Robot Use Growing In Public Schools

BERLIN –  New technology is giving ill students the chance to attend classes virtually.

Thanks to Double Robot, a new technology tool, Worcester County students unable to attend classes are able to participate from home.

“I really believe we’re going to see a lot more of this in the future,” Superintendent Lou Taylor said.

At last week’s school board meeting, Diane Stulz, the school system’s coordinator of digital learning, provided a demonstration of the Double Robot. The device, essentially a Segway with an iPad attached to the top, is now being used by students kept from attending school because of extended illnesses. A student at home can use their own computer to connect to the Double Robot, which will be in their class at school. The student can use their own keyboard to control the robot’s movements, ensuring that they’re able to see the video feed of the teacher and what is going on in the classroom.

A Snow Hill High School sophomore who is often unable to attend class because of chronic Lyme disease has been using the robot this school year. She told the board it had enabled her to hear lectures and ask questions of her teachers that she wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

“I really do enjoy being in school, being with my classmates,” she said. “This has given me the option of doing that.”

Stulz said that every year there are a handful of “home and hospital” students, those who are prevented from attending class because of extended illnesses. Typically, the school system has a teacher visit those students several hours a week to provide instruction. The Double Robot is now providing an alternative to that.

“We’d like to extend this to other students,” she said.

She said the robot was particularly useful for high school students, as it can be difficult to find teachers knowledgeable enough in all of the varied high level subjects to provide students with instruction at home.

“It’s a great piece of equipment,” Stulz said.

She said the school system currently had one robot at Snow Hill High School and two others at Berlin Intermediate School. At the Berlin school, she said they were used by in-school suspension students so that they wouldn’t miss instructional time.

She said the robots cost about $3,700 each and are being used by more and more school systems. She said Anne Arundel County had about 30 of them.

Taylor said they’d been a popular topic of discussion at recent meeting of superintendents.

“All of the counties are really looking into purchasing them,” he said. “This is growing in the state of Maryland.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.