In First Class, a teacher in training can lead a class of virtual children.

A teacher with a wearable headset can enter a virtual reality classroom and complete tasks multiple times, with the ability to fail in a space that doesn’t have an impact on real students. He or she can practice an extreme situation, like a complex moral dilemma or severe behavioral issue, safely.

And it allows a teacher in training to explore the realm of accessibility. With adjustments to the lighting or audio, he or she can experience the classroom the way a student with a visual impairment or auditory difficulty might experience it.

First Class is the brainchild of Ann Clements, an associate professor and the graduate program chairwoman for Music Education at Penn State.

It aims to help address the problem of access for pre-service teachers to the right classrooms with strong teachers who are willing to work with them, she said. Often access is an issue because of high-stakes testing, different school districts having their own requirements for clearances for student teachers and trying to line up times with the course offerings at Penn State.

(Next page: How innovation is helping Penn State transform teaching and learning)

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