Five Issues Associated with Assigning Computer Homework
What do you do when students miss class due to a school trip, sport event, or illness? Typically, you would ask them to catch up on the missed work during their own time. However, this can often be a problem when the assignment is computer-related.
If you have been following this thread on the TechnoKids blog you know that I am currently teaching the technology project TechnoEnvironment to a group of middle school students. Today was the fourth and FINAL class scheduled for Internet research. I have had several students away due to school events or illness. These students have not yet completed their research and were told that they must complete their work during Open Lab time or at home.
Issues to Consider When Assigning Computer Homework
Assigning incomplete work as homework has a unique set of challenges when it is computer-based. Although, students have access to the computers in the school during Open Lab time, many students prefer to complete their school work at home. This may be because they are involved in clubs or teams during recess or lunch, enjoy playing with their friends during break time, or they like their home computer more than the school’s equipment. This situation caused me to reflect on several issues associated with assigning computer homework.
Issue 1: Software Compatibility
In many cases, the software used at the school must be installed on the student’s home computer to be able to open the files. As well, even if the software is the same, the version can make a large difference. For example, often a file created in a newer version cannot be opened in an older version. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:
- If using a newer version of software at school, teach students how to save the file as an older version for home use.
- If using a newer version of software at school, send a letter home explaining to parents that they may need to install a compatibility patch on their computers to view files made at school.
- If students require the file to be opened by a different program at home, teach students how to save the file in a different format.
- If students have a newer version of software at home, inform them to keep the file in the older file format so they will be able to open it at school.
Issue 2: Work Transfer
How can students transfer the files from school to home? At many schools, students are prohibited from downloading files. This mean email attachments or online storage directories are not a viable option. If this is the case then students need to have a USB drive they can use to transfer their work. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:
- Teach them how to copy and paste files onto a USB drive.
- Demonstrate how to properly insert and eject the USB drive.
- Create a sheet for parents that explain how to complete these basics steps in case students need help.
Issue 3: Viruses
You need to safeguard the school network from viruses. There is no guarantee that the home computer has updated virus software. For this reason, you need to be cautious to prevent infection. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:
- Most new virus software will automatically scan a USB drive for viruses when it is inserted. If your school software is older, teach students how to scan their USB drive for viruses manually.
- Establish a policy that states all USB drives must be scanned for viruses prior to transferring files onto the network.
Issue 4: Parent Involvement
When students work from home their parents may not have the skills necessary to assist with a computer-based assignment. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:
- Make sure that students possess the computer skills necessary to complete the task independently.
- Provide a sheet that summarizes the expectations of the assignment. This will assist parents if they want to supervise the homework.
Issue 5: Computer Access
Not every student has access to a home computer. This might be because they do not have a machine or because other family members are using it. In addition, students may not have a reliable Internet connection at home, which can restrict research. Below are some steps you may need to take if your students want to work at home:
- Provide traditional resources they can use for research at home.
- Encourage students to use Open Lab time.
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