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Science Homework

If you know a bit about the brain then you can plan homework to suit the needs of students as they develop.

During early school years, for example, the brain is focused on getting to grips with the world around us. Memories and understanding grow when new information can be linked to things we already know. Homework that helps with this recognition can build literacy and numeracy skills.

When students reach adolescence, they become more independent and self-directed. There is shift away from rote memorisation and single, correct responses. Learning goals are more likely to focus on reading for content and comprehension, revising, report writing, solving problems, investigating and independent or group work.

Well designed homework provides multiple ways for students to engage with what they are learning. They will then be able to use the facts they acquire to be creative and solve problems in class.

When to use online learning games for homework

Most teachers work hard to differentiate homework based on skill level, but with each new topic there may not be time to prepare individual tasks. Online games, in which pupils learn and test their factual knowledge, can be helpful when homework goals are about building a foundation of knowledge. This tends to be in the early years of school.

Computer-assisted learning cannot replace good teaching: it is only from teachers that students can experience rich interactive learning and build conceptual understanding.

But using online learning games for homework tasks lets students gain the necessary level of factual knowledge and learn procedures that need to be memorised. This allows them to then progress in class to the richer subject content. Relieving teachers of essentially being drill directors means students get more class time to understand concepts and apply what they have learned.

Online games also help students to build skills to an automatic level at an appropriate pace for them. For example, games could be helpful in learning multiplication tables, spelling, remembering dates, names of rivers, foreign language learning, or getting to grips with grammar rules. Well designed online skill games evaluate each student’s ability as the basis for the questions or problems given.

A good website for information about hundreds of availableprograms is graphite. You can browse by subject, grade level and skills, and see rankings of popularity with learners and teacher evaluations.

The importance of homework that students value

In later school years homework is more likely to focus on reading for understanding, revising and launching investigations.

When students know that the effort they put into homework will enhance their participation and enjoyment of classroom learning, they become more motivated. Pupils also put more effort into schoolwork or homework when they are engaged in something that is relevant to their studies.

For instance, if the class is studying how to calculate area, good maths homework may be to get students to measure parts of their room they want to change (eg walls to paint, windows for curtains, doors to cover with cork board for posting photos etc). Those who complete the homework will be able to make sketches to scale of their rooms on graph paper and determine area. Those who don’t do the homework will not be prepared for this activity and will have to solve less interesting worksheet problems.

If the assignment is to read a chapter in a social studies or history book for discussion the next day, teachers can inform them that there will be a short quiz of the main points. Students who score high enough to demonstrate that they did their reading will have the rewards, or do independent projects of their choice and move on to new challenges.

How much time should homework take?

The amount of time spent on homework will always vary depending on the age of students and what task you have set.

After about 15 minutes of learning and practising something - such as the Pythagorean theorem in maths - the regions of the brain activated in spatial-numerical learning get fatigued and need to rebuild the neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, that get depleted.

This is why teachers need to plan brain breaks in class time and for homework. It doesn’t mean the child needs to run around or play a game. It just means another part of the brain (or body) should be doing the activating while the other area rests. The restoration only takes a few minutes if the break is timely, but if they are pushed to stay with that same process for too long, stress builds, neurotransmitters drop way down and it will take twice as long to restore full efficiency to that area of the brain.

The good thing about getting students to do something that will enhance their classroom experience is that they are more likely to engage in it, so they don’t mind spending time on it.

Online games for learning basic knowledge usually have set timings. You can assign a specific amount of time to be spent on the skill building program for homework and confirm students’ compliance by checking the teachers’ pages.

Judy Willis is a neurologist and former teacher. She writes books and does international presentations about how the brain learns best.

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In the field of educational technology, some apps might be getting too smart.

More and more apps are delivering on-demand homework help to students, who can easily re-purpose the learning tools to obtain not just assistance, but also answers. Whether or not that’s cheating—and how to stop it—is one of the concerns surrounding a new app that can solve math equations with the snap of a camera. While the software has inspired teachers to create real-world homework problems that can’t be automatically solved, that strategy doesn’t hold up to other apps that tap into real-life brains for solutions.

Here’s a look at 7 apps that can do your homework for you, and what they have to say about cheating:

PhotoMath

Price: Free
Availability: iOS, Android app coming in early 2015

The new, seemingly magic app allows users to take pictures of typed equations, and then outputs a step-by-step solution. As of Wednesday, the app is the number one free app on the App Store. But the biggest issue, one teacher argues, isn’t if students will use the app to cheat, because many will. Rather, it’s about how teachers will adapt. A PhotoMath spokeswoman said educators have welcomed the app with positive reviews, but the software remains “quite controversial.”

