Pros and Cons of Mixing Technology and Homework

Remote school and work have blurred the lines between work and home. How does this shape the debate over technology and homework? Does e-Learning count as homework, since kids complete it all at home? When staring down a backlog of missing assignments, it doesn’t seem like it. Screen fatigue, eye strain, and a growing aversion to technology cast an interesting angle on the debate: how has technology affected the way we view homework?

Pros Of Tech-Centered Homework

1. Flexible work with flipped classrooms. One type of blended learning flips the traditional sit’n’get lecture into cyberspace, freeing up synchronous class time to discuss and practice the concepts with a teacher to coach and clarify.

2. Time management skills. Kids who have mastered asynchronous virtual learning are flexing increased time management skills as well. In the absence of a teacher guiding each student through a schedule, students are expected to manage their own assignments, due dates, and turning in work.

3. More communication and built-in feedback. Assignments delivered via technology give teachers an opportunity to attach expectations and the right way to use rubrics. Students can reference this documentation during the assignment. After work is submitted, students receive feedback embedded into the assignment.

4. Focus on needed skills rather than every subject. It’s not necessarily about the content of the assignment, but the skills needed to complete it. Time management, self-motivation, scheduling, the ability to multitask or focus when the situation calls for it, and the willingness to try something new all contribute to a well-rounded individual. Students who are tasked with a lot of tech-centered homework can practice these skills while mastering the content of each subject.

Technology and homeworkCons Of Mixing Homework And Technology

1. No boundaries between school and home. When the world shifted to virtual, many workers and students found that work moved home, and home felt… different. The boundaries blurred between rest and study. This effect is felt more deeply by some than others, and in different ways: think of the differences between introverted and extroverted people, those who crave structure and those who loathe it (and maybe more tellingly, those who need structure for success and those who don’t). For a vast number of kids of various ages who still very much need the structure of the classroom, the lack of boundaries isn’t just unhealthy—it runs the risk of interrupting important developmental milestones.

2. Maximum homework from everyone = unmanageable workload. When homework happens via technology, it’s tempting to set the max workload. After all, especially if classroom time is at a premium (or not happening) how else can teachers gauge progress? It’s a catch-22: not enough homework and we worry kids aren’t getting the enrichment and experience they need. Too much, and kids are overwhelmed with assignments from all angles.

3. Password and application management takes time. More systems, more problems—with managing credentials, switching between systems, and knowing where to find what. While edtech is still a long way off from a seamless, universal experience, interoperability and single sign-on are helping. It’s still a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to use each system homework is housed within—and learning them takes cognitive energy away from the actual lessons at hand.

4. Technology issues impact homework being completed. If students don’t have access to high-speed internet, they may not be able to turn in completed assignments or even work on certain assignments housed in cloud-based systems. Some families share devices among multiple children or with adults working in the home. Although 1:1 programs can help combat this, tech issues can pose a tricky barrier to homework.

5. Technology is designed to hook us. It’s no secret social media and its infinite scroll are designed to keep users coming back for more. The grip of technology has had a fair number of parents and experts worried as children increase screen use. If school and homework require tech, and students want to spend their leisure time on screens too, families must set boundaries to make time for real life activity.

In most districts, homework plays a crucial role in education. Still, setting thoughtful expectations schoolwide can help students allocate their best effort to learning the skills that matter for their futures.

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Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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