Robot Brings Class to Homebound Students

Students with serious medical conditions that keep them away from school for an extended period of time have a new way of keeping up with their classwork.

Thanks to a grant from Ellie’s Hats, a Double Robot is now available to provide two-way communication between a student who has been hospitalized or who is on homebound instruction and his or her regular classroom. The robot in the classroom contains an iPad that sits atop a stick body on a large wheel. The student on the other end has a Chromebook and can control the movement of the robot.

Hillside Elementary has been the first school in the division to pilot the use of the robot.  Fifth grade teacher Jacqueline Bush said she was apprehensive at first when she learned that the robot would capture a steady stream of video from her classroom.  After using the robot for the first month of school, Bush said, “It’s a part of the class.”  She laughed about closing the classroom door and locking the robot out in the hall when students returned to class from a special one day.  Hillside Principal Chris Mills said the robot has even been put into a car by a teacher assistant and driven to another school so that a student could participate in the Futura program.

The robot rolls to the carpet for story time, to a table for small group work or down the hall if the class goes to the music room or library.  The robot even rolled under a blanket tent when the class received tent reading time as a PBIS incentive.

A homebound teacher is still assigned to keep up with scheduling and uploading assignments and assessments for the student.  Testing can be done virtually with a teacher on the other end of the robot proctoring.

Melanie Stephenson is Loudoun County Public Schools’ coordinator of homebound instruction and oversees this innovative program.

Ellie’s Hats is a charity that donate hats to children battling cancer, supports hospitals that treat pediatric cancer patients and donate gift cards to families to help with the financial burden of caring for a child with cancer.