mistake of perspective. Perhaps it says more about me than anything else. Perhaps it’s weird for those of you who are new, but I’ve never been involved in anything where I can feel safe to be a messy idiot and still find love and support from the people around me.

We are surely building something amazing together and it will be fine.

Redactions are struck through while additions are in underlined


The ALC website went down today. I’ve know for years that this day was coming. A malware bomb that exploited something and was able to get into our system and blow up. The good news is that it’s gone, the site is back up. The bad news is we don’t know where the hole was and thus we don’t know if we plugged the leak or just made room for more water to pour in. We are very fortunate to have had Loren and Dan available to jump in and save the day, I would have not been able to do this on my own.

This attack happened at almost the same time that our server hit a limit of “script executions” which is a fancy way of saying lots of people are doing stuff on our website, more than our $12 per month hosting allows for. Which, of course, is good news. We are growing, there are more people than ever using the site. These things are just growing pains.

So, my dear network of agile learners and facilitators and parents, it is time to have the talk.

There is a joke in my nerd world that free software is free as in kittens, not as in beer. A beer you get, enjoy, and are done with it, buzzed and not a dollar lighter. A free kitten is a gift of responsibility. You have to take care of it, feed it, make sure it doesn’t die. It’s a burdensome gift. It’s also a gift that returns more love and affection than a single beer ever could.

Agile Learning Centers is a kitten. We, the volunteers behind the scenes, did you a great disservice not warning you adequately. We made it all look so good and clean and put together—and it really is in many ways—but we’ve mislead you. You have, possibly unwittingly, become You are the co-owner of the ALC kitten. Now your kitten is a bit sick, vomiting on the nice rug, and the vet bills are going to start coming in.

That is to say that we now have a great opportunity. It’s time to create the network. There is no staff at the center, there is nothing but a few overworked volunteer knowledge holders who have been around just a little bit longer than you have. There are no leaders but yourself. What I’m asking—demanding—of you now is to take on more responsibility, more work, more time, more costs. I can’t tell you how you’re going to do it, though I might be able to support you, make suggestions, warn you about what didn’t work in the past, but mainly I’m going to talk to you about websites and servers.

In a funny twisted way the website binds us together and it will be, I hope, the catalyst for taking the ALC network to the next level. We can no longer support the website on volunteer time. I have written a detailed breakdown of the current state of technical infrastructure and my recommendations for what to do next. I suggest you skim it, just to get a sense of what’s going on behind the scenes. To get a sense of what you now co-own own and are responsible for.

There is a lot that needs to get done, but it all starts with you coming together with your fellow co-owners and building out a body that can determine the will of the network. This is certainly already happening all across the network.

Have you noticed that there is no mission or vision on your network website? I can’t publish a vision because we’ve never made one that was truly representative of the network. Why? Because the network hasn’t come together yet to make it happen. I think we all share a mission and a vision, only it hasn’t been articulated.

The network hasn’t come together to outline what is important to it. What it wants it’s website to DO. I’ve been stuck for a long time with hundreds of different facets of the website I could have worked on, but never knowing what is actually needed.

Now it’s time to force take account of the issue, because we need direction, we need a plan, and so we need a body to get that plan together. This website needs to be updated, it needs a strategy to maintain it, it needs resources to keep it going. You have to provide those resources, you have to make the plan. The website is a reflection of everyone and right now it’s sick, it’s going to die, your kitten is sick.

Because this isn’t Facebook or Google, you aren’t a product to be mined for data and sold to the highest bidder, you are the creator, you are the driver, you are the owner. YOU the person reading this YOU HAVE TO DO IT, dissolve this illusion that there are other people who are in charge, we’ve all got to get it together. Some of us have been around a little bit longer but we don’t know! No one is going to provide this for you, it’s just like the ALC you are a part of. It takes everyone to make it happen.

Sorry if you didn’t sign up for this, but it’s on you now. The website is going to fall apart or not keep up with your needs if we don’t all take an active role. The beauty of this problem is that it is also an opportunity to create new celebrate the new leadership in our network and form the processes for us to all take collective ownership of this cute little kitten.


I don’t know how you’re going to do it.

