Schools now have access to technology that uses robots to stream content onto their classroom computers or TVs. This could radically change how teachers relay information and give them access to new kinds of material. Music teachers could use a robot to share the experience of a live concert with their students. Science teachers could show their students what a working lab looks like.
Second-grader attends class – as a robot
Devon Carrow is a second-grader whose life-threatening allergies don't allow him to attend school. But for the past year, reported the Associated Press, he's been able to experience elementary school for the first time: through a 4-foot-tall robot.
Devon attends classes by sitting in front of his home computer's camera. He controls the robot using a mouse and keyboard, with his teacher helping him navigate from class to class. At the top of the robot – about where a head might be – is a screen that shows Devon's face, and above that is a camera that wirelessly streams video to his computer. He can hear through the robot's speakers (his teacher wears a microphone), and if he wants to speak, he activates a light on the robot.
Devon told AP that going to school is like playing a videogame. And the other kids? They don't think it's that weird either. AP pointed out that 7-year-olds are used to video games, avatars and remote-controlled toys, so the robot isn't far outside their realm of experience. Most students don't even acknowledge that Devon isn't actually there.
"In the classroom, the kids are like, 'Devon, come over, we're doing Legos. Show us your Legos,'" teacher Dawn Voelker told AP.
The robot is part of Devon's special education plan. The school district paid about $6,000 for the robot and pays an additional $100 in monthly fees.
The robot, known as VGo, was introduced in 2011 by VGo Communications, based out of Nashua, New Hampshire. Currently, there are a handful of students across the country that use the robot to attend school. VGo is also being eyed by medical and business professionals.
VGo broadens learning at the Pittsburgh Zoo
VGo has also been used to teach students at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Last September, the robot arrived and was given a giraffe-patterned coat of paint. The Verizon Foundation, which donated VGo, wrote that so far the robot has been used to enhance zoo education and outreach programs by broadcasting learning to classroom computers.
One program where VGo has made an impact is the Zoo's Sea Turtle Second Change program. In the past, students had to travel to the Zoo to meet the turtles and learn from scientists. Now, aquarium staff can broadcast lessons and show turtles live while students are in their classrooms.
How would you react to VGo being used in your classroom or office? Do you think this technology will improve education? Please share your thoughts below!