Teachers practice on simulated students

Future teachers at University of North Texas are teaching simulated students in a trial of simSchool.  From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

DENTON — One student is putting on lipstick in class while another has headphones on. A third student talks to his friend sitting next to him.

The teacher’s challenge: Try to engage these teenagers.

When the teacher suggests that the students do a worksheet, a girl puts her head on the desk.

So begins a computer program designed to prepare teachers for the modern youngster and help stem the flight of educators from the nation’s classrooms.

Future teachers are given profiles of students with different “expected academic performance, openness to learning and emotional stability.” Some have disabilities.

The program ends with a graph that follows the effectiveness of the assignment and the teacher’s comments with each student.

Those who’ve played the game rate their own teaching skills higher and say they have more confidence in their ability to reach students with different characteristics.

Via National Council on Teacher Quality Bulletin.

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  1. Ponderosa says:

    Oh God The tech companies sales commandos are infiltrating every facet of education. They thrive in our current misguided, dysfunctional status quo. Hapless administrators, void of solid ideas for improving education, easily succumb to the tech sales army. Since computers started entering classrooms thirty years and a trillion dollars ago, has American educational achievement skyrocketed?

  2. I think it would be fun to play with Sim School. But I don’t think any computer program could approximate human behavior, especially human teenage behavior. I’d caution these teachers about feeling confident after having played a game. I’m certain nothing designed for a mass market could include actual behaviors you’d be likely to encounter in a public school.

  3. Ragnarok says:

    Instead of bowing and scraping to fulfill every student’s every wish, perhaps we could post strict rules and enforce them? Punishment up to and including expulsion.

    Won’t happen, though. I can already hear the howls of the ACLU and their fellow-travellers.

  4. Why buy a program to simulate “playing school” when you can get paid “playing school” with real life unpredictable students?

    It’s called substitute teaching. I’ll be trying the next “difficulty level” of the game starting Aug/24.

  5. CA Teacher says:

    If this weren’t real, I’d laugh harder than I actually did. Are they kidding? A game can’t possibly prepare you to be in a room with heaven-knows-how-many kids (especially in today’s deficit) with unpredictable behavior and reactions. Or for how you’ll FEEL when those kids are real and the stakes are high. That’s kind of like thinking that those arcade games prepared me for passing my drivers’ test without me ever practicing behind the wheel of a real car in actual traffic. Wow.

  6. Until such a game passes the Turing test, I will remain doubtful of its actual usefulness.

    I teach college and have to say I’ve had more than my share of “What the heck?” moments where a student did something so unbelievably random, or reacted in a way that I doubt any educational psychologist would predict…I can’t imagine a computer simulation preparing me for dealing with anything other than simulated people.

  7. I wanna play!

  8. SuperSub says:

    As with most simulations, this will fail because it is limited by the creator’s viewpoints. If the designers feel that the correct way to engage a teenager who is texting is by putting on a show, the simulation will train future teachers to do that, rather than by writing up and/or confiscating the cell phone.

    Simply put, the leftist educationalists have always had one stumbling block with training teachers – the harsh reality of an internship where so many impressionable teachers realize that strict discipline and teacher-centered instruction are necessary to get anywhere. With this simulation, they can try to force the koolaid further down the future teachers’ throats before they face reality.

  9. Cardinal Fang says:

    “Those who’ve played the game rate their own teaching skills higher and say they have more confidence in their ability to reach students with different characteristics.”

    Confidence in front of students is worthwhile, I suppose, but before I shelled out money for a product like that I’d want to see that those who had played the game actually had higher teaching skills than non-players, as rated by observers who didn’t know who played and who didn’t.

    Even seeing a variety of student-types has some value to the aspiring teacher. And some simulators are excellent– that pilot who landed the plane on the Hudson practiced water landings on a flight simulator. But I’m dubious that this particular product does much.

  10. I played the free version. Not useful. Not even fun. Your range of responses clearly go from “engaging fun stuff” to “worksheets,” and there doesn’t seem to be any room for subtleties (ie. an in-class write isn’t very fun, but it’s often the best way to get a class under control when they come in from a hall fight). The verbal response are just lame you can give include things along the lines of “You’re awfully dumb today.”

    Who wrote this thing?

  11. I played “Fighter Pilot” and am now ready to land F-14 Tomcats on aircraft carriers. I am very confident, so strap me in and point me in the right direction.

  12. As much as I really want to criticize this game, I find the premise intriguing. Sure, substitute teaching or good internships would be better, but perhaps the situations in the sim classroom would get teachers (new or old) to process more intentionally how they would respond to situations in class–in a no-risk environment. There are many moments in classroom management or instruction that don’t go as well and I don’t get a second chance right away… and perhaps have to do more to compensate for my misjudgment after I reflect on it. While the computer cannot possibly simulate real kids, real learning, or a real environment, this kind of run through might help folks develop plans of action for when they do encounter these situations… kind of like fire drills? If we go through the motions a few times, when the real deal happens, were more primed for action?

  13. I love the idea of this game. It doesn’t sound like anyone’s claiming that it’s a substitute for real classroom interactions, just that it’s another (potentially fun!) way to think about them. Lightly Seasoned’s description, however, suggests that the game doesn’t yet live up to the concept. Maybe future versions will be more stimulating?

  14. It’s interesting to find how challenging the content side is for some

  15. I think this could be a fun thing to try, but I agree with Cardinal Fang in that “before I shelled out money for a product like that I’d want to see that those who had played the game actually had higher teaching skills than non-players, as rated by observers who didn’t know who played and who didn’t.”

    If it’s free, why not? Though right now it doesn’t sound all that fun or helpful.

  16. This game should be combined with the banned zombie student iPhone game!

  17. All the male teachers got confused and instead of trying to engage the girl putting lipstick on thought they were supposed to be engaged to the girl.