As part of our district’s innovation initiative, I’m always on the look out for ways to improve both what we do and how we do it. Last spring I read Jeff Sutherland’s book on SCRUM.
SCRUM, if you’re new to it, is a framework for managing complex projects. A good overview can be found here, and I’ve posted an overview video at the bottom of this article.
After reading Sutherland’s book, I piloted a couple of projects with SCRUM management techniques and used it to streamline some of my own work. My first SCRUM project was a complete rebuild of our Northern Star Online website. It was a critical project that had embarrassingly languished in our to-do list for several years. Using SCRUM, we went from concept to completion of the new site in two weeks. I was blown away with how much SCRUM tools allowed us to focus, fix problems, and work efficiently. Since then I’ve applied SCRUM on a handful of other projects with similar results.
Our district was convinced enough with SCRUM’s effectiveness that last month Innovation Coach & Teacher Ben Drewelow and I got our Certified SCRUM Master licenses with the SCRUM Alliance. We’re now working to pilot applications of SCRUM techniques in two different areas of our district.
- Using SCRUM to help students manage work, in particular to apply SCRUM to Project Based Learning (PBL). SCRUM and Agile Development work best in complex projects, and managing PBL tasks with groups of students can get quite complex. SCRUM should be able to help in this area. (As an aside, Sutherland’s book has a great chapter on this same topic.)
- Using SCRUM to manage administrative projects. This spring, I’m using SCRUM in the build of a Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum English Language Arts course. Our small team will manage the project using sprints, a project backlog, a kanban board, and iterative building. Instructional design and course building can get notoriously murky and complex—almost to the same degree as a software project—which makes this a perfect testing ground for SCRUM.
For a lot of reasons, education struggles with project management. I’m thrilled with our early SCRUM results, and excited to see if this might provide a framework for us to be more efficient and productive! Should our initial pilots continue to go well, our next challenge will be diffusing SCRUM more widely in the district.