During the course of my QUEST project, I repeatedly encounted issues with technology. One of the major affordances in using the CASTL websites as a resource in my methods course is the ability for all of my students to observe the same on-line streaming math lesson in its entirity. However, there are challenges.
Working with over 100 students, with varying technological abilities, not to mention different hardware and software at their disposal. Furthermore, at a state university, our technical capabilities are at times outdated and/or over taxed. As a result, using cutting-edge technology within my methods classes creates particular challenges. In this video, I discuss dilemmas in using the CASTL websites as a curricular material that my students will use, both in class and at home.
The fact is that each semester, more than 20 students have had struggles in viewing the on-line lessons. Some have watched "a lesson", but not the lesson that was assigned, thus limiting their ability to fully participate in the in-class activities. Some have had streaming/downloading issues that have limited their observations (e.g., audio troubles, inabliltiy to pause or rewind video...) again limiting their opportunities. And still others have been unable to view the lessons at all, and thus have been very limited in their in-class participation.
I worry about equity issues that are raised for my students as a result of my choices to continue to use this technology. Especially as many of the students who seem to struggle most with technology are women, older students, and perhaps less economically advantages students who have had less access to both hardware and software, as well as instruction in technology use.
I also worry about the unintended messages my students take away from their experiences using these on-line resources. For some, I am modeling risk-taking in using cutting-edge technological resources in my class. I am modeling flexibility and a willingness to engage in teaching practices in which I am not entirely certain what will happen next. And of course, this kind of modeling can be very positive.
However, I am simultaneously modeling that the use of technology in instruction is risky, and that it leads to frustration for students and teachers, that it is unpredictable, that even competent users may struggle, and that not all students can adequately access the curriculum when technology is a principle means of delivery.
I don't know which of these messages will come through loud and clear for my students, and I worry what they will take away from our experiences. Realistically, some may decide not to use technology in their own teaching because it is necessarily problematic and unpredictable. Others, hopefully will jump in with both feet, and will take heart that constructivist teaching and learning entails risk-taking. And they will learn to be flexible.
One can only hope they take the "glass is half full" approach. But the quandary remains.