Agile at Home: Remote Learning

Chris Everhart

Published On: April 13, 2020

Categories: Community 0

Lately, there’s been a lot of uncertainty in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive impacts in how we live our lives. Our work lives and personal lives are in a state of general disarray as we try to adjust to the new normal of social distancing and, in some cases, isolation. In times like these, it’s more important than ever to stay agile and adapt.

Home Schooling for the Uninitiated

One change that many families are facing right now is what to do with the kids now that a lot of schools are closed. In my house, we’ve had to make that adjustment. My son is currently in the first grade and his school has recently moved to a fully remote education experience. The experience of the first day was terrible. We had some technical difficulties getting everything set up. There were issues tracking down what the deliverable work was through the slide deck. By the end of the day, my seven-year-old was frustrated and so was I. I realized that we needed a better way to keep him sane and on track. So, after we put him to bed, I put on my Scrum Master hat and went to work.

In the house, wAgile at Home - Remote Learninge had a magnetic whiteboard and some magnetic Kanban cards that we were using for a bit at SentryOne before we went fully digital. I pulled those out, went through the slide deck that the school provided, and had a planning session. On each card, I wrote the day the work was due, a brief description of the work to be done, and the slide number the work was mentioned on. The board itself was a very straight forward set up with the standard To Do, Doing, and Done columns.

For those unfamiliar with Kanban, the basic premise is that you load up your To Do column with work and prioritize it with the most important item at the top of the list. You then move an item of work into the Doing column and when you’re done with it, you move it into the Done column and grab the next item in To Do. Part of the reason that this works so well is that it keeps you focused on one thing at a time. It also keeps work visible, which is super useful for a parent checking on their kid’s progress.


The next morning, I explained how a Kanban board works, and he was very excited. By having the Kanban board, he was able to manage his own work, get it done at a sustainable pace, and had the satisfaction of moving things to Done. It was working so well that I snuck some chores on it for him to tackle. That night at dinner, he said that it was “the greatest thing that we’ve ever done.” Perhaps he was a bit overdramatic with the praise, but it made me smile when he said it.

Over the first week, we had some challenges with how the work was presented. I provided the teacher with some constructive feedback on how the format could be improved. To my surprise, all my feedback had been implemented in the following week's assignment. It was very refreshing to see the school act with a very agile-oriented mindset.

The Impact of Sharing

I shared the idea of the Kanban board with the SentryOne Parenting group. Several of the other parents stood up similar boards for their kids and have reported good results as well. I also shared it on Facebook and had some of my friends start Kanban boards for their families. I’ve had a lot of agile-based conversations over the past couple of weeks with old friends that I haven’t heard from in quite a while. It’s in that spirit and the spirit of the Agile Manifesto that I’m sharing this with all of you. I’m discovering ways to make my child’s remote learning experience better and helping others to do it too.

It all goes to show that good practices and the right tools for the job can make adverse conditions and situations survivable, and in some cases more productive than the the initial state. Coupling good practices and tools with the mindset of dealing with areas of influence vs. areas of concern can lead to some very powerful outcomes. For additional information on a DevOps mindset, please check out my good friend and coworker, Eric Smith's blog post on the DevOps State of Grace.

Stay Agile, my friends.

Chris Everhart is the Agile Manager at SentryOne. He works directly with the Product Management Team and the Product Engineering Team to ensure that Agile practices are adhered to and assists the teams in identifying processes and practices that can be improved. Chris is responsible for facilitating Scrumban ceremonies and generally assisting in any way that he can.