The dreaded homework dilemma. How much should be assigned to get the right amount of practice? Will students get it done? How should it be graded and how do students receive feedback? Developing a homework philosophy can be a tricky endeavor given the severe implications it may have on family time, learning retention, and student morale.
In the book, Ditch That Homework by Matt Miller and Alice Keller, the authors address many of the classic issues students and teachers face when it comes to homework. It also outlines some key strategies and practices that can help make homework more meaningful, empower students, and move away from the inefficient turnaround cycle with minimal academic benefit of traditional worksheet/textbook practice.
The essential question the authors pose asks educators to evaluate whether assigned homework is given purely to foster compliance and can be classified as busy work, or instead; facilitate collaboration, creativity, and deeper learning. The book goes on to to discuss various alternatives and resources for those who may fall under the former category of homework ineptitude.
After digesting the material from the book, of which I was more than happy to take a huge helping of, I obtained the nourishment needed to spark an idea of my own using one of the resources mentioned in Ditch That Homework. The result was an assignment created using Padlet that I hoped would result in a more valuable homework experience.
Through many conversations with my daughter during her advanced high school math homework sessions I realized that she didn’t have many opportunities to problem solve and collaborate with her peers on some of the most complex and rigorous items. She also didn’t have the chance to practice some kind of retrieval every so often during her studies. In the book, Matt Miller and Alice Keller present powerful evidence that suggests stopping learning often to retrieve information (self-assess, summarize, or create mind maps) dramatically increases mastery of content.
So how can educators embed these type of important opportunities into a homework assignment using a simple and free resource such as Padlet? I started with Google Classroom. This way I could lay out all of the expectations of the homework and provide a link to the Padlet assignment created.
From home the students can click on the link to the Padlet resource itself and access the math performance task posted. In this medium they have the ability to collaborate and problem solve together.
Students can post their calculations and work by uploading pictures or using the drawing application available in the Padlet post.
Audio and video are also an option to post questions, justification and reasoning, or even demonstrations of solving the problem. Feedback within the student group can be instantaneous. To extend the discussion even further, take a few minutes in class to debrief the work as a class. Management of how many groups or different tasks will be assigned may take some planning but overall the students will be the ones doing all the heavy lifting – as it should be.
Using Padlet.com as a homework medium allows students to have a discussion around the critical thinking process and receive peer support. This type of assignment promotes student agency where they are directing their own learning and assessing others. It doesn’t burn them out by practicing numerous problems of which they have already mastered or by just getting more and more frustrated if they don’t know the content. Just one complex task that is an application of the content standard is sufficient. It won’t take all night to complete but still promotes a deeper understanding of the concept.
This resource is user friendly and has many different styles of templates to follow. Performance tasks for other content areas could work in a similar fashion. Through AVID professional development sessions I have seen Padlet used for Socratic Seminars and other collaborative strategies. These activities could be modified for homework purposes as well. I recommend exploring the resource specifically for homework purposes and ideas. The possibilities seem only limited to the imagination.