Has Technology Rendered Homework Obsolete?

Card Catalog 2

How we Googled Things In My Day.

Sometimes my ten year-old asks me to tell her about the olden days and how we did things.

“Daddy, what did you do a long, long time ago, like the ’80s when you had to do research for school?”

“I rode my horse to town and parked it outside the library and asked Ms. Kitty to pour me a drink and direct me to the card catalog so I could use the magical Dewey Decimal System to find the books I needed.”

That is the kind of reply that never fails to generate the sort of response that one day may mean death for a boyfriend or spouse but just gets dad an eye roll.

The last time she asked I pulled up a picture of a card catalog and told her it was our Google. When she asked me how we used it I gave her a brief description of the Dewey Decimal system and mentioned it is much easier to look up information now than when I was a kid.

Has Technology Rendered Homework Obsolete?

Her big brother wanders into the room during the discussion and frowns at me. He is in the middle of another homework marathon and I don’t have to ask to know two hours in means he still has another hour to go.

“Dad, hasn’t technology rendered homework obsolete. Why do I need to know all this crap when I can just look it up?”

I don’t want to tell him I think the system is broken and that they receive too much homework. That would  make motivating them to continue working hard at it more challenging than necessary so I keep my opinion to myself.

But I still make a point to talk to him about the value of a good education and how it is something that can never be taken away.  I may believe what I say but it bothers me to try and support something I see limited value in.

Homework that helps teach children critical reasoning and logical analysis makes sense me. It doesn’t always have to have an immediate practical application but relatively little should be forcing them to regurgitate information.

Never memorize something that you can look up.” ― Albert Einstein

I’d like to sit down with the educator(s) who developed the current standards and have them explain their rationale to me. I want to hear that I am a lay person who is misinformed about the value of how much work they are receiving.

I want them to explain to me in irrefutable terms that staying up to 11 each night is going to provide them with a foundation that will lead them to be successful but I don’t see how that is going to happen.

How will they explain that pushing them to exhaustion is beneficial. How will they tell me that having no virtually no free time is a good thing.

Sure, some of them will tell me that their teachers are supposed to give the kids instructions for how long they should work on their projects. They’ll say that once they hit X amount of time they should put their pencils down and go on to something else.

It is a nice concept but in practice it is hard to see how it plays out because they are overloaded in multiple classes and they receive grades for homework.

Every now and then my kids will echo Einstein and tell me it is dumb to do their homework because they can just look it up or use their phones/computers to solve their math problems.

They know I’ll respond by telling them they need to know how to do things without a computer. They know I want them to know how to figure out if they received proper change, how to figure a tip, percentages and how to read a map.

They have heard me talk about the importance of keeping their minds active but I come back to the same places.

Are They Learning How To Think?

Are they learning how to think or being taught what to think? Are they being given skills and knowledge that have practical applications.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the regurgitation makes sense. Some of the repetition makes sense. Doing things multiple times has some practical application and helps make sure you don’t forget how to do certain things unless you didn’t understand the lesson in class in which case 50 problems is 50 too many.

I suppose technology hasn’t rendered homework obsolete but the amount our kids receive is sure making it hard to see the value, especially when measured against practical advice like the advice below.

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  1. Lori Gosselin January 9, 2015 at 9:26 am

    “Miss Kitty” LOL Love it!

  2. Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes September 25, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Gina1 Sounds like we are on the same page here. I see a need and a purpose to physically doing work but the question is how many times do you need to do it before the value of doing it starts to wear thin.

    Need to learn how to solve for X? Maybe 15 or 20 times is enough to learn and remember how to do it. When I see it has to be done 50 times I ask if it is necessary.

    I love technology and think the kids need to learn how to use it as effectively as they can but they also have to master certain life skills. The GPS doesn’t always work and sometimes it is not available.

    Or sometimes they are obnoxious and ask  the tourist for a recommendation for where to shop and he tells them to go to Marshall Fields even though he is fairly certain it closed down long ago. 😉

    The main point for me is making sure they know how to do the most important things by hand so that they aren’t stuck without tech.

  3. Gina1 September 24, 2014 at 5:54 am

    You are at a difficult age when they just pile on homework. I don’t have to tell you big school will be worse. I think having to “physically” do the work (instead if virtually) teaches facts, of course, but also problem solving. Life is about figuring things out.
    Instant information on smart phones, while handy, drives me nuts. Figure it out. I wanted my kids to learn “by hand” the thing you referenced above like map skills. I live just iff the beaten path of a tourist area. If they are looking for Navy Pier and on my street, they are not going to find it. Some ask, but others have their face stuffed down the throat if their phones looking for the answer. Get out a map and look. Or ask. Or more importantly, follow the signs and arrows.
    Sorry for the rant. Technology drives me nuts (even though I’m typing on a smart phone this very minute).

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