“We didn’t develop PhotoMath as a cheating tool. We really wanted kids to learn,” said Tijana Zganec, a sales and marketing associate at tech company MicroBlink, which created PhotoMath. “If you want to cheat, you will find a way to cheat. But if you want to learn, you can use PhotoMath for that.”

iHomework

Whether you’re a high schooler with eight periods of classes or a college student tackling dozens of credits, there’s one thing you’ve got for sure: a mess of assignments. iHomework can help you keep track of all your work, slicing and dicing it in a variety of ways. Sorting it by due date, week, month, or by course, the app is more organized than a Trapper Keeper. And in integrating data from Questia, you can link your reading material to your assignments so you don’t have to dig through a pile of papers to find the right information.

A scheduling feature can help you keep track of those random bi-weekly Thursday labs, and you can even mark the location of your courses on a map so you don’t end up on the wrong side of campus. And finally, with iCloud syncing, you can access all this information on whatever Apple-compatible device you’re using at the moment — no need to dig for your iPad.

Google Apps for Education

Taking the search giant’s suite of free browser-based apps and sandboxing them so they are safe for school use, Google Apps for Education is an excellent alternative to the mainstream installable productivity software, but this one has a perk that almost school board will love—it’s free. Packaging together favorites like Gmail, Hangouts, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive with Classroom, a digital hub for organizing assignments and sending feedback, the goal of this collection is to make learning a more collaborative process.

Though Google Apps for Education is cloud-hosted, the programs can be used offline, ideal for when your student needs to escape the internet and work distraction-free. And since it works on any device, it also helps students avoid buying overly expensive hardware. That means more money for extracurricular activities.

HwPic

Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Availability: iOS and Android

HwPic is a tutoring service that allows students to take send pictures of their homework to tutors, who will then respond within minutes to your questions with a step-by-step solution. There’s even an option to expedite the answers if a student is in a hurry. HwPic Co-Founder Tiklat Issa said that the app was initially rejected by Apple’s App Store, which believed it would promote cheating, but he successfully argued that just because someone uses the app in a way that it’s not meant to be used doesn’t mean the app should be punished.

Issa added that HwPic prohibits cheating in its terms and conditions. Tutors don’t solve homework that has words like “Quiz” or “Exam,” and they often know if a student is sending a photo during a test if they’ve paid for expedited answers, and if the photo is dim, blurry and taken under a desk. “We’ve minimized cheating,” said Issa. “We haven’t eliminated it. That’s kind of unrealistic.”

Wolfram Alpha

Price: $2.99
Availability: iOS and Android

Wolfram Alpha is similar to PhotoMath, only that it targets older students studying high levels of math and doesn’t support photos. The service also outputs step-by-step solutions to topics as advanced as vector calculus and differential equations, making it a popular tool for college students.

“It’s cheating not doing computer-based math, because we’re cheating students out of real conceptual understanding and an ability to drive much further forward in the math they can do, to cover much more conceptual ground. And in turn, that’s cheating our economies,” said Conrad Wolfram, Wolfram Research’s Director of Strategic Development, in a TEDx Talk. “People talk about the knowledge economy. I think we’re moving forward to what we’re calling the computational knowledge economy.”

Homework Helper

Price: Free
Availability: iOS and Android

Chinese Internet search company Baidu launched an app called Homework Helper this year with which students can crowdsource help or answers to homework. Users post a picture or type their homework questions onto online forums, and those who answer the questions can win e-coins that can be used to buy electronics like iPhones and laptops.

The app has logged 5 million downloads, much to the dismay of many some parents who argue that the students spend less time thinking about challenging problems. A Homework Helper staffer admitted to Quartz, “I think this is a kind of cheating.”

Slader

Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Availability:
iOS

Slader is a crowdsourcing app for high school and college students to post and answer questions in math and science. While students can post original homework for help, many questions in popular textbooks have already been answered on the app, according to Fast Company. An Illinois high school said earlier this year that it suspected students were using the service to cheat on their math homework.

Slader argues that it’s “challenging traditional ideas about math and education,” and said that the ideas behind its app “aren’t a write-off to teachers,” according to its blog. Slader told San Francisco media outlet KQED that it shouldn’t be dismissed as a cheating tool, but rather considered a way for students to access real-time help.

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