April 16, 2018

Kanban board for my 12 year old son

Last week my oldest son and I wiped the family whiteboard in our entrance hall and turned it into a Kanban board. The reason for this was that he, my son, was facing a period with a lot of tests at school. He's 12 and in his second year of Gymnasium. And he realised that in the coming weeks there would be a lot of tests as we're approach the end of the 3rd quarter of the school year. There was a slight sense of panic at the time, because he wasn't convinced he could prepare for all tests sufficiently.

So in order to make it more visible to him what needed to be done, and what was already done, we turned the family whiteboard into his Kanban board. With 4 columns (planned, to-do, doing and done) we choose a simple but pragmatic approach. Every gradable homework would be written down on a post-it and we choose the pink post-its for this, it's the 'Grade Ticket'. And the date of the test or on which a paper or report had to be handed in would written on the card as well as some description. The card would be placed in the column Planned. This way we make it visual what's coming up in the next few weeks.

Grade Tickets that need to be worked on are accompanied by Task Tickets, which are either yellow or green, depending on the color of the post-it at hand. This is for every Grade Ticket that my son feels as needed to be worked on. The selection criteria being that he needs to be able to finish all the work to be done before the due date without being overwhelmed with all the work to be done so he still has time to play Rainbow Six Siege and Fortnite Battle Royal with his buddies.

Like I said, we're very pragmatic about this, and I am sure that quite a few of you won't agree that this is a real Kanban Board, but my son and I don't care as long as it works. By being pragmatic, we have every Task Ticket dated as well, meaning that we write the date on which the task should be completed on it. After a week working with the board, this also means that the date means the date on which the task is actually done. The tasks are very simple ones, obviously, because they can be started and completed on the same day. These could be tasks like "Learn the translation of 25 words in Latin" or "Learn to apply the first law of physics in a vacuum". As long as it can be started and finished in a day.

What my son gets from this, is a clear overview of what tests and papers are due at what date. What tasks he needs to work on to study for the test or to hand in a paper. And when to do it. What tasks (still) need to be done today, and what has been done for a particular test. Every time he walks down the stairs because that's where the whiteboard is fitted to the wall, at the end of the stairs. There is no need to open his laptop to check on his assignments in some system provided by school, nor does he need to open his agenda. There is absolutely no need to do anything for him to know what he needs to do. "In yer face visualisation."

What my wife and I get from this, is that we now know exactly what tests he has, and what our son has already done in order to prepare for the test. We get better insights into how he's doing in relation to what he should be doing. Without having to ask all the time, which removes a lot of tension and irritation from our home.

Of course we have implemented some metrics as well. Reason being that this is an experiment so we need to know whether or not this is beneficiary for primarily our son. The metrics we're gathering are first and for all about whether or not our son feels that he is more in control of his tests and papers and the work to be done. We want to know whether the panic-metric is going down in the coming weeks. Another metric we're keeping is how much time he can play Rainbow Six Siege and Fortnite Battle Royal with his buddies. He has a 'screen allowance' of 1 hour on a schoolday and 2 hours on a non-school day. Every day he's able to spend his full allowance is counted and we're interested in whether or not he reaches the maximum possible time playing those games. And then we're keeping track of his grades and are expecting to see the same grades as before or better. Where we do factor in the subjects of the tests and the amount of tests in a single week and so on. So we compare the grades with the final few weeks of the previous periods.

So far we have some results already. First of all, our son is feeling definitely more in control and has greater confidence that he's preparing sufficiently for the tests. One of the reasons is, his words; "because I can now see what I need to do when I come down the stairs so I have less worries that I forget about a test". Another great aspect is that he too is less frustrated because we are not asking him all the time how he's doing with his home work. Already we trust him more and he is receiving more freedom, he's more autonomous, to determine when to do what. So far he has also played through all of his allowance and finished a book. So it seems he does have more time to spare. No grades yet, but we're confident.

So far, our Student's Kanban Board seems to address our son's problems, I guess we do have problem/solution fit. And our son is now using the board without any help and without any significant effort. So I guess we also have product/market fit. (our son is our market in this case).

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Disclaimer: This article was cross-posted on the Words from the Netherlands blog and LinkedIn. The text very explicitly communicates my own personal views, experiences and practices. Any similarities with the views, experiences and practices of any of my previous or current clients, customers or employers are strictly coincidental. This post is therefore my own, and I am the sole author of it and am the sole copyright holder of it.

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