Here’s what I suggest: build a spokes council. (Borrowed from a long tradition of decentralized organizing)

  • You are going to talk to the people you see every day about this post. Get them to read it. Discuss what you think it means. Discuss what I’m asking of you. The parents, the kids, as many of the people around you that co-create whatever version of ALC you are making real.
  • You’ll choose someone to represent your cluster, your ALC or startup group. The group of stakeholders you share space with. Their first job will be to connect with all the other people who have been chosen as spokes. Many of you are already connected with other people in your region throughout the network, that’s a good start.
  • Now the spokes will start to figure out how to meet together, how to have a conversation. Start to meet online, do it often, swap out the spokes often too. Just start sharing digital space.
  • Maybe it’s only the ALCs in your time zone for now, but the beauty of the spokes council is that you can have those spokes select another spoke to represent the regional group, then start the process over. The regional spokes will get together, meet up and talk about the needs of their regions.
  • Repeat this process until there is a meeting of spokes that can speak on behalf of the whole network.

Once you have that then it’s just a matter of creating a feedback loop.

  • Local ALCs sit and talk about what’s present for them, what they need or can offer the network. A spoke is selected to represent those views.
  • The spoke goes to a regional meet up of other spokes, and those people have a conversation on behalf of their ALCs.
  • If need be, those regional meetings select a spoke to meet with other regional spokes and speak on behalf of their regions.
  • The spokes report back, and the cycle repeats itself.

Then take ownership of the network and tell me what you want the website to do. Tell me how we are going to solve the problems I’ve outlined and all the challenges I have no idea about.

This might take a long time, you are busy, I know. It might no look anything like what I suggested above. It can be slow, but something needs to happen.

“Who if not you? When if not now?”

The post It might be free but it ain’t cheap – UPDATE appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

First Network News Call Recap

Our first Network News Call went very well. This post is a recap of the call, with links and all that fine stuff. If you missed the call, don’t worry, it’s available on YouTube! Watch below:


On the call was Anthony, Charlotte, Liam, Bear, Tomis, Rochelle, Art.

The Alliance for Self-Directed Education: Update

Jump to this section in video.

Brief summary of where we are at and what we are hoping to build.
How this intersects with ALC (#Duh, but to point out some specific things)
Tipping Points: the self-directed education experience (call to action)
Join the newsletter, share it with your ALC communities:

Notes: Tomis & a bunch of people are working on an ASDE
Putting together an online magazine to elevate the voices of people who are doing this in various places
Putting it out to ALC World: are there articles you’d like to write for a large magazine audience?
Sign up for the newsletter at

ALC Mosaic’s #OneCampus: Update

Jump to this section in video.

We find out a lot of important information in the next month.

If we need a fire system with sprinklers, costs could be severe. We are committed to making it work and need your support!

–How does this effect the ALC Network?

(ALC Hub: trainings and ongoing startup support…guest house idea)


ALF Calls update

Just to this section in video.

Most up-to-date info on calls:

Contact if you want to volunteer or have questions!

You can view the ALC Calendar at:


CH: Jamie
Mondays, 8:30pm – 9:30pm

Southeast Facil-Prac

CH: Nancy
2nd 4th Thursdays, 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Startups Facil-Prac

CH: ???

Tech Support Call

CH: Drew
3rd Tuesday, 8:00pm – 9:00pm
Next: Sept 20th

Ops Support Call

CH: Tomis
Every Other Thursday, 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Next: Sept 22nd

Agile Learning Parents Call

CH: Melissa


CH: Ryan
4th Monday of each Month, 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Network business update

Jump to section in video.

Network Accountabilities spreadsheet


This call used to be report backs from Working Groups & decision-making.
This call is now just for announcements.
Network Biz WG has been formed for the decision-making group. CH is Art. Monthly accountabilities call to put forward work
Drew reads through the accountabilities spreadsheet.

I don’t think it makes sense to have read through this spreadsheet…
Presumably CH’s would have added cards about these if they had updates.

Startups WG Updates

Jump to section in video.

Celebrate accomplishments from last month:

  • Membership automation minimum viable product complete!

