Telepresence robots are being used in a multitude of ways to improve the learning experience and modernize the classroom, such as:
- Creating community and inclusivity. Historically, immunocompromised children had very few options when it came to being physically present in the classroom. After Covid, for many of these children, it became impossible. However, telepresence robots allow a student to drive their own robot in the classroom so they can virtually attend class from home while feeling like they have a physical presence within the classroom and school community. The robots can move for them, turn to look at people coming in, and even switch classrooms at the bell with their classmates. Robots make remote learning an integrated learning experience for the children, helping them to keep up academically and socially.
- Bringing the outside world in. Robots inside the classroom allow for experts in their fields, and the world around, to actively interact with students in a classroom. Doing these types of talks through a telepresence robot creates the personal conversation that passive interactions lack while making it feel more like talking to a live person than watching a video.
- Going beyond the classroom. Classroom field trips became a difficult proposal during the pandemic. With children unable to even meet for class in person, let alone museums. Educational robots can make that trip for us, broadcasting the experience to the classroom safely and much more personally than a simple video. Similarly, telepresence robots can be brought along on a school trip, allowing students who are unable to attend in-person to be anywhere they want to go, even traveling virtually with their classmates.
As an Instructional Technology Specialist, I have used platforms such as Webex, Microsoft Teams, Schoology Conferences, and Zoom to connect students. When our students returned to the classroom, I worried about those with health challenges who would no longer have the option of attending school using these tools. So I tested a telepresence robot with one student whose treatment left him homebound for one week. From the safety of his own home, he controlled the robot himself, driving through the hallway and into the science lab. The class was so excited to see him; it was beautiful to see the teacher welcome him by name.
The student learned alongside the other kids and the teachers liked that they did not have to adjust or manage several environments at one time. If the student couldn’t see what was being shared, he could use the zoom-in feature on his laptop or drive closer to get a clearer view, moving like any student would in a regular classroom.
The telepresence robot stands out from the tools our school uses because it gives the user the ability to interact and engage with his/her environment in a way that’s not available through video conferencing. The most exciting thing about my field is how quickly technology is advancing; there will be more and more accessible options available to students to communicate and collaborate with their teachers and peers when language, health concerns or abilities stand in the way.
The Future of Technology in Classrooms
From virtual learning platforms to telepresence robots, these types of technology integrations are the future of education. As we learned from the pandemic, anything is possible, and technology could once again be the single connecting point between our children and their education. School districts throughout the country have realized that technology integrations aren’t simply a nice-to-have, they are a necessity.
Tech directors, tech integration specialists, tech assistants – schools are starting to sound quite a bit like tech startups. And this isn’t a bad thing. These types of positions may be somewhat new in our children’s school districts, but administrative teams are vetting new technology in much the same way as a tech startup would. Schools now need to be as prepared as businesses to send the work home, making cutting-edge technology a necessity to keep kids connected.
- Using online modules to strengthen teacher leadership programs - October 4, 2022
- How plagiarism makes the literacy gap worse - October 3, 2022
- 4 tips to build a strong classroom culture this year - September 30, 2022