Essential Learning Activities Should Be The Ultimate Goal

I caught the statement below from Lyn Hilt in the comment section of Scott McLeod’s post on whether or not parents should be allowed to have their children opt out of the use of technology in 1:1 settings. 

Here’s an idea, engage kids in essential learning activities at school, infuse the technology meaningfully, and let kids be kids and enjoy their lives outside of school by not assigning loads of homework. (And elementary kids? Zero homework.) If kids are so inclined, with their devices they can extend their thinking at home on their own time, but don’t make it mandatory… “

I’ve written several posts on homework in the past and I can’t help wondering what students would use their time for if they had the opportunity to “extend their thinking” on topics that they found most interesting.  How much longer will we continue to ignore the research of Alfie Kohn surrounding homework? It has been nearly a decade since Kohn came to the following conclusions:

“For younger students, in fact, there isn’t even a correlation between whether children do homework (or how much they do) and any meaningful measure of achievement.  At the high school level, the correlation is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied.  Meanwhile, no study has ever substantiated the belief that homework builds character or teaches good study habits.”

I grow continually frustrated as I see my own students spending their time on so many low-level, rote tasks that really serve no essential purpose in preparing them for what they will face when it is time to prove that they have marketable skills that would be an asset to some organization. When they do find time to spend on some of the things that they are most interested in, I am amazed at some of the self-directed learning that they do in spite of the very traditional education they have had.  I can only imagine what the possibilities would be if my kids spent six hours a day in learning environments that focused on the self-directed and collaborative skills that they need (and long for). 

We need to change this cycle…

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