Virtual Reality Teacher Training – Ready, Set, Action!
A film crew from the Emblematic Group has been working with the University of Cape Town’s Educare centre to conduct filming for Innovation Edge’s “Virtual Reality for Teacher Training” pilot project. Using an unobtrusive GoPro Omni camera rig, the purpose of the pilot is to create a way for trainee teachers to step into a high-quality classroom and immersively experience a set of engaging story-time activities. These activities, adapted from Wordworks’ STELLAR program are especially designed to help preschool children build vocabulary – a cornerstone of emergent literacy.
Over the next few months the virtual reality footage from the Omni’s six different cameras will be stitched together and edited. The final product will be an MP4 file which can be loaded onto any smartphone; the phone, in turn, can be inserted into an affordable Google Cardboard virtual reality (VR) viewer, allowing the user to experience a well-functioning classroom environment and high-quality teaching almost as if in-person.
A common refrain in the teaching profession is that one learns most about teaching by observing other teachers in action. The brief “teaching prac” stint in an otherwise theory-heavy pre-service training experience provides most preschool teachers with insufficient preparation, especially when the practical exposure occurs in a low-quality classroom setting. The pilot aims to provide teachers who may not otherwise have the opportunity, a chance to spend time observing the environment and teaching practices of a model preschool during a set of teacher training workshops where they will be provided with Google Cardboard headsets and will be able to experience the footage from UCT Educare in full VR mode. In a qualitative follow-up to these workshops, the immersive teacher training experience will be monitored to determine whether it translates into changes in teaching practices.
In particular, the project team is looking to see whether teachers are able to engage effectively with children as they deliver three sets of interactive storytime activities (which can be applied to any story): (i) character introductions and oral storytelling ; (ii) interactive read aloud with phonological awareness ; and (iii) picture sequencing. If the pilot yields promising impacts on teacher behaviour, a larger study to track children’s learning outcomes (such as phonological awareness and vocabulary development) will follow.