We have to stop thinking its homework…

There is still an unfortunate and overwhelming belief that schools are supposed to subscribe to the Qantas method of education; face the front, sit up straight, turn off all electronic communications devices, we are landing now and will be for the next 20 minutes – after, you can move freely and join the world once again.

For a generation of kids who were born into a connected world, for whom always-on constant connection is second nature (however superficial), it’s self evident that denying them such connection is only making schools increasingly irrelevant in the learning process. Note I’m not decrying the value of schools as social places, places of role models, of networking, yes of education, and friendship development, and of so much more than ‘learning’, but that’s a whole other discussion.

But! Prattling on about how iPods and PDAs and other mobile devices are good for homework – is missing the point (http://tinyurl.com/87oa8f). It makes the assumption that learning is a delimited thing by both venue and time.  Kids can only learn between the 9am bell and the 3:10 buzzer; rubbish. There should no longer be such a thing as homework; there should be less reliance on neatly bounded sharply delineated periods of learning and subject focus. Learning happens from wake up to sleep; it’s a collaborative thing between parents, peers, teachers and life in general.  If something is worth learning, kids will learn it regardless of when where or how. iPods, netpads, PDAs, game consoles, teachers faces, are nothing more than portals to information and the time kids access these should be exactly when the info is relevant and likely to stick.

Making something designated ‘homework’ is the same pointless proposition as only learning maths in this time slot only learning history during these designated minutes of the day. No kid’s mind focuses on a single subject at any timeslot, or for any predetermined time quantity. If this were not true teachers wouldn’t talk to students outside of their class time. They’d get all the maths or science or geography in those allotted moments.

Hattie’s findings (http://tinyurl.com/9jxbbu) that homework was less relevant than feedback is right – the methods are open to criticism, the numbers are easily challenged, teachers will always campaign for smaller classes, but the findings are still right.  Kids will learn when they have cause and interest to learn and they need ‘input’ in order to learn. Rename “feedback” to “providing answers, information & stimulating thought” and there it is – teaching, the thing we all do well. Hattie has supported that, but sidelong, kicked out the idea of delineated timeslots of learning.

Stop calling it homework, assume kids are connected and learning all the time and homework stops being something to endure and suffer.

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