Teacher Innovation #3: “SCRUM It Up with Kanban with a Side of Trello”

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Post number 3 comes from another colleague and friend, Keith Phillips. Keith is part of my school’s CTE (Career & Technology Education) department and has run and developed our Audio/Visual & Film program for the last four years. Keith is one of my favorite teachers to collaborate with on various projects. He is basically fearless when it comes to trying out new tech and pedagogical approaches in his classroom. He’s a sponge for learning and when he catches fire for something in his classroom, the results are incredible for the kids. His post today introduces SCRUM, a project management protocol found within the Agile model of project design, which fortune 500 companies and various universities use. Keith uses SCRUM to run his many on-going projects and prepare his students for the project methodology they’ll likely see in their careers (A/V careers or otherwise). Finally, Keith dives into how he is transitioning to SCRUM online for his students using a program called Trello.

Previous Teacher Innovation Entries: Part 1 // Part 2

by Keith Phillips


If you came into the start of my class this past year you may have heard me say, “SCRUM it up!” and wonder why I was using a rugby term in my classroom.  For those that have never heard of SCRUM, it is an Agile framework for completing complex projects.  When working with SCRUM, the project leader or Scrum Master leads his group members            through a standing meeting.  In the SCRUM each member must answer three questions; What did I do yesterday?, What am I doing today?, and        Did I have any roadblocks?.  The Scrum Master keeps everyone on task and anything that isn’t relevant to the three questions gets placed into the “Parking Lot” for discussion at a later time.  This helps all group members to stay on task and limits the length of the meeting. To help you understand why I saw its value, you need to understand I teach project heavy classes in both my video II class and Yearbook.  In video my students don’t just learn vocabulary or how to make a video in my class.  They work on real projects for our school and our community.  In Yearbook my students work to complete a spread ultimately leading to the completion of their school’s Yearbook.   SCRUM is a framework I can use to help them work through all the facets of creating a video project and, as a result they are introduced to a process that is used in multiple industries and can be placed on their resumes.

To help me monitor the progress of each group’s SCRUMs I also set up my bulletin board as a KANBAN board.  On a KANBAN board you create three sections; TO DO, IN PROGRESS, and FINISHED.  In each section you place a sticky note with a brief description of the task to be done.  It is common to have the color of a sticky note represent a particular person in the group to help visualize who is all working on which tasks and the progress of each task.


Classroom Kanban board.

***For the purpose of this article, from this point on I will refer to the process of SCRUM and the use of the KANBAN board simply as SCRUM.***

Introducing anything new to students is a tricky thing.  To get students on board with anything you are trying to do they need to understand the purpose behind it.  Knowing this I shared with my students all the industries and companies that used SCRUM.  I showed videos and modeled the process with a small group using one of our video projects as an example.  When I got feedback from students there seemed to be no misconceptions of the process and students understood its purpose.   After introducing SCRUM I felt good about the direction of the class and didn’t foresee any of the misconceptions students would have.

One simple error students made was listing all their tasks on one sticky note.  They either didn’t understand or didn’t want to take the time to write each of their individual tasks on separate sticky notes.    Students also tried to sit down during the SCRUM even though it was clear in our modeling and the videos we watched a key rule to a SCRUM is every participant must be standing.  Another mistake students made that I didn’t foresee was after a student spoke he would leave the group!  I could not believe a student would answer the three questions and then leave the group thinking they were finished when the key purpose of SCRUM is to make sure the group is communicating between one another.   Students also struggled with identifying the number of tasks they needed to complete in order to finish the project and the time it would take for them to complete a given task.  By the end of the year I was manually listing tasks for each student in my classes and had them transfer their tasks to the board.  Now, the students were not the only ones at fault here as I had two critical errors on my end.

The first critical error was not having a written worker’s agreement for the SCRUM process for each group.  This would entail not only the SCRUM procedures, but also other procedures on how the group wanted to operate.  Having a worker’s agreement would have eliminated several of the key issues I had.  The second critical error of mine was not having a clear grading system in place for the SCRUM process.  Even my students who understood SCRUM and its purpose still asked me the one question every teacher hates to hear, “Is this graded?”    I saw SCRUM as a way to improve our collaboration and improve our products and expected the students to be motivated by always wanting to improve themselves and our product.  However, any experienced teacher will tell you students are motivated by one thing and that’s grades.  I failed to have a grading system in place for SCRUM and instantly had students not willing to partake in the process.  In their world if it wasn’t graded it wasn’t worth doing.

With this experience in mind I started researching project management applications to help me monitor the process and eliminate other misconceptions students had about SCRUM for the 2017/18 school year.  I ran across two potential options ASANA and TRELLO, both having phone apps as well as being web based.  To learn more about both I placed one group on ASANA and one group on TRELLO.  I also used both applications in my Digital Design class to help me learn the systems and see how students would respond to them.  Students in my Digital Design class loved using either platform as it helped them monitor all their classes and may have been the best thing I introduced them to this whole year.   The students I had using them in my video class also saw the benefits of each and thought it was worth pursuing for next year.

