The controversy about the value of Homework

There is controversy about the value of homework, with critics saying it is either ineffective or potentially harmful if the extra work is so dull that children switch off.

Few years ago, a group of French parents and teachers called for a two-week boycott of homework in schools, saying it is useless, tiring and reinforces inequalities between children. They say homework pushes the responsibility for learning on parents and causes rows between themselves and their children. And they conclude children would be better off reading a book.

This is a representative sample of what the detractors argue against having homework, but we can add others arguments opposed to homework: The school day should be long enough to allow the child to learn and write everything they need to” homework, whether good or bad, takes time and often cuts into each student’s sleep, family dinner, or freedom to follow passions outside of school”. “Not all families have the time or the necessary knowledge to help their offspring”. “Teachers don’t realise the unbelievable pressure they are putting children under”.  (should children have to do homework? comments)

And what the students have to add to this scenario against homework. For too many students, homework is too often about compliance and “not losing points” rather than about learning: “…it’s worksheets and problems at the end of the chapter. Just busywork”, “It doesn’t matter how I get the homework done, just as long as it is done before the teacher checks it. Right?” . “If I haven’t succeeded in doing the exercise at school, I don’t see how I’m going to succeed at home”.

From another standpoint, there’s pressure from external sources to set homework and a lot of teachers see that as if they must be setting homework all the time, even if it’s not necessary. There is also a parents’ common misconception that teachers and schools giving more homework are more challenging and therefore better teachers and schools. This is a false assumption. The amount of homework your son or daughter does each night should not be a source of pride for the quality of a school.

These are not good news for “homework”, but if so why it is so popular and widely applied. Maybe what we need is a new word instead of “homework”, how about “continued learning” or “ongoing growth activities”?

We want children to understand that they are always learners even outside school. So it makes no sense to even advertise a “no homework” policy in a school. It sends the wrong message. The policy should be, “No time-wasting, rote, repetitive tasks will be assigned that lack clear instructional or learning purposes.”

As a teacher, we know that by assigning homework, the teacher significantly extends the classroom learning time, that a teacher should never assign homework on a topic that has not been practiced first in the classroom. It should be difficult enough to challenge a student, but not so difficult that the student feels overwhelmed. Assignments should be graded and feedback should be provided.

Homework will be extended learning time if the students are inspired enough to want to practice the skills obtained class. Then make homework worth doing so they will want to do it.

What about Blended Learning? In Blended Learning teachers set up learning management accounts (LMS) on places like Moodle. They assigned students work and research projects through the LMS and students did the work at home. When they came to class, the teacher would either review what they had done individually, or step up the learning by providing further opportunities to apply their knowledge in group projects.

Children should be encouraged to read, write, perform arithmetic, better understand the world around them in terms of civics, science, and the arts, and, of course, develop their people skills: their emotional intelligence. This encouragement should be part of everyday family interactions outside of school, and the school should provide developmental guidance to all parents, in the appropriate languages, to help them do this. Experts agree on the value of parents taking an interest in their children’s intellectual and academic life.

Above all, schools should remind parents to never lose sight of modeling for their children the value of close relationships, support, caring, and fun. That is the most important “home work” of all.

Reference

Two hours’ homework a night linked to better school results

Homework guidelines scrapped to give headteachers greater freedom

EDUTOPIA BOOKMARKS

No 41. Ken Robinson Paperclip

Classrooms and Staffrooms

This 3.30 minutes video will really make you think about your teaching this new academic year. It’s all about divergent thinking and the idea that the students have developed how not to think by traditional teaching they have had in the past. It uses the example of a paperclip and poses the question “What could this paperclip be used for”? There are some really interesting ideas in this clip.

See what you think and please comment freely.

Incredible!

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Digital Natives (part 2)

“Everyone talks about leaving a better planet for our children. Why doesn’t anyone try to leave better children for our planet?”

Many of us grew up in a pre-digital era – we made phone calls and wrote letters, while public information was distributed through broadcast media. But now there’s a whole generation at college that has never known a world without the web. They bring with them a new way of engaging with the world, with information, and with each other.

An excellent video to understand how Digital Natives fit technology and open up to a world where anything is possible.

From Google+, Facebook, and Twitter to SMS and corporate messaging, this generation is developing an instinctive set of behaviors and expectations around these tools. They are very savvy in understanding which medium is most appropriate for the message and for the recipient, whether it’s a dinner invitation or asking someone out on a date.  They know they have to find the appropriate interrupt signal, and that different channels send different signals, with numerous subtleties that we are only just starting to understand:  Following Generation Z

In Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, Allan Collins and Richard Halverson argue that the knowledge revolution has transformed our jobs, our homes, our lives, and therefore must also transform our schools. Much like after the school-reform movement of the industrial revolution, our society is again poised at the edge of radical change. To keep pace with a globalized technological culture, we must rethink how we educate the next generation or we (the Digital Immigrants) will be left behind. This groundbreaking book offers a vision for the future of American education that goes well beyond the walls of the classroom to include online social networks, distance learning with anytime, anywhere access, digital home schooling models, video-game learning environments, and more.

