More Vibrant Schools

March 1, 2018

The best article from the March 2018 issue of the journal Educational Leadership is entitled, “Fostering More Vibrant Schools” by Susie Fitzhugh.  This article really speaks to me.  It addresses the fact that what parents and students really look for in a school is an environment that fosters “wonder, playfulness, laughter, movement, creativity, and adventurous learning.”  Yet in this day and age of testing and accountability, these are the very qualities that often disappear as we strive to do well on high-stakes tests.

Multiple choice tests cannot measure many of our highest values, such as “curiosity, a love of learning, and resourcefulness.”  And what about innovation, adaptability, self-direction, social skills, and cultural understanding?

A recent study identified three dimensions of strong schools, or schools that were deemed “vibrant.”  One dimension is “enlivened minds,” where creativity is encouraged among students, teachers, leaders, and parents.   Another is “emboldened voice,” where decisions are made through open conversation.  Leaders ask for and listen to feedback from all interested parties.  The third is “playful learning,” where there are many opportunities to learn through fun, and staff members are allowed to be playful themselves.

Something that strikes me right away is how close MRMS already is to this model.  How lucky are we that we get to spend our days in an environment where creativity is encouraged, there are many ways to get involved and be a part of the decision making discussions, and there is time built into out day to be playful with our students?

At the same time, it also occurs to me that there are many ways in which technology can help us to become an even more vibrant school.   Take a moment to think about the  tools that make some of these dimensions possible.

Enlivened Minds:  Incorporating technology in the classroom allows for more creativity than ever before.  Today, students can be creators rather than passive sponges.  Tools like Book Creator allow students to create their own ebooks.  Video tools allow students to create their own multi-media messages about what they are learning.  Google Drawings allow students to exhibit their learning artistically.  The list goes on.

Emboldened Voice:  Today’s technology is all about collaboration and sharing ideas.  Flip Grid allows this through video clips.  Google Docs and Slides allow students to collaborate on projects.  Google Classroom and D20 blogs allow students to share their ideas with a larger audience like the whole class or a cooperating class far away.  Tools like Pear Deck and Padlet allow students to share their aides anonymously with a teacher acting as moderator.  There are so many exciting ways for students to have a voice in today’s classrooms.

Playful Learning:  We could go on forever here, from quizzing tools like Kahoot and Quizizz to coding with Scratch and  One teacher at Mountain Ridge is even gamifying her 8th grade classes so students earn points and fun digital prizes every day, motivating them to come to class and learn.

High stakes testing can dampen our enthusiasm for teaching because it takes our focus away from the skills that really matter, but technology has a way of balancing the scales, making it a more vibrant time than ever to be an educator.



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