Drawbacks of making homework too visible

A challenge from using an online homework planner was recently brought to my attention by a deputy head teacher. Her school decided to switch over to Milk and abandon their existing digital homework diary with another supplier. Apart from this school’s appraisal of Milk’s functionality, a motivating factor in deciding to switch was something I had not heard before and was concerned about resources being uploaded by teachers that could potentially and wittingly contravene copyrights and licensing.

With teachers hoarding resources from different teaching roles over the years and re-using them, I can appreciate how easily this might occur. The problem is when resources are attached to homework tasks that are displayed on a weekly calendar, typically embedded onto a school website, therefore out in the public domain. The rationale for showing homework this way initially appears to makes sense until you realise, apart from paying for a glorified web calendar a school could build themselves, your school has no control over who sees the school’s repertoire of homework tasks and resources.

This is actually the complete opposite to how Milk works and deliberately so for reasons I shall explain. Then there’s the annoyance for some teachers amongst us of having that painstakingly planned homework task being plagiarised by teachers from other schools. I’m referring here to the “free rider” problem and notice how we said “some” teachers, because we teachers are generally selfless folk who willingly share best practice and resources with each other. If you’re not convinced, just check out Twitter for countless examples of such occupational altruism occurring on an hourly basis.

With ever increasing work scrutiny and accountability facing our classroom teachers and their line managers, many in the teaching profession yearn for a notion of trust by preserving some degree of operational discretion in how they teach.  It’s the old “autonomy in teaching” debate rearing its head again.  Because homework set via Milk is only privy to those who have a Milk account, teachers enjoy setting homework that’s only ever accessible to relevant students and parents. So in a sense, Milk gives schools the best of both worlds by providing accountability with features such as, downloadable homework reports and SLT overview capabilities, but at the same time it allows the introverted or modest teacher to keep their work out of the wider public domain.

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