Robotic teacher aides sign of new era in teaching

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A new kind of teacher's aides are helping usher in a new era of interactive instruction to Silicon Valley classrooms.

A new kind of teacher's aide has been introduced to classrooms in Silicon Valley. It's a robot ushering in a new era of interactive instruction. It doesn't replace face-to-face learning, but it does expand the reach of teachers with specialized knowledge.

Simon, 10, recently had something peering over him as he worked this summer on his reading and comprehension skills. It was a robot with an iPad that allows a master teacher to monitor his progress remotely and to engage with him. Kids like Simon are attuned to the technology and have no problem embracing it.

"He'll tell us, 'Help me out, and he will guide me and interact with me, and it's no different than when working with him in person," Director of Instruction Jody Gilles told ABC7 News.

Made by a company called "Double Robotics," its mobility allows her to walk around with Simon. "Sitting all day with their instructors can be tough, so we get up and move and play games, and this allows me to go in there with them and even do a virtual high-five. The kids love giving the robot high-fives," Gilles said.

The robot allows Gilles to interact with 10 to 12 students per day for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. The Lindamood-Bell Learning Centers are global, so she can do this with students just as easily in Sydney or London.

The Double Robot is manufactured in Silicon Valley. Originally, the technology was adopted for trade shows and meetings but now, it has found a whole new market. The robot costs $2,500 and is saving educators travel expenses. "We're reducing costs in travel and in time. So, it's been a beneficial investment not just in terms of financially, but also in terms of the time," said Executive Center Director Jessica Corinne.

The robot also enables Gilles to monitor the progress of both student and individual instructors, called clinicians, and to offer suggestions. And, Simon seems to have developed a protective interest in the robot. "I like to help it because mostly, sometimes, it mostly crashes on the wall," he said.
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