Virtual reality gives UB students look at future teaching positions

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Madeleine Burns walks around an empty classroom at Enterprise Charter school with goggles on her face.  Tilting her head up, left, right – the UB grad student isn’t seeing the classroom she’s in but rather, a virtual one where a variety of scenarios are being played out.

“With this kind of technology, it’s a way to connect to students in a way you might not be able to do so otherwise,” said Burns who is getting her Masters degree in education.

Burns is back in school, attending the University at Buffalo, after spending three years teaching in different classrooms.

“When I started in the classroom, I was this starry-eyed person and didn’t know what to expect,” said Burns. “I thought I could come in and help every student and be this saving grace, in a way.”

Soon, after stepping foot inside of the room and teaching, she realized, that’s not the case.

“I was absolutely not expecting everything I encountered. The students bring things from home with them to school every day and it’s challenging.”

That’s why Burns finds this new technology she’s able to try through UB so intriguing as it’s providing a unique perspective into the classroom, setting the groundwork for future educators. Students who are learning about education try out the virtual reality simulators prior to ever getting their own classrooms and students.

“It’s not the answer but it’s the answer to bridging the gap,” said Lynn Shanahan, an associate professor at the University at Buffalo.

“We know we need teachers who are excellent teacher leaders to manage classrooms in ways that optimize student learning,” said Beth Etopio, UB’s Assistant Dean for Teacher Education. “If they can go in, ready to roll, it will benefits students learning in the long run.”

Burns says she finds this tool helpful, wishing she was able to see into the classroom years ago, feeling as if it would have prepared her better for her first day stepping foot in there to teach and lead.

“You can play the scenario again and again until you get it right and then when you’re in the classroom, you’ll know what to do.”

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