Goals for September:

  • New Member Automation Complete: This means getting everything from sign-up & payment to automatically adding new members to Slack, the to Membership Directory & Map, etc)
  • Harbor Pilot structures, web docs & pairings complete: Harbor Pilot’s will welcome new schools/projects into the Network & “pilot” them into basic familiarity with our tools & network structures. If you’re interested in this, email! I will send out more information once the Membership Benefits are firmed up (since this will inform the type of piloting needed).
  • All existing ALCs moved into new ALC Content Type: Thanks Drew for setting up the new Content Type! This keeps ALC Directory information on the website.
  • Make explicit points of contact between all ALCs and Harbor Pilots/Account Managers: This will make visible who’s been checked in on by who, how often, & what support they need.
  • Contact all Startup & Early Stage ALCs about Health Surveys
  • Schedule & organize all ALC support calls
  • Email w/ questions

Windsor House Update

Jump to section in video.


Old school
Needed to move because of earthquake
Now spread across several different locations
How to coordinate events, which kids are going where based on activities, staff, etc?
Met ALCs at AERO
Using tools to set intentions, create consistent culture, book rooms & locations, etc
Things have been going well!
School opens TOMORROW
Had some cool practice meetings that parents & kids have really enjoyed

Two other free schools in Oregon and SLC are probably going to start using ALC tools
Ashland OR will also be starting tomorrow after meeting ALCs at AERO — speed record for meet to startup 🙂

Cairo training report

Jump to this section in video.


Bear, Nariman, & organizers from 1-2 day workshops & presentations from November 2015 came together to put on a 12-day training 🙂 🙂
English language school gifted to trainers to use as needed
30 participants in 3-day foundation training & building community
5-day summer camp with 30 kids, went super well!
Great sharings, moving, powerful experiences, lots of positive feedback
Quotes from kids:
“I am doing everything I want!”
“I can’t believe everyone’s okay with everything I’m suggesting.”

“I’ve been to 100’s of nurseries and have never liked any of them. This is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life! I’m 9 years old and this is life.”

Then did 3-day launchpad at The Oasis (retreat): 5 ALCs starting up — space for young adults, integrated into a progressive arts college in Cairo, teen ALC, young ALC, camp for kids on a regular basis, 2 1-day/week parent-ALC co-ops
And then a bunch more I can’t type fast enough to get down…

Additional learnings about structuring trainings & workshops

Cairo as a learning city ^ ^ ^
Sandbox (pun bear?? 😉 — connecting resources & spaces to each other
Totes rad!!
Good accountabilities, relationships, & communication

PSA: Having an issue you can’t solve in your community? Try the ALC Culture Committee

Jump to section in video.

Virtual Culture Committee

Heartwood update

Jump to section in video.


Open for 1 month
Have had 3 info sessions
Enrolled 2 new students
2-3 families with 2-4 students in the pipeline over the next month
Currently have 16 students
2 paid & 1 volunteer staff member (all full time)

In Clarkson Community Center ATM (temporary space, shared with other community projects, has been difficult) –

Colorado Springs

Jump to section in video.

3 teens Tuesday-Thursday
3 families collecting every Sunday for game night
First week went well
All founding parents & students were involved

Tampa Update

Jump to section in video.


Heath has left ALC Tampa 🙁 🙁 🙁 due to misunderstandings & miscommunications
Bear has been in touch with Tampa & Heath
Take-away to share: It’s important to get a signed agreement that states your pay, housing, compensation expectations, and have communication agreements be a part of that.

Talk to us if something isn’t working! We can help

You can chat with Rochelle about Blueprint of WE as a way to set up relationship foundations IYI,

Euro Tour Update

Jump to section in video.


Bear has been talking to Marcus in Greece about organizing events there
Organizing tour w/ Alex & Pia for Euro in Jan/Feb
Mostly 3-hour presentations, sometimes weekend trainings (w/ one-day practicum with kids)
Reaching out to partners to map it out

You can connect w/ bear on this

Twin Oaks

Jump to section in video.


Drew, Rochelle, Liam, & Abe went to the Twin Oaks Communities Conference!
We did a workshop on Culture Creation, using the CMB & change-up to create intentional culture. 45 people came, Liam thinks it went well! We will publish about it soon.
Rochelle also taught a gameshifting workshop

Special thanks to @rochellehudson for taking notes!

Feedback? email


The post First Network News Call Recap appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

ALC Network Holding Proposal 2016

Nearly 2 years ago I attended the first ALF Summer at ALC Mosaic in Charlotte, NC. This event marks, in my opinion, the creation of the ALC Network. It was a point when the people and resources came together to support new and emerging ALCs. Now, as we enter our third year, I feel that we are on the precipice of powerful, sustainable growth.

