Beaming Children where they cannot go: Telepresence Robots and Inclusive Education: An Exploratory Study

By Kieron Sheehy and Ashley A. Green.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

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Despite a succession of inclusive education policies, the proportion of pupils within segregated provision remains relatively unchanged within the United Kingdom. During the same period of time, communications technologies have created new avenues for social interactions and removed barriers to communication between young people. Mitra (2009) proposed mobile robotics as a way teachers might overcome geographical and social barriers. This paper considers the affordances provided by mobile robots for developing inclusive educational practices. It reports on a small study that utilizes ‘off the shelf’ Rovio and Spykee telepresence robots to allow groups of children to see into each other’s school worlds. Children were engaged by using robots in this way, the robots could be used by children including those with severe learning difficulties and the robots created a bridge between mainstream and special schools classrooms, allowing children to ‘visit’ each other and explore each other’s classrooms. The results of this study suggest that currently the technology is not robust enough for everyday use in this way but presents an interesting option for those seeking to explore ways in which children who are physically segregated might visit one another’s educational worlds. It also raises the issue of whether such approaches undermine the creation of ‘real world’ inclusive education or might act to recreate the nature of inclusion.

Keywords: Inclusive Education, Rovio, Spykee, Robots, Telepresence, Severe Learning Difficulties

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.135-146. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 582.261KB).

Dr. Kieron Sheehy

Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education, Centre for Childhood, Development and Learning, The Open University, Miton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, UK

Kieron Sheehy has background in teaching and educational psychology. He is interested in inclusion and how this interacts with pedagogy and new technologies, for example virtual and augmented worlds and robotics. Within this area he has a particular research focus regarding the development of approaches and contexts that support the learning of children with severe learning difficulties.

Dr. Ashley A. Green

Visting Research Associate, Faculty of Mathematics, Computing & Technology, The Open University, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, UK

Ashley Green’s background is in solar energy research and robotics education. He works as a freelance STEM educator and consultant, and is a visiting research fellow at The Open University. Ashley is an executive member of the RoboCup Federation and is RoboCupJunior 2011 General Chair. His areas of special interest are robotics education, renewable energy and space robotics.