You wouldn't believe what random tidbits you come across by joining groups on LinkedIn. I randomly sign in and BAM! there is an awesome software link or new person to network with, or personal story in the "Teachers Lounge" or tech question I can offer advice on. Last week, the top story in the "Secondary Education Professionals" group was for a new homework app that is still in the test phase. I couldn't resist checking it out.
On the one hand, I'm shocked that nobody has thought of it before. But then, I think of some of the push-back that many teachers across America are having against the tide of technology that is cresting in the classroom. I'm sure there will be a loud voice crying, "they don't NEED a homework app, use the free planner the school gave them!". So which side of the fence to take...
As a busy mom, amateur author/enterprenuer, educator and tech enthusiast, this is a total no-brainer to me. Anything to reduce the zombie-ness in my life and help me do things faster is an easy decision. I think that most parents of middle schoolers, between driving kids to soccer practice, coming/going from work, cooking/shopping/cleaning and occasionally sleeping, would jump on the chance to try this out. So here's how it works.
Step 1: Teacher logs into the website above and creates an account. The program works an awful lot like Facebook or MySpace, in that they have to add a class, type in basic school information, and then type the homework for each day into specified boxes.
Step 2: Students and/or parents log into the website and create an account of their own. They search for their school and their teacher, and any teacher who has posted homework will show up there. They add them to their teacher list, click on a day, and Viola! they can see homework assignments listed. This much you can do now.
Step 3: Eventually the programmers will launch a free app that will be available in the Android market, and hopefully soon after, for iPhone and other devices. Parents/students visit the market, download the app, and save it to their phone favorites. Badda bing, they can keep track of homework from anywhere without lugging a giant dinosaur planner around. Saves teacher time, parent time, student time and communication time not rewriting and restating the assignment again and again.
(Still doesn't help students who forget their homework materials at school!)
I can see huge potential if a school were willing to go full-throttle into such a program. Parents could see all of their kids' homework from every teacher with the click of a couple buttons on their phone. Students would whip their phone out at the end of the day, double check what they need to pack, and not have to run down to the teacher's room to ask (if they're even still in the building at the end of the day, or at bus duty or coaching a sport).
There would of course be concerns about the fairness for students and parents who either can't afford or don't allow their young teenagers to have phones. This is becoming a smaller and smaller minority though, as family cell phone plans with parent protective tools become more and more affordable. As an educator, I can't see the logic of holding back a free tool from families who are willing and able to use it, when the old system of writing down homework in an agenda book and bringing supplies home in a back pack works just as well for everybody else.
Time saving technology seems to be the way of the future, and the most logical, least expensive tools will become more and more desirable, as funding for education and teacher prep time are systematically reduced all over the nation.
Check out the site, weigh in, and share your feedback here or on LinkedIn! Erik Harinck is the co-owner of Hoobble in the Netherlands. I don't speak a lick of Norweigan or Dutch or whatever it is, so thank goodness their site can translate to English!