Tag: homework

The Future of Homework

The Future of Homework

HOMEWORK!-There is probably not an area of education that is more hotly debated than this. It doesn’t matter if you are a parent or an educator, opinions will vary. There is the 10-minute rule that a lot of schools use that comes out of the research done by Harris Cooper due to the positive correlation between student achievement and homework. Following this rule of thumb, a child in the first grade would be assigned 10 minutes of homework, while a secondary student would be assigned no more than 90 minutes of homework. However, this principle is not helpful in differentiating based on the needs a child because not all children take the same amount of time on each assignment. So this complexity makes it difficult to make generalizations about how much homework should be given. And, quantity is not the same as quality. There’s been a huge trend towards “Flipped Learning” in which teachers assign a video for students to watch at home and then they do the practice problems at school. Math is a particularly popular subject for this type of homework. In the latest season of the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC,  George Curous interviews Jo Boaler,  a personal math hero of mine, who surprisingly dismissed this approach to math learning.

She explains that, at the end of the day, all this fuss over homework doesn’t matter. In fact, according to research done, it has a negative impact when you look at access to the internet, meaning that disadvantaged families or families without technology in their homes suffer from a “digital divide”. The research on this rather reminds me of the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler in which one of his main ideas was how technology will create a post-industrial age revolution that will create an economic and psychological chasm. Although back in 1970, these ideas were radical, now in 2017, it has come to past with the era of the “knowledge worker”. And so one has to wonder if our traditional approach to homework is actually serving our students in preparing them for their future, especially as I ponder one of Toffler’s infamous quotes from this book:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. -Alvin Toffler  

At many PYP schools, there has been a shift toward reframing homework as home learning, and parents who have had more traditional educational backgrounds have mixed opinion on this. In a place like Asia, in which students usually take classes after school or attend academies, parents really cringe to hear that there isn’t homework being assigned. And in many ways, sending home worksheets or assignments really helps communicate the learning that is being done in the classroom to families; because parents can see that their child is doing 10 homework problems with expanded notation, they have an obvious idea of the learning that is going on in the classroom. At our school, we send home “learning overviews” that detail the conceptual understanding and learning outcomes of the units of inquiry, adding ways that parents can support the learning at home. Also, since we use we use the app SeeSaw, we post a lot of photos of what we are doing in class. And I wonder if this fills the void that parents feel while meanwhile achieving the aims of preparing students for this “future shock”, that, in many ways, is already underway. At the end of the day, both teachers and parents just want the children to feel successful and equipped for their unknown careers ahead.

What I found most interesting about Boaler’s interview is how she articulates the importance of cultivating students’ genius. More homework? No!-more brain connections!  Jo explains that “when you have a piece of knowledge that you see in different ways”, you can be more of a creative problem solver. And how can homework really achieve that unless it is a passion project or conducting personal research that fosters divergent ways of thinking? More importantly, valuing their ideas helps children to develop confidence, autonomy, and a work ethic. And it can be gymnastics, baking a cake or playing a game. Doing this, rather than a page of math problems, surely will pay higher dividends in the long run. That’s the problem with homework–it’s rarely authentic or inspiring. And if students don’t have an intrinsic drive to learn more, there is absolutely no way that forcing a student to conjugate verbs or memorize the rivers in the world will improve that situation. Getting kids to be deeply curious and willing to try and fail at something is loads better-  that is the only learning that needs to happen, inside or outside the classroom.

So I think that the future of “homework” might just be extinction.

What do you think? Post comments below.

Homework Vs. Deep Work

Homework Vs. Deep Work

We had an open house this week, and as I sat down to answer parent questions about our Primary Years Programme, I opened up my Powerpoint, prepared to refer to my laundry list of all the ways the International Baccalaureate is wonderful. But then questions came and my presentation took care of itself. I began to get a clear picture of how truly different we are and how rigid so many schools are in China. One mother pined for her 3rd-grade son’s happiness and felt awful that she had to battle him daily to do 2 hours or more of homework a night. Having 2 hours or more of homework?–a parent’s free time also gets demolished as I’m sure they have to sit there with their student to complete the worksheets. You can imagine that both parties suffer burnout and do not enjoy these nightly sessions. So parents feel equally imprisoned by the idea of doing homework, as what they see as a necessary evil.

