by Jean Tower

I n our school district, we have been engaging in conversations around homework. Many questions have been raised. What is the purpose of homework? Are assignments differentiated? Is there a consistent framework or guidelines that are discernible by parents and students?

Many times during the conversations, I thought about how technology can help the homework “situation.” Technology can be used to open avenues for parents to be involved and informed. Teachers can offer a choice of assignments and let students select ways to practice or show their mastery of a topic or unit, and technology can open up many choice possibilities. Of course, technology can be used to facilitate collaboration. Teachers could be creating and facilitating online discussions, classroom blogs, wikis, and more. I’ve watched secondary level students collaborate on a project while each sat at their own computer. A combination of Adobe Buzzword , Skype , and instant messaging made working together, from "remote" locations, possible.

Arguably, there are so many good examples of using technology for assignments and offering students a choice of performance tasks (translate: differentiated) that rather than write more about the topic myself, I thought I would share a few links that contribute to the discussion as examples.

This link is to a wiki called Dare to Differentiate. There are lots of great resources here. There are templates (like Tic Tac Toe choice board and RAFT Assignments) and background information and guidelines for use.

This is an AP Calculus blog. The teacher and blogmeister says about his site:
"A view through the walls of our classroom. This is an interactive learning ecology for students and parents in my AP Calculus class. This ongoing dialogue is as rich as YOU make it. Visit often and post your comments freely."
This is worth a visit to see a good classroom blog in action.

This is a good example of an English classroom blog.

Read Carol Ann Tomlinson , who writes compellingly about differentiation.
You could start with an article at: http://www.nmsa.org/Publications/MiddleGround/August2005/Article1

"Use differentiated homework. When everyone in the class has exactly the same homework assignment, some students will likely only be doing busy work because they have already mastered what they’ve been asked to practice, while some other students simply have no idea how to do the required work. Differentiated homework can provide a great opportunity for students to "work backwards" to master missing skills, to extend content to challenge advanced learners, and to link applications of content to student interests."

One last point – I think all school districts need to discuss and develop policies around homework. A simple Google search for "homework policy" yields more than 8 millions hits. These may be a good starting point for brainstorming ideas about what might be included in an effective homework policy, but nothing can substitute going through the process of developing a "home grown" policy and periodically reviewing and revising that policy. The process will surface attitudes, anxieties, misconceptions, and expectations.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dee August 5, 2010 at 11:01 am

Thank you! I have been trying for years to get teachers to adjust the homework in order to meet the needs of the ELL’s. This may be the step in the right direction that we need.

femprectlep December 19, 2010 at 10:48 pm

“This may be the step in the right direction that we need.”
You can see more?

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