In this post will present a vision for the superstructure of the ALC Network. How the Network, as a group of individuals, relates to the people and places that make up the network. I will cover where we are currently, what work has been done to formalize the structures and ideas that make up the ALC Network, and what is left to do to make my proposed vision a reality.

Unpacking some words

ALF: Agile Learning Facilitator, when used generally it means anyone who is facilitating at an ALC or within the ALC Network. Specifically it means a person who has been officially recognized by other ALFs as a member of the community. Put another way, anyone can facilitate in an Agile Learning environment, but ALFs are “entitled” facilitators.

Holding: Holding is explicit role within a group. A holder is a person whose responsibility it is to “hold” the group together. They are not in charge of the group, but rather in charge of making sure the group is maintained. A project manager by another name without the power dynamic.

Network Holder: This is an Agile Learning Facilitator who has shown up and been recognized as holding the ALC Network. One who supports the ALC Network and the people within it.

Coherence Holder: This term is a bit tricky, it will probably change, but it has two meanings. When used generally a coherence holder is someone holding a project, group, or idea. When used as a proper noun it means a ALF who has been recognized as holding a domain within the ALC Network. This could be an ALC or a working group or something not yet considered.

Vision Holder: In this context a vision holder is a person (or small group of people) who hold a vision for an ALC or learning community. In a young community the vision holder is the foundation that keeps everything together, they are the key to the success of any group (and eventually the source of its undoing, but that’s a story for another time).

Where we are now

As we enter our third year the ALC network has a number of achievements to be proud of. Some of these achievements come in the form of clarity around shared ideas and others are more material.  Here is a non-exhaustive list:

  • Functioning website that allows the ALC Network, individuals, and ALCs to promote themselves as well as share ideas.
  • A solid brand.
  • Membership process which has brought over 10 new groups in the ALC Network.
  • Foundation for a strong network social media presence.
  • Emerging consensus around ALC Network membranes, or definitions about what is inside and outside of our organization.
  • Processes, practices, and protocols for dealing with interpersonal conflict (culture committee), collective decision making and organizational culture hacking (change up), and work responsibilities (ALC WORKS!).
  • Emerging network vision/mission.
  • Pilot training/presentation process for sharing the ALC idea and planting seeds for new ALCs.

Vision for Network Holders

Currently there is little clarity around what ALC membership in the Network entails and who is responsible for maintaining these relationships between the independent ALCs and the ALC Network. This has fallen to a small group of people who have the interest and time to dedicate to holding the ALC Network.

This small group of “unofficial” network holders has been managing relationships with new groups, creating the processes through which groups pass through membranes within the network and supporting existing groups. It’s been an amazing effort but has lacked a vision which in turn makes it difficult to act in strategic ways.

The core of my vision is quite simple. Network Holders explicitly hold specific ALCs, ALC Startups, and Vision Holders by supporting their integration into the ALC Network.


Network Holders (NH) are responsible for creating and maintaining relationships with Coherence Holders (CH) of ALCs, ALC Startups, or other domains within the network.

This pattern is already present throughout the ALC Network. Coherence Holders (such as the director of an ALC) hold space for Agile Learning Facilitators to facilitate (ALF) allowing  ALFs to facilitate students/parents/resource people within that space. Network Holders hold CHs in the same way.

Let’s look at a real world example. ALC Oahu’s CH is @nina, she holds space for ALF @mandy who facilitates relationships between students (like @seamus) and resource people like Alex. Mandy helps Alex and Seamus work together by holding space for them within the larger ALC Oahu structure, which Nina in turn holds. I, as a Network Holder, facilitate the relationship between Nina (ALC Oahu) and the rest of the network by connecting her with fellow CHs and ALCs. This might look like help with website, sharing legal docs from established ALCs, or coming out and doing in-person support.


What this creates is a centralized body of Network Holders who work to maintain a decentralized network of ALCs. The Network Holders can create and quickly share protocol with their ALCs through personal relations. The aim of this configuration would be to leverage the best of both a centralized and decentralized network. With Network Holders supporting the connections between CH and ALCs they would limit the bottleneck of going through a centralized system. ALCs can support each other without requiring NH intervention. All while important information can quickly be shared to the entire network through the centralized NH infrastructure and their personal relationships between the ALCs in their care.