School leaders and teachers need to understand how learning technologies work and how they change the basic interactions of teachers and learners. Technology leaders need to work together with educators as collaborators in creating new opportunities to learn.

Technology is changing what is important to learn in a variety of ways. There are new literacies that are becoming important, such as creating videos, animations, and web sites. Computers can carry out all the algorithms taught through graduate school, and yet mathematical reasoning is more important than ever. Hence we should spend time teaching students to solve sophisticated problems using computers rather than executing algorithms that computers do well. Memorizing information is becoming less important with the web available, but people do need to learn how to find information, recognize when they need more information, and evaluate what they find. People will be changing careers often and transitions are difficult. They need help going back and forth between learning and work.

As technology continues to transform our society, those responsible for our current systems of learning and education are facing overwhelming pressure to adapt. Education technology, connected learning and the rise of the Networked Society is transforming the established concept of learning, teachers’ roles and even the nature of knowledge itself.

The revolution in education will alter not just the lives of students, but the entirety of modern society. As with any revolution, there are will be both gains and losses. Pessimists see people becoming subservient to their technologies and being left behind as technology comes to dominate our lives. Optimists see a golden age of learning opening before us, where people will be able to find resources to pursue any education they may want.

TAKING ACTION

Strategies:

1. RETHINK ASSESSMENT

With few exceptions, all the things our children are using to connect and learn outside the classroom — social media, cell phones, Internet connections — are banned inside classrooms. Move from a standardized testing teaching approach to a style that incorporates more creativity and adaptability.

Remaking assessment starts with this: stop asking questions on tests that can be answered by a Google search. Or, if you have to ask them, let kids use their technology to answer them. More often than not, we ask questions that can be easily answered by technology. That is unfortunate. Take a quick look at any of the state standardized tests for graduation, and you’ll see more of those than you can imagine.

Let’s scrap open-book tests, zoom past open-phone tests asking Googleable questions, and advance to open-network tests that measure not just how well kids answer a question, but also how literate they are at discerning good information from bad and tapping into the experts and networks that can inform those answers. This is how they’ll take the real-life information and knowledge tests that come their way, and it would tell us much more about our children’s preparedness for a world of data abundance.

This is an excerpt from Will Richardson’s new TED e-book, Why School?

2. CULTIVATE MENTORSHIPS

Encourage two-way intergenerational mentorships and interactions. This would create opportunities for youth adults to learn from each other. Gen Z comes to the workforce a wide set of new technology skills, determination and passion, among many other factors. Older employees can benefit from the connectivity, flexibility and creativity that are unique to this generation. These youth are still young, however, and have a lot to learn from their older mentors that will help better integrate them successfully in the formal working world. As these youth become a larger part of the emerging labor force, business must plan for Gen Z’s entry and the succession of the Baby Boomers as they retire. Mentorship programs not only get youth interested in and prepared for work in new fields, it introduces fresh skills and attitudes that help businesses flourish in a changing economic atmosphere.

Extract from GENERATION Z CHALLENGES 

3. EMPHASIZE PUBLIC SPEAKING AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT SKILLS.

These skills are increasingly valuable in the workplace and society more broadly. Greater emphasis should be placed on their development. The ability to manage conflict is probably one of the most important social skills an individual can possess.

5. ENTREPRENEURIAL EDUCATION

According to the Key Competence Framework, the entrepreneurship key competence refers to an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action. It includes creativity, innovation and risk taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. Include business and entrepreneurial skills in school curricula in order to equip students with a background in that area, making entrepreneurship less of an idea and more of a viable possibility for those students.

Entrepreneurship Education at School in Europe. [Eurydice]

7. PROMOTE SERVICE LEARNING

Civic engagement is instrumental in building community awareness, teaching tolerance and cultivating socially conscious young people. Service learning should be integrated into K-20 education.

8. TEACH RISK-TAKING

We must teach our youth to look for opportunities and that failure in pursuit of them is a learning opportunity and not a stigma to avoid at all costs. To help our students, we need to directly ask for academic risk-taking behavior (e.g. asking questions, dwelling in uncertainty, and advancing untried hypotheses) and identify it whenever we ask for it, so students know we perceive and value the challenges they face.

Teaching Risk-Taking in the College Classroom

SOURCES:

RETHINKING EDUCATION IN THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY:  THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION AND THE SCHOOLS. (PDF) By Allan Collins and Richard Halverson

http://www.scoop.it/t/digital-natives-by-frank-tudela

Do you blog?

Why use blogs?

Engage your students with an authentic medium that takes them out of the classroom (and away from the coursebook) into the real world using English as a medium to communicate.

Motivate your students to produce the best work they can.  Blogs are public and there is a wider audience than just the teacher who will see work.  This motivates everyone to do the best they can.

