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Future educators practice skills in virtual environment

Apr 30, 2020
Screen shot of a woman sitting on a bed with stuffed animals
Screen shot of a woman sitting on a bed with stuffed animals

KOKOMO, Ind. – When Tayler Henry wrote her reading lesson plan, she imagined teaching it in a classroom to first graders in a local elementary school. 

Instead, the future teacher led the lesson in her bedroom with a class of stuffed animals, after Indiana University Kokomo shifted to remote instruction because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’re getting a first-hand experience of how to teach a lesson, and work around the difficulties of being at home, and having to teach online,” said Henry, an elementary education major. “It’s helpful to be able to experience what teachers all over the world are having to work through. You realize that teaching is learning from experience. This is another tool we will have when we start our careers.”

She is among students in Tara Kingsley’s reading methods class, who would have video recorded themselves teaching in front of children, so Kingsley could critique their skills, and offer suggestions for improvement. Instead, they recorded their lessons at home, with objects like stuffed animals for pupils.

“It was a valuable, eye-opening experience,” said Kingsley, associate professor of education. She noted that while she’s teaching her IU Kokomo students from home, she’s also observing her own children as they complete their e-learning. It’s given her new insight into the importance of interacting with students — whether at school or through remote instruction.

“The more I see the interaction between teachers and children, the more I realize the children crave that interaction,” she said. “My students are practicing that back-and-forth, and learning how to anticipate what a student might say in a virtual environment. This has given us the opportunity to use this time as a learning tool, to prepare students for a potential new way of learning as we move forward in education.”

Rachel Moore was disappointed not to teach her planned lesson to her second graders, but said there were benefits to teaching and recording from home.

“We could go back and watch the recording, and see how our voice sounds, and how the lesson flowed,” said Moore, from Tipton. “It gave me a dress rehearsal, so I can see what worked and what didn’t, and I can make adjustments. It gives you a view of what your students are going to see, and if you need to be more animated, or pause longer.”

Henry said she was uncomfortable at first, but realized she was experiencing what other teachers are, recording lessons at home for students to view later.

“I had the mindset I was just teaching over the camera, and it made it easy to imagine there were students on the other side I was teaching,” the Tipton resident said. “I had a stuffed animal fall off the bed, which I imagined was like just having an interruption in the classroom.”

Not having students in the room gave her the chance to teach the lesson how she had planned, allowing her to concentrate on her own skills and abilities.

“I was able to reflect more deeply on my lesson, and pay attention to the lesson itself, by teaching it to inanimate objects instead of to students,” she said. “It made me focus on what I was teaching, and how I was coming across. This prepared us in a way we wouldn’t have had if we weren’t in this situation.”

As a future teacher, Henry also thought it gave her a real-life glimpse into what it’s like to be a teacher now. 

“There are teachers everywhere who could never have been prepared for this situation we’re in, because it’s unheard of,” she said. “I don’t think you can ever be prepared for it. Those teachers adapted quickly, and we can, too.”

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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