FEATURED PROJECT: Improve Pre-service Teachers’ Understanding on Special Education through VR

Educator: Grace Ko is a Ph.D. student in Learning Technologies at the University of Texas, Austin. She has been a high school English teacher in Korea for the past seven years and has participated in multiple projects that involve technology integration in learning. Grace has worked as a research teacher at the Seoul Future School and developed mobile application WikiTalki to facilitate language learning in public schools. Currently, her research interest lies in the application of AR and AR in learning.

Goals:

  • Develop understanding of special education class management tactics for pre-service teachers
  • Provide the experience of visiting special education classroom in Virtual Reality (VR) format
  • Suggest a new type of professional development/ teacher training material in interactive VR experience

Tools used:

  • ThingLink for creating an interactive virtual classroom presentation
  • 360-degree camera with a monopod

Background: Tackling Lack of Special Education Training in Teacher Credential Programs 

Teacher credential program for general subject teachers only require one 3-credit course on the topic of special education. This course is often insufficient both in terms of information and practical experience for the teachers to serve students with special needs in the future.

Nevertheless, an increasing number of general education teachers face this challenge in their everyday teaching as integrated education model is becoming popular. Thus, Grace thought it is crucial to find innovative methods for pre-service teachers to have experiences that can lead to better understanding and preparation for teaching in integrated classrooms.

Project Idea: Innovating Professional Development with Interactive VR Experience

Grace wanted to try bringing the pre-service teachers into the special education classrooms through Virtual Reality (VR). She teamed up with Kai Osorio, a Policy Analyst at San Francisco United School District to visit two well-equipped special education classrooms in Northern California. In the first phase, Grace and Kai:

  1. Took  360 photos of special education classrooms
  2. Interviewed special education teachers and
  3. Documented each component in the classroom, such as Mood Meter, Math Tangibles, and Individual Working Stations that helped provide a more profound understanding of the special education tactics used in a classroom.


For creating the  VR experience, they reviewed various VR content creation platforms and chose ThingLink for five reasons:

  • The interface design is simple, modern, and EASY
  • Tour creator enables to see  the classroom environment from different angles
  • Editor supports embed links that lets teachers to read & watch more information
  • A broad variety of interactions to keep teachers focused throughout the tour 
  • Viewing in various high-end VR headsets to fully enable a virtual field experience

The virtual special education classrooms created by Grace and Kai are showcased at the ThingLink booth in the Microsoft Mixed Reality area at ISTE 2019, Philadelphia. 

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