Willy explaining planning poker

The day we visited Ashram, we had the pleasure of experiencing what goes on in the classroom. One of the classes got introduced to estimating backlog and doing planning poker. It was just the second class in the morning, first class had left the room. And we were discussing what we observed in the first class while we were waiting.

IMG_1354Some moments later a new class entered the room. Willy was a little more firm on this class, no bags on the table, but same setting, all groups joining together. This time we got some more insight; this class went through the first two lessons. This, we learned, was basically about:

  • having a short introduction in eduScrum, the basics and principles
  • dividing in groups of four based on qualities
  • breaking down their first assignment, some chapters in their class book with an end assignment

Willy continued and explained they now had to estimate the backlog, they work they had broken down the previous class into tasks with post-its. Willy distributed planning poker cards and said the first tasks, the first page of a book was 2, they had to estimate accordingly. Class looked puzzled, so he continued: “I am going to explain you something about relative comparison. I am 50 Kg,” (which I have to tell you is a little off reality), “no I am 50 Apples, no I am 50 A, how much are you?” looking at one of the girls sitting in front of the class. A little hesitant she admitted she wouldn’t know, so he asked again: “I am 50 A, how much are you?”, “40 A?”, she said. “Thank you for the compliment! but accepted, so how about you?” looking at another student. “30 A?”, she replied. “Excellent, you get the idea. Just throw away the dimensions, but if I am 50 A, you are perfectly able to estimate your are less, and you are even lesser. So let’s continue,” and he walked to a group handing them cards, taking two activities, one he declared 2 and the other was obviously more complex. “Now,” he said, “take your cards, give your estimate, and on the count of three give me your number, 1, 2, 3,…. Too slow guys, once more and all at the same moment, 1, 2, 3 ….” We saw 8,2,5, 8, 2.”Can’t be, they cannot be same as the previous task do it again, 1,2,3 ..” and 8,8,8,5,8 popped up. He declared it eight and you say some students in the other groups making sound they start to understand. He told once again the relevance of the relevant comparison, waiving away the need to be exact and stressing the importance of coming to understanding in a double blind proposal.

Some few moments later he had the impression students in all groups would understand and invited them to start estimating the complete backlog of the previous lesson. Some half hour passed, few questions, but most of all we just had time to watch and observe. And in the final minutes Willy invited everybody to add all numbers and call out the total: 250, 178, 320, 380, 290. 356, some were a little reluctant, but that would stop him.

“Now I take one of these numbers, 380, forget if it is right or not, it is the number of this group. If this is your estimation I just plot it here. We have ten lessons to go, forget about this and the previous lessons. We just take the 380, according to your estimation based on 2 for reading the first page, you need to do 380 points in 10 lessons. So 38 points per lesson (writing 38 p/l, introducing dimensional calculation at the same time again). We take the graph putting 380 on x=0 and drawing a straight line down to 0 at x=10″, basically drawing the burndown chart.

“Now next lesson you will come. It will be lesson zero and you do work. The next lesson you will come and put work from todo to done and count the numbers. It is expected you do 38 points work. That your will write done here. The next lesson you will come again doing the same. We will have two points and we know what your velocity, meaning points per lesson is.” he continued, “Now I do not care what your are doing, when you are doing it, where you are doing it. But you are expected to do 38 per lesson. If you are doing more, you are ok, having free time the last lessons. doing some french exam or something. It is up to you. If you do less however, I will ask and we will have to find a way together to go faster, ” he said, “However I do not expect you to do, since nobody ever did less”. “My experience is, ” he continued, “that first and second graders are right on the spot, eager as they are. Sixed graders however are like this, doing nothing the first two lessons and then catching on, but you will all make it on time, maybe even earlier if you just follow your own planning.”

“So it is up to you,” he said. And the buzzer went of, kids picking their bags, running of, “you just do whatever you like, but remember, ” as they went out the door, ” you listen to me and do as I tell you” and he showed a big smile because he just knows after two year, they all get it. Do their work, spent less on homework, hardly ever has to interrupt himself and they would all have higher grades.