Another real world example of this comes in the form of picture sharing. Our social media always needs pictures of people thriving in ALCs. The Network Holders could come up with a strategy for collecting images (based on conversation with CH) then reach out to their associated ALCs with clear instructions for how to opt-in to add images to a community pool. Right now for something like this to happen our social media people (person) would have to shout out to all the ALCs at once and hope that people would be able to take the time to listen and act. In this scenario I already know where ALC Oahu keeps their photos and would be able to add them myself without having to bother Nina or Mandy at all.

alc-network-holder-post_single-nh copyIt is important to note that Network Holders wouldn’t want to be a bottleneck or gatekeeper but foster direct peer to peer communication between people within the network.

Harbor Piloting or Guiding New ALCs Into the Network

When ships enter a new harbor often a “pilot” will be dispatched to assist the captain in navigating the waters. Network Holders would serve this role with new Startups, assisting them in connecting to resources and people within the ALC Network. Further, Network Holders would be available to help “Vision Holders”, or people who are interested in starting an ALC, move forward with their dream.

This is already happening to an extent with the recent trainings that @bear has been doing across the US. Under my proposed practice people who are identified as “Vision Holders” (VH) would have a Network Holder to help them create their own ALC.


I see a clear pathway to becoming an ALC that Network Holders will want to foster. The above graphic describes someone moving from having a vision for “something” to becoming a full ALC. Along that path there is support that the ALC Network can provide to assist them. Presentations, print-outs, trainings, membership benefits, and so on can be deployed to help people realize their vision, build a team, create a learning center, and join the ALC Network.

Limit Your WIP

Currently we are spreading our message and creating many vision holders, like throwing seeds into our garden. I feel that by making Network Holder’s relationship explicit with Vision Holders and limiting the number of explicit relationships to a manageable level, in the same way that ALCs keep a healthy ALF to student ratio, we can cultivate these seeds with more care and grow stronger ALCs.

Network Vision Holders

The above vision I’ve outlined leaves out a different kind of Network Holder. Those who work mainly in their own ALC but who hold the vision and ideals of the ALC Network. @nancy, @ryan, and @abby comes to mind here, they are constantly engaged in Network level discussions (even if it’s only listening) on top of their full time jobs running their respective ALCs. There is a great need for this kind of Network Holding that isn’t covered in my description above.

Having people who actually run and work in ALCs be part of the Network Holder inner membrane will be very important and should be maintained.

What we Need to Get There

We are very close to having a clear pathway to the vision I’ve outlined. To achieve this we need to finish a few projects that are still in process.

Annual Report

“To see where we are going we must know where we are.”

The Annual Report, a project started over ALF Weekend Spring 2016, aims to create a document that describes what the ALC Network has achieved over the past year. It should highlight what the team of volunteer unofficial Network Holders (and other ALFs) have been able to achieve over the past year. This document will serve as an exclamation that says what the ALC Network is capable of. This document will provide the incentive to invest in our awesome little experiment.

Currently very little content has been created.  There is, however, a detailed outline available via this Trello Board which @rochelle put together. It contains information about writing an Annual Report as well as cards describing the requested content, which is outlined below.

You can support this project in the following ways:

  • Collect member stories, how has ALC upgraded existing learning centers or provided the foundation needed to start new ones.
  • Collect powerful stories, images, and testimony from ALCs
  • Write ups about the following programs
    • Membership model launch
    • ALF Summer 2015
    • Upgrades to the website
    • ALC Starter Kit + it’s impact
    • ALF Weekend(s)
  • Other content (pictures, images, videos) that highlights the impact the ALC Network has had

I am currently coherence holder of the Annual Report so please contact me,


“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”

If Network Holders are going to act strategically they will need a clear vision to guide them. Network Holders will be able to weigh actions against a shared vision. This shared vision has been in development for over 5 months. I’m pushing forward a Network Vision which compiles the responses from a questionnaire delivered to the community.

Currently a super rough draft of the vision statement exists, which has been compiled from community feedback. Let me know if you would like to work on this, @sara is the coherence holder but also running an ALC, so contact me.


