Use of a virtual world environment to provide a platform for an authentic role play
To allow student teachers to obtain experience in the
role of a teacher in a safe environment prior to their first practice
Context: University of New England/Teacher Education.
Program: The VirtualPREX (virtual professional experience) classroom environment was
created in order to address the need for university-based classroom role-play
activities to prepare student teachers for, and to supplement professional
experience placements in, schools. The four classrooms are housed in the
virtual world of Second Life and allow student teachers to adopt either a student
or a teacher avatar in order to participate in classroom role plays. Each virtual
classroom is a 3D representation of a real classroom environment, which allows
role-play participants to walk around, sit down, stand up and interact with each
other, with Second Life’s dynamic rendering of their viewpoint providing a
realistic visual representation similar to what they would experience in walking
around and interacting in a real classroom. They are also able to carry out
activities using a variety of interactive virtual tools, such as reading books and
writing on boards.
Evaluation results suggest that students value the activities but that there are usability
and learning design issues that need to be addressed in future iterations
Experiments are underway to provide automated ‘bot’ characters to play the role of
some of the school students to allow for larger simulated class sizes without the need
for large numbers of student teachers to be present at the role play.