21 Things that will be obsolete in education? Maybe..maybe not (Part II))

Homework.

For decades the mere word has caused many a student to groan, roll their eyes, or cry out in frustration. However, it has been mostly a necessary evil (except when it is a waste of time and does not advance an educational goal).

Shelly Blake-Plock, in his 2009 article on “21 Things That will be Obsolete in 2009” in education, states that this very concept of homework will disappear…at least in its current setting. In Part II of my discussion over Blake-Plock’s list, I have to say that is already happening, but not fast enough.

First, some teachers are already doing what is called a “Flipped Classroom”, where lectures and concepts are provided outside of the classroom and homework per se is done in the class. Here is a video to explain this concept in more clarity:

There is plenty of debate around this and one that will be addressed later. However, I concur with Blake-Plock when he states that “we don’t need kids to ‘go to school’ more, we need them to ‘learn’ more.” Homework needs to continue to become simply academic engagement, whether is it at home and/or at school.

I have cut my lecturing back in half in the past couple of years, instead choosing to start assignments earlier but ask probing questions as the students begin their instruction. In the process, not only did my belief that study questions not cover nearly what students need to learn about a subject become even clearer, but I am finding where students are making mistakes much quicker and I am able to address them before they go home and shut down because they are struggling with the material.

One item I would love to see obsolete is the role of standardized tests in college admissions. Yes, I am an Advanced Placement English teacher, but it seems to me there is a growing emphasis on the test and it is stunting the abilities of teachers to provide a more rounded educational experience. Thanks to maturing social media and inexpensive costs of “cloud” storage, more emphasis needs to be placed on a digital portfolio. Colleges should set up admission folders for students to submit their best work. Yes, cheating is prevalent, which is why teachers should have access to those folders and be allowed to submit student work as well, and then admissions offices can compare that work to letters of recommendation, transcripts, community and volunteer service, other extracurricular activities and scores from AP, SAT, or ACT. It does not have to be hefty to be effective.

To make it even easier, establish a secured “Facebook” style site that is dedicated to adding admissions information, so that universities can pick and choose what they need to see from the potential student. I concede that there is some concern about privacy and how much should be made available on such a site, but there is really no need to put much on a secured cloud-based site that has not already been seen by teachers, friends, family, and other community members.

Coming soon: Differentiated Instruction and Wikipedia…why I feel the fear of Wikipedia has gone too far…

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