Tag Archive for homework

Do All Students Have Broadband Internet At Home?

One might assume that all independent school families have good Internet access at home. Most independent school populations are more heterogeneous than one may expect. Our PNAIS accreditation visiting team of 2004 recommended that we assess the ability of our upper school laptop program students to access the Internet from home. Here are the results of a recent survey on that topic.

Overall Results
High-speed: 254 (89%)
Wimax: 8
Other: 7
Neighbor’s wireless: 6
Dial-up: 3
More than one household, not all of which have Internet access: 3
A different computer, not my school laptop: 2
No Internet access: 0

Students With Limited Internet Access
10 students report that limited Internet access makes it harder for them to get work done.

“It is very difficult when I do not have internet connection.”
“It’s really hard to do research.”
“Finishing a paper at night can be difficult when the wi-fi is failing and any nearby coffee shops are closed.”

Students With High-speed Internet Access

We also assessed the effects of fast, reliable Internet access on students’ ability to do schoolwork.

102 students reported that fast, reliable home Internet access has a positive effect on their ability to get work done for school.

“I wouldn’t be able to get work done if I didn’t have high-speed internet.”
“Helps with research, downloading documents from course Moodle sites, and email which is crucial for a CG student.”
“It’s basically a must to have high-speed internet access with Catlin’s curriculum.”
“I think it’s really helpful because I can use online copies of books (like the math textbooks).”

55 students reported that good home Internet access has either no effect or a net neutral effect on their ability to get work done.

“It doesn’t really have any effect on my ability to get work done for school.”
“Instantaneous distraction/knowledge. Evil and Good live side-by-side.”

12 students reported that the negative effects of distractions outweigh the positive effects.

“Negative. Very distracting, thank you Netflix instant play.”
“Sometimes I wish my internet was still dial-up, so I wouldn’t be so distracted by Youtube.”
“It negatively affects my ability because I go on Facebook too much.”

Next Steps

We will get some adults together to determine how best to support students who are having difficulties getting work done at home due to their Internet situation. Some possible actions:

  • Raise teacher awareness about which students have home Internet challenges.
  • Speak with students and their families about the potential to upgrade their home connections.
  • Pay for home Internet for families that meet certain criteria.

An Indirect Measure Of Internet Use For Teaching and Learning

As a school IT professional, it is encouraging to see the fruits of our labor (intranet website, laptop program, teacher training) widely in use across the Upper School program. Many students mentioned Moodle, research, email communication, posted assignments, and online textbooks. At first glance, students may be using laptop computers more frequently at home than in the classroom.

Assessing the Distraction Factor

Only 12 out of 285 students reported that the negative effects of distractions outweigh the positives (Netflix, Facebook, YouTube). 55 students reported that home computer use brought positives and negatives. Most stated that they were able to keep those in balance. These figures should help address teachers and parents who express concern about laptop computers and student distractability.

Moodle: Major Assignments Calendar Idea

Our faculty wants a “major assignments” master calendar, in order to identify days on which too many teachers have scheduled major assignments before they impact students. In Moodle, students automatically see all the assignments in their courses. I want a way for each teacher to see a summary of major assignments schoolwide as they schedule their own. To complicate matters further, it would be most helpful for a teacher to automatically see what major assignments their students (not all students) have on a given day.

I am thinking about how to implement such a feature in Moodle. (I am an average programmer). Since we want to track only major assignments, we need to find a way to distinguish major from regular assignments. We also need to write a function to count major assignments for the given day only for students enrolled in the class.

Ideally, this counting function would fire as the teacher selects the assignment date. That way, the teacher could easily move the assignment from one day to another and see the impact on students’ workloads.

In our school, it would be less work to create a new assignment type called “major assignment” than it would be to add a “major” checkbox to each assignment type. In our school, major assignments are not likely to be submitted electronically, and keeping the function in a separate module would avoid making changes to Moodle core code.

I could use your advice and feedback on this idea. Is anyone else working on a similar idea? Is there a better way to approach this task? Am I missing an existing feature in Moodle that could help me achieve this end?

Many thanks.

Update

I also posted this to the Moodle forums. Here’s an encouraging reply I received only seven minutes after submitting the question. Isn’t that amazing?

Re: Idea for a “major assignments calendar”
by Gary Anderson – Sunday, 27 July 2008, 07:42 PM

Hi Richard:

We have implemented this at our school. We have teachers label assignments by putting them in bold (we have a patch that adds the tag to the title. We also have a simple block that looks for assignments that have this tag and counts the number of affected users. We have taken the extra step of having a user profile field that shows if they are in the class of 2007, etc.

It works nicely and has avoided many scheduling conflicts. While we are not prepared to put this in Contrib, hopefully the above ideas will get you started, and I can send you are code on an “as is” basis if you contact me.

–Gary

I also just figured out that Gary is from Seattle Academy of Arts and Science, which I hope to visit in October.