Couldn’t resist an attention grabbing headline here after spending yesterday morning with my daughter on the kind of homework that just completely takes the fun out of learning. In geography her class is learning about latitude and longitude. As homework they got a work sheet that made them look up about 15 cities in the US based on Lat/Long and write down the Lat/Long for another 15 based on a map in their social studies book (a ridiculously heavy tome by Pearson). It was an incredibly dull and completely unnatural exercise with the net result that my daughter now associates lat/long with tedium. As a sailor and a fan of Dava Sobel’s “Longitude” I find that incredibly upsetting.
What could have been done differently? In an ideal world the teacher would have gotten the kids excited about Lat/Long with stories of sailors and pirates and being lost at sea. Seeing how it was “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” that would have been the angle I might have gone with. But even short of that there are dozens of ways of making the particular homework way more fun. For instance, the lat/longs to look up could have come from a famous journey of exploration or from the concert tour of the Rolling Stones. Or the first letters of the list of cities could have formed a secret message. Or they could have used Google maps or earth. Anything other than a random list of cities would have been a huge improvement.
Just like in business where it is much harder to win back a customer that had a bad experience, it is now that much harder to get my daughter excited about Lat/Long. It’s annoying to think for how many other topics this is likely to be the case.