Agile Learning Centers are an expanding network of intentional learning communities leveraging agile tools to support Self-Directed Education
Agile Learning Centers restore the joy of learning with a surprisingly effective educational approach: intentional culture supporting self-directed learning reinforced by agile management tools.
Self-Directed: Humans are natural learners. When children get to follow their passions, they engage deeply, learning more quickly and thoroughly – covering years of content in weeks at the time they choose to learn it.
Intentional Culture: At ALCs children feel they are heard, they belong, and they make a difference. As social creatures, we thrive in this kind of vibrant community which builds our confidence, heightens our communication skills, and calls forth our best selves.
Agile Management Tools: We use practical and concrete tools to make these lofty-sounding ideals real and reliable. These tools and practices provide visible feedback, effective self-management, clarity of purpose, and easy integration of new patterns as needs change.
Education Model: The Agile Tree
Some things are central to what ALCs are about, while other elements are flexible and may vary between communities. We use a metaphor of a tree to illustrate this aspect of the ALC educational model more clearly.
The soil we grow from is trust: in students, in each other, in you.
The four assumptions—roots—which ground us are as follows:
- Learning: Learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.
- Self-Direction: People learn best by making their own decisions. Children are people.
- Experience: People learn more from their culture and environment than from the content they are taught. The medium is the message.
- Success: Accomplishment is achieved through cycles of intention, creation, reflection, and sharing.
We recognize twelve guiding principles as branches which communities refer to when developing new tools and practices. The tools and practices that we use in Agile Learning Centers emerge as leaves on one or more branches. These branches depict the guiding principles we use to translate theory into practice and ideals into action.
Infinite Play: Play infinitely, grow infinitely. Play is one of the most powerful paths to growth. The concept of infinite play reminds us that games aren’t about winning; changing rules and boundaries is part of playing, letting players constantly expand the game of outrageous personal growth to incorporate new players and new frontiers.
Agility: Make tools and practices flexible, adaptable, easy to change… or change back again. Too much change all at once can be disorienting — try gentle changes over multiple iterations to see what’s working.
Amplifying Agency: Ensure tools support personal choice and freedom as well as responsibility for those choices. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in designing and upgrading the structures which guide them.
Culture Creation: Acknowledge and use the water you’re swimming in. We shape culture; culture shapes us. A powerful, positive culture is the strongest, most pervasive support structure a learning community can have. Develop collective mastery rather than restrictive rule-making. Intentional culture building supports intentionality in other domains as well.
Visible Feedback: Make choices, patterns, and outcomes visible to participants so they can tune their future behavior accordingly. Make the implicit explicit and expand transparency. These practices empower and build trust among community members.
Facilitation: Clarify, simplify, and connect. Don’t introduce unnecessary complexity. Hold coherence for personal growth in an empowered cultural context. Connect kids to the larger social capital of their community as they seek learning resources. Combine many principles and intentions into a single tool or practice, instead of trying to maintain more of them.
Support: Provide maximum support with minimal interference. As adults, we often need support reaching our goals and fulfilling our intentions; so do children. We create supportive structures, practices, culture, and environments. However it’s important to remember that support is not direction — it does not mean making their decisions for them or intervening and managing their processes. Support that takes up too much space becomes counterproductive.
Respect for each other’s time and space: Hold no unnecessary meetings. Keep all meetings tight, productive and participatory. Honor commitments, as well as scheduled start and end times for happenings. Check-in before creating work for someone else. Be thoughtful about taking up shared space.
Relationship: Be real. Be accepting. Respect differences. Authentic relationship is the basis of partnership, communication, collaboration, and trust between students and staff. Support self-expression, self-knowledge and self-acceptance, letting the experience of nurturing relationship teach the power of interrelatedness and community.