Out of all of the instructional strategies originally identified by Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock (2001), homework continues to be among the most controversial. Every time I get to this strategy in our workshops, I inwardly steel myself for some lively conversations. At its best, homework is a fun way to bridge classroom learning with out-of-school experiences. At its worst, it is a mundane set of worksheets, math problems, and lower level questions. While educators see the benefit of the former, they far too often see the latter and it is this that brings such controversy. In recent readings and Twitter connections, I came across two very different homework strategies that teachers are using that I think show the dynamic learning experiences that can happen if homework is structured, purposeful, and (by all means) engaging. I’ll post these in two separate blog posts.
In the December 2008/January 2009 issue of Learning & Leading with Technology, chemistry teachers John Bergmann, Aaron Sams, and Brian Hatak described how they began creating vodcasts (PowerPoints with animation and recorded audio) of their chemistry lectures. Now, their chemistry homework is a quick, “just-the-facts” session while precious class time is used for labs, experiments, and discussions. These vodcasts can be found on the teachers’ Web sites (linked to their names). Delivering the basic content in digital format taps into this generation’s comfort of getting information when they need it, listening at their own pace, and being able to repeat sections that didn’t make sense the first time. Likewise, it actually enriches what happens in the classroom. No longer do they need to sit and listen to a lecture in order to get basic details. Now they can use the concepts and details to which they’ve been introduced to evaluate, generate and test hypotheses, and think critically.
In Part 2 of this post, I will describe how a teacher uses cell phones and the President’s address to Congress to engage her students in out-of-classroom learning.
Written by Elizabeth Hubbell.