Jeff meets Ashram

The eduScrum team is making some remarkable progress. Lot’s of classes are fully running eduScrum at the Ashram college, the first teachers are trained and applying it outside the team and even some first schools outside the Ashram are implementing eduScrum. Gradually it is growing.
So we welcomed the request from Jeff and JJ to visit the Ashram and see the results for themselves. It was a little early (school had just started for one week after the summerholidays), and the team was even a bit worried they could not show the energy and excitement that is going on in the classroom. But what a wonderful day it was. Willy and Jan prepared a great little program for Jeff and JJ to show them what they are doing.


picture copyright Ashram college, do not reprint without permission.

We arrived early in Alphen, some time before first lessons, and, boy we were allowed to visit the teachersroom, now finally we know what is going on overthere (obviously being incrowd now, we will not tell you). We stepped into the Chemistry class of Willy, with Havo 3 (15 year olds) about to start.
First thing I noticed was the classroom had the studentdesks organised in little islands of 2 by 2. So half of them with the backs against the whiteboard in front of classroom, with the back against the teacher! Furthermore everywhere there seem to be examples of scrumboards in A0 paper flaps hanging in the classroom.
The students entered classroom quietly, taking their A0 paper flaps in groups and putting them on the wall with magnets. They sat down and waited for their fellow team members to join and started discussing-working with eachother, immediately……
All that time Jeff, JJ, Jan, Willy and myself were chatting with eachother, drinking our coffee. At some point for all groups, kids stood up and shared around the A0 paper flaps, obviously starting a standup meeting. We were all flabbergasted. At some moment Willy put us out of our total confusion: he did something special, knowing that Jeff would be coming he and the class did their utmost best to do the eduScrum planning in 2 lessons, instead of three. All making sure that they would be ready before the visit, and obviously succeeded. The Scrumboards all showed backlog with broken down tasks, estimated and prioritized, a burndown chart and remarks on Definition of Done and Definition of Fun! Everybody knew what to do and just did it!
Willy had the students standup if they had previous eduScum experience and half of the class stood up. We all joined, Jeff made a little introduction and explained some of the history of Scrum. We learned that most kids really found class more enjoyable, having less need of doing homework.
Class continued and kids continued to work by themselves, not being hindered at all by five adults just standing their in the classroom. Sometimes one of the kids would standup and ask a question to Willy, but they all seem to have an excellent idea of what to do next. Just before the end of the 45 minute lesson, Willy all made them aware of the end of the class. The kids stood up moved tasks around from open to in progress or done, making pictures with their phones. Jan told me that is the way they share what to do for homework. And off they were for the next class.

We saw another class going through planning poker, which I will describe later. It was in this class that Jeff wispered to me: “This is amazing. I have seen some Scrum in schools, but that was all about having students understanding Scrum and doing some project. This is all about changing the way one teaches” and I concluded he just realized what the board of the eduScrum foundation and friends of eduScrum have noticed that something new is going on. That Jan, Willy and Ellen are really inventing some new way of teaching, together with the other teachers of the Ashram College something special is happening.


It is done! The eduScrum foundation has been founded. During the first friends meeting in March it was suggested by Rini van Solingen that it was probably best to setup a charitable foundation to support the development of eduScrum. Especially Ellen was quite keen on having this setup. Now I am proud to introduce the board:

Combined we expect to bring in loads of energy, scrum experience, do our utmost best to take away any impediment the team has in developing and sharing eduScrum, and combined we have a strong will to change the world!

IBM makes “world’s smallest” movie by filming atoms

Some mad-scientists at IBM have created the “smallest movie” in the world by moving atoms. This might seem a small feat, but just look at the first computer to sing or first computer game and you can just imagine that great things are just about to happen.

See for yourself:

Read more in the IBM http://www.research.ibm.com/articles/madewithatoms.shtml (found it thru gigaom)

If you are not convinced see the first computer sing daisy (kubric fans will recognize the dying HAL scene)

eduScrum – the future of education

End of 2010 Schuberg Philis invited Jeff Sutherland to train everbody in Scrum. In that period we were looking at ways to structure and organize the team workload. Our servicemodel was already based on cross-functional teams, end-to-end responsible, and one of the successful approaches during busy times was to almost isolate the team in a warroom and setup a warroom list of activities. Sounds like a backlog, right? So we found out after a company visit with Anton and Harm to LinkIT. So only natural to get involved with Scrum, see if we could apply it in another context than software development. The best way to get involved is to get it from the source and get in touch with the founders and original thinkers. That is how we got in touch with Jeff.

