Making inclusive society and more so inclusive schools is a continuous process. It has been seen that many a times students with special needs often compromise on their academic aspirations if the campuses are not disabled friendly. For students with learning disabilities like autism and dyslexia traditional method of learning is not suitable and they find themselves far behind their peers. With teacher shortages and funding cuts, educators struggle to meet the needs of a differently abled student.
Schools with limited funds can use technology to help these students and costs involved are not high. Telepresence robots is one such technology which is ideal for those who are unable to physically attend school. Per Morten Jacobsen, an award-winning robotic craftsman and technology scout explained that a telepresence robot is like a FaceTime connection on wheels,. It is a wi-fi enabled iPad or tablet over two wheels controlled through a controller or a smartphone.
It has made students who cannot physically attend school not miss out on classes or social activities. The robot can be navigated through the class. This is a big psychological boost for such students. All a student needs to do is install a piece of software which shall turn on the robot. He will then be able to see and hear everything that is going on in the class and they too, in return can see him. The robot has its own wi-fi hotspot so it can be enabled anywhere the student wishes to take.
Alternatively live streaming on YouTube can be done by just installing a 360 camera. The student can watch everything sitting at home. This option will although give a wider view but not the option of moving it around like a telepresence robot.
For students with learning disability like autism. In Qatar, a robot named Keepon has now become a best friend to a three year old autistic girl. This assistive robot has been designed as an interactive yellow snowman without a mouth or eyebrows. According to bio-roboticist Dr John-john Cabibihan, since the robot is less complex in its appearance, nonverbal behavior and movements than humans; autistic children are attracted towards it making it an entry point for a therapist to introduce the behavior the child needs to learn.
In Singapore interactive education system has been adopted to assist students with moderate to severe intellectual disability. i-Tile learning activities incorporates purposeful movement, game like elements and a responsive audio-visual feedback to increase and sustain student engagement.
There is no doubt that worldwide creating a conducive learning environment for students with special needs is a challenge but technology can help bridge the gap.
Source: Study International