‘Robot teacher’ helps educate poorly kids absent from school

East Lothian Council is trialling a new avatar robot called AV1 that allows children who are absent from school on a long term basis the chance to participate in school life.
East Lothian Council is trialling a new avatar robot called AV1 that allows children who are absent from school on a long term basis the chance to participate in school life.
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A ROBOT is helping children who are off school due to illness to join in classroom learning and stay in contact with their peers.

Nicknamed “Heart” the new avatar robot has rolled its way into East Lothian classrooms to give children who are absent from school on a long-term basis the chance to participate in school life.

The AV1 robot, developed by Norwegian company No Isolation, aims to help children with long-term illnesses stay connected with their peers through an app controlled by the child from home or hospital bed.

And Heart has already made an impact in Campie Primary School during a trial with one child.

One of the class teachers was able to read a picture book to and interact with a pupil at home and said the impact for the family and child was “powerful”.

Head of education Fiona Robertson said East Lothian Council would be ordering more after one robot spread a lot of learning love. .

She said: “We are really pleased to be trialling this new technology in our schools.

“At a recent initial trial, one of our class teachers at Campie Primary School was able to read a picture book to, and interact with a learner at home.

“The good quality camera image allowed the learner to see the book clearly and discuss the illustrations, and when the robot, Heart, was rotated by the learner, to have a good look around the classroom.

“The headteacher was also able to join in and have a chat with the learner about how she was doing.

“Since then, the robot has been in frequent use, and the learner has participated in project work and has even been able to view their artwork on the classroom walls.”

The AV1 uses a one way video stream and two way audio stream that allows the child to see, hear and communicate with their teacher and classmates. It is controlled by the child on an app that is on their tablet or mobile phone.

Campie Primary School depute headteacher Alison Elgin said: “This technology has made such a difference to the child and her family.

“The school has been in touch with the family on a regular basis, but this has been a particularly powerful addition for the learner to keep communicating with her classmates and her teacher.”

Ms Robertson added: “The teacher has commented on how natural the interaction feels, and admits that any initial doubts she may have had about robots in the classroom have quickly dissipated.

“We are really pleased with the device, and feedback from school and the learner’s parents has been very positive.

“It’s been wonderful to see its impact on the learner, her teacher and the school staff.”

And with multi-level security measures in place such as fully encrypted streams and being accessible in real time only, Heart is a hit in East Lothian.

Following initial success and positive feedback, the council has ordered more AV1 to support children and young people with a range of needs.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk