Homework websites: Pros, cons and how to gain the max benefit from them
Schoology, HomeworkNow, Google Classroom, Canvas, Haiku: These are just a few of the hundreds of online resources that modern school systems are using to help students communicate with their teachers about assignments. These “Homework Websites” often provide a place for teachers to post daily homework assignments, worksheets, links, reminders, and more for students to reference wherever they have online access. Students can even submit assignments through these portals, share documents with classmates, monitor their grades, and much more.
These new methods are useful and supportive, but they need to be considered carefully, weighed against “tried-and-true” standbys, and properly incorporated into each students’ homework routine. Total reliance on technology can keep students from exercising their own brains, which can negatively affect academic performance in several key ways. Consider, for example, a young driver who uses GPS to get everywhere he needs to go; while using GPS, he loses the valuable opportunity to master spatial memory skills needed to navigate on his own. Likewise, when students rely solely on homework websites to track their assignments, they miss opportunities to build certain planning, time-management, and organizational skills needed to track and manage their work.
While homework websites largely help students to flourish in the classroom, they can also encourage bad habits and a troubling dependence on “the easy way out.” So, we’ve assembled the Homework Website “Pros” and “Cons” to watch out for, and some ways your child can use his websites to his best advantage:
- Students can confirm assignment information instantly and independently: Homework websites work as an excellent reference tool, and can be best used to confirm assignment instructions, deadlines, specifics, etc. Students can often print out documents and rubrics needed to complete their assignment to the best of their ability, and can check for all of that information easily, with a simple login.
- Assignments are organized all in one place, for easy and consistent viewing: When your child has access to a comprehensive, updated homework website, they can usually see all their assignments at once, in one place, and begin to make decisions about how best to tackle their work load, given the “big picture” vantage point that the website affords.
- Parents can log on to check assignments and encourage their students to stay on track at home: Students with developing executive function skills may need an extra push to stay on top of their goals and assignments. Although parents can’t always know what goes on in their students’ classrooms, having access to the homework website, where assignments are regularly posted, can help parents stay informed about their students’ responsibilities.
- Online platforms do not include everything the teacher said in class: Teachers may post an assignment online, but give crucial additional information in class, information that won’t ever be listed on the site. For example, many teachers model how to complete an assignment in person, but won’t also post a version of that model online. When your child relies solely on the homework website, she might miss or forget valuable information that could help to complete assignments correctly.
- Websites are not always updated in a timely manner (or at all, for that matter): Students of “The Swipe Generation” incorporate technology into nearly every aspect of their lives. Although students are nearly constantly online, and often prefer web-based tools, teachers may not prioritize web resources, trusting that students will record assignment information appropriately in class. Teachers may not update websites quickly, or maybe not even at all! Therefore, your child must have a back-up plan.
- Websites do not often allow students to personalize their goals and plans: Although homework websites do, usually, list all your child’s assignments, they are not as interactive as a traditional assignment notebook. Sites do not allow your child to schedule work on certain days, add reminders about assignment criteria, check off work that is finished, etc. Therefore, homework websites DO NOT replace all functions of a traditional assignment notebook.
- What if the site is down for maintenance? In the event that a homework website malfunctions or otherwise becomes unavailable, your child MUST have an alternative method to track and complete their assignments. Technology, while often reliable, is not always foolproof. Students who rely on homework websites exclusively may be in trouble if technical failures arise.
How to Use it Best:
- Have a system for recording information given verbally in class. Make sure your child has a place to record all details that may not make it onto the “assignment sheet” or website, such as examples, hints, suggestions, criteria changes, etc. Some students like to write details down right in their subject notebooks. Others prefer a planner or assignment notebook. Some teachers even allow their students to make audio recordings of lectures or take photos of information on the board. No matter the system, establish organizational habits that support homework website use, but do not rely on it exclusively.
- Use the online system as a “baseline” for additional calendaring: To make sure no information is “lost in translation,” students should consult deadlines and syllabi online, but consider the information subject to change as per in-class instruction. Sometimes, homework website pages can be printed out and used as a “baseline” agenda for upcoming weeks. If this option is available, your child might benefit from printing the assignments out in advance, in a small packet, and adding detail to that packet in class, as the need arises.
- Create individualized plans to get the work done separately from the online portal. Students can refer to the portal for deadlines, but should refer to their own calendar, agenda, or assignment notebook for a space to record SMART goals to get the work done. When students not only record assignments, but also plan step-by-step ways to get them finished, they are more likely follow-through with effective problem-solving and time management strategies.
Homework websites are here to help, and with the right approach and balance, between the old and the new, your child can get the most out of his next generation tools.