LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Homework has really changed since Mario Garcia was a kid.
When I was in school, homework was an everyday thing," said Garcia, a 50-year-old substitute teacher who's working on
his master's degree in social work. You get home, get something to eat, change clothes and get to work. Nothing else
got done until homework was completed."
He estimated he had about two and a half hours' work each school night.
I'd go to the math book and do problems - the ones without the answers in the back of the book," Garcia said. There
were a ton of them, maybe 30 problems a night."
Nowadays, his son, Mario R. Garcia, 14, relies on the Internet as much as, if not more than, his textbooks - at least
at home. For most classes, the Zia Middle School eighth-grader doesn't have his own textbook available to take home.
His geometry book goes back and forth with him, but most subjects have a class set of books that students use while
they're at school.
Let's say he gets a sheet of problems," Garcia said of his son. If he doesn't bring a book, we look it up online.
Graphing is graphing - we don't need a book."
The younger Garcia said much of his homework consists of classwork that needs to be finished or material that's review.
It's easy to go online and get help," he said. It's better if you can understand it and not just copy it. I use the
Internet for research and background."
Charles Wagner, 43, is in his sixth year teaching. He said homework assignments for his seventh-grade life science
class at Camino Real Middle School are primarily used to reinforce concepts that are covered in class. Students might
have unfinished classwork to do at home, but Wagner said he doesn't like to give too many assignments that are meant to
be done totally outside of class time.
Wagner just has a class set of textbooks, but the students can access the textbook online, so he creates homework
assignments that are specifically geared toward the Internet.
But I tell them, the Internet is like the Wild West - people can put anything out there," Wagner said. I make them
find three different sources and list them."
Of course, not every family has a computer or Internet access at home, but some schools have computer centers that are
available to students after school. A computer center in the Mesilla Community Center was set up specifically for
middle and high school students, and offers seven computers with Internet access and printers. Branigan Library has 25
computers available for public use, but they're always in high demand.
Wagner remembers middle school in the 1970s involving lots of textbooks and ditto sheets of questions, and he said
homework now is completely different - which he says is a good thing.
It's so much better than the old way of just drilling it into you," he said. Nowadays, we connect the real world to
their assignments. When you get that kind of buy-in, the quality of their work is so much better. They get into
Wagner said he tries to give out homework sparingly because he knows today's students have a lot of other things going
on in their lives. But some parents, like Garcia, would like to see more homework.
We had pages and pages of practice," Garcia recalled. You need to be able to show your work."