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Dewey in classroom
Heather Rogers, on screen, took a DSU graduate class this summer with the help of a telepresence robot, Dewey. This gave her and her fellow students, who are all teachers, a glimpse of how virtual learning can be beneficial.

Grad course provides opportunity to see virtual learning in action

Academics

The 12th class member in Tom Farrell’s CET 751 course, “Technology Hardware and Networking,” was Dewey the Robot.

Actually, the class member was real live student Heather Rogers, who needed to take the class from her home in Vermont to graduate this year with her Master of Science in Educational Technology degree. With the help of Dewey, the telepresence robot, she was able to take the course remotely.

Dewey was purchased by the College of Education in 2018, for use by students and faculty. The unit consists of an iPad attached to a remotely-controlled wheeled device. The user controls Dewey by computer, cell phone, or other device through a wireless internet connection.

“It was definitely a different experience,” Rogers said, not quite the same as being there in person, “but I do still feel like I’m actually there, and I’ve been involved in everything so far.”

Farrell agrees: “It’s like she was right here with us.”

Rogers has been able to talk with the class, ask questions, and give a presentation. One unit did include working with some physical hardware, but Rogers “participated by watching and observing.” She is familiar with a lot of the equipment, so “it wasn’t too big of a challenge.” To give her a better view, “somebody picked me (Dewey) up to give a bird’s eye view of everything that we were doing.” Minor glitches have been easy to fix, such as the sound cutting out, a network issue, or low battery power.

Her classmates have also helped with on- and off-campus field trips, carrying Dewey up stairs or across streets; they use FaceTime for off-site trips when Dewey isn’t connected to a network, or give her a verbal report, said Joey Liesinger, technology instructor at Madison High School. Rogers said her classmates have been “wonderful.”

The opportunity to see virtual learning is also wonderful.

“It’s a great example of how technology can really benefit people,” Rogers said. This real-life example is “something to bring back to our classrooms to show our students how advancing technology is really able to help people.”

Jessica Dawson, who teaches math and Algebra I at Huron Middle School, noted that they all took turns driving Dewey to understand what Rogers was dealing with.

Jenna Grossenburg, a fifth-grade teacher from Aberdeen Public Schools, thought it would be a good idea at the elementary level, for example, if students were dealing with major illnesses.

Mitch Miller, middle school/high school technology teacher at Flandreau Public School, said if a student needed to do a presentation by Skype or other distance technology, “I’d be open to that.”