Over the past 2 years consensus has been forming around our Network’s structure. What @art introduced to us as a “boob diagram” for layers  of engagement at ALF Weekend Fall 2014 has been guiding our work in developing the ALC Membranes. Currently the process and community ritual for entitling people who show up in our network is at a new level of functionality. Before we can have Network Holders we will need to agree on an explicit process for entitling them.

Initially it might make sense to simply declare that “I am a Network Holder” or “Holder” in front of our group. I feel that it will be better to have a clear process and actually practice the ritual around entitling people so that we can on board people as we grow.

Currently the ALC Membrane is best described in the Network Membrane Notes spreadsheet, which contains a few iterations as attached sheets. I have been working on a very explicit ALC Membrane Process document that describes the steps taken to perform a peer review.

Both these projects need a coherence holder to actually practice and test the peer review system and make the process of entitling people into ALFs, CH, and NH explicit. Then determine a way to record it. As it stands people implicitly hold these titles but we are missing the functional, technical means to perform and record anything explicitly.


The final piece to this vision will be the membership process. Currently the membership process (which I think needs a different name!) works quite well. It only needs more automation (working on it!) and to include a process for a Network Holder becoming an advocate for new members.

This process should be decided by the Network Holders once they (we) are an implicit group.

Putting it all together

This is my proposal for the Network focused work we should do at ALF Summer 2016. By recording our achievements in the Annual Report we can advocate for an investment in ourselves. When we complete and come to agreement on a shared vision we will be able to think and work strategically. Once our membrane process is agreed upon we will be able to entitle each other and maintain a clear path for introducing new people into our ranks. Finally with a few polishing tweaks to our membership process we can realize the explicit formulation of having Network Holders hold all members of the Network. With these elements combined we will have everything we need to consolidate consulting, info, and startups working groups into a single group of Network Holders who execute the Network Vision by supporting ALCs, Startups, and Vision Holders.

Emerging Strategy for ALF Summer

  1. Write the “story” of Agile Learning Centers from the last  year (to 18 months) in the form of an Annual Report.
  2. Invest in some structural improvements to our online database of users, ALC and ALC Startup organizations.
  3. Adjust the membership model ($10/student, $95/minimum)
  4. Determine and describe NH’s specific strategy moving forward
    1. Some (or all) NHs taking on a coaching/support role with a handful of ALCs and Startups
    2. Define goals and desired outcomes (specific/concrete as much as possible)
    3. Define any other known, essential roles that people would be taking on to accomplish these outcomes
  5. Formalize Network Holders WG
  6. Determine best options for funding
  7. Create a Pitch Book, or any other materials necessary for appealing for funding


The post ALC Network Holding Proposal 2016 appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

Four Step Game Development

I’ve been binge watching Mark Brown’s Game Maker’s Toolkit series on YouTube. Mark is a game critic that has been creating these video reflections on games, typically on aspects of their mechanics. I’d like to discuss one of Mark’s videos called Super Mario 3D World’s 4 Step Level Design in which he looks at the super successful level design of Super Mario 3D World. Have a look:

The game introduces a dazzling amount information to the player. Looked at as a whole it might seem overwhelming yet, according to mark, it works really well. I’ve been seeing this idea of overwhelming game mechanics a lot lately. Some of us at ALC recently consulted with a school who wished to introduce self directed learning to their students. This is like going from a linear 2D scroller—where everything is spoon fed to you—to a massive open world game. In ALC we have a number of games (or tools) such as Kanban boards, Set-the-Week, and Gameshifting that support self directed learning. When put together all these games seem, to the uninitiated, as overwhelming and complex. Just look at the Kanban, with it’s infinite variations and ability to expand to fit almost any situation.


The teacher at this school was keen to introduce our tools to her students, but it was clear to the ALFs present that this would be too much too fast. I wanted to support her in doing this, but more level heads were able to “limit the work in process” and we ended up suggesting a super simple Kanban and Gameshifting board to start.

I think that we can look toward Super Mario for inspiration when trying to introduce our games.

The 4 Step Game Design

As outlined in Mark’s video Mario is using a “four step” design principle.

  1. Introduction
  2. Development
  3. Twist
  4. Conclusion

This provides a useful template for introducing our tools, let’s focus on the Kanban, as it lends itself to this methodology.

One: The introduction

kanban-post-elements_simple-kanbanWhen Mario introduces a play mechanic it will typically do so in a safe environment with low stakes for failure. The player can then try and fail without risking a life while they feel out the mechanic.

