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The 2021-2022 school year is coming to an end and it’s time for vacation for millions of students. This year has been marked by the deployment of hundreds of Beam® robots in schools benefiting from the TED-i program launