Homework 2.0

Thoughts
District Preparedness for the Digital Age and The Gap
By: 
Connie Bosley

Is your district is embracing the Digital Age?  Are you going to require homework when kids are mostly working with devices?  If so, what contribution(s) does homework make to student learning? Does it:

  • Reinforce classroom learning?
  • Provide practice of a new knowledge or skill?
  • Only provide busy work to keep students occupied?
  • Or does it need to be deleted altogether just as 2nd grade Texas teacher; Brandy Young did because she saw no proven benefits?

If you intend to send kids off with homework, you may encourage teachers to use a more streamlined way to deal with assignments; digitally. In College Place, WA, a teacher suggested Google classroom. She saw it as a useful tool to handle a lot of the teaching busywork and email which gives a safe way for students to submit work and teachers to return assignments.

What about student use of the internet and cyber-safety of those students when working on-line?  Even if you use some free open sources, much needs to be done about the students’ security when using the open internet for school assignments. 

Set up a district policy to protect students from internet dangers.  It should include a:

  1. System of teaching staff/students/parents cyber citizenship and safety. Educate students on cyber citizenship and expected behaviors.  Teach the many forms of plagiarism and its seriousness. Next, explain that plagiarism is easily detected with programs like Turnitin, Write check, Grammarly, to name a few free or low cost options available to educators. Finally, for their own safety, teach students not to supply personal information or another’s personal information to someone online.
  2. System to handle reporting of cyber bullying/ predation. Most states have laws that mandate the reporting of instances to the authorities. Staff members who discover this type of behavior must immediately report it to the district/authorities who will then take appropriate action.  Share this information with teachers, staff, students and parents.

The College Place, WA school uses an in-depth writing assignment to teach cyber bullying. The teacher is left to deal with cyber citizenship. Another school district in Walla Walla, WA has a systematic approach that deals with cyber bullying and citizenship. Bullying is covered by thoroughly defining the many forms of cyber bullying and that mandatory reporting is required. Citizenship is taught directly to elementary, middle and high school students.

Class homework

Walla Walla High School has an interesting approach to handling homework by flipping the class:  instruction one day and homework is done in class the following day. The teacher is immediately available for support and instruction. Another high school in Walla Walla, Lincoln High School, stresses the importance of homework to future success and the availability of teacher support.

An elementary school in the same district gives homework sparingly, with the average of 10 minutes a day per class level and math every day. First grade might get 10 minutes, 2nd, 20 minutes and so on.  According to one parent, most of the 5th grade homework so far has taken 20 minutes every night and has been either math review worksheets or puzzles leading to the discovery of a secret code and humorous solution.

What is the ‘homework gap’ in your district?

The ESSA or Every Student Succeeds Act provides funding only for school broadband access.  Is home access for low income students a problem in your district? Use free or low cost online survey tools to document the digital equity school-by school and determine the “role of poverty, race and ethnicity in your district.” [1]

According to a 2009 FCC report, approximately 70 percent of teachers assign homework which requires access to broadband: 65 percent of students use the internet to complete homework at home. Both figures have increased.[2] Lack of internet access results in a serious handicap in the job market for students, according to FCC Commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel. [3]

“There are about five million families that do not have high-speed Internet at home. Low income families are four times more likely to lack broadband.” CoSN CEO, Keith R. Krueger [4]

Attempts to address the problem of internet access for low income families includes such “band-aids” as: boosting Wifi in local libraries, use of Wifi in local restaurants and motel lobbies, as well as creating ‘before/after class’ school access.

Two California districts, Fresno Unified and Coachella Valley Unified are delivering Wifi on all their school buses to bridge an equity gap and save students time during long rides. Students can work on homework to and from school. At Coachella they are even leaving buses parked in trailer parks over night with an assigned parent responsible for the bus where low-income students live. Another experiment in Washington state has a school program that puts internet hotspots in public housing buildings. [5]

Some Tips:

  • Some lower income students have smart phones but it is difficult to write a paper on a smart phone. Supply digital devices to each child.
  • Check digital devices out to students like you do books.
  • Teach students and parents how to use and care for the devices.
  • Open school rooms to students early and late to provide internet access and support to work on school assignments.

An important step in building support for students is to use email to keep communication lines open to parents and gain their support in their child’s education. There are also many effective parent/teacher data sharing apps such as GoAppleTree, Bloomz, Class Dojo and Freshgrade. Use tools like these or email to keep parents informed about:

  1. homework,
  2. school assignments,
  3. forms that must be filled out and turned in,
  4. back work,
  5. student behavior.

Your district, teachers, parents and students can survive and thrive in the new digital age by planning ahead and having the infrastructure and tools in place.

 

[1] Keith R. Krueger, “Scoping the Digital Equity Problem(or the Homework Gap),” CoSN web article: Digital Equity, September 9, 2015, p 1

[2]Ibid.

[3] Nichole Dobo, “Poor students often lack a home Internet connection.  Is this a FCC program a solution?” The Hechinger Report, June 18, 2015, p. 1

[4] Jena Passut, CoSN 2016: Technology’s Role in Addressing the Homework Gap, EdTech Magazine: Focus on K-12, April 5, 2016, p. 1

[5] Dobo, p.1


 

Connie writes for the K-12 EdTech industry.  Her goal is to help bridge the communication gap between K-12 districts and the education technology community.