The introduction to the Kanban can happen in two ways. First, it can be simplified into it’s most basic form, which I would describe as a two column board with these headers:

  • What I want to do today
  • What I’ve done today

I use the word want very deliberately here. It’s lower stake than will and makes failure a bit less sharp (changing a players perception of failure is for another level). The instructions are absolutely clear in these titles. Hand this Kanban and some sticky notes to someone and it’s instantly clear what they are going to do with it.

I’ve used a method like this when introducing ALC or our tools to people in the past.


By using a kanban to manage the presentation I am able to model the tool in a useful way. This, again, is a safe way to introduce people to it. They are participating with the tool, but not having to take care of it themselves.

Two: The development


As we move through our Mario level we are challenged by a slow development of that mechanic. More complexity is added as the player moves through the development.

With our Kanban it’s easy to see how to do this. We can just start adding columns. In the example of introducing Kanban to a school we might start with a two column and after a few weeks add a third column then a fourth.

The idea is to develop the tool over time with the player. Add new columns as the player realizes new needs.

Three: The twist

kanban-post-elements_twist-kanbanIn Mario the twist is typically the addition of an unexpected challenge that makes the player have to interact with the mechanic in a different way.

With our Kanban the twist can come in the form adding elements that expand the functionality in unexpected ways. For instance adding rows (“swim lanes”) to group tasks.

The twist, I think, should be drastic and complex. It’s meant to show where such a tool can go. The twist opens up the players imagination to possibilities.

Four: The conclusion

kanban-post-elements_dev-kanban copyNow we are done. In Mario the conclusion consists of one last use of the mechanic to show mastery by the player. Like a pat on the back for learning a new skill.

For our Kanban the conclusion can come from having our student walk away with their own modified Kanban. After seeing the “twist” they might well be inspired with a concrete way to improve their Kanban.

We expand the possibilities then conclude with an appropriate application of the flexibility.

Games as tools, tools as games

I think there is quite a lot to learn by thinking about our tools and practices in the context of games and game mechanics, especially video games. For the past 20+ years video games have been teaching people a wide variety of skills. Video games are coming to be the dominate storytelling medium in our society. Modeling our own pedagogy from the best that games have to offer gives us a powerful ally in expanding the reach of our ideas. I will certainly be looking more at game development and its practices to see how I can leverage it in my own practice.

The post Four Step Game Development appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

ALF Cheat Sheet v 0.3

I’ve updated the ALC Network Cheat Sheet and updated it to a more accurate title. The updates better describe some of the communication channels, add the new ALC WORKS! Trello board (formally the projects board) and bring in a whole new column that describes protocol in the network around what channels and infrastructure are used for what kind of activity. I am drawing from a number of sources such as @tomis’s Network Ecosystem Charter and the Virtual Culture Committee process which have not been widely agreed upon in the network. That means this document does NOT represent the consensus of the network, but my interpretation of it and how it might be soon. With that disclaimer out of the way, have a look (after the jump) and please leave your comments! 



The post ALF Cheat Sheet v 0.3 appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

Mapping my ALF Accountability: What I do and want to do

Last fall at ALF Weekend 2014 we participated in a game where we wrote out what we did, what we have “juice” for, what we want to be doing, and what action we are taking to get there. We wrote these down then went around the room and spoke them out to our peers, then everyone would suggest additions. It was a super powerful process an

It’s a year later and prompted by @abbyo post and @ryanshollenberger post I’ve decided to update my ALF Accountability information. If any ALFs out there want to do the same I’ll leave instructions at the bottom of this post.

The following is taken from the Mapping ALF Accountabilities Doc, updates are sub bulleted, additions are italic, while subtractions are strike throughNote: Some of these bullet points were added by me, others were added by my fellow ALFs, that should explain the change in tense.

