This Is Not Your Father’s Math Homework

Tonight I watched my son, Bailey, do his math homework and at first, he did exactly what I expected him to do.  He surveyed the worksheet, got out his graph paper and worked through the one main problem, ultimately creating a graph for the outcome, before reaching a final solution.  It was just like I used to do for my own math homework centuries ago.

That’s where the resemblance ended, however.

Bailey’s next step was to take a video of himself (with his school-required laptop with camera in it) explaining in great detail what his solution was  and how he arrived at it.  The video ended up being approximately 5 minutes long.

After taking the video and saving it on his hard drive, Bailey uploaded it to Google Docs, to the video section.

Next, he made sure to click the little box saying “make the video public on the web with a sign-in required.”  That allowed him to share the video only with those to whom he gives the password.

In Google Docs Bailey is able to retrieve and copy the “embed code” for the video which allows him to embed the video elsewhere.

And lastly, Bailey had to create a blog post on his personal blog, which he has through school.  He calls it his “Bailey-verse.”  He has the blog organized by class – he has to blog now for most of his classes, even for the strings orchestra. Please note that Bailey had to paste the embed code into the HTML section of his blog post and not in the regular creation part of it because then the code would appear, but it wouldn’t link properly to the video on Google Docs.

The finally, he was done with it.

Whew, that bears absolutely no resemblance to the math homework I used to do!  I am proud and confused all at the same time.  Bailey is no different from any of his peers at the American School in Japan; I don’t think he works with any particular facility, but he has just done it enough times that it’s second nature now.  Not every assignment has to be done in this way, but for a significant portion of them per month, he goes through this process.    I could say all sorts of trite things right here about how my children will never know a world without computers, or that he already knows more about software than I do, or even that he has terrible handwriting, but I don’t care because he never needs to write any more.  But you already know all those things; I don’t need to repeat them or elaborate on them.  I could also get morose and wonder if Bailey is really better off with all of these steps or if he just has to do more work than I did in 7th grade.  But is that going to hurt him, even if it’s true?  Most likely not.

How did he learn this stuff, I wanted to know.  He said that the computer people showed them some videos at the start of the year and he has learned other stuff from his fellow students and classmates.  They share knowledge well, it seems.  It this knowledge-based economy now, the ability and willingness to share what you know is a commodity.

Right now I’m going to just enjoy my little glimpse into what seems to be a very bright future indeed.  Go tell your kid to do his math homework and see what you find out.

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