TeachLivE offers a new twist on practice teaching

03/03/2016

Imagine you're a science teacher about to  start a lesson on cell division and some student, paying no attention whatsoever, leaps up and starts dancing in the middle of the classroom. You snap. You yell. You react in a way that you know full well can only make matters worse.

Just then, you hear "Pause." Your instructor freezes the action and asks you what went wrong and what you could have done differently. You and your students return to the beginning of the lesson as if you had never lost your temper and you try a new strategy for getting the student's attention and keeping your cool.

This scenario (and ones like it) are playing out in roughly 75 teacher prep programs across the country as they experiment with a new tool in teacher training: virtual students.

TeachLivE, created by the University of Central Florida, allows real teacher candidates to teach a class of student avatars. These avatars are controlled by an "interactor" who gives voice to the student avatars and manipulates their movements with the push of a button - all in real time as the candidate teaches the class.

Watch this video to get a better idea of how it works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWemfZqqh3c

This new technology allows future teachers, especially those early in their training, to test their skills on virtual students before they interact with real, live students. Of course, TeachLivE is not meant to take the place of student teaching it's intended more as a practice tool.

Several colleges and universities are already using TeachLivE to give aspiring teachers a taste of classroom interaction that goes well beyond what they can get from simple classroom visits. The experience of being in front of the room rather than on the sidelines helps them decide if the job is right for them. Some students are also using TeachLivE as a way to rehearse teaching different lessons.

Curious if the college or university that you're considering uses TeachLivE? Check out a list of partner universities here.

— Hannah Putman
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