Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to be a hot-button issue in education and across our economy more broadly – Education Ministers addressed this at their 6 July meeting. But there’s another technology that is also improving rapidly as major companies invest heavily in research and development – virtual and augmented reality. And some of our universities are at its forefront.

Over the past few months, we’ve looked at the evidence base for virtual reality (VR) in education – and initial teacher education (ITE).

Integrating VR into ITE programs is an example of an innovative solution to bridge the theory-practice gap. I am excited to share our latest Spotlight report with you, diving deep into the transformative potential of VR technologies for pre-service teachers – Technological innovations in initial teacher education.

By integrating VR technologies into ITE programs, we can offer aspiring teachers a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in various teaching scenarios. They can explore different classroom environments through realistic simulations, receive valuable feedback, and develop inclusive teaching practices in a safe and supportive setting.

The benefits these technologies offer for pre-service teachers are truly remarkable. It's an exciting way for them to refine their competencies and build confidence in classroom management, ensuring they're well-prepared to navigate the dynamic educational landscape of today and tomorrow.

I acknowledge there are challenges in implementing VR simulation platforms at scale – infrastructure and cost being significant hurdles for some providers, and fit-for-purpose solutions for users. But the opportunity to enhance how Australia’s teachers are prepared in the digital age will no doubt drive further development and expansion of this technology across ITE programs.

We should also recognise the significant role that AI is poised to play in this domain. AI has the potential to enhance and shape VR experiences, particularly when it comes to computer-generated entities like virtual student avatars. As AI advances, it will likely enable more responsive, human-like interactions and support greater scalability and accessibility of VR for pre-service teachers.

Embracing VR is one way we can better ensure that our beginning teachers enter the workforce equipped with the necessary skills to excel in the contemporary educational landscape – a valuable complement to professional experience placements in ITE programs.

The University of Newcastle (UON) is one institution disrupting traditional models of ITE by exploring VR’s potential in teacher education. Griffith University is another. Their experiences and insights have informed AITSL’s latest Spotlight, which includes case studies demonstrating how UON leverages VR-based technologies to enhance teaching competencies.

I’m looking forward to seeing further development and expansion of innovative technologies in ITE programs, through collaboration and knowledge-sharing between the 47 institutions responsible for preparing our future teachers.

You can read our Spotlight here.