August 24, 2013
Using Tech To Organize Homework
One of the best things a parent can do to help their kids be better students is to help them learn how to learn. By this, I mean teaching them how to be organized, how to study, and how to find the information that they need. Kids don’t automatically know how to do these things, and often schools don’t specifically teach these skills. Today, I am going to talk about the first of these, organization.
A reader referred me to her blog that lists “10 iPhone Apps to Help Kids Manage Homework.” I was impressed with this list because the key word here is “manage.” Managing homework is a hugely important skill. I used to teach in middle school. Going from the environment of one teacher, one classroom, and one list of homework assignments to seven teachers, seven classrooms, and seven different times during the day to write down homework can be overwhelming. Add to this the necessity of gathering your books out of your locker at the end of the day amidst hall traffic, crowded space and numerous distractions and it is no wonder kids often get home without the right textbooks.
The traditional solution to this problem is to provide every student with a “planner.” This is usually a spiral notebook with a page for each day to write down the assignments for each class. If all students would use these, and then actually look at them before leaving school, they would be great. Some do, many don’t. If using this kind of planner is required by your school, one of the best things you can do for your kid is to ask to see it every evening until the habit of keeping the planner up to date becomes ingrained. As adults, we know how necessary our written “To-Do” lists are, but it is hard to convince kids that they need one also.
Here is one dilemma that can really be helped by technology. Since kids are attached to their cell phones by their thumbs, they are much more likely to actually write down homework on their phones than in a planner — and they won’t leave their cell phones in their locker. Several of the apps listed in the “10 iPhone Apps” are virtual “planners.” It shouldn’t be hard to find one that suits your student. You may still need to ask to see the assignments on their phone until they get used to the idea.
These days, many teachers write the homework assignments on their web sites, which can be a real help to parents whose kids haven’t reached the level of responsibility to get home each day with the assignments. As a parent, I would still insist that my child write down the assignments, because the habit is so necessary as they get older and have more complex schedules.
Another boon brought about by technology will be the advent of on-line textbooks for all subjects. That day can’t come soon enough. It will negate the problem (and the excuse) of not getting home with the right books. It will also save the backs of students who currently carry home four or five heavy textbooks in their backpacks every night. (Of course, this assumes that all students have Internet access at home, but that is a subject for another day.)
There are other aspects of being organized that parents can help their children master. One of these is after-school scheduling. Many kids have such a line-up of sports, music lessons, etc. after school that time for homework can be squeezed out. Parents and kids need to sit down together and figure out how much time needs to be devoted to homework, how much time that allows for other activities, which activities are the most important to include in their days, and what will be done if an activity is taking too much of a toll on the student in terms of time management, stress, and sleep. What a difference it will make if these decisions are made with intentionality, rather than just jumping into a pile of activities and hoping for the best!
Of course, when they are ready to begin doing their homework, they need a comfortable quiet place to work with the right tools available, good lighting, etc. Easier said than done, right?
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