Kirk Hall Features New Technology to Assist Teachers in Training

August 06, 2015

When Kirk Hall officially opens for classes at the start of the upcoming academic year, University Campus students will be able to see a classroom equipped for use of a new, simulated environment created to help train future teachers.

The Education Department at Saint Leo University last year adopted the use of TLE TeachLivE™ a “mixed-reality teaching environment” developed by the University of Central Florida and installed in only about 40 college campuses. Essentially, TLE TeachLive™ delivers to a college classroom of future teachers a live broadcast featuring on-screen representations of students, or avatars, who are seated in a grade-school classroom. Each of the future teachers gets a chance to address the class of avatars (through a camera link) and lead the youngsters through real lesson plans of the future teachers’ own design. The simulation allows these future teachers to practice and improve their classroom management skills.

The student-avatars on the large screen resemble characters from a graphic novel, but they do move around. And their voices are heard in real time. College actors from the UCF drama program are performing the speaking roles of the student avatars, and interact with the teacher, and sometimes with the other characters. The most-often used screen avatars – Sean, Ed, Maria, Kevin, and CJ – exhibit personalities that teachers are apt to encounter in real life. For instance:

  • Sean is insistent on attention, is quick to answer, and tries to monopolize the teacher’s time and the classroom conversation.
  • Ed appears tired or disaffected sometimes. There might be something else going on.
  • CJ is uncooperative about putting away her cell phone and leaving it alone. She is apt to pull it out when bored, despite reminders, and may whine about the lessons.
  • Maria seems withdrawn, though competent, and may fall asleep.
  • Kevin likes to entertain, jokes, and says he wants to be a music producer. It’s hard to keep him on track.

In a typical Saint Leo education class employing TeachLivE™, the college students are apt to take turns working with the avatars in the supportive presence of classmates and their professor. This way, future teachers can share their observations of one another’s experiences, in addition to receiving the feedback of their education professor. All education professors at Saint Leo have previously worked successfully as classroom teachers, so they are well-equipped to coach education majors through exercises like this.

Classroom management is a skill set that Saint Leo’s future teachers also begin to develop during their extensive field hours in real classrooms. The addition of the simulated environment creates an additional opportunity for future teachers to receive and offer useful feedback in a compressed period of time.

During the 2014-2015 year, University Campus education students employed TeachLivE™ from a dedicated education classroom in the basement of Daniel A. Cannon Memorial Library. Now the dedicated equipment has been installed in Kirk Hall, and may be more visible there to the broader student body. The Education Department is also making the TeachLivE™ system available in the Gainesville (FL) Education Center, for future teachers studying there.