Collaborate outside the classroom by “connecting” your classroom and use your blog to prepare for and continue work done in the classroom.

Popular Edublog Platforms

There are lots of blogging platforms but here are a few that are popular with teachers:

http://www.blogger.com/ – free, simple and intuitive to use.  Users need a Google account.  See www.teachertrainingvideos.com for video tutorials on how to set up a blog in Blogger.

www.wordpress.com – the best blogging platform used by serious bloggers but some functions are pay for and it’s not as easy and intuitive to use as Blogger.

www.edublogs.org – based on WordPress, but adapted specifically for teachers.  There are free and pay for accounts and this is especially good if you want students to have individual student blogs.

www.kidblog.org – free, simple and basic created by teachers for teachers and suitable for kids, as its name suggests.

If you’re interested in starting a blog for yourself or your students but you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas and tips to help you get started:

Getting Started Checklist

Here’s a checklist to help you get started:

  • What type of blog do you want?  Teacher, student or class?  Investigate and choose an appropriate platform
  • Do you need/have you got parental permission?  There are specialist educational platforms where students don’t need and email address and will give comfort to parents.
  • Is your blog going to be private or public?  This depends on content.  Public is more authentic and encourages students to be more careful about their work.  Private is safer and may be more acceptable to parents of younger learners.
  • Is the name easy to remember?  If your students can’t find the blog, they won’t use it.
  • How are you going to organise it?  By topic?  By date?  By student?  Spending time planning “labels” or “tags” (the words you use to categorise each post) can save a lot of time later.
  • How are you going to assess student work?  Give clear instructions and use rubrics so students can self-assess before submitting any work.

Quick Start Blogging

Convert coursebook activities into digital activities by getting your students to comment, discuss and collaborate online instead of in the classroom using pen and paper.  And, you don’t need to limit your blogging activities to reading and writing tasks.  You can also free web tools you can get your students do interactive activities.

  • Post useful links to websites.
  • Post important course information (such as exam dates, homework instructions, etc.) on the blog for you and your students.
  • Introduce blogging rules.
  • Drill grammar and vocabulary on the blog – using course book exercises, students write multiple sentences using the target language on the blog instead of in their notebook.  Encourage collaboration.
  • Find and embed online games and quizzes for homework then students comment on them using language for expressing opinion, agreeing and disagreeing, etc.
  • Use other free web tools to create quizzes, flashcards, short animations, etc. that can be used over and again year after year.
  • Use authentic online materials as prompts for speaking and writing tasks.  A nice beginning activity is to get students to embed their favourite Youtube vídeo.
  • Students keep an online diary.  You can organise a class blog by student name to see individual student posts instead of having individual students create their own blogs.
  • Encourage learner autonomy and save your time by getting students to create or find materials they want to use in class and post it on the blog!

Whatever you do in class with pen and paper, can be converted to digital.

Things to Consider

  • Do not allow students to post personal information (such as address and photos, etc.) on the blog.
  • Instructions need to be clear, either on a handout or on the blog.  If students are not sure of what they are doing, they’ll quickly lose interest.
  • Set up “Blogging Rules”.
  • To help students know what is expected of them, and encourage learner autonomy, use rubrics so students can self-assess before “publishing”.  Include “participation” in your assessment rubrics to encourage everyone to complete tasks.
  • Copyright law.  It’s important you and your students have permission to use video, images and texts on the Internet.  See www.creativecommons.org for more information.
  • In class, be prepared for fast finishers.  Get them to help their peers, do an Internet quiz, etc.
  • Have a back up plan.  Technology sometimes fails!

15 Great Web Tools to liven up your blog

There are hundreds of free tools to use with your blog.  Here are some easy tools to get started.  Remember, you don’t have to all of this, get your students to do the work.

www.authorstream.org (convert Powerpoint to flash to embed in your blog)

www.slideshare.net (convert Powerpoint, Word and other documents to embed in your blog)

www.docs.google.com  (collaborative working and embed documents, powerpoints, etc. in blog)

www.livetyping.com (create moving reading texts)

www.wallwisher.com (create an online noticeboard)

www.goanimate.com (create animated cartoons)

www.voki.com (create a speaking avatar)

www.profprofs.com (create online quizzes and embed in your blog)

www.audioboo.com (students complete speaking tasks and post them on the blog)

www.storybird.com (create an online story book)

www.quizlet.com (create online flashcards and embed)

www.superteachertools.com (create online flash games and embed in your blog)

www.photopeach.com (create online movies using images)

www.pimpampum.net/bookr (create online book using Flickr images)

www.classtools.net (create educational games and embed)

 

Extract from Helen Collins

For more ideas and examples of some of the ideas and tools above see:

 http://www.helencollinselt.com/ – examples of other teachers blogs and class blogs

Class blogs – http://www.class.helensclassroomelt.com/

Many thanks to Helen for these excellent ideas and suggestions on blogging!

FrankTudela