Moving to a digital homework planner

Many schools have now moved away from the traditional paper planner to using a digital online version. However, if you’ve never really dipped into this kind of technology it might seem a little daunting.

Here at Homework4 we’re sensitive to this and work hard to make the process as simple and effortless for you as possible. We have our own expert, Stephen Woollard, a former teacher from one of our partner schools, who heads up our Homework4 team. He has a wealth of experience and knowledge about digital learning and project managed the implementation of Homework4 at his school before joining us. We asked Stephen to outline the key points schools should consider when thinking of moving to a digital planner. This is what he says:


1. Identifying why you want to move to a digital solution

It’s important to identify why you’re considering the move to a digital solution; pinning this down and being clear from the onset will give you with a guiding set of targets the digital product you choose will need to meet. These might be to address homework issues across the whole school such as consistency or for monitoring purposes, which doesn’t involve you collecting in lots of paper planners. It might be to support vulnerable students who struggle to accurately record homework or find it difficult to manage their time, or it might be to seek better support from parents by improving communication with them. Alternatively, you might be looking to address teacher workload and want a digital system to streamline the setting, tracking and monitoring of homework. It’s likely to be a combination of several of these.

Once you’ve identified why you want the move to digital, you can start looking for a product to support your requirements.


2. Choosing the right product for your requirements

Here’s my first initial decision-making principle and it’s crucial:

Is it simple and is it reliable?

No matter what school I’ve worked with, it’s clear there’s always a wide range of users’ technical ability and familiarity with digital technology, despite the impact it has in today’s society. Unless the new tool is really simple and reliable, users quickly become frustrated and disillusioned if they find it complicated or long-winded to use.

Schools are notorious for diving into the latest digital trends without major consultation with the people who’re going to use it – then they’re surprised when it gets locked away in a cupboard gathering dust. Here at Homework4 we offer a free, 6 weeks, no obligation trial. We feel it’s important that potential clients are totally happy with our product and excited by the solutions it provides.

Therefore, if having approached a potential supplier, experienced their demonstration or having taken on a free trial, you’re still uncertain – walk away. It’s so important when making big decisions, which moving to a digital homework solution is, that the move is successful. You’re likely to commit to several years of using it because it brings savings, working with something that doesn’t meet all the needs of your school’s stakeholders will only bring additional challenges.

If after all of your testing, you find your chosen product simple and reliable and it fulfils the reasons why you want to switch, then you’ve found the product for you.

We’re confident Homework4 provides a simple, reliable and highly effective digital student planner. The user experience has been designed to ensure ease of use and our development team have written unique code which is also reliable. We’ve worked with school leaders, teachers, students and parents to make sure it covers all the bases and delivers a fantastic digital homework solution. This, along with our free trial, means that Homework4 is the full package. On top of this, our inhouse developers can quickly respond to feedback and in some cases have developed bespoke solutions based on schools’ unique requirements and in some cases added them to the Homework4 armoury.


3. Preparing for change

As previously mentioned, schools are very good at implementing change without fully communicating the reasons for that change and simply rolling them out. They’re then surprised when there’s a revolt!

So, when you’ve identified your reasons for the change, you’ve tested and chosen your product of choice, you need to bring everyone along with you and share your passion.

What you’ll need:

  • A passionate, knowledgeable and credible spokesperson to communicate with everyone.
  • A clear message about why the change will bring improvements and help towards solving the problems identified.
  • Be prepared for the doubters and nay-sayers. Have a wide range of FAQ’s with answers for the likely queries they’ll bring up.
  • Have a clear timeline for implementation and what happens in any periods of transition.
  • Set out clearly and precisely your expectations – don’t leave any wriggle room.
  • Where possible, highlight what will be removed or obsolete as a consequence of this change. Removing an onerous task will always go down well. Simple adding what will be perceived as another task on top of everything else will go down badly.


4. Implementation

You’ve identified the reason for the change, tested and chosen the product, communicated with all users. It’s now time to implement the change.

Assuming all technical and design work has been completed and tested, the next phase is to ensure everyone is ready and able to use the new solution. Because Homework4 has been designed to be easy to use, we provide you with simple and comprehensive instructions to issue to parents, teachers and students. We’ve found this is enough for the majority of users. We also recommend the school’s project manager for Homework4 calls upon a few keen running mates. You might, in some case, need to do hands-on demonstrations to make sure everyone is up and running. Having a team of helpers will streamline this. Setting a simple form-time homework task will get everyone well under way and provide an ideal opportunity to demonstrate and actively involve all users. For added insurance, it would be great to work with those presenting the product – such as form teachers, to make sure they’re confident in demonstrating it beforehand.  It won’t come as any surprise to you that users most likely to pick it up quickly are your students, recruit a few of them for a couple of weeks to support others, including teachers, whilst Homework4 is fully embedded.

The Homework4 team will support you throughout this process and as you roll it out we’ll be on hand to sort out any unforeseen hitches, although the likelihood is there won’t be any due to our testing process being so thorough, ironing out any problems beforehand.


5. What next

Homework4 provides an excellent tool for schools and once launched and embedded will be an effective and reliable part of the school infrastructure. However, with any new implementation it’s crucial you review how effective the solution is. This could provide evidence for making fine adjustments to how you use its features, expanding or amending expectations or changing working practises to make further improvements and further streamlining to get the very best out of Homework4. You need to see this as part of the whole process and build it into your timeline from start to finish. Ignoring this aspect will only result in complacency and potential stagnation. We see our work with schools as an ongoing, two-way, long-term partnership, which we’d look to grow and develop over time.

This simple advice will help you with your decision and you’ll feel confident the process will be easy and well worth it. Our digital student planner provides some amazing enhancements beyond the tradition paper planner.

We’re confident if you choose Homework4…

  • It will enhance students’ learning and improve homework outcomes across the school
  • Teachers will save time and achieve more with individual timetables and classes synced directly from your MIS
  • Students will manage their time more effectively with 24/7 access to timetables, homework and resources
  • It will simplify homework setting, tracking and monitoring and includes attendance and behaviour information
  • It will enable greater engagement for parents in helping them support their child’s learning in school and at home
  • You’ll see it’s cost effective when compared to other planner solutions


By the way, Homework4 costs as little as £1.44 per student with teachers and parents getting it for free!

If you’d like to find out more about Homework4 or have questions about implementing a free trial just get in touch with or call 01282 877940. We look forward to hearing from you and hopefully working with you.