Launch is an Agile Based Learning Environment
How does that look in Launch?
We are a whole class team. There are 14 members in the greater team, and I am the learning coach (as in, I am still learning!).
While the girls are working on individual or team projects in pairs, we also identify as a larger team who work together to support each other to achieve goals. No-one is in competition with each other in our space.
Collaboration is essential to everyone's success. Success looks different for different people at different times. In order to ensure that everyone experiences and recognises their successes as often as possible, we have weekly stand-up meetings.
At these meetings we literally stand in a circle, and each team member talks about their upcoming 'sprint' (their next section or to-do list for their project). We have found that in order to maintain motivation and drive, the girls value weekly stand-up meetings and sprints, as opposed to fortnightly ones, which are more common in other settings.
In stand-up meetings, the girls highlight what they've achieved from last week, what they're working on this week and their next steps. This is also a chance to ask for support from the larger group, or to offer help / ideas to another team member. We congratulate each other and recognise the wins and achievements, whatever form they may be, as this ongoing feedback and feed forward is what supports the girls' motivation.
An excerpt from a team stand-up meeting
Scrum / Kanban Boards
To support their sprints, the girls use a scrum board. They add their tasks for the week in the 'to do' column, shift them over to 'doing' while they're working on them, and finally move them into the 'done' column when they're completed. The 'help' section is great, because the other students in the team, and I, can see if someone needs support with something, and we can head over to offer ideas if we have them.
Some students prefer to do this in Trello (a digital version of a scrum board), but they also like the rest of the group being able to see where they're at, at a glance, so often add their basic tasks to a paper scrum board on the wall as well.
Empathy, Stakeholder Feedback, Rapid Prototyping and Iteration
As it turns out, all of the girls' projects are being developed in response to a societal / social issue or problem, rather than being a straight personal project. This means that when designing a solution for others, or to effect behaviour change it is important to understand the user experience / what it is like to be someone in the situation you're trying to solve.
The girls have used tools like an "empathy map" (see above picture) to ensure they have considered all perspectives, and aren't making incorrect assumptions about what they think is needed to solve the problem.
Something that initially took a little getting used to, but now the girls are very comfortable with, is rapid prototyping and iteration. Typically within an NCEA driven course, you may work on one project over an extended period of time, then submit it for marking. There may be opportunities for formative feedback, the odd comment here or there, but the stakes are generally pretty high when you're submitting that piece of work for assessment. The girls' have been fighting their desire to 'get it right first time' in this course. Initially there was a lot of planning, fiddling, tweaking, refining, more planning etc, before letting anything out of their hands and into public view.
This has changed over the course of the year, as they realise that quickly hashing something out and getting user feedback on it is actually incredibly useful, rather than trying to predict what the reaction or response will be, just get it from the people, and reiterate!
Feedback in this sense, is constructive, useful and rewarding, as you can see how close you're getting to making your product / service or movement something that will hit the mark with people. This is the heart of the agile approach to me; being able to respond to change quickly and pivot where necessary, in order to meet the needs of users. In some contexts, feedback can feel like a commiseration handshake, where you're told what you could have done to improve, but there may not be a re-submission opportunity to actually do that.
I love being part of the Launch team. The girls inspire me every day with their drive, passion and enthusiasm for their projects. I'm proud of what we're achieving as a team, and proud of them all as they develop essential capabilities that will support them for life. The rewards are numerous - the glow of pride when a student steps out of their comfort zone and achieves a goal, seeing the camaraderie the girls show each other in every lesson through their support and sense of humour, the robust discussions we have about passions, beliefs, values, aspirations and what's truly important to them... I could go on for days. If you have the opportunity to try this way of working with a group in your school, go for it. It's been scary, and nerve-wracking, but also exciting and truly rewarding.
Amy-Lee Budd is the new Coach for the Launch course at OGHS. Together with the students we will blog about our learning journey in 2020. Previously, Launch has been coached by Rowan Taigel who is now Director at www.whatifpld.com