PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Class is now in session for students in Pace University's School of Education. However, students in the school's program are dealing with a different type of pupil.
Pace University is one of a group of select schools across the country working in collaboration with TeachLivE, a virtual reality education program. Working with a combination of software and hardware, students use technology to solve classroom management issues and practice making mistakes before trying out different techniques with real students. Westchester County Legislator Margaret Cunzio joined Pace students and faculty to experience the future of educator training.
Cunzio, who represents District 3 -- which includes Mount Pleasant, North Castle, Pleasantville, Sleepy Hollow, Briarcliff Manor and Greenburgh -- on the Westchester County Board of Legislators is an educator by trade and tried her hand controlling the digital classroom. According to Pace School of Education's Pleasantville Department Chair Dr. Roberta Wiener, who helped organize the gathering, Cunzio took quickly to the new medium. "Given her background in teaching, Legislator Cunzio was very proficient at managing the digital classroom," said Dr. Wiener.
General focus for students in the TeachLivE program is centered around classroom management. Education students assume the role of teacher, and present a lesson to a class of avatars on a screen which are controlled behind the scenes by live actors listening in from a remote location. The student teachers act as if they were teaching to a class of real students, and try to increase understanding and learning. TeachLivE is one aspect of Pace's educational curriculum, coupled with school observations, field experiences and student teaching.
No classroom is perfect, and educators quickly were confronted with problem students. For instance, one avatar can be sitting in the back of the classroom texting, prompting the student teacher's attention and response. They know if they ignore the behavior it’s only going to get worse. "Having an opportunity to learn different skills in a mock classroom with no negative impact on students is invaluable," said Pace's Dr. Roberta Wiener.