Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Turn homework on its head

I am toying with the idea of turning homework on its head in the next year or two. What if students did homework at school and listened to lectures at home?

DougPete at Off the Record wrote about students analyzing their wiki usage trends. He asks
why not turn the tables around. Issue students a textbook if you must, on the first day of school and have them take it home and leave it there. Change the day so that homework is done at school and students do their reading for the next day at home. In terms of technology, that way you could even the playing field with everyone having access to the same level of access. More importantly, the students would have access to each other for collaboration and for work.
For a variety of reasons, I don't use a textbook (and sometime I'll write about them. I'm sure you're breathlessly awaiting that post). I do spend an unfortunate amount of time talking to the students, though. And repeating myself, when a student (a) stopped paying attention (b) interrupted me so I lost my train of thought (c) was absent.

Last year, I linked to a bunch of Atomic Learning screencasts for Flash. I still taught my students what I wanted them to know, but the screencasts were there to remind them and to help students who missed class.

My students did not love Atomic Learning. They couldn't articulate why, but I have a couple of theories:
  1. They're used to my voice and my style, and they didn't like being taught by someone else
  2. When I teach them, I reinforce only the things I want them to know. The Atomic Learning screencasts where more hit and miss. They include information I consider irrelevant and don't always include information I consider important
  3. They found them dry and boring, because it's very hard to be as enthusiastic while recording a screencast as it is in person, and a person provides extra visuals to overcome the periods where they're not talking because they're concentrating on clicking or whatever.
  4. Some topics aren't covered by Atomic Learning at all. There's no Flash section. Many of the Flash topics I cover are too advanced.
Now, #1 is the kind of thing that makes me say, "get over it" except that if the kids aren't watching the videos, then we're not achieving any goals. And #3 would affect me just as much as anyone else. But #4, #2 and #1 combine to be pretty compelling. Especially since, as mentioned, most of the kids aren't watching the videos.

We are a 1:1 laptop school and my students have the internet available outside of school. If they don't have it at home (and nearly all do) they can stay for "homework club" and do internet-needed homework then.

So I am thinking of either recording my lectures live this year or creating screencasts of my lessons. I will then make watching the screencasts the required homework. Assignments will be completed in class rather than as homework, meaning that students will have me available to help them when they run into problems, rather than toiling away at home. It's a lot of work up front, but I think the payoff could be huge.

1 comment:

Gail Carmichael said...

I wonder if this idea could work for university would be a pretty drastic change, given that 'classes' == 'lectures'. I like the idea of providing a reason to show up to class, though, and the opportunity for collaboration.