Flying a math class? Using web-based simulations in primary teacher training and education
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This chapter presents a pilot exploratory case study that seeks to bridge the classic gap between teacher preparation and practice by exploiting the affordances offered by digital simulations for contextualizing novice teachers' learning and pedagogy. Using the simulated classroom SimSchool as a virtual field experience, a teaching intervention focused on mathematics education and the use of technology was conducted in order to determine best practices. Both undergraduate and graduate education students participated in the study. The study explored participants' views on the experiences with the simulated environment. Interviews and self-reflection reports were used for data collection. Findings suggest that participants appreciated simulations as virtual environments that provide the opportunity to practice and experiment on particular teaching approaches in a safe environment. Nevertheless, they also express a number of concerns related to how they compare simulations with real classroom experiences and their interaction with virtual students, as well as some technical considerations. Simulations have a great potential to create reality-based learning contexts that foster opportunities for pre- and in-service teachers to improve their pedagogy. Thus, further research is required to unfold all aspects of such approaches.