Speaking of its importance, Mr Hinds said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to see technology being used in revolutionary ways. Students are able to explore the rainforest, steer virtual ships or program robots from their classroom, while teachers are able to access training, share best practice with colleagues and update parents on a pupil’s progress without being taken away from their main focus – teaching.”
Mr Hinds is now calling for tech companies, such as Apple and Microsoft, to help make his vision a reality.
He said: “Schools have the power to choose the tech tools which are best for them and their budgets. But they cannot do this alone. It is only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be a sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow.”
This avatar robot scheme is one of the nine projects that have been offered a total of £4 million by the government, in the attempt to support the education of children in Alternative Provision (AP).
The East-Midland-based robot project, which will be ran by medical AP provider Hospital and Outreach Education, will receive a funding of £544,143 from the Department of Education.
To carry out the scheme, 90 “tele-visual” robots will attend lessons in schools and act as a substitute for the unwell pupil.
The avatar robot, called AV1, is also able to engage in classroom discussions and even interact with friends.
The child, suffering from a long-term illness, can operate the robot from the hospital through an iPad and listen in on the conversations occurring in the lessons, by simply rotating the robot’s head to get a panoramic view of the classroom.
If the child wishes to ask a question, the AV1’s head flashes blue. Additional features include a whispering mode that permits the child to converse with a lower voice, allowing only the children within close proximity to hear the robot.
Roboticists are hopeful that the AV1 machine will help children in hospital feel less isolated, and uncomplicate their return to school.
Announcing the project, Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb said: “Every child, no matter the challenges they face in their life, should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential through an excellent education.
“School standards in this country are rising, but for some children – those who are excluded or cannot attend mainstream or special schools – this quality varies greatly, with low expectations about their outcomes and futures.”
He added: “There are some excellent examples of AP in the education system, but we need to raise standards across the board if we want to give every young person the opportunity to succeed.
“These new projects, backed by £4 million, will develop new ways of doing this which can be shared around the country, so that we can improve education for every child and make sure they receive support to meet their individual needs.”
It is difficult to predict what the future may look like but Director of Sheffield Robotics, Professor Tony Prescott, is certain that the future will “have more robots.
“They probably won’t look like humanoid robots,” he said. “They will look more like everyday objects, particularly designed for certain tasks.”
August 8, 2018