New avatar technology may someday help train teacher candidates

Inside Higher Education reports on a research team at the U. of Central Floriday that is developing an immersive virtual reality system featuring avatars, digital people who speak and act like real humans.

…The point of these avatars, created by a team at the University of Central Florida, is to be as realistic as possible.

They have to be if they are going to revolutionize teacher training, says Lisa Dieker, coordinator of the special education program at Central Florida’s college of education. That, after all, is the goal of the TeachME project: to effectively eliminate the trial-by-fire approach to classroom-management training, and replace it with something more instructive and less dangerous.

Dieker and the TeachME team — which includes members of the university’s education, engineering, computer science, mathematics, and theater departments — believe they have created a virtual classroom so real-seeming that it could drastically improve how prepared novice teachers are by the time they venture into the blackboard jungle as student teachers — and in so doing, reduce teacher turnover by weeding out likely candidates for burnout.

Perhaps more importantly, it could limit the students’ exposure to underprepared, ineffective teachers. And, the team assumes, improve learning outcomes.

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