Friday, May 29, 2015

The Learning Canvas

We all want to see our students tackling the complex challenges of their own. But, for many of our students, they have never had to do this before. So, they feel overwhelmed and confused, and they flounder rather than flourish.  And you are pulled back into the traditional mode of telling them what and to do. Thankfully, we have a simple and easy way for students to create their own plan and see it through. This is the Learning Canvas from Agile Classrooms.

Meet Michele

Michele was excited. She was teaching her first project-based learning class. She could not wait to see her students be self-directed, lighting up with energy and creativity while pursuing their own projects.

But, when she gave them their challenge and asked them to create their own plan to solve it, all she got back in return were blank stares. Frustrated and disappointed, she had to go back to telling them what to do.

Meet the Learning Canvas

Then a fellow teacher introduced her to the Learning Canvas. He said was a fun and visual way for students to break down their goals into tiny pieces and track their own progress. 

You know how a graphic organizer works to help organize ideas and guide thinking, right? Well, the Learning Canvas is like that. It is a visible and dynamic aid for learners to map out their plan and monitor their progress.  “So, how do you use it?”, asked Michele.

Using the Learning Canvas


Let’s say you are having a birthday party. There are a lot of things that you have to do to make sure it is a hit. And, there is so much that can go wrong. How can we make sure we think of everything and make it all happen when the big day comes? Let's see how the Learning Canvas can help.

Create The Plan


First, we need to break down the Birthday Party into small and doable goals. 
He asked Michele to write down her top 3 things to have at a birthday party. 
Michele wrote down Guests, Cake, and Decorations.
Now we have a list of goals we want to accomplish, we place this under the Goals column on the Learning Canvas. This keeps the end in mind at all times so we do not veer off course.

But, this is still too vague. We can still get lost, confused, and even overwhelmed. We want to chunk each goal into small actionable tasks, everything we need to do to say that goal is done. He asks, "What are all the steps we need to take in order to complete each Goal?". Michele writes each task on a its own sticky note and placed it under the Tasks lane on the Learning Canvas. 

Take Action


Now, we need to make it a reality. We do this by taking one task at a time and moving the sticky note to the Doing lane. Once the task is complete, we then move it to the Done lane. It's that simple!

Keep doing this until all the tasks are done. And since they are small, we get a great feeling of accomplishment as we see the stickies pile up into Done. We have clarity on exactly what needs to be done, what's next, what we are focused on now, and what we have accomplished.

And since out Birthday party is in one week, we need to make sure we get it done by then. This is where the Learning Canvas really helps us. The sticky notes serve as a highly visible progress bar. We can see at anytime what our progress.  

Then, Michele realizes she forgot the candles!  Well, that’s easy, we just add a new sticky note that says candles. With the Learning Canvas, it is easy to change your plan at anytime.

See for yourself by watching the video of the Learning Canvas in action:

In the Classroom

Michele gave each student team a Learning Canvas the next day. Along with some guiding questions, the students went from blank stares to focused action. Students now had the clarity they needed to plan their own work and see it through. They stayed on task, identified and overcame issues, and adapted their plan when they needed to. The completed their project on time, exceeded expectations, and learned at a deeper level.

And, since the Learning Canvas is big and visible, Michele can see their progress at anytime from across the room, knowing who needed help. With less time telling them exactly what to do, Michele spent more time coaching each student 1:1 to reach their potential.

Try It Yourself

You can use the Learning Canvas for projects or tackling any learning challenge. Use it as a whole classroom, for collaborative student teams, or even for each individual student working independently. You can download your own Learning Canvas from us or, if you prefer,  it is easy enough to create your own:



The Learning Canvas is just one part of Agile Classrooms that can transform your students into empowered and collaborative learners. To learn more about creating an Agile Classrooms and make your students 21st Century ready, please, contact us.



Thank you for reading!

John Miller | Chief Empowerment Officer | Agile Classrooms


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