School behind a screen: how one teacher has utilized a robot to teach her online students

The AEA Robot makes online students feel like they are in the classroom through its advanced technology.

Jamie Branch

The AEA Robot makes online students feel like they are in the classroom through its advanced technology.

Michael VanDerSchaaf, Sports Editor

Pleasant Valley Junior High School recently had two new students enter its hallways. These students are not like the other students that walk the halls: they are actually two robots at-home students can control throughout their day.

Due to the hybrid model, teacher Jamie Branch, found on her Hybrid B days, she has a very small class. Branch has only five students in class on Thursdays. She took an opportunity presented by the AEA to give her all-online students a chance at engaging in the classroom.

Branch checked out the virtual presence robot from the Mississippi Bend AEA early this school year. They brought it to the school shortly after and taught her how to use it.

The robot makes it much easier for students to feel engaged with the class compared to traditional online learning. “The student logs on at the appropriate time and ‘walks to class’ in the halls like any other student. The online students are able to move around the room and interact with classmates face to face and see what I am projecting on the board without any issues,” explained Branch. 

Furthermore, these robots help students achieve the socialization that has been damaged since the pandemic began in March. These students in solitude at their homes have a way of interacting and collaborating with those at school. “It is good for my students socially because some of them have not physically seen each other since sometime between March and May,” said Branch.

The robot also appears to make the learning experience far easier for students. Rather than doing assignments and activities through zoom or google classroom, the students are in-class and engaged in real-time.

Branch has given praise to the robot for making her day far easier. “The robot has saved me tons of time. I do not have my own classroom so I lose valuable instructional time while logging into hangouts, messing with the volume, sharing my screen, and general troubleshooting,” Bunch explained. “This negatively affects in-class and online learners. The use of the robot removes all of those variables.”

This robot has made Branch’s learning much more efficient and engaging for all students-both online and in-person. The school district currently only utilizes one of these robots, as they are expensive so the AEA has a limited amount.

Branch would love to see more teachers utilize these technological advancements if possible. “I would highly recommend that other teachers in the district experiment with it. It is such a fun and useful tool,” she said.

No matter whether a student is in school or online, the AEA virtual presence robot makes the lives of both students and teachers much easier. As hybrid learning continues, look for more of these to pop-up in classrooms across the district to maintain the integrity of Pleasant Valley learning.