Homework?

I think John Spencer has many great things to say, but this blog post is incredible: “A Week without Homework Challenge.”

In this, he proposes teachers take a week where they assign no homework. Tweet about it at #weekwithouthomework, check out the Facebook group, and see the Google doc he started.

I wish we could get back all the time we’ve struggled with my daughter, in particular, over homework. She has hated homework since 1st grade. Spelling practice, math drills, worksheets. I totally agree with the premise of this concept that learning at home or working at home is fine. It all depends on who is initiating the work.

For example, I’ve never seen her work harder than she did doing a History Day project. She had a topic that fascinated her. She was able to demonstrate her knowledge in a medium that works for her (she made a 10-minute documentary, as opposed to another multiple choice test.) She loved doing that project, and it showed in the outcome. The multiple choice tests? math tests? spelling tests? not so much.

They mention the parent struggles. We’ve fought with her, we’ve accused her of being lazy, unfocused, and more. I’m not proud of that.It’s been an issue in our family for years. Yet, I watch her doing the things she loves- she’s incredibly focused, works very hard. We always joked that my kids learned more in the summer camps where they were allowed to explore their passions.

Tomorrow, Sunday, she will probably spend 8-10 hours doing homework. We’ll argue, I’ll feel stressed because she’s not done. And what does it get her? another multiple choice test. What does it keep her from? It keeps her from focusing on her music, it keeps her from spending time with family, from getting outside to ride her bike and help with the yard. In the end, it defeats her spirit. And why? “To be ready for college” is what all her teachers would say.

So, please keep up this no homework movement. As a parent, I thank you. I wish my kids were in your classes!

Personalized

Ran across this blog post this morning, In BYOT it’s the Y and O That Matters, by Peter DeWitt. Wow. It rang true for us. I just have to share a couple of quotes:

I feel that it is our job as educators to teach students how to use something properly rather than ban it because it makes us uncomfortable.

He quotes from a report by Karen Greenwood-Henke, “BYOT: How Personal Technology is Transforming the Classroom.” (MDR EdNET Insight.) I must get my hands on this report. These quotes are powerful, and this is where the Y and O part come from — Your Own.

Personal technology is loaded with your calendar, your contacts, your preferred applications, and organized the way that makes sense to you. Students become better organized, more productive, and have the potential to be self-directed learners when they use their personal technology. “It’s a piece of you” (Greenwood-Henke. MDR. 2012).

 

While it’s only been three weeks, we’ve really seen this with my son and the iPad we got for him at school. As I’ve said in previous posts, he’s taken true ownership over the tool – and is using it well. He’s found things that work for him. He tested and rejected a couple of planner apps, he’s set up Evernote, his apps are organized in folders in a way that I would never do, but it works for him. While I’m not sure I think BYOT is the best way, I do think a 1:1 is the only way. Shared devices don’t allow the ownership, the personalization, the 24/7 access and the immediacy that 1:1 programs promote. And these are what makes it work.

 

Called to the Office: The Outcome

As previously posted, our tech experiment resulted in being called to the office because I wouldn’t sign the technology policy because it said that students couldn’t use devices unless directed by the teacher. Obviously, sending an iPad to school with my son violated that rule.

Long story short, my son gets to use the iPad. He has a medical disability that will allow him to have a device as part of his accommodations. (Mind you, I specified “a digital device” — not an iPad — because who the heck knows what it’ll be in 2 or 4 years.)

My son was very eloquent in describing how he’s using the iPad and how it helps him in school (with or without the medical disability.) He demonstrated his planner app, Evernote, Penultimate, all the while explaining how he uses it and why.

I appreciated the conversation, as I learned a bit more behind the school’s thoughts andwe opened the door to additional conversation.

But more, I’ve seen personally  the power in personalized technology and what it can do for learning. My son has taken ownership, experimented, tested, tried new things, thought differently about presenting information. It’ll be an experiment worth watching this year.

