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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

VR 'Class' Tests New Teachers' Skills

Theory is fine, but practice makes perfect. With that in mind, education students at Stonehill College in Massachusetts are gaining hands-on experience in lesson presentation and classroom management, but without inflicting their still-wobbly skills on youngsters.

The Stonehill students are using a new immersive-training platform to practice their teaching in a virtual-reality simulation classroom. A grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education and the platform developer, Mursion, are paying for the technology.

The students deliver a sample lesson, as they would in a physical classroom, except that their simulated “pupils” appear on a video screen, similar to characters in a video game or animated movie. The pupils are programmed to react in real time to the student-teachers’ directions, and just like their counterparts in an actual class, they don’t always do exactly what they’re told.

“Students say it is stressful, but also beneficial to them,” said Kathy McNamara, education department chair, in a Stonehill release about the program. “They get feedback before they actually have to go into the classroom. It is insightful for them to see classroom life unfold. When they react to students, they see how and why it resulted in a particular outcome. They usually do about six or seven minutes and they’ll tell you it feels like an eternity.”

Other students can also watch and discuss how the simulation went. Mursion has also created simulations for team teaching and parent-teacher conferences.

Stonehill is among a number of teacher-training programs testing the Mursion system.

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