As education reform is a topic of most conversations and educational experts continually blame teachers and outdated practices for poor student performance, it has become obvious that the world is changing faster than our education system. In a previous blog, I wrote about how we cannot fairly evaluate teachers without first evaluating parents. Although this is true, there are many factors that most parents are unable to control or even monitor. Just as we have to consider that the only exercise and physical activity that students receive in a day is during gym class, we have to also consider that the only school work that a student will do is while in class. The reason for both issues is the same: modern technology.
Throughout my eight years in education I, like many of my colleagues, have noticed the trend of fewer students completing their homework assignment. We all know what homework is and, even when we were students, we cringed whenever our teachers mentioned it. However, unlike our contemporaries, many of us were not permitted to watch television (or play video games) until our homework was completed. It was a pretty simple and easily solved problem. Nowadays, TV is probably on the bottom of the list of distractions to which a teenager has access, or which occupies his or her time. With iPads, laptops, PSPs and cell phones (that provide the same capabilities as TVs and computers), it is obvious that modern children have more distractions from doing homework than ever before. This is why homework, or the completion of homework, is slowly drifting into extinction and also why, as teachers, we are being forced to dedicate much more class time to completing work than to instruction, discussion or engagement of students.
When students do not complete homework or any assignment that they need to finish at home, teachers get the blame. I wouldn't be shocked if, in the near future, some education expert suggests that teachers go home with students in order to ensure that they complete their assignments. Again, I am not blaming parents; it is nearly impossible to eliminate all distractions that a child has while at home.
I, like most teachers, cherish my class time with my students: our discussions, interactions and activities. However, the only way to make certain that students truly understand and grasp the material is through reinforcement, which is often through homework. Teachers accomplish so much each day in a limited amount of time and, in most cases, perform educational miracles. But, for most students to retain the lessons they learned that very day, they have to reinforce the material on their own time.
Regardless of how amazing and engaging a lesson may be, if it is not reinforced in one way or another, it will sadly be forgotten and not entirely absorbed. The present-day student is definitely overwhelmed and even consumed by the various forms of technology that are everywhere they turn. For this reason, I fear that homework, something that has been a staple of the education process forever, is truly an endangered species and will become extinct in the near future.