Yet, this is endemic of living in Asia–so many of the countries here, with their large populations and competitive job markets, staunchly value education as the only means to have a decent life. School is life for young people, and it is also very normal that children, beginning in Kindergarten, get tutors or attend “academy”–a night school that teachers next year’s math or other content knowledge.

Ever since this meeting, my mind is wandering, thinking about my own child.  I love my little person and I want her to come home eager to tell me her tales of school that day. I don’t want to berate her about doing homework.  So earlier this year, I had her think about creating a homework schedule, which obviously has a fair amount of parent input (my daughter never would put in IXL willingly). You can see the final schedule in this post, which amusingly you can notice that the weekend is “Hannah’s to do list”–meaning that mom and dad leave her to her own devices.

However, I am starting to rethink this concept of homework, which is essentially practicing what the skills that they are in the midst of learning that week. I do think this is important and of value, but I’d also like to cultivate her interests, which lately has been coding and Minecrafting. I’m a big fan of Cal Newport and his treatise on Deep Work which can be summarized here (although I recommend you read the book since there are more nuggets inside). cal newport

In particular,  Cal recommends that one “drains the shallows” and create focused, uninterrupted attention on developing a skill, working on a project or task that is challenging and demands ideation to promote innovation in your area of interest. When looking over one’s schedule, it is vital to quantify the depth of every activity–is it moving you towards a goal or achievement? Is it really helping you to cultivate depth of knowledge and expertise? Once you evaluate your schedule, then you recreate it and reallocate your time to doing this “deep work”. The end goal of these accumulated hours is to bring into fruition new and better ways of doing something, solving a problem or producing a product which will have an overall greater benefit on humanity.

With this idea in mind, I asked my daughter if she had to get rid of something on her schedule, what would it be, draining the shallows, sort of speaking. She told me that she’d get rid of the writing on Tuesday. When I probed to know why she told me that she didn’t like writing, she told me that she likes to draw and she never gets to do that in her writing prompts. She’s in 1st grade, the year when drawings are replaced with words to convey ideas, but I could appreciate her struggle with the transition. (Through this conversation, I gleaned some insights and it gave me an idea for next year to try when I teach 1st grade, as I motivate students into using better word choice rather than pictures to describe their ideas.) I told her to redo her schedule and she readily replaced writing with coding. As you look at her schedule below, it was obvious to me that her interests are emerging.

 

Although I’d like her schedule to be refined to maybe 1 or 2 focused items a day, it is a first step towards managing one’s time and developing readiness for “deep work”.
It got me thinking if all students were to be asked to do this task–creating their own after school schedule, what would it be? How could we instill within our students a desire to pursue their interests?–to redirect their attention to work that is meaningful to them. This idea of time management is one of the Transdisciplinary Skills or Approaches to Learning (ATL) that we seek to create in our IB learners. So as much as I want students to practice skills that they are in the midst of developing, I also want them hungry to learn so that they independently and organically augment their abilities. This is a key distinction of learning in the IB. So, I am just wondering if we were to tweak the idea of homework and teach parents to be partners in their student’s passions if that would make for more fulfilled families, overall. Perhaps introducing this concept of “deep work”, reframing homework in a new light, could not only shift the dynamics of home learning but could also inspire greater student selected inquiries into their passions.

 

I’m definitely interested in anyone else’s experiences with transforming homework into a joy rather than a drudgery. Please connect with me @judyimamudeen or leave comments below.