As we moved on, one of our Scrummasters, Mark Reijn, told me that his father-in-law got interested in what he was doing and that his father-in-law started experimenting with Scrum principles in the classroom. As it turned out, Willy Wijnands and his colleague Jan van Rossum, two Chemistry teachers from the Ashram College (secondary school in Alphen aan de Rijn, Netherlands), actually found with Scrum the missing element in the new way of teaching. It was actually Mark who did a great job introducing them to the basics of Scrum and helping them setting up backlog and all for setting up Eduscrum.

Both teachers are deeply involved in renewing the Chemistry education for a long time now, looking at how to make the material more attractive from a factual way of teaching into a more contextual way of teaching. Next to that they were experimenting with how to get insight and use the personal qualities of the children in school. We had a very energetic first meeting, ideas were flowing back and forth. There is not much difference between schoolchildren and adults in business after all. And all the time I was having this one single thought: “OMG, still five years to go before my oldest daughter is going the highschool, how cool is this!”

Willy and Jan were joined by Ellen Reehorst and they started to work with other classes, everything from 12 year to 18 year olds, different subjects like Physics, Math and even the humanities like Dutch. At that point they started eduScrum and at that point a first post was written for Jeff Sutherland’s blog. What is really cool is that they are using Scrum not in a way to structure projects between teachers at school, but that they discovered the true core of the philosophy and apply in the way they teach. They had the guts to put the team central, allow the kids to select themselves based on their self identified core qualities and then have the teams sort out how to absorp the material. Instead of just grinding through the material and keep on sending as teachers, they put the team central, and allow them to find their own way. This reverse from push to pull in the classroom is resulting in more energy, happier kids and higher grades. In a world were the cognitive development of kids is key, they actually achieve more by teaching less, and learning the kids a more important lesson early on, that a team is more when you allow them to focus on their strengths instead of the individual weaknesses.

Check out the video they made, it is really heartwarming

read more:

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”

Great quote, attributed to Henri Ford as an example of how disruptive innovation works, and that Market Research has no value in it. The only thing is, it is hard to prove that he actually said it. Patrick Vlaskovits did some investigation and came to the conclusion that it is probably not attributed to Ford. Moreover he concludes that Ford actually did something that worked on the short term in a world without competition but actually bite him when Alfred Sloan and Chrystler came to attack him, and that is: fix the product and only improve the process, probably the best example of a Utterback dynamic. The quote however is so dominant that Godwin’s law applies to it.

read more

don’t fight stupid, make more awesome!

Great post on devops.com about Jesse Robbins CEO from Opscode. Nice story on how he combines tooling and creating culture.

  • Start small and built on trust and safety. The machinery will resist you if you try sweeping change.
  • Create champions. Attack the least contentious thing first.
  • Use metrics to build confidence. Create something that you can point to to get people excited. Time to value is a good one.
  • Celebrate successes. This builds excitement, even for trivial accomplishments. The thing is to create arbitray points where you can look back and see progress.
  • Exploit Compelling Events. When something breaks it is a chance to do something different. “Currency to Make Change” is made available, as John Allspaw puts it.

I love his quote: Don’t Fight Stupid, Make More Awesome!

Read more: Hacking Culture for Continuous Delivery – devops.com

my digital workflow

addition 2013-06-27
I am very pleased with feedly, really enjoy that I can keep using Mr. Reader without any hiccups.

