Simulations to help prepare teachers

I came across an interesting article today in Education Week about the use of simulations to help prepare teachers for the classroom.  The TeachME initiative at the University of Central Florida enables teachers to “practice” with student-avatars.  A similar program is simSchool which can be populated with up to 18 students who respond to the teacher’s behavior.  Essentially, the simulation environment offers teachers the opportunity to practice classroom management skills and “experience” various “cognitive dimensions”.  It’s quite fascinating stuff.  Pamela Grossman, a professor of education at Stanford University, highlights the most important piece – the development and use of “… a framework for breaking down and analyzing specific teaching skills.”  This aspect seems a bit easier in the nursing and aviation fields, other domains that have success with simulations, given that there is a direct cause-and-effect.  When dealing with personalities and abilities, it’s a bit more complex. 

On a side note:  do they have such simulations for parents of toddlers?  I would jump at the opportunity to participate in a monthly simulation with a virtual child who was entering into the next developmental stage… in essence, preparing me for what was to come.  My actions in the simulation could be analyzed and constructive feedback offered.  So, that when my (real) toddler started to [insert behavioral challenge], I could calmly and appropriately address it.