Initially I was leaning towards ASANA.  It seemed to be more intuitive for the students and had a lot of options included in the free version.  The big hindrance was the maximum number of members for the free version was 15.  I did have a workaround for it though as project leaders “Scrum Masters” would manage ASANA and their group members would place their sticky notes on the gigantic bulletin board I used this past year.

However, that changed when I listened to one of my favorite podcasts Fitness in Post by Zach Arnold.  Throughout his podcasts he consistently raved about TRELLO and how it helped him manage his editing projects.  Knowing he’s prevalent in the very industry I’m instructing, it seemed like a good idea to learn more about TRELLO before making a decision.  So, I logged into my Lynda.com account, which was nicely provided by my school system, and typed in TRELLO.  Low and behold they had a course taught by non-other than Zach Arnold.  I immediately dove in and went through the 3 hour course.  After watching the course my decision was made easier as TRELLO was more versatile than ASANA, had an unlimited number of members for a project, and was also heavily used within the film industry.

In order to understand TRELLO you need to picture it as a virtual bulletin board.  On that bulletin board are lists comprised up of sticky notes.  TRELLO refers to the sticky notes as cards.  The cards in TRELLO can serve numerous functions and can include a wealth of information.  You can assign individuals to a specific card, attach files, create checklists, assign a due date, color code, and add comments.  For any board you create your first list should always be a General Information List.  This is comprised up of cards with any general information your students would need.  This could include your course syllabus, class schedule, contact information, class norms, label color key, and any other information you students would need for the project or your class.  Another tip is when working in groups have one card on your board devoted to discussions about the project.  This will help team members communicate on the project and know where to go when discussing anything related to the project.  To show you the versatility of TRELLO I created four example boards.

The first type of board is a class board.  This board’s purpose is for you to monitor the progression of each student in your class.  Each Unit you teach comprises a list.  In the Unit List you include all your assignments and assessments for the Unit.  This List acts as another General Information list but specifically to your unit you are teaching.  This also allows you to assign due dates for each assignment that would show on the class calendar.   Your next list is the students in a particular class.  Each card in the list represents one student in your class.  On the student’s card you can create a checklist to have students monitor their progression through the Unit.  Using this format for your class board helps minimize the number of assignments listed on your calendar.


Another format for your class board would be to have the same setup as the initial class board except of having a class list you create a list for each student in your class.  One key note for this is very easy in TRELLO to copy cards and lists, so once you have something created you can always duplicate it so you aren’t recreating it 150 times.  This will also make your calendar cluttered in the monthly preview, but it does have the added benefit of seeing the progression of each student from the weekly calendar preview.  This would then allow you to use the UNIT LIST as a way to monitor the progression of your entire class.


Another way to organize your TRELLO board is for group projects.  Instead of a Unit List you create a Project Details List.  This list would include all the deliverables and checkpoints throughout the project.  This would also house all the documents students would need to turn in and complete the project.  The lists after the Project Detailed List would be the specific Group Lists.  The cards in the lists would be made up of the tasks to complete and color coded to showcase the progression of the tasks.  See the Label Color Key Image for details on how this would look.   This style allows your students to monitor their group’s progression and helps you to easily see who’s stuck on what tasks and where your students need assistance.


The final way to develop your TRELLO board is a common one and fits well when using SCRUM.  This time the board is organized for a group of individuals.  If your students were working on a project for you then each group would have their own TRELLO board.  You create lists following the KANBAN board design; to do, in progress, finished, and parking lot.  You then create your label key just like the last one to help you and your students visualize the progress of their project.


As you can see you are able to organize your TRELLO board numerous ways and design it to fit your purpose.  To learn TRELLO, I would suggest creating a board for yourself and to use it to help you monitor your tasks.  This will help you get a good understanding of the platform before introducing it to your students.  If anything TRELLO could simply be used as a student agenda.  The APP is free and looks and operates very similarly to the web application.  The only thing to note is the green square at the bottom left is where you add information to your card.

Although, last year didn’t go as well as I had wanted I learned a lot on how to implement it correctly and hope to do so this coming school year.  With the help of TRELLO I think I’ll be able to have great success.  I’m still contemplating how I’m going to setup by TRELLO boards for my classes I do know I will be using it along with SCRUM.  Except this time I will have a clear worker’s agreement for my groups along with a clear grading system in place focusing on various aspects of the SCRUM process.  By the time my students graduate they will not only learn how to create a film or finish a Yearbook, but they will also be able to say they operated as a Scrum Master and used professional project management software to monitor themselves and their teammates.  I hope my experience can help others SCRUM it up with KANBAN and side of TRELLO.

If you are interested in seeing the TRELLO board examples described above you can do so by clicking the links below:





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