How to Make Homework Relevant in the 21st Century
Homework…To many people in education, it is a proven and academically-sound way to make learning even more effective.
To others, it is a stressful burden on students (and parents!) – a chore to ‘get out of the way’, and that eats into the time when children of all ages should be discovering their own passions and interests.
Of course, this argument has been going on – in one shape or another – for generations. It also has some equally enduring ‘best practice’ answers.*
The difference now? Technology gives us new ways to tackle these issues, to re-energize students and make homework more relevant than ever before.
The flipped classroom
The most fundamentally different technique of all. Flipping moves ‘learning’ out the classroom to a time and place of the student’s choosing. Meanwhile the classroom becomes the venue for ‘homework’ elements: exercises, projects, discussions.
Rethinking the role of homework in this way makes many of its longstanding challenges irrelevant. Technology is central to both sides of this new model too. For example, a ‘home’ assignment could be watching a video in preparation for the next lesson.
Take a look at our previous blog on setting up a flipped model.
Beyond flipping, there’s a host of other things to try. Here are five suggestions:
- Be creative with the tasks you set. Technology enables far more variety than traditional methods ever did. For example, students could submit an ‘essay’ as a speech recorded on a phone or computer using a voice recorder or downloadable program such as Audacity. They can upload their file to a school’s storage system for checking, or email it straight to a teacher.
- Use technology to make homework a long-term project. For example, students could create their own blog using a free and simple platform such as Blogger or Weebly. To check their work, you simply go online.
- Get students working with their parents or others at home, and with each other. They can use forums, Skype and so on to interact, and co-authoring tools such as wikis to collaborate.
- Don’t give detailed instructions or limited parameters to a task. Make researching, discovering and determining what to do part of the assignment. This will encourage students to use the Internet, for example, in explorative ‘real-life’ ways, and not just as somewhere to copy information from.
- Don’t get them to hand homework in for a teacher to grade. Make sharing the homework part of the assignment. This means students can create content to be presented, whether it’s a YouTube video to show in class or a blog for peers to comment on.
There are of course, many approaches to making homework successful that are valid with or without technology. In effect, they’re the fundamentals that accompany the ideas discussed above. Our top rules:
- Make sure every task connects to the classroom, and is never redundant, meaningless or unnecessarily onerous.
- Involve students in planning homework. They can contribute ideas, choose the order in which to do assignments, and more. This encourages a sense of responsibility.
- Customize homework to each student’s specific needs. One size doesn’t fit all.
- Make homework enriching and rewarding; a way for students to enjoy learning. For this, give tasks that have some worth, and that add value to a student’s life.