Edtech Solutions
Network Summit
Edtech Advocacy &
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Professional Development Online: Facilitating Practice and Generalization of Skills Learned Via Technology

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Participate and share : Interactive lecture

Dr. Adam Carreon  
Dr. Amber Rowland  
Dr. Sean Smith  

Technology implementation requires flexible, on-demand professional learning. VOISS Advisor is an online platform designed to support educators as they facilitate student use of a virtual reality environment to learn and practice social skills and then, practice and generalization of learned skills in physical settings through methods, models and videos.

Audience: Coaches, Professional developers, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: internet connection
Topic: Professional learning
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Special education
ISTE Standards: For Coaches:
Digital Age Learning Environments
  • Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators.
For Educators:
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Challenge/Solution: VOISS Advisor serves as the mechanism to guide teacher instruction as they facilitate the use of the interactive VR-based VOISS with students and equally important, to facilitate the application of the learned social skill within the social demands of the middle school classroom across a variety of settings. Implementing a technology-based intervention requires educators to have knowledge of the tool, as well as an understanding of how to support practice and generalization in a physical space. The developers of VOISS Advisor took on the challenge of asynchronous educator learning through an interactive, fillable template, with video models and implementation guides for practice and generalization strategies and tactics. Educators can use VOISS with their students because VOISS Advisor is there when they need it, to screen students for needed social skill development, monitor ongoing student progress in the system, recommend practice and implementation strategies, and guide successful implementation through video models, case studies and step-by-step supports. Through usability testing, educator interviews and focus groups, VOISS Advisor is a model for supporting asynchronous educator learning, online.

Session Relevance: The authors of this proposal have developed an intervention to address social competence challenges faced by students with disabilities, particularly those with Level 1 Autism and Learning Disabilities. VOISS provides social skill instruction via virtual reality (VR) and integrates empirically-validated social skill interventions into a safe and meaningful experience. Developed to align with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and based on social skills research focused on students with disabilities, particularly with ASD, VOISS draws heavily on the principles of direct instruction, evidenced-based practices in ASD, and the learning characteristics of individuals with disabilities. In order for technology to be integrated successfully and to facilitate student learning, teachers need flexible, on-demand professional learning opportunities, especially in the face of the recent global pandemic. With technology increasingly being used not only for educators to teach, but also for they themselves to learn, it is important to learn those who are actively developing, testing, and researching online platforms that support technology implementation. The VOISS team has much to share and participants will walk away with ideas for how they can improve their own blended and online professional learning efforts.

Technology Interventions: The technologies shared in this presentation include virtual reality and an interactive website. The virtual reality system can be used on an iPad or Chromebook as an app or on an Oculus Rift. To support teacher implementation, an interactive website was developed with multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. The website for online professional learning will be the focus of this presentation. Interactive case stories will be used to guide participants through various scenarios of students with social skill deficits and participants will take the role of educators, supporting certain students. They will watch videos, listen to audio, explore resources and operate our lesson plan builder tool.

Model & Strategies Employed: The design of this presentation is both scripted and self-driven. Teachers will be encouraged to go to designated resources but will have the freedom to choose the content and products to be explored during individual work time, tailored to their individual needs. Researchers have shown that autonomy and choice play a big role in motivation. Having more opportunity to make choices and to control outcomes improves motivation to engage in, and complete a task (Deci, 1981; Ryan & Deci, 2000). By authenticating the content and differentiating the tasks, participants will walk away with meaningful resources.

Evidence of Success:
VOISS is research-based has been examined across 11 school districts. Data was collected on over 500 students with identified social skill deficiencies. Final analysis for one study included 202 students. Within the VOISS condition, 110 students had complete data, while 92 students in the control condition had complete data and were included in the final analyses. Paired-sample t-tests were used to assess for change in scores from the pre-post computer assessments. Overall, a 24% gain in improvements was observed for students randomized to the VOISS condition.

Data collected from teacher, parents and students using the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scale along with data collected from teacher and parents using the Autism Social Skill Platform were analyzed. Students were divided into two groups; traditional treatment group and VOISS treatment. Scores on the ASSP and SSIS measures were collected pre- and post-treatment. The overall findings found significant differences in VOISS students and those students who participated in a traditional social skill intervention (i.e., what was currently in place for all students with social skill deficits). Differences ranged across schools with as high as a 26% increase in ratings pre-post to as little as 13%. Control students, across all districts averaged a 5% growth in social skill development with some skills indicating a decrease in ability.


