Murdoch University hosts trial of virtual reality classroom TeachLivE

Andrew Spicer and Dr Susan Ledger. Picture: Will Russell
Andrew Spicer and Dr Susan Ledger. Picture: Will Russell

IN an Australian first, education students will be able hone their skills without stepping foot in a classroom.

Murdoch University has hosted a pilot trial of TeachLivE, a virtual reality environment for teachers in training.

The project is the brainchild of Susan Ledger who believes it offers unique opportunities to prepare early career teachers for real-life classrooms.

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“Currently pre-service teachers practice their behaviour management and communication skills in classrooms that are unpredictable and offer delayed feedback opportunities,” Dr Ledger said.

“This virtual reality technology enables students to practice their classroom management skills in a micro-teaching environment that covers a range of situations and can prepare students for real classroom setting far earlier in their training without the stress.”

TeachLivE, which uses Microsoft’s Kinect voice and motion sensor technology, was first developed at the University of Central Florida and is now used in teacher training at universities throughout the US.

Murdoch University trialled the program with a 10 teaching students.

“The students enter a mixed reality environment where they teach a group of five avatars,” Dr Ledger said.

“Each of the five student avatars has his or her own personality.

“They even have avatar parents that can be interviewed.

“These avatars are controlled by an interactor who can adapt the reactions of the students in the session to the various strategies used by the pre-service teacher to control or engage with the class.”

The student avatars are able to disrupt the class in a range of ways that teachers may encounter such as pulling out mobile phones or losing their pen during class.

Dr Ledger said one of the main advantages of TeachLivE was that students had a chance to gain instant feedback and correct their mistakes.

“While the technology won’t replace real-world training experiences with real students, it provides an opportunity for a student teacher to try out strategies, make mistakes and improve their practice,” she said.

Murdoch University is looking at launching the program in 2017.