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NSF grant to help Kennesaw State address need for computer science teachers

Dan Lo and Brian R. Lawler

Kennesaw State University computer science professor Dan Lo and mathematics education associate professor Brian R. Lawler have been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to help meet the increasing demand for computer science teachers in grades 6-12.

The College of Computing and Software Engineering will partner with the Bagwell College of Education, as well as with the Georgia Department of Education and local school districts, to create multiple programs to train teachers in computer science. The one-year, $75,000 NSF grant has a stated goal to “create a metro Atlanta hub for computer science teacher education at KSU.”

New Reality for Teacher Training: KSU Lab Simulates Classroom Experiences Amidst School Shutdowns

This article originally appeared on the Kennesaw State University news site and is reprinted with permission.

The Bagwell College of Education’s mixed-reality avatar lab simulates a multitude of situations that teachers can experience, but Kennesaw State faculty probably didn’t envision that one of those scenarios would be providing field experience for teacher candidates during a real-life pandemic.

After universities and PK-12 school systems throughout Georgia transitioned from classroom courses to remote learning last month, the Bagwell College and the Department of Inclusive Education configured the avatar lab for remote access. Unable to be in their actual classrooms, student teachers and master’s candidates have been utilizing the avatar lab online to simulate teaching to a group of students.

“Our teacher candidates are able to take the lesson that they were supposed to teach in the real classroom and do it in our avatar lab, from the comfort of their home,” said Kate Zimmer, an associate professor of special education and the director of the avatar lab. “By no means are we saying that the lab should replace field experience, but, especially in times like these, it definitely makes a difference and helps prepare the best teacher candidates we can.”

Virtual Learning Application

Avatar Lab at KSU Provides a World of Scenarios for Teachers of the Future

Child Interacting with avatars as educators observe.

This article and photo originally appeared in Cobb Life Magazine and are reprinted with permission.

Teachers encounter all sorts of situations when they’re instructing students in the classroom, and the Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University is taking an animated approach to preparing teacher candidates for scenarios they will experience as educators.

Bagwell has a new laboratory where KSU students and faculty utilize mixed-reality technology to interact with avatars of children and adults, simulating a variety of situations and challenges teachers can encounter. The student avatars each have their own unique personalities, and the scenarios have low, medium and high settings requiring varying levels of problem-solving.

“The lab’s capabilities are endless for providing purposeful practice for teacher candidates before they ever step foot in a classroom,” said Kate Zimmer, interim chair of the Department of Inclusive Education and an associate professor of special education.

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