William Cain

Robotic Telepresence Beyond the Classroom

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Apr 192016
EPET Students use robots to attend, present at SITE 2016 Annual Conference


A number of students and faculty in EPET recently participated at the Society of Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) Annual Conference in Savannah, Georgia. But not everyone had to travel to Savannah to do it. Instead, a couple of students used a Beam Pro robot (provided by Suitable Technologies and managed by the Design Studio) to present and attend from the comfort of East Lansing.

So, what did they think about the experience?

Presenting via Robots
Sarah Keenan (2nd year EPET student, pictured on the robot above) experienced presenting via robot first-hand when she delivered her talk on aesthetics, coding, and computational thinking alongside co-authors Jon Good and Punya Mishra. She found that presenting remotely was “interesting”, but had a few drawbacks. “It was tricky not being able to see what slide we were on and to gauge what my co-presenter was thinking/reacting to.” For future presentation via robot, she recommended that you “make sure you prep with your co-presenter far in advance… small disruptions are much larger when one of you doesn’t really know what’s going on.”

Attending Presentations from Afar


First year EPET student Ming Lei was also able to make the rounds at SITE as both a presentation participant and an attendee. He was on hand to demonstrate how the robots worked but also took time to meet with other conference goers in the halls. Reflecting on the experience, Ming noted that, “It was nice to meet people I would not have met if I had not gone via robot. When the Internet connection was working, I could hear the presenters just fine, and I could make subtle gestures to other attendees, like a small wave or smile, and we would have a brief moment where we’d ‘connect’.” Ming also noted that some people are  “stationary and are not going to ‘approach you’ [when you are on a robot], so you have to approach them instead”. Ming recommended the use of robots at research conferences because “This allows you to move around and meet people… I presume that makes you feel more projected into the space and like a ‘real person’.”

It is sometimes hard to attend research conferences for a variety of reasons, but robots provide an opportunity for someone to remotely participate when they cannot physically be there. We as the Design Studio team are pleased that we could be a part of using robots to make it possible for people to engage in a rich way with this conference and the people there while it was happening. Physical distance does not have to mean that people cannot be a rich part of an event.

Do you need to do something similar or does this spotlight spark an idea for something you’d like to try? Come see us in the Design Studio (401b Erickson Hall) or contact us at dstudio@msu.edu. We’d love to be a part of what you do!

Robotic Participants in Research Groups: From Cool to Connected

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Jan 182016
Watch how robotic telepresence is transforming Hybrid students’ engagement in educational settings beyond the classroom

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Make no mistake – in terms of synchronous hybrid learning, these are exciting times for EPET and the Design Studio.

Over the past year, members of the Design Studio have worked with faculty and students to explore and understand the impact of robotic telepresence technologies for learning and instruction. Our experiences (see our previous Video Spotlight with Dr. Christine Greenhow) have given us new insights on how to support our Hybrid students with greater presence and autonomy in the classroom. And to be honest, students coming to class on robots is just plain cool! But what about using these technologies outside of class?

In our latest Design Studio Video Spotlight, we continue our look at robotic telepresence in education with an interview with Dr. Punya Mishra and members of the Deep-Play research group. How have robots made an impact beyond the classroom? As doctoral candidate and Deep-Play researcher Rohit Mehta puts it, “It becomes more engaging, you feel more connected, and the funny thing is, when you meet [the Hybrid students] at conferences, you feel you are just continuing the discussion.”

Cool connections, indeed!

Click the image above and watch our latest Video Spotlight to find out more!

Do you need to do something similar or does this spotlight spark an idea for something you’d like to try? Come see us in the Design Studio (401b Erickson Hall) or contact us at dstudio@msu.edu. We’d love to be a part of what you do!

From a Spot on the Wall to a Seat at the Table 

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Jun 022015
Using telepresence devices to bring online and face-to-face students closer

Watch an interview with Chris Greenhow and the students of CEP 901b as they reflect on the use of robotic telepresence devices like the Kubi and the Double in synchronous shared hybrid learning experiences.”That’s what we’re trying to explore here,” Greenhow says, “and I think we’re one of the first that are looking at these technologies in an educational context and asking, ‘What impact are they having on the quality of student learning and engagement?'”

Watch the video below to find out more!

Do you need to do something similar or does this spotlight spark an idea for something you’d like to try? Come see us in the Design Studio (401b Erickson Hall) or contact us at dstudio@msu.edu. We’d love to be a part of what you do!

Virtual Flexibility for Synchronous Hybrid Learning

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Feb 112015

Using telepresence to engage both whole-class and small-group interactions

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Hybrid courses are starting to come in all shapes and sizes in the College of Education and if Dr. Chris Greenhow’s CEP 901b course is any indication, that means innovating the ways in which online and on-campus participants interact.

