EduTECH - Ewan McIntosh: Agile Leadership of Learning



What is agile leadership?

Some people think agile means dancing all over place. 

For every 1000 ideas developed only one got investment.

Leadership takes all forms. Self nominated leaders are all around us. Ewan gave the example of TeachMeet. I would add to that #edchatnz, #hackyrclass and more. Personal insight - we live in a time where social media has changed the way we can mobilise people and lead. It reminds me of the student army in Christcurch. Leadership has never actually been easier to do.

Ewan then talked about the five year plan. He did highlight Stalin was all about five year plan. Students work to an annual plan, working towards an annual exam.when you are making a plan - what question are we answering? How many actions could you do or undertake after hearing someone or attending something like EduTECH. Ewan is right. It is actually overwhelming. So what do you do? What question are we attempting to answer in meeting meeting and attending these conferences? 

McDonalds is an example of universal design - terrifying thought. Standardisation means people will know what they will get. You do one thing well. What's the one thing we could standardise in education and do it well, what would it be? For the most part we don't know what we don't know. What's the algorithm of great learning? 

Contradictions, tensions, surprises - agile leadership is about taking these and using them. 

We have to work out we know and why we believe what we believe. I.e. How do you feel about homework? Good or bad? Why do you think that? How. Do you know you are right. For me personally this raises the need for us to challenge our assumptions. One of the things I enjoyed most about beginning my masters is having to challenge my assumptions on many levels. For example 20% time. 20% time is a myth - it isn't time to just do what you want, Google employees can't just swan about, they are working on projects in line with the company goals. 

Do students see their learning as we do? Do they see all of the elements and understand why they learning what they are doing. A tension is like when you are presented with an idea, but no strategies about how to achieve that idea. 

I like Ewan's idea that we actually need to help students less. We need to give them time and space to redraft and quite often get worse before we get better. I also like his point is that it not a question of teachers giving the feedback and teachers having to do the teaching of each student. Teachers simply need to facilitate students giving each other feedback and teaching. We provide the time, the strategies and the processes for students to help themselves and one another. 

Grading adds nothing to education. What happens if we take away grades all together. Without grades students can take risks. Good feedback is powerful and something that needs to be worked on. 

Take your vision of future learning and then think about your constituents. Then think not about your strategy but more your strategies. Ewan gives the example of actor mapping. Actory mapping - look every member of your community, what's the one thing we want achieve and what's their job in making this happen. Identify all of your 'who's' and the work out what their roles are in realising your vision. You need to understand who all the people you are going to have to engage.

If you understand the why, you can achieve and begin to develop the how. Does everyone understand the why??

Learn from your failures.

You are all leaders.

Ewan ended with the metaphor of the conductor as leader of the orchestra. Conductors believe that they are the leaders, Ewan is a percussionist, he knows they are the real leaders of the orchestra. Insert emoticon wink here. So what can conductors do to lead. Have a five year plan. Identify your soloists and give them opportunities, invite them to lead. He suggests it about having a light touch. Agile leadership is about having trust in your team to try things out. 

Look at the environment around you, use everything around you and make a plan. 


  1. This is a great summary of his talk, thanks for posting it, Claire.

  2. Great post! Only recently came across First Attempt In Learning and it is so true. Also like the idea of agile leadership - change, flexibility, adaptability. Thanks for the post.

  3. Here's the great example he used of Maria Pérez being expected to play a piece she hadn't practised. Ewan asked, "Who is the leader here?". And Bernstein conducting with his eyebrows:


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