Robot to link homebound student to school, keep up with classmates West ISD elementary student pilots program with Education Se
By Hooray for Family
— For some students, attending school isn’t possible. Injuries, extended illnesses, immune deficiencies and other physical challenges prevent a student from physically being able to attend classes. This is exactly the case with West ISD Elementary School student, Jaxson Pratka, who became homebound after sustaining significant injuries from a car accident.Traditional methods to accommodate homebound educational needs, such as in-home tutors and videoconferencing, can leave a significant gap for students like Pratka – the social interaction and everyday activity of interacting with teachers and peers. VGo fills this gap.VGo is a Wi-Fi enabled, all-in-one solution that includes everything needed to establish a physical presence from a distant location. The robot is controlled wirelessly with a laptop, and uses a two-way camera so the laptop user can see on their screen everything that the robot sees and hears. Because of this technology, Pratka can now participate in classroom discussions and share in the social aspects of cubby-side chats, lunch periods and interactive learning stations right along with his peers through the eyes of his 4 foot tall, 23 pound “avatar.”“Nothing replaces the experience of being in the classroom interacting with the teacher and with friends,” Executive Director of Education Service Center (ESC) Region 12, Jerry Maze, Ed.D, said. “We are elated to provide an opportunity for a student in need and to have a direct educational impact.”The Wi-Fi-enabled robot, made by New Hampshire-based VGo, is on loan to ESC Region 12 fromESC Region 6 in Huntsville. ESC Region 12 is piloting the program and exploring possible funding options for future implementation. “With 77 school districts and 11 charter schools, we know the demand is going to be huge,” said Maze.Using VGo, affectionately named “Jax”, Pratka will “attend” school for the next two weeks enabling him to have direct instruction and more of an opportunity to be right on target with his class. When Pratka no longer needs “Jax”, VGo will get a new name to help another student in need with their education.The VGO robots debuted in 2011, originally conceived for office videoconferencing. About 100 are in use at
K-12 schools around the country, company spokesman Ned Semonite said.
About ESC Region 12
One of 20 regional education service centers statewide, Education Service Center (ESC) Region 12 is a nonprofit service organization dedicated to serving school districts, charter schools and area private/parochial schools in elevating student achievement. ESC Region 12 partners with schools of all sizes to improve educator success by enhancing skills, bridging financial gaps through resource development and building alliances with the local communities.Based in Waco, with a satellite office in Corsicana, ESC Region 12’s service area includes 77 school districts from Bell, Bosque, Coryell, Falls, Freestone, Hamilton, Hill, Lampasas, Limestone, McLennan, Mills and Navarro counties.
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