Spotlight_CEP901bSS2015_whole class Zoom closeup_GreenhowThis semester Chris is teaching a course with 12 students online and 1 student face-to-face. Her interaction strategy for each class mixes large group seminar discussions with small group sessions based on student research teams. The question is, how do Chris and her students move between these two styles of in-class interaction without losing focus on the content of the course (or each other)?

The answer lies in their use of the Zoom videoconferencing platform in the newly created “virtual flex classroom” in Erickson Hall, Room 132. Chris hosts the large seminar discussions on Zoom using the room’s four 80” monitors, allowing her and the face-to-face student see the online participants clearly throughout the room. When it comes time for the students’ research teams to interact in small groups, they leave the main Zoom session to join a series of separate Zoom sessions designated for each group. These smaller Zoom sessions are hosted at student workstation computers located around the classroom. Links on a custom-designed WordPress course website provide quick, easy access to both the main session and the student research team sessions.

Spotlight_CEP901bSS2015_small group and instructor_GreenhowHosting the large and small group Zoom sessions in the virtual flex classroom has significant advantages. Even with most of her students online, Chris can take part in the various student teams by simply walking between stations. This allows her to cognitively sample the quality and direction of student discussions individually or as a whole without having to manage multiple links or disrupt the teams in the middle of discussion and presentation.

Chris is quick to stress that both she and the students are still getting used to the affordances and constraints of teaching a mostly online course in a physical space. “The facilities [in Room 132] help support a lot of the interactions we want to achieve during a single class session but it can still be a challenge to manage all the moving parts. It takes some getting used to but I think the payoffs in terms of students’ learning and professional socialization are really well worth it.”

College of Education Annual Technology Conference – 11/15/14

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Oct 312014

All faculty are invited to attend the College of Education annual technology conference on Saturday, November 15th from 8:30 am – 3:00 pm. Attend all or part of the conference to learn how instructional technology is being used in K-12 classrooms. Teachers, ISD and district technology integrationists, and faculty from peer institutions in lower Michigan are the primary presenters, sharing their experience and success with integrating technology into the classroom in a meaningful and pedagogically sound way. 

Through a continued collaboration between the College of Education, the MSU College of Education Alumni Association and the Master of Arts in Educational Technology Program, the conference will be FREE OF CHARGE to all attendees. Light breakfast items will be available before the keynote.

We are excited that Rebecca Garcia will be the opening keynote. Rebecca is the co-founder of CoderDojo NYC, a non-profit teaching youth to code. In 2013 she was awarded as the U.S. White House ‘Champion of Change’ for Tech Inclusion for her work to bring STEM education to underrepresented groups, especially youth and women. She was the youngest person to receive this award. Currently she is a Developer Evangelist at Squarespace, empowering people to build their ideas on the web. 

Follow this link to register: http://goo.gl/xanCyO 

Thank you for your time and we hope to see you on November 15th!

Testing New Technologies for Synchronous Hybrid Learning

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Oct 292014
Telepresence devices bring online students closer to in-class action

Could “robots” be part of the future of synchronous hybrid learning classrooms? Christine Greenhow and the students of CEP 956 think so. The class – a doctoral course on Mind, Social Media, and Society – recently experimented with devices designed to give online students more control over their in-class visual and interactive experiences.

Kubi1One device – called a Kubi – pairs an iPad with a desk-mounted swivel that is controlled by the online students so they can join in-class discussions like they were sitting at the table. Students using the Kubi have closer proximity to their face-to-face counterparts than when using wall-mounted displays, letting them see and be seen more clearly through a personal portal that they can control. The devices can run on battery power, making it easy to move them between whole-class and small group discussions. Nick Holton and Ginny Hiltz (pictured above) were two of the online participants, tilting and panning the iPads with the Kubi devices as they took part in different discussions around the room.

Double2The other device – called a Double – takes the autonomous telepresence concept one step further by letting users control a rolling motorized iPad mount that can be maneuvered around the room. A bluetooth speaker paired to the iPad allows the students to hear Colin Terry’s contributions to the discussions.

So what did Chris and her students think about their experience with telepresence devices? As Chris wrote to her colleagues later:

“The result was TRANSFORMATIONAL! The hybrid students – who have been with us for 3 years – said it was the BEST CLASS EVER!!! They felt like they were there, in the class. Because they could control the robots remotely, they could actually move their ‘heads’/screens to look at a speaker as we positioned them around the discussion table. Colin, on the ‘Double’ could actually roll around the room – getting into his small group and saying hello to his classmates.  Ginny, an online student present via the Kubi robot, asked if we could each say our names around the room and then, she moved her head/screen to look at each speaker – including the other robots. She said this was the first time she could actually put the name with the face.”

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The CEPSE/COE Design Studio is looking forward to working with Dr. Greenhow and other faculty members as we continue to explore telepresence technologies and concepts.