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Virtual Reality Teaching Competition at UW Named Finalist in Fast Company World Changing Ideas Awards

May 13, 2021
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The University of Wyoming’s WYTeach competition has been included in the 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards by Fast Company.

This honor recognizes businesses, policies, projects and concepts that are actively engaged and deeply committed to pursuing innovation when it comes to solving critical issues. The UW contest was named a finalist in the creativity category and earned an honorable mention in the education category.

The competition was developed as an innovative way to inspire high school students to become interested in careers in teaching by providing them with an authentic teaching experience. The project was led by Lindsey Freeman, an assistant lecturer in UW’s College of Education, and was supported and nurtured by the UW Trustees Education Initiative (TEI) in partnership with immersive virtual reality industry leader Mursion.

“Mursion made it a more authentic experience for the students and ensured it was a teaching competition instead of just a teaching presentation,” Freeman says. “These candidates got to experience real exposure to the actual work of teaching animal and plant sciences to students, and they also got to experience the rewarding nature of the job firsthand.”

“Learning is at the heart of all that Mursion does as a company,” says Mursion co-founder and CEO Mark Atkinson. “In formal educational settings, that equates to offering instructors powerful tools and resources to further advance their personal development and student achievement outcomes.

“The new paradigm for learning at every level must include social emotional learning (SEL). Educators and education leaders must not only develop a strong set of SEL instincts themselves, but they also must impart those instincts to their students,” he continues. “This requires a lot of practice. It is our high privilege to provide current and aspiring teachers a safe and effective environment to practice these and other urgent pedagogical skills.”

The WYTeach team plans to run the contest for high school students again next year and has been investigating the possibility of developing a collegiate-level version of WYTeach with Wyoming community colleges. The group also has been working with FFA and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America to take the WYTeach competition nationwide.

The World Changing Ideas Awards showcase 34 winners, more than 400 finalists and more than 800 honorable mentions. A panel of Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners and finalists from a pool of more than 4,000 entries spanning education, food, politics, technology and transportation. The 2021 awards feature entries from across the globe, from the U.S. to Brazil to Denmark and Vietnam.

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