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Dr. Kevin Smith operates Dewey
Dr. Kevin Smith operates Dewey the new robot in the College of Education at Dakota State University. The operator’s face is shown on the iPad screen.

Robot offers new learning, teaching opportunities at DSU

College of Education, Academics

Dakota State University College of Education has a new team member, Dewey, a robot.

Dewey will assist faculty and students in a variety of ways. Faculty members have already attended meetings remotely, and soon it will enable online students to attend classes on campus.

Dewey was named for the famous learning theorist John Dewey, known for his belief in the importance of learning through experiences, according to Dr. Kevin Smith, assistant professor of mathematics education.

“That’s why we came up with this name, aligning with our heritage mission of education and thinking about how this could change the experience of education in a variety of ways,” Smith said.

The Double Robotics Telepresence Robot has a rolling base with an iPad that operates as the camera, displaying the user on the screen. The person operating the robot can control it from a computer, tablet, or phone.

A forward-facing camera allows the operator to see what is in front of them and the backward facing camera has a mirror that points down, so the operator can see where they are driving, according to Smith. “You just use the arrow keys on the key pad to drive it.”

Smith worked with Dr. Chris Olson, associate professor/program coordinator of information systems, to receive an innovation grant from the office of the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs to pay for the robot.

“This is a perfect example of innovative use of technology,” said Smith. “It’s also really important as we continue to think about how we can provide meaningful experiences for our online students.” 

One of the main reasons Smith was interested in the robot was to make education online courses more interactive. “Next semester I’m going to make this available for all my online students if they ever want to attend a face-to-face class.”

Smith will be able to do this by setting up a guest user for the robot and sending a link to the student. The link would be available for a specific time, for example Monday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The student’s access would end after the allotted time.

There are several other uses Smith plans to implement over time. Dewey will be available for students who may be recovering from an injury or surgery and to observe student teachers in off-site classrooms.

“I’ve also thought about using it for students to observe a master teacher in the classroom,” he said. “We would identify a really good classroom teacher and put this robot in a classroom and observe the teacher as a group. It’s really beneficial for our students to see really good teachers teach.”

All of the faculty in the College of Education will have access to the robot.