Tiring

On the way to school this morning (for yet another early theater rehearsal) my daughter and I were discussing being tired and getting to bed at a decent time. (To her credit, she is in bed by 10:30 usually, which is early for a high school kid.)

Her observation about being tired? “I bet I wouldn’t be so tired if I wasn’t having to sit quietly and listen all day long.”

Exactly.

Seriously. Even 15-year olds need to do something besides sit quietly and absorb information. They need to move, to create.

Without prompting from me, she brought up the art class she took last year and reflected how that was such a different experience creating things.

How do I, as a parent, reconcile the fact that I send my kid into an atmosphere in which I feel deadens the learning experience? Not every class, not every teacher, of course. But the overall model of kids sitting and taking in content delivered by a “sage on the stage” figure is outdated. Something needs to change, and I fear it won’t change soon enough.

One Vision

Stumbled across the news that my old stomping grounds school district is moving to a 1:1 iPad initiative in some grades. A little internet digging, and I found some impressive information about their program. They’ve really thought this through, they’ve articulated WHY the technology is being used, and what the learning outcomes will be.

  • My Way
    Basic information about the project
  • My Way Presentation
    PDF of what I assume is a presentation they use for parents, school board, etc.

A few quotes and thoughts from the presentation:

  • “Each student has access to digital curriciulum via essential personal mobile learning device.” (empahsis mine)
  • Strong emphasis on personalized learning:  “The paradigm shift to a personalized learning experience is the process of contouring learning to individuals, recognizing that individuals inherently have different strengths and weaknesses, interests and ways of learning.” – Sir Ken Robinson
  • “1 to 1 programs provide for digital access and learning opportunities regardless of socioeconomic status”
  • “Providing all students with 21st century skills and making education relevant to today’s world are critical to closing both the achievement gap and the global competition gap.” — Public Opinion Strategies and Peter D. Hart Research Associates (2007)
  • To be really effective, teachers need to use the technology to achieve things they could not do without it.” –Ruben R. Puentedura

Huh. Makes me even more frustrated with what I’m seeing on a daily basis from my kids’ schools, and with the pushback I get from the schools when I ask about this stuff.

Called to the Office

Well, week #1 and we’re getting called to the principal’s office.

Our disruptive technology experience (the iPad Project) has been an interesting experience. My son was really nervous about a couple of the teachers, but so far that’s been just fine. One teacher he was really nervous about was just amused when my son pulled out his iPad when they ran out of calculators. All the teachers have seen him use the iPad, no one has had a problem.

He’s exploring apps that work:

  • My Homework allows him to enter all his homework assignments, sort by due date, get notification of upcoming or late assignments. He far prefers this to the paper planners.
  • Evernote: all his notes for all his classes are right there. One spot. No forgetting notebooks.
  • Kidblog: he’s doing his journal in Kidblog.

Office

Back to why we were called to the office. Day #2 brought the technology policy home. I didn’t sign it last year, and wasn’t about to sign it this year. It’s just the first paragraph I can’t sign, as it says that all personal electronic devices must be off and put away except when instructed by a teacher.

Here’s the email I sent:

I can’t sign the Tech policy as it is. I’m fine with most of it, but I can’t accept the first point….
These devices can be incredible learning tools, and we do a disservice to our kids by refusing to allow them to use them in school. Kids need to learn how to use them, and to learn that there are appropriate times/uses and inappropriate times/uses.
Given that we’ve allowed xxx to bring his iPad to school this year, it seems hypocritical for us to sign the policy as it is written.
Will post the outcome of the meeting.

Volunteer Sign Up Tool

I probably spend more time doing volunteer tech stuff than I do sleeping…. somehow I always get roped into building websites, managing Facebook pages, and moving organizations to new tools that help them be more efficient. Mostly it’s because I can’t stand paper! (Someday I need to figure out how to get paid for all this….)

Just ran across a new tool that could be very helpful to many of the little non-profit or parent groups I work with: signupgenius.com. Looks to be a great tool for signing up volunteers for events — no more emails, no more not knowing who’s volunteered, etc.