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Supporting Inquiry with Apps

Supporting Inquiry with Apps

Our school does a BYOD  iPad program for grades 3-5, and then we have sets of iPads that are shared with EY-P2. Using iPads for learning has been really beneficial but it’s not all rainbows and flowers. It takes experience and thoughtfulness when using apps because sometimes you spend more time on learning the technology vs. actually doing the project you intended. This happened twice last year for me while using Padlet to do a collaborative mindmap as a part of a formative assessment and then keeping a digital journal using Microsoft’s OneNote.  It was a love-hate relationship, and I learned a lot from the experience.

So now as I support teachers with using apps in their classroom I have to think about how long it might take to teach a new application and if the benefits of the learning outweigh this loss of instruction. Here are some apps that I like that I think can support some of our upcoming Units of Inquiry:

EY 4: People can help our communities by working in different ways.

  • Inventioneers and Busy Water. I love these apps because they have a great STEM link for little ones as they learn how to design and build structures in order to solve problems. Busy water is less challenging, in my opinion, but both games are engaging.inventioneers

KG:  Living things have specific needs in order to grow and stay healthy.

  • Virry: This is a great interactive game with “live” animals (I presume in a zoo setting), in which you get to feed animals like lions or meerkats. The free version just lets the kids do limited basic things whereas if you get a subscription, you have more engagement and learn more about the animals. I don’t mind paying for subscriptions when more content is added, but I haven’t seen that yet. However, it is a very unique game and it is worth the .99 USD for a month of its use.

virry

P1: Personal histories help us to reflect on who we are and where we’ve come from.

  • Aging Booth or Old Fart Booth: The kids LOVE these! This apps give them the impression of what they could look like as an elderly person. And the apps are FREE–my favorite word!

aging-booth

P2: Maps can be used to help people locate places.

 Google Maps and Google Earth are the most obvious choices. And although there are other great apps out there , after reading this website, I think that Google Maps is so rich, there is no reason why other apps are really needed. Quality over quantity! However, teachers could recommend other apps like National Girrafic and Tiny Countries for home learning.

smarty-pins

P3: Understanding movement enhances our creativity.

We have had a lot of conversation about which way this inquiry could go. The Arts teachers will obviously focus on dance and expressing movement visually. The last unit was about covered content like body systems and nutrition so I thought Grade 3 could consider movement in terms of exercise and think about apps like Charity Miles to link creative ways to encourage movement. But if you consider movement with a perspective as a scientist or engineer, then that opens up a variety of other applications. Here are some ideas:

  • Scratch JrHopscotch , or Logotacular: coding comes to mind as a neat way to think about programming movement. However, it really depends upon the teacher and their skill level in order to guide students, but there are a myriad of coding apps (more than I listed here), so it would be easy to differentiate for learners.
  • Simple Machines: I am a fan of the Tinybop developer apps. This one is quite nice but I do think Inventioneers could more engaging for this age group; although the Amazing Alex app would be my first choice–if only it was offered for iPads. Sigh..

charity-miles

I’ve already blogged about using technology in the upcoming P4 unit: Getting Modern about Ancient Times. And P5’s next unit (Humans express their ideas and use persuasion to influence others.) focusing on using surveys, which they use Excel for their results; so their technology concentration is on using spreadsheets and converting data into graphical representations with that program.

But hopefully sharing these ideas will help inspire you about what and how you can use apps in your classroom. I really interested in others’ ideas if any other apps come to mind when looking at our Central Ideas for our inquiries. Please share in the comments below!

Happy Apping!

 

 

 

Home-School Connections

Home-School Connections

Communicating with parents and caregivers is an important aspect of teaching, because it provides insight and dialogue with families.

I believe that the best way to do this is with the personal touch, with a conversation when a parent comes to school or over the phone. I also like emails, especially since it makes sharing assignments very easy when a child has been absent or if the parent is concerned about the quality of their child’s work.  I also send out frequent newsletters and other communications to help the parent to understand what is going on at school and how they can support the learning at home.

Here are some examples of these general communications:

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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