The way I gather news and insights has changed tremendously in the last years. The blogosphere obviously is a large source, but the buzz on the twittersphere has become just as important. Next to that mobile devices have become equal important to find, read, capture stuff, anywhere, anytime. Needless to say, with this tremendous flood of news, I definitely do not want to read stuff multiple times. So in the last years I have been tweaking my workflow.

a day in the life of
Basically when I wake up, I start reading posts, check what happened on mail, continue with the blogospshere, maybe sometimes some tweets. Facebook is there, but only for some news on friends, not necessarily to discover new stuff. Many sites offer multiple channels and personally I find the blogsfeeds and tweets easier than Facebook timewalls. After bringing the kids to school, I’ll drive to the office. There I switch back and forth between the iPad, iPhone, macbook and corporatelaptop to read blogs and tweets in between the things I do.
Evenings at home the whole thing just continues until going to sleep. When at home and reading, the evenings are spend with the iPad and the kindle. The latter is great just before going to sleep, a different light and not too much chances of getting distracted surfing other sites.

Discovery starts in two realms: the blogosphere and the twittersphere. At the moment I follow about 200 blog feeds and about follow about a 100 accounts in twitter. The blogfeeds are maintained in Google Reader. I just love it and switch long time ago from bloglines (it still exists). Google Reader works great on Chrome so my MS laptop for work and Macbook are covered. On the iPad I use Mr. Reader to be the best client, especially in dark mode and I definitely like how they format the posts. On the iPhone I now use Reeder. I like its clean interface, although for scanning it slightly less great as Mr. Reader, I wish they made one for iPhone. What I like from both clients is how they display the posts, better than Google Reader itself. For twitter I use both tweetdeck web application itself, not the Chrome extension, with a multitude of search strings. But most of the times I use Twitter itself on laptops or mobiles. I did use services like flipboard, which I stopped using, and the LinkedIn app. I found out about the last one that they do not serve my needs.

I love to capture what I read. gives me a better feeling that keep great thoughts. For me the best app is Instapaper, this great service from Marco Arment. Support the guy, he does a great job. Anything worthwhile just goes tot this service. I always thought I really needed it to read stuff later, but it works like version control, knowing that it is stored somewhere comforts. I have the Instapaper client on all devices and once a weeks it sends the saved posts also to the Kindle. The amazon service is just great and i love the Instapaper/Kindle email integration.
Additional notes I save on Evernote, just do not know what todo without it, to save notes and share between devices. I do use the website and apps directly, hardly ever seem to use the email option. The only thing I stopped doing is to save articles on Evernote, in favor of Instapaper. Marco just does a better job.

Next to reading I like to share, at home, work, family and to friends. For that i use multiple channels:

  • email to colleagues to distribution lists, Mr. Reader isgreat for that, it allows to share complete posts.
  • tweets, only the really interesting and remarkable stuff, basically from any client, straight from Google Reader, Mr. reader, or copy paste in the browser
  • facebook, occasianlly for friends
  • LinkedIn, hardly only for the Dutch Tableau Usergroup, which I am co-running. Thank got they stopped Twitter connectivity ;-)
  • blog, yeah, I have my WordPress blog, great reads are captured in posts, and I have added a Instapaper list through RSS on my blog. Did try Tumblr, but found it too simplistic and favored WordPress. In the past I did look at Blogger, but switched to WordPress, because of the larger community.
  • aggregation to company blog, basically two options: repost the entry with link and rss aggregation

I did use services like Posterous and Ping.fm in the past, but found out it is not about linking your social services together and have one entry. Google+ I am not using it, are you? I have multiple entry into social media channels, for example I love to access Twitter from both Mr. Reader and from Google Reader.

More important there are few more services to be mentioned without which the workflow is not complete: Lastpass, Google bookmarks, Dropbox and the Chrome account.

  • Lastpass is just amazing, I was able to raise my securityy tremendously by making all my passwords unique. The apps share great on all my devices (besides the kindle of course)
  • Google bookmarks is useful as well, I just need something to save the new sites I have found. It is not when reading an article, it is to capture the whole site. but granted, knowing it is secured somewhere is more important than finding it again, it is just comforting.
  • Chrome toolbar, I love chrome, what I love even more is the synced toolbar, it makes my both laptops look the same. basically I have all basic day-2-day services as icons in the bar and also two shortcuts to secure in Instapaper articles and Google bookmarks

So the you have it, my digital workflow, the reading part. There is a bucketful of services I use for music, pictures and video’s as well but that is a different topic.