With the help of Skype and a simulated classroom setting, TeachLive and The University of Mississippi‘s School of Education are preparing prospective teachers to interact in possible classroom scenarios.
BY HOUSTON BROCK
In its second semester in The University of Mississippi’s School of Education, TeachLive is preparing future teachers in an innovative way.
TeachLive is a simulation program that allows education students to gain experience in the classroom.
Using Skype, students are asked to give a 10-minute presentation to avatars displayed on a screen. The avatars are controlled by humans that the student teacher cannot see.
Larry Christman, adjunct instructor in teacher education, could not confirm that the people who control these avatars are actually children, but he did say that the responses and movements were authentically human.
Christman, a former principal at Oxford Elementary, said he thinks the TeachLive program is a great way for students to get teaching experience.
“The juniors have not done any public speaking where they’re up in front of people,” Christman said. “It’s also their first introduction to classroom management.”
The program simulates a variety of children’s personalities.
One of the kids is a special education student. The pre-service teachers must make adjustments for their needs without making it obvious to the rest of the students.
Talkative, disruptive or quiet children make appearances as well, and the teachers have to teach their lesson plans to the avatar students while keeping them under control.
The teachers’ movements are documented through two motion-detector cameras that are set up in the classroom and correspond to the virtual classroom displayed in front of them.
Junior elementary education major Angela Rushing completed her second lesson plan on Tuesday. She said the first time was a learning experience for her. She wasn’t sure how to deal with a student who was texting.
“I didn’t really know how to do it, I guess,” Rushing said. “I didn’t think about taking her cell phone because I can’t actually take her phone.”
Rushing said that knowing what to expect makes all the difference.
“These kids are acting like kids act,” she said. “They’re not sitting there nicely.”
Junior secondary education major Tristan Lowe had his first TeachLive lesson plan on Tuesday.
Lowe explained it as a simulation of rowdy kids, something he knows he will face in the future.
“I thought it would be actual face-to-face people,” Lowe said. “The avatars kind of threw me off a little bit, so that was a little different.”
Christman said that for some of these juniors, it is the first time they have ever taught anything.
“They come in here and they’re scared, but you can see their confidence growing the more they get into it,” Christman said.
“Most of them tell me when they leave that they enjoy it and that they wouldn’t mind doing it again.”