First-of-its-kind video game prepares future educators
Much is being made over the explosion of video games in the classroom to teach a future generation of K-12 students. But what about the future teachers who will be teaching them?
At Arizona State University, education students are reaching into their virtual future with the click of a mouse to test their teaching skills in typical school scenarios. Playing the video game is part of a first-semester course requirement for undergraduate students in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Focused on professional success, the video game is being played by 277 teaching students in 396 field experience courses at the university this semester.
“This cutting-edge preparation for future teachers is the first of its kind in the nation,” said Mari Koerner, dean of Teachers College. “Our students may have grown up with technology, but using it to role play as real-life teachers is something new.
“The game is used to enhance their experiences in real classrooms. Our students practice in the virtual world, so they can be more successful in the real world.”
“Teacher Leader: Pursuit of Professionalism” is the first in a series of interactive, three-dimensional video games being designed by the Sanford Inspire Program and ASU’s Center for Games and Impact. Field experience educators and clinical staff recognized the importance of preparing novice teachers with the professional skills they need to be successful in the workplace. Content for the game is rooted in Teach For America’s professional values.
As this initial version of the game is implemented in ASU classes, educators and staff are evaluating its success. The public is invited to the official launch of the video game at 8 a.m. March 26 at ASU SkySong in Scottsdale. Those interested can register at asu.edu/gamelaunch. This fall, a second video game featuring a different topic but also directed toward teacher candidates is expected to be rolled out.
An ASU student playing “Teacher Leader” first creates a student teacher avatar, selecting the color and style of hair, clothing and shoes. Next, the avatar encounters a couple of scenarios at school and the student has to respond. One scenario involves an uncomfortable situation with the student teacher’s mentor, while the other addresses being diplomatic in the teachers’ lounge. That evening, the avatar must choose how to spend time preparing for the next day’s lesson. The student is scored as he or she plays, with choices having consequences later in the game as the avatar implements the lesson plan.
“It’s a different application compared to how we normally are taught,” said Marcy Steiner, an ASU student from Peoria, Ariz. “With the video game, you can see how your decisions shape your image as a teaching professional. There are options that are good and options that are better. It really makes you think.”
During the lesson, teaching students receive immediate feedback on their performance in various situations based on four areas or competencies. The professional competencies were adapted from the Teach For America teacher preparation curriculum:
• Suspending judgment – identifying moments when they might be unfairly judging someone
• Asset-based thinking – consciously seeking out the positive aspects of a person or situation
• Locus of control – focusing on what is within their own ability to control
• Interpersonal awareness – recognizing the limits of their own perspective and trying to understand the viewpoints of others
At the same time, the course is designed so that instructors can build on lessons learned through the video game as part of their classroom instruction. Teachers also can access data on student progress and decision-making.
At the end of the game, the students receive their scores and get a chance to re-play the game so they can improve their responses, Koerner explained.
“The game-based technology allows these students to take their teaching for a test drive, even make mistakes, without causing negative consequences they might experience in a real-life situation,” she said.
The partnership that created the video game underpins a broader effort to refine best practices in teacher education. The end goal is to improve America’s public schools. Known as the Sanford Inspire Program, funding comes from entrepreneur and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who invested $18.85 million in 2010 to launch the Teachers College-Teach for America partnership. The program has garnered national attention for its innovative approaches to preparing teacher candidates. More information is available at sanfordinspireprogram.org.
Despite its effectiveness in readying future teachers for the classroom, the new technology will not take the place of traditional methods anytime soon, Koerner said.
“It’s not replacing, it’s not instead of,” she said. “It’s enhancing how we teach our students to become professionals.”