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The Evolution of Homework

There are many questions that plague us, but one of the most universally asked by children around the world is, “Who invented homework?” Posing the question to your favorite search engine (cough, Google) might not give you satisfaction, either.

Supposedly, there is an Italian educator by the name of Roberto Nevilis, who in the early 1900s created it as a way to punish his lazy students. Dig a bit deeper and you’ll find an equal number of sources who claim that Roberto Nevilis did not invent homework. Some sources claim Nevilis never even existed.

Besides, we know that Roman educator Pliny the Younger, who was born in 61 AD, was already handing out homework assignments. Well, sort of. He instructed his students to practice public speaking at home to help them become more fluent and confident.

Repeat after me

One thing’s for sure: before we had overhead projectors and film strips and video – not to mention online tests and Wikipedia – there was really only one way to prove you had learned anything. You read the textbook in class, and then you went home and reread it until you had it memorized.

Hardly efficient.

All you really proved was that you had memorized information. It didn’t mean that you understood it. So, regardless of who invented it, homework was a necessary practice. Much to the dismay of students everywhere.

It might not be how students want to spend time, but it’s extremely beneficial. Memorization is out, but topics and ideas are quickly forgotten in a classroom environment. Reviewing and practicing at home helps us remember and retain.

Repetition is crucial to learning. Homework gives us that framework, and it allows us to learn at our own pace and rhythm. Just as importantly, it gives us exposure and experience with independent work.

Technology to the rescue?

Not everybody has been a supporter of homework. In the 1930s and 1940s, some areas of the country abolished it, believing it was simply too stressful for children. Then a satellite called Sputnik 1 had to go and ruin everything in 1957. Homework was back in full force as America became obsessed with Russia and a space race.

It’s only gotten more prevalent. Pew Research Center reports that today’s teenagers have twice as much homework today as their predecessors did in the 1990s. Even kindergarteners are getting into the act. A study by a group of universities and the Children’s National Medical Center observes that they may spend up to 25 minutes nightly on after-school assignments.

Good thing for technology. It’s changed practically everything about going to school and doing homework. Today’s students would have to Google it to believe that tests and non-textbook study materials were made with a gadget called a mimeograph.

Today, inexpensive laptops and tablets make it possible for students to access a nearly limitless amount of information and resources that transform homework and learning from rote memorization to perspective and true interactive education. Students can collaborate with each other outside the class. Teachers can record videos of their presentations that can be watched again.

Research shows that 60 percent of us play video games daily, and 70 percent of parents believe video games have a positive influence on their children’s lives. Experts believe that gamification is the future of homework and education. Homework has gone from good to bad and back to good again. No matter how you feel about it, an increasing amount of education and homework depends on connectivity. No matter how you or your kids feel about it, an increasing amount of  assignments have gone online. “The dog ate my homework” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Learn how Lumos Networks can make sure your home is ready for the increasing need for fast, dependable Internet connectivity.