Future Teachers Use Virtual Reality To Learn How To Manage Class

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Future teachers at Tennessee Tech have begun using virtual reality to practice running a classroom despite the usual class distractions. 

Inside the College of Education at Tennessee Tech teachers have been using a classroom that's entirely virtual.

"We're giving these teachers a true day-one experience in a virtual world," said Asst. Professor Dr. Jason Beach, who helped develop the technology with the use of Oculus Rift.

For one teacher, the virtual world setting was the first day of kindergarten. The scene was reading time.

"You're gonna be asked to read the book while the students are listening," Beach told a student.

The virtual kids are controlled by other teaching students, and they have all sorts of distractions up their sleeves for the teacher, who today is grad student Sarah Moran.

"You've got all of these sounds going on in your head too," she said, after using the technology for the first time, "and so you're like 'oh I heard something  have to turn around' and it's just (like in) real life."

It's a full 360-degree view of a classroom modeled off a real class in Putnam County where Dr. Beach's wife teaches kindergarten.

"Now we can say these are the things you're going to experience, and this is what it looks like," he said.

The kids may lay down, talk, touch a classmate or just generally fidget. Someone may come to the door unexpectedly - all distractions that happen every day in a real classroom.

The teachers-in-training have to react to the little issues before they turn into big problems.

"Most teachers leave the field after five years and the reason why is it's difficult to manage behavior," said Beach.

They hope that more practice means young teachers are more prepared.

"They tell us if you don't plan, then you're planning to fail," Moran said, quoting her professors.

Officials said it may help a high teacher turnover rate nationwide, by getting student teachers ready to run a classroom before they ever step inside of one.

"Doing all of that myself is going to be extremely difficult and I anticipate a very challenging year. But it'll be fun!" Moran said.

The program was still in the testing stage, but should be available for more students in the spring. Those involved said it could be used in a variety of fields outside of the College of Education.

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