AUTOMATED 3D VIRTUAL PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
Although there is considerable research on the benefits of using a virtual world as a teaching and learning tool, to date, the uptake has been slow, as there is limited evidence that virtual worlds can indeed provide an alternate, effective and immersive learning environment in which teacher education students can experiment with, and practice, teaching techniques. The use of a virtual world provides a sense of immersion and shared experiences with others, and thus has the potential to offer a supplementary professional experience; in the virtual classroom. Teacher education students can experiment with innovative pedagogy, trial different ways of teaching, practice teaching various concepts, without also having to overcome anxiety or shyness about being in the classroom, especially when learning to teach a classroom of students who may not wish to learn.
This research project will fill an important research gap, working with VirtualPREX, a 3D virtual space in Second Life, while at the same time challenging preconceived notions of what constitutes quality pedagogy. Drawing upon previous research from Australia in particular, and internationally, this project has the overall aim to investigate the hypothesis that practising teaching techniques through an automated 3D virtual professional experience classroom creates better prepared teacher education students for classroom teaching. Based on sound research underpinnings and building on a constructivist action research approach, the project will identify the best ways to use virtual worlds in order to bridge the theory-practice gap for teacher education students.