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Virtual Students Used to Train Future Teachers
posted by: Alix | January 06, 2011, 05:48 PM   

With the call for school reform, there has been a lot of buzz on reforming and enhancing teacher education as well. With advancing technologies, online learning plans have been gaining ground all over the country. Two new virtual education programs called TeachME and simSchool have been gaining praise as innovative ways to prepare student teachers for real-life classroom experiences.

Implemented in the education department at the University of Central Florida, TeachME offers educations students the chance to practice their skills in the classroom before ever stepping in front of real children. The program shows students computer generated images of students that are controlled by professors. They ask questions, carry on conversations with groups, and even misbehave.

The program allows students to make mistakes and develop skills freely. "It allows the teacher to fail in a safe environment," said Lisa Dieker, a professor of education at the University of Central Florida and one of the designers of TeachME. "Real kids, trust me, will remember in May what you said to them in August. You can't reset children."

TeachME was designed by university faculty and is only currently offered through their program. Similar programs have been in use at other colleges including the popular software, SimSchool, that offers a simulated classroom environment with up to 18 virtual students. All of the "students" respond differently to instructions and corrections.

Advocates argue that classroom simulations offer great opportunity for a wealth of teacher-training applications. With these programs candidates could gain hands-on practice with urban students, or practice classroom management.

"There's a realization that we have to be able to ensure that we can prepare teachers well for the demands of practice," argues Pamela L. Grossman, a professor of education at Stanford University who has written about the subject of simulations as means to educate future teachers.

Do you think these programs are the wave of the future in teacher-education?

Comment below.

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