What I do

  • Facilitate ALC in Everett
  • Consult with Everett board
  • Train other Everett ALFs (parents for now)
    • This didn’t ever happen, because there wasn’t a clear vision for the school we never could onboard more people and the parents didn’t have time/energy to become facilitators
  • Manage/Administer ALC web sites
    • This has been going well.
  • Administer Google Apps
    • Still doing this, over the summer we moved to a network account away from the NYC Google Apps account. Still need to get down clear procedures around this as well as:
    • Train new Google Apps admin
  • Consult on Tech Questions / IT Support for network
  • Do designy things
  • Get things done without being a busybody
    • My work/life balance has been really good recently, I do spend a whole lot of time on ALC stuff, but I just love working on it!
  • Bring experience of successes & failures from other social orgs and efforts
  • Bring balance of cynicism, sarcasm & hopefulness
  • Such a graceful fuck up!
  • Narrate destruction of wood this was tongue in cheek from the weekend in 2014
  • Help the group move to creative space even on challenging issues
  • Says yes when asked to play… with a seemingly infinite comfort-zone
    • Still saying yes!
  • Offer support to kids in other ALCs
    • Now that’s I’ve stepped out of a facilitation role I haven’t been doing this as much, but am still available!
  • Readily stepping into accountability
  • Bringing “medium as the message” to doing important work in the world
    • I blog to inspire others to create shareable value!
  • Makes us laugh, brings joy & lightness
  • Builder of internet infrastructure for reaching humanity
  • Watch and answer startup/membership emails
  • Be available to new ALC members for Office Hours
  • Create documentation to orient new ALFs and New Member ALCs
  • Support and encourage other ALFs to step into higher levels of responsibility and take ownership over roles in the network
  • Support other ALFs in their practice
  • Share ALC with people and create promotional propaganda
  • Consulting with public schools!
  • Continue to get better at the Ukulele!

What gives me Juice

  • A loving and supportive community
  • Interesting people
  • Earth-shattering ideas
  • ALC fits my theory of change
  • Motivate others to document/share stuff
  • When people use tools I built
    • Check out the awesome websites that are being created on the platform I created!
  • Sharing knowledge and learning from others
  • When I can receive emotional support
  • Seeing others working effectively / achieving their goals
  • Seeing people have realistic analysis of the world recognizing opportunities ahead
  • Getting to do things outside of normal skill sets

What I Want to be Doing

  • Support kids on other ALCs
    • It’s not that I don’t want to do this, but it’s less of a focus for me. I’d rather support ALFs who then support kids!
  • Introducing new schools, indoctrinating them
    • I’m starting to do this!
  • Recruiting facilitators, freeing prison teachers
    • Currently working on ALF membrane and ALF pipeline to achieve this goal!
  • Want to be developing entrepreneurial aspiration of people and students in the network
  • Connecting ALCs to other orgs, like intentional communities, homeschooling, counter cultural groups
  • Create docs around ALC methods that apply to other educational contexts
  • Evangelizing for ALCs
  • Create a worker-owner cooperative that provides Agile consulting services and employees ALFs

Next Actions

  • Practicing ALFness in Everett success!
  • Building Everett to build skills to do it again/more/consult success!
  • Abnormal travel post-Everett, ingratiatingly
  • Train another Everett ALF failure!
  • Motivate Everett parents to engage more actively failure!
  • Connect with indigenous groups & activists in Seattle area and share ALC failure!
  • Connect past friends/connections to ALC
    • Getting the ALF pipeline worked out brings me closer to this goal
  • Clearly define ALF integration workflow
  • Create by-laws for ALF consulting coop
  • Hire an intern to work on web development stuff
  • Uplift more ALFs into network roles
  • Support @sarataleff, @rochellehudson, @abram, and others in creating a vision for the ALC Network

Overall I see my role in this network to make it easy for people to accomplish what they want to do. Be that existing ALFs or people out in the world who want to create a better future for children. I feel that the more I define and document how we do things the easier it will be for people to engage with our network or create their own complementary networks.

It is through my work helping other people achieve their goals that I am fulfilled. Every time I see someone use a process or tool I’ve developed (or better, helped them develop) I am inspired to do more.

My time in this organization has been a great one, truly an upward spiral ?

Just like the last time we did this, if you see anything I’ve missed please comment below.

Write your own accountability post!

If you wish to participate please write a blog post with the tag:


Answer the following questions:

  • What I do: (for the network and in your local ALC community)
  • Juice: What gives you juice (what about the community or your work powers you up?)
  • Want: What do you want to do (in an ideal world)
  • Action: What actions are you taking or will you take to do this

You can see everyone’s post on the network feed site (this is a thing!) under the alfaccountability tag:

The post Mapping my ALF Accountability: What I do and want to do appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.