Thursday, December 4, 2008

LMS - Designing and Delivering "Homework"

Now that we have a conversation going regarding the hybrid lives of our students, and the need for us to get classrooms and schools connected, I thought I would prioritize my discussion topics on LMS utilization. I moved student focused topics to the top to bring out additional ways we can initiate some vision for others to follow.

Here is the list -- those in red have been discuss (for everyone keeping track).
  • Homework Assignments
  • Recording Live Sessions for review
  • Progress Reporting
  • Course Content Delivery
  • Group Projects
  • Gradebook use and distribution
  • Direct Parent Communications
  • Enhancing Teacher Preparation Skills (and Instructional Design)
  • Delivering Media
  • Assessments
  • Community Building
  • Reaching Non-Participants (from your class)
  • Assisting with Absenteeism
  • Substitute Teacher Prep (thanks Dr. Karl Kapp)
Some really insightful points came from comments on my last post -- a need to get all curricular areas plugged in, shifting our thinking from "computer classes" to an integrated approach, and awakening to the realization that technology prevalence is on the rise, not decline in the lives of our students.

In one of my posts below, I mention the topic of assigning homework. So, before we can talk about how technology, in particular, the use of an LMS can help in the area of homework, I thought I would talk about what homework should be.

First, I would like to petition for the removal of the work "homework" from all World Languages. Please post a comment to vote with or against me -- I will see if the power we build behind this will initiate change ;-) Why remove it? Well, fess up -- as teachers, when we say, "Now, for your homework.....", what do we hear in response? Mostly, ahhhh, oohhhhhhh, grooooaaaannn, ohhhh man, yuck, etc. etc. Now, not that we should always follow the reactions of our students, but sensing the immediate resistance, we should think hard about the purpose and role of "homework."

So, what do we do instead? How will the world survive without homework? Homework always seemed sporatic to me in school. In other words, just before the end of the class, the teacher would yell out, "Now, don't forget your homework assignment." (enter similar but louder reactions from previous paragraph). The assignment would often be left over work that we did not complete in class, or reading that we did not get too because someone in the class was a slow reader when reading aloud, or preparation for a the test on the next day, etc. In each case, the homework seemed like busy work. But, more importantly, it seemed UNPLANNED! I often wondered if my teachers even knew what the homework assignment would be that day. Or, were they as surprised as we were? Also, it seemed that homework was a once and done assignment. For example, we would do something, turn it in, and it would never be pulled out again. Each homework assignment had a life and death of it's own. It would be completed, turned in, and forgotten.

So, back to the use of an LMS. Based on my thoughts about homework, the goal is then to create engaging, connected, relevant, planned, challenges for students. Oh, I used the "challenges" not so off the cuff here. If we think about how students learn, the role of completing a challenge is certainly more in tune with modern day living than completing HOMEWORK!

An LMS can help do all of the above. Here are some ideas.

Engaging Homework
  • Interact with an online game
  • Interact with an online video and respond to the embedded questions
  • Create files, pictures, sounds, music, etc. to demonstrate understanding -- ie -- reading a poem with music in the background, typing a poem over a picture and creating a graphic file, using Powerpoint to demonstrate understanding of a mathematical formula, creating an ingredient list for baking cookies and posting it to the class website, etc.
Connected Homework
  • Group students together so students do not work in isolation, form team roles
  • Posting products on the course site and REUSE those products in future classes.
  • Peer reviews of student submissions, thoughts, ideas, etc.
  • Videos or sound files from past class presentations (class recaps)
  • Videos or sound files for upcoming class presentations (teezers).
Relevant Homework
  • Connections to outside resources (guest presentations only available online, podcasts etc.)
  • Experts in the field commenting on student discussion boards, students asking questions of them.
  • Use parent community to build value to assignments -- ie -- online class presentations, parents offering positive comments to classwork, etc.
Planned Homework
  • Assignments Lists always available
  • Due dates always available
  • Late submission policies available
  • Turn adhoc homework off and turn on only assignments that were planned -- builds a trust in the students -- ie -- assignments are thought out, valued and not busy work.
  • Make students part of plan -- ie - with vision into plan, they can offer feedback ahead of time re: other school activities that could conflict. For example, the soccer team is going to states and will not be home for 2 days at the same time an assignment is scheduled. LMS tools can help coordinate, or even allow assignments to be submitted away from home.
  • Eliminate excuses -- I forgot it at home, I lost my paper, I didn't have my book at home last night, my dog ate it (although, "My dog ate my laptop" is become a pretty popular excuse).
Challenging Homework: With all of the above put into place, homework does become more of a challenge. LMS's offer tools to help deliver quality homework. But first, we must redefine what homework is and shift our thinking. If we do that, the use of an LMS to deliver quality assignments will seem obvious.

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