Spotlight On: Gregory Reed

Gregory Reed

Gregory Reed, Ph.D. By Briahnna Brown Greg Reed, Ph.D., never planned to become an educator. Yet, his love of knowledge and his recognition of the impact it has on people’s lives evolved into a career as a college professor at Howard University. Now he is helping to transform the field of education.

Reed, associate dean for accreditation and technology in the School of Education, is leading a Howard research team that is examining the use of avatars and virtual classrooms in teacher training. Howard is one of only two HBCU partners involved in the TeachLivE program.

Engineered by the University of Central Florida, the TeachLivE technology is similar to flight simulation programs used in aviation training; it allows student teachers to practice in a virtual environment. The avatar children are ethnically diverse and have distinct personalities and learning styles, to which the teacher must adjust his or her lesson plan to ensure the content is effective. Because the children are able to react to teacher behavior, the program evaluates student teachers on their teaching skills, ability to deliver content and classroom management. Reed says research shows that 10 minutes in the TeachLivE virtual classroom may be equivalent to one hour of real life, in-class practice time.

“The traditional way of training teachers is to have them in didactic courses and then send them out for student teaching,” Reed says. “The concept behind TeachLivE suggests that there may be another level of preparing students before they complete their student teaching.”

So far, the focus of the program, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been to train student teachers and to evaluate the effects of virtual classroom rehearsal on the performance of practicing teachers. But TeachLivE allows student teachers to interact with adults too. Through the program, student teachers can engage an adult avatar in virtual parent-teacher conferences, which could one day be used by students in Howard’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies to practice interviewing potential teachers and evaluate teacher performance. Reed also envisions this program allowing student teachers studying special education or school psychology to practice Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings or meetings with parents.

“TeachLivE gives Howard University a national platform—it puts Howard in the forefront of teacher education in terms of where it is potentially going,” Reed says. “It also gives us, and our students, access to state-of-the-art technology for training. This is part of what these teachers may see in the future in terms of on going professional development.”

A native Washingtonian, Reed earned his bachelor’s degree from Bowie State University and his doctorate at the University of Iowa, where he worked with children with severe behavioral disabilities and reading disorders. He returned to the District to teach in Howard’s School of Education in the Department of Human Development and Psychoeducational Studies.

“I know it sounds cliché, but I like seeing that light bulb,” Reed says. “When I’m in the classroom, I’m so happy. I’m in my element. I’ve heard people say ‘Find that thing you love doing and get paid for it, and you’ll never have to work again.’ I found that in teaching.” Brown is an intern in the Office of University Communications and a junior journalism major in the School of Communications.

Brown is an intern in the Office of University Communications and a junior journalism major in the School of Communications.

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