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Friday, February 15, 2008

MetLife Homework Study Results Released

Yesterday, Metlife released a significant study conducted by Harris Interactive, more info and the entire report can be found at MetLife's press release site.

Great to see increased awareness of how important homework is in the lives and performance of students, and to see further acknowledgment of the effect of homework struggles on the family.

This issue rises it's head often in the press, with examples like the NYC council trying to legislate limits on homework quantity, with parents suing to reduce amount of homework, and with experts releasing books about the inadequacy of the way homework fits into our educational system.

Bottom line for me has not changed, and it's reinforced by the accurate MetLife study:

-- Homework is necessary to reinforce what was learned in school and to prepare for the next step in learning.

-- Homework is good if:

-- it is truly tied to the instruction that was recently delivered,
-- it really helps the child understand the concepts better, and most importantly,
-- the child has someone to turn to when he or she is stuck (which is what Tutor.com is dedicated to doing for all students).

For more thoughts on the issue, see my previous post at http://ceotutor.blogspot.com/2006/12/too-much-homework.html, and a guest column I wrote for EdWeek's EdBizBuzz blog on Feb 20th, found here. Learning does not stop when the school day is over, and our education system and allocation of dollars need to start taking that fact into account.

George Cigale, gcigale@tutor.com
http://www.tutor.com/

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good use of technology is good

Recently read Patrick Walsh's op-ed in the Sunday Washington Post. I normally cringe when I read stories of educators and school administrators dismissing new technologies as ineffective, but I couldn't agree more with Patrick Welsh's overall perspective on technology and learning. And the last line of the article really says it all -- technology is just a means to an end, and like any tool with great potential, if you use it for the wrong job, it won't get you the right result. The shiniest best screwdriver shouldn't be used as a hammer. Doesn't mean it's a bad screwdriver, just means that the people who's job it is to figure out how to build a great house may not have thought through fully what tools are needed and when they should be used as much as the carpenters have.

Teachers need to be part of the planning process for all technology innovations in schools. Buy-in is a must, because even if the technology is potentially productive, the classroom is where the rubber meets the road, and if the driver of the classroom is not bought into and is not a master of the new technology, the technology will do more harm than good.

We think about these issues constantly as we prepare our 2,500+ tutors (many of them are classroom teachers) and roll out new features and capabilities in our software. Every teacher deserves quality professional development for every new initiative -- for us this means a process of preparation, student feedback, session review, and structured mentoring provided by our 200 tutor mentors.

We, at Tutor.com, of course want technology to spread like wildfire. Every teacher and every household should be comfortable with hardware and software that can be used to enhance the learning process. But that spread has to be controlled, thoughtful, and directed to the learning process, so that stories of backlash against bad implementations of technologies are few and far between. When teachers get to be part of the planning process and get the training and support they need, the new technologies will be adopted and loved. And the students will be the ones who benefit most.

George Cigale, gcigale@tutor.com