A new technology may soon change the way University of West Florida students pursuing education degrees learn and practice techniques working with students.
TeachLivE is a mixed-reality simulation lab developed by the College of Education at the University of Central Florida six years ago. TeachLivE offers teacher and students an opportunity to practice behavior management skills by interacting with virtual students or avatars in a simulated classroom environment.
“If you survey new teachers, their biggest concern is classroom management,” Christine Ogilvie, assistant professor at in the School of Education, said.
UWF is one of 10 colleges and universities nationwide selected to participate in a research study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The TeachLivE research study is investigating the effect of online professional development in middle school mathematics while using the special technology.
Ogilvie said that TeachLivE prepares undergraduate and graduate students for real-life classroom situations and helps them build teaching skills.
“We wanted to make something that they would come in and practice, and there would be no chance harming real kids, but they could come in and practice over and over again to refine their skills before they actually go out in the classroom.”
Ogilvie, who is a TeachLivE researcher, presented the first TeachLivE demonstration for the College of Professional Studies demonstrated the technology for faculty and staff members last Friday in the Pickens Suite, Building 86.
Olgilvie said that her specific research will focus on teacher preparation and social skills interventions for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
At the demonstration, faculty and staff got to interact with the virtual middle-school aged students and introduce themselves similar to the way they would on the first day of class.
TeachLivE utilizes uses Microsoft Kinect technology to operate. Interacting with the virtual students is simple. Teachers just put on a headsets and speak through a microphone to communicate to the students.
Giang-Nguyen Nguyen, assistant professor in mathematics education, was one excited faculty member who attended about the demonstration.
Nguyen said she was surprised at how authentic the experience was to an actual classroom setting.
“This is actually my first time interacting with the students,” she said. “I was amazed at how the students are so responsive to what I’m saying and doing in the classroom. I think this will be another way to train teachers. It’s just different because it’s another dimension.”
The virtual students are controlled by a team of “interactors,” who can manipulate the students behavior to mimic either good or bad classroom conduct. Interactors are also responsible for developing the personalities of each avatar.
By participating in TeachLivE, teachers will learn behavioral management in the classroom by undergoing through an evaluation directed by Ogilvie.
Ogilvie said that the teacher will be given five minutes to demonstrate his or her ability to keep the class on the task that they have been given. After five minutes, if the students are not on task, the simulation stops and the teacher is given immediate feedback by Ogilvie and other researchers.
Ogilvie said that she hopes the program will cultivate more interest as it grows, and that she is willing to collaborate with faculty and students from all majors
“It’s new technology. It’s a little scary,” she said. ¨People are getting more and more excited about it. We had a tremendous struggle trying to get participants for our math study.
“It’s something that can be applied to education, it can be applied to psychology, social work, criminal justice, any other content areas, business, anything you can apply the simulation to. I’m hoping that it’s going to get as big as I think it will. I’m hoping that other faculty will jump on. The more people we can impact the better.”