Sunday, January 12, 2014

Online Homework

Blogging Challenge: Day 3
What is a website you can not live without?
     (A summary of how I use websites to assign homework)

When I assign homework, I have two guiding principles.

1.  Give the students space and time to get it done.  
I assign homework once a week.  I give the assignment to the students on the first day of the week,   and it is due on the last day of the week.  I feel this respects the students time commitments and      
helps the student learn to manage their time.  Every year there are some students who wait until Thursday night to start their homework.  They quickly learn they should start it earlier in the week.

2.  Give the students choice.
When assigning the homework students always have a choice between two assignments.  There is an "A-level" and "B-level" homework assignment.  I tell the students the "B-level" homework will prepare them for the B-level quiz, while the "A-level homework will prepare them for the A-level quiz.  (all my assessments are also differentiated)  Students vary in their choice.  Many choose the B-level homework every time, some choose the A-level every time.

Comedian George Carlin has a great bit about how we have the "Illusion of Choice" in this country.  (1000 bagels to choose from, 2 people to choose from for president).  Giving students this type of choice helps them feel like they are in control in some way.  They still are going to do math homework, but they get to choose how hard the assignment will be for them.

I used to do this by hand.  I created A-level and B-level packets every week and killed many trees copying them and laying them out for students to take each week.  It was time consuming and wasteful, but good for the students.  Grading them was also a pain and never happened in a timely basis.

How this ties into the Website topic.
All of this got easier and more efficient with the website and  I no longer spend time and resources creating the packets or correcting the packets.  Students get immediate feedback as they work.  Students enjoy the fact that they have so much control.  They get to decide which assignment (A-level) or (B-level) and how far they will work the assignment.

IXL gives the students a smartscore from 0-100 based on how many questions they have gotten correct or incorrect.  Students can work as many problems as they need to get to the score they want.  I use the following scale.

SmartScore     Grade    
100                  A
95-99              A-
90-94              B
80-89              C
70-79              D
0-69               not done

This homework provides the base level practice many students need to be successful in math.  We save the higher level Bloom's for classtime.

Do I have students that always choose the B-level and work it only to a minimum level?  Of course.  These are the same students that typically wouldn't do their homework at all. So at least they are getting their homework done.  I have had many students come to me in the middle of year and tell me they tried the A-level homework for the first time and they got it done.  They are always so proud.  At the same time I have students who complete both the A-level and B-level homework and always work everything to the highest score possible.

There are technological worries of course.  Students at our school do have a study hall and a homeroom every day.  So some students with no internet at home have priority at those times to get their homework done.  In the past couple years I have had no student not be able to get the homework done because of technological concerns.

Overall there are some definite cons (I know Dan Meyer would not approve)  however I feel the pros outweigh them.  Giving students the illusion of choice and the time and space to get their homework done really helps with student buy-in on the math homework.


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