Surbiton High School pupil with rare form of cancer used robot to keep up with her learning from the comfort of her own home
Last year, pupils in Year 4 at Surbiton High School were joined by a new class member in lessons – a friendly-looking robot AV1 – who was set up to bridge the gap between home and school for one unwell pupil.
One of the Year 4 pupils at the school, was diagnosed with a rare cancer and owing to her treatment she was unable to go into school for the entire year. To ensure the pupil could continue with her learning and remain fully immersed in school life, teachers and staff set about looking for a new and innovative tool that would help – which is how they came across AV1.
Designed by Norwegian start-up No Isolation, AV1 is a distance learning avatar that enables pupils with long-term illnesses to take part in lessons via an app on their digital device. The robot is placed in the classroom and uses a built-in camera and microphone to transmit the lesson back to the pupil at home. Even more impressively, the pupil can use the robot to interact with their peers and teachers inside the classroom.
At Surbiton High School, the robot acted as the pupil’s eyes, ears and voice and enabled her to remain fully engaged in lessons throughout the year. She was able to turn the robot to get a 360 degree view of the classroom, discuss the lesson with peers during paired talk and use the robot’s head flash to let her teachers know when she wanted to answer a question.
As well as being a way for the pupil to keep up with her learning, the robot helped make sure she was not isolated from her friends and classmates. When it came to returning to school this year, she has made a smooth transition from at-home participation to regular in-classroom learning.
Speaking about her experience, the pupil said:
“Even though I wasn’t actually there in the classroom, it felt as if I was still part of the lesson. I liked being able to see my friends and it was nice that they could hear me too and talk to me. Sometimes if I didn’t want to say something but just wanted to listen to what was going on I could. This was good when I was feeling poorly and tired but still wanted to see and hear what my friends were doing at school. I think the robot is a very good idea for children like me who can still learn and take part in lessons, but can’t actually be in the school classroom.”
Of the technology, the pupil’s mother said:
“It created a wonderful link between school and home for a child who was still mentally capable of learning everything her peers were learning, but was just unable to physically be in school due to long-term illness. It meant that she felt part of the school community and had contact with her friends all the time, which is so incredibly important for a child who is unwell.”
Principal of Surbiton High School, Rebecca Glover, said:
“As a school, we are always striving to be at the forefront of new ideas, experiences and technologies so that our pupils are fully prepared for life in today’s fast-paced, advanced society. We are also determined not to leave any child behind, no matter what challenges they may be facing, which is why AV1 has been such an important addition to our school community.
“Through this new, innovative technology, it was a pleasure to see this pupil continue her learning as normal and remain actively engaged in school life while she recuperated at home. It has been fantastic to see her return this year and be able to pick up seamlessly with teachers, friends and her work because of this technological solution.”
Karen Dolva, CEO and co-founder of No Isolation, said:
“At No Isolation, we want to develop tools for the groups that need more than generic solutions. AV1 helps children with long-term illness to stay in touch with their friends, keep up with their education, and secures that crucial link to everyday life.”