TeachLivE is a simulated teaching experience, where a teacher teaches a virtual classroom to practice instructional skills, delivering specific content and pedagogy and management skills. Rather than teachers having to test out their skills on a real live classroom to assess their strengths and weaknesses, TeachLivE lets them test on virtual students. The virtual students have been programed with distinctive personality types based on the work of psychologist William Wong. This means that in each simulation, they each take on the same personality every time.
Teachers can decide what skills they want to develop - say, classroom management or teaching via the Socratic method. The virtual students are coded to respond in ways that help teachers develop those skills. The teacher shares his or her objective with the TeachLivE team. Two weeks later, the simulation is ready to run, and the teacher can begin.
teacher uses a large monitor to see the five virtual students, and with the
help of a (Microsoft) Kinect cable and the TeachLivE software, the teacher’s
actions will trigger various responses among the virtual students.
TeachLivE was developed by University of Central Florida in 2008. It has since been used by over 10,000 teachers in over 37 universities, including both pre-service and in-service teachers. Users engage in the simulation, as much or as little as they want. Some are assigned based on a class they take to do the simulation until they master a specific skill. Others might be assigned to use it only once for a short ten minute session.
Primary Users: Teachers, administrators, and/or districts
Cost: The cost is fee-based. Currently, universities pay $120 an hour
while the simulation is running. They can include as many students during that
hour as they want. UCF typically recommends teachers use the system for
10-minute long simulations. Ten-minute sessions run $20 each.
Skill Development: The product targets a teacher’s pedagogy skills
and/or content knowledge, depending on the user’s preferences. Subjects
targeted for improvement in the simulator can range from running fire safety
drills to teaching freshman algebra. Teachers come in with a specific
objective, experience the simulator, and then review their efforts.
On-Brand Use: Educators articulate what they want to get out of the
simulator, based on their interests or desires for improvement.
Off-Brand Use: The technology gives potential teaching candidates a chance
to practice what it’s like to manage a small class before they become teachers.
Platforms: TeachLivE is not browser-based. Schools require a Windows-based
computer, a $100 Kinect cable, some sort of projector/projection screen, and
the TeachLivE software installed on the computer.
Deal breakers: The software hasn’t been released on a browser
yet, so the TeachLivE product requires a great deal of collaboration with the
TeachLivE staff and prep work.
Types of Schools
Using It: 37 universities across the country are using it with in-service and
TeachLivE is a simulated teacher-practice experience that offers several value-added qualities. First, it’s personalized; teachers and/or schools submit their objectives to the UCF team, and the UCF team creates a simulated experience in response to those objectives. Teachers can have a TeachLivE “experience” individually or collectively.
Additionally, the experience provides quick feedback. Immediately after a ten-minute session, the computer can give feedback based on the participant’s actions and responses on items such as wait time between questions and answers, number of open ended questions asked, or percentage of teacher talk versus student talk.
Finally, TeachLivE is an opportunity for first-year teachers to practice before going into a classroom. It provides them with a space to test out classroom management strategies, content strategies, etc.
How does it work?
To set-up, the UCF team Skypes with the participating
university to install the software onto a Windows-based computer. The team uses
Teamviewer, software that
sets up a VPN connection to access the users’ computer and install the software
(as well as future updates.) Additionally, participants must have a $100 Kinect
cable for the simulation gear and a projector. In the Skype meeting, the UCF team
takes the users through a demo and discusses the objectives
they have for the user’s simulation experience. The UCF team works to develop
the simulation and has it ready two weeks later.
The UCF team can set up the experience in a variety of ways. One area they can manipulate, depending on the user or objective, is the level of student behavior the avatars display. This happens on a 0 to 5 scale (for example, for a simulation where the teacher practices classroom management, 0 represents relatively normal and calm student behavior, while 5 represents out-of-control student behavior). Teachers can also choose between working with five virtual middle students (who are seated in rows) and five virtual high school students (who are grouped at tables).
The service is mixed reality virtual simulation, where the students are virtual and the teacher is live. The teacher walks into a room where (on a large monitor), there are five student avatars on the screen (with whom they interact). Much like a user would activate their Kinect or Wii, the user walks in front of the Kinect cable until the system confirms they are identified. Then the teacher can walk around the room, and their voice and gestures will be picked up by the Kinect cable as they interact with the virtual students on the screen in front of them.
A walkthrough of the simulation and feedback process can be seen here.
Feedback gets delivered following the experience. The
computer gives coded feedback (at the end of a session, the teacher gets a
pop-up screen that shows a graph of performance in targeted areas). Users can
choose what they want feedback on, such as wait time between questions and answers,
number of open ended questions asked, or percentage of teacher talk versus
How is it used?
Participants must submit their objectives to UCF two weeks before they intend to use the simulator. UCF typically recommends teachers engage in 10-minute sessions (either per teacher or group).
Each experience can be specific to the needs of the teachers and/or administrators. A pre-service or new math teacher could use TeachLivE to practice teaching algebra to moderately disruptive students. Teachers struggling with classroom management can use the tool to practice run-throughs of new management techniques they want to try on their own class. Teachers at the middle school level could practice dealing with students’ emotional outbursts. Or teams of teachers could practice working through student issues together.
Who’s Using It?
As of late 2013, the tool has only been used at universities, although 37 sites have participated. In total, TeachLivE reps anticipate that close to 10,000 teachers have used the tool since work began in 2008.
Existing partner universities that sponsor TeachLivE in teacher courses and local schools include Florida State University, University of Kansas, and Utah State University.
Content, Content, Content….
Learning objectives are sent to the UCF team two weeks in advance. After the tech team analyzes any potential limitations (like the fact that student avatars in an English class shouldn’t have a calculator with them), they put together a simulation that is specifically tailored to the need of the participant(s).
An important note: One caveat for classroom management: avatars can’t be kicked out of the classroom.
Training, Integrating, and Implementing
All training and implementation takes place via a Skype conversations between UCF and the participating universities. This process takes approximately two weeks.
Assessment and Data
Research in the field of computer technology has gone into creating these simulations. There are many instances of using simulated environments for training, starting with the military and airplane pilots. There’s far less data about how such simulations can be used to shape people interactions (such as teachers or even managers working with a team.)
This technology is still emerging: technical glitches can degrade the experience. Specifically, when there is a technical error, the student avatar signals that they have to “go to the bathroom.” A that point, the student may “stay in the bathroom” for as long as the glitch persists, therefore halting progress in the TeachLivE experience.
TeachLivE is not browser-based. Schools require a Windows-based computer, a
$100 connected c
hord, some sort of
projector/projection screen, and the TeachLivE software installed on the
The cost is fee-based. Currently, universities and schools pay $120 an hour while the simulation is running. However, most places don’t have teachers in the simulator for more than 10 minutes. Ten minute sessions run $20 each. Currently, individual teachers can’t sign up to use TeachLivE, but as the company moves to being web-based, the team expects this will change.
Credit is based on the professor and university using the tool.
There is no current competition in this area of simulated teacher prep. The closest product is Sim School or Delivering Performance Feedback, but currently, TeachLivE is the only fully immersive experience. The programming also rivals the design of EcoMUVE at Harvard University, but in terms of teacher preparation, there is no simulation program like TeachLivE.
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