1. Introduction and Session Format Description (5 minutes)
Participants will be encouraged to open the online handout and will be introduced to the federally funded VOISS project, the free VOISS apps, VOISS Advisor website, and the research guiding our efforts. We will use AnswerGarden to poll the group for demographics and interest, which will help guide our emphasis and focus. The cyclical format of the presentation will also be explained.

2. Description of Classroom Story #1 (2 minutes)
We will introduce the highlighted classroom story and show a quick video of the teacher introducing the student. We will share what ISTE Standards and specific challenges are being addressed by this classroom story.

3. Demonstration of Specific Strategy and Associated Resource (2 minutes)
The presenter will do a brief demonstration of the VOISS scenario utilized by the student and show the lesson plan outlined the teacher used to support practice and generalization of learned social skills from the VR environment into the physical classroom. For example, Marcus, is a sixth grader who struggles to understand body language and nonverbal communication of others. His teachers, Mrs. Jones has him complete the VR scenario that focuses on understanding and participating in joking. She then uses the VOISS Advisor website to learn what instructional strategies, instructional settings, generalization tactics and support strategies are needed to help Marcus take the skills that he learned in the VR scenario and practice and generalize them into the classroom. She then used the Advisor Lesson Plan Builder to construct a personalized lesson for Marcus. We will use video and live demonstration to walk participants through the model.

4. Exploration of Specific Resource (2 minutes)
Participants will be given time to explore Marcus’ classroom story on VOISS Advisor. We will field individual concerns and questions during this brief exploration time.

5. Reflection (2 minutes)
Attendees will be encouraged to crowd-source, swapping additional ideas and resources with other attendees using a provided Padlet. Reflection prompts in the board will sharing implementation ideas and how they contextualize the new learning into their own educational settings.

6.-9. Repeat Phase Cycle (8 minutes)
Repeat steps two through five, so that a total of six classroom stories will be explored:
Jolene – she struggles to communicate with respect to her teachers and is often inappropriately casual with peers. Jolene learns and practices the use of slang and idioms in an appropriate setting within VOISS and then her teacher uses video modeling, small group instruction and peer coaching to practice and generalized those learned skills within the classroom.
Arturo – he struggles to greet his peers in consistently appropriate ways. He practices in VOISS using the “greeting others” scenario and his teacher designs a lesson using peers to model and practice greetings in the classroom.
Dylan – she struggles to understand rules of etiquette and when they are needed (e.g., when to say “thank you” or when it is appropriate to burp. She learned about social etiquette in VOISS and then her teacher used the generalization tactic of teaching multiple examples and a reinforcement strategy to support practice and generalization in the classroom setting.
Jackson – he struggles with understanding personal space and boundaries. He practices interacting with the avatars in VOISS and they react according to his behaviors while the system redirects any behaviors that might make people uncomfortable. Hi teacher then uses role play and prompting to support classroom practice and use of the newly learned skills

10. Summary of Session and Ensure Participant Access to Resources (2 minutes)

11. Participant Questions (5 minutes) Questions and whole group discussion.

Supporting research

VOISS Advisor is built upon well tested Implementation Science (Dunst, et. al., 2013). Researchers in special education have made strides in identifying EBPs for students with disabilities over the past two decades. Cook, Cook, and Landrum (2013) describe how empirical and theoretical literature outside of our field may offer the insight needed in how to facilitate the ideas taking hold in classroom practice, particularly Heath and Heath’s (2007) model of characteristics that are likely to “stick.” We designed VOISS Advisor for VOISS to increase the direct instruction and support teachers are provided for this VR-based social skill intervention making the initial instruction more effective and allowing the student application of the learned skill to be consistent and impactful within the demands of the school setting (McCurdy, et. al., 2014). VOISS Advisor purposefully empowers teachers to effectively and efficiently support the implementation of VOISS.

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Dr. Adam Carreon, Georgia Southern University
Dr. Amber Rowland, University Of Kansas, ALTEC
Dr. Sean Smith, University of Kansas

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