Virtual Offices

haulin netIn our school system and around the state, serious discussions are breaking out on how North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) may affect our business. I have heard the following comment more than once:

If the students are taking the class on-line and at home, how can we be sure that they are the ones doing the work?

I have looked at the course content of my 14-year-old’s two on-line classes. Generally, I don’t understand Spanish I content anymore at a granular level. I don’t have the time to do her work in Principles of Business, nor do I have the desire. So, if I started to helicopter her on-line class for her, the teacher would know it. Her grades would drop significantly.

This is not to say that this would be the case for all parents. The unfortunate reality is that some folks will go to any extreme to ensure school success. So cheating happens. There is nothing unique here. Cheating probably happens in bricks and mortar schools at a rate somewhat relative to the predictability of the assignment.

We have two options:

  1. We can change the nature of assignments so they become more authentic, inquiry-based, and constructive.
  2. We can manage the environment, as in the following example—

“Why don’t you type up your writing assignment like you do your stories?” I asked my 13 year old daughter a few weeks ago. Her response shocked me. “I have to write it up at school by hand, so why use the computer?” she replied. My daughter publishes her stories and poems online via a wiki, but has given up trying to turn her assignments in via a blog or wiki…her teacher won’t accept them. (Miguel Guhlin in LeaderTalk)

In The New Workforce (2004), Hankin argues that

Increasingly available, efficient, and affordable technology makes it feasible to work from anywhere, at anytime. While this can be tremendously attractive to a high-talent candidate, virtual offices can be a tough transition for old-school management that has always depended on appearances to judge worker value and contribution.

Last evening, I was discussing this topic with a highly respected administrator of the local community college. He shared that his son works for a software company in a city. His apartment is rigged with all the technology he needs to do his job from home. Lately, he has been doing more and more of that.

His boss, realizing that it is about results more than fixed seat time, is attempting to grow in his managerial philosophy in order to allow more of his workers to take advantage of virtual offices. It is not an easy transition. Rightfully, he has concerns about abuse and unintended consequences.

So, how many of our K-12 students will do some, if not all, of their career work from the patio? What skills beyond technology will they need for success? What are we doing to prepare them? Is NCVPS a virtual office training ground?

Beyond that, what about our managers? Is the next logical step to create hybrid high school courses using Blackboard or Moodle at the local level? Should we encourage all high school students who are intent on success in this century to be taking at least one on-line course? Should we investigate further the concept of trust?

Or, should we demand that all drafts of the next five-paragraph essay be written in ink in class under the scrutiny of our watchful eyes?



4 Responses to Virtual Offices

  1. Scott McLeod says:

    There are so many kids that could turn in phenomenal assignments that not only included text but also audio, video, graphics, hyperlinks, and the like. We lose potential opportunities for greater richness and depth and creativity when we limit our students to handwritten text. How often in today’s world does anyone write out anything of length by hand anymore? Almost never. It’s very sad when teachers purposefully limit students’ potential.

  2. It is beyond sad in my opinion Scott. It is lazy, uninspiring and quite honestly unacceptable in this day and age,but we see this happening in school all over. When are teachers (yes…some have moved forward)) going to break out of this archaic mindset and begin to incorporate and harness technology in the classroom and out of the classroom. It is time to empower these technologically savvy and creative students, NOT stifle them and yes…they are being stifled. Wheew. Ok I just had to get that off my chest.

  3. Scott McLeod says:

    I think the question that teachers and administrators need to ask themselves is, “Given the realities of our modern age and our children’s future, is it really okay to allow teachers to choose whether or not they incorporate modern technologies into their instruction?”

  4. For the past 8 years I have struggled with this as an Instructional Technology Specialist in elementary school. I work to train and support teachers to move away from the traditional modes of instruction but everyone of them tend to go back to old ways after a few months. There is also resistance from parents when they don’t see the traditional instruction they had when they were in school. I am returning to a fifth grade classroom next year to try to see what and why this is happening. I will be using modern technologies and it will be difficult for those whose expections are traditional.

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