As I am not a classic school teacher I would like to cover this topic from a business point of view.
Being an independent language teacher homework is a very effective tool for me and for my students it definitely raises attainment. The reason for this is simple: homework is outsourcing.
Outsourcing works great for the economy so there is no reason why teachers should not use it themselves. Of course outsourcing / homeworks must offer a benefit for the student.
If you have a look on the report that is now circulating for the past couple of days on Twitter and several blogs you know that blended learning is the most effective way of learning these days. Homework is a part of it.
For me as language coach this means that I am completely outsourcing vocabulary and grammar learning to web services. Why? First of all the student is paying for my attention. To my mind learning vocabulary during a lesson is a waste of time and money. Of course I answer questions that might come up during the asynchronous learning part but web services like Livemocha are getting constantly better so most of the questions can be answered there.
So if you are delivering a good assignment you are left with more time in your classroom. That means you can focus on things you could not have done before. More conversation, more interaction, more creativity. Simply delivering a better lesson because you as a teacher are the most important person in the room. Students want to learn from you, not from books or slides or videos. They want your knowledge, your point of view.
More time means also better preparation. I can search for new texts, new exercises and as my courses are conversation driven I can spend more time to prepare interesting and actual topics for each single student.
Like Don Tapscott is saying in his blog Grown Up Digital:
The moral of the story: Students would be better served with much of the curriculum being online. And to repeat what I said in the book, this does not mean a diminished role for teachers. Their time would be freed up to give extremely valuable one-on-one teaching.
I will write a longer post about outsourcing for teachers hopefully later this week after the ETCon.
Taking this to school teaching, I think homework must not be boring anymore as this is still the label attached to it. Students could do research via the internet, work together on wikis or blogs, make films or photo stories. To my mind they don’t even need to write their thoughts down. As a history teacher for example I would accept audio files of my student’s thoughts. I don’t need to correct grammar or vocabulary but I want to get them into thinking. And one of the best ways is just talking, spinning the story. Pen and paper (or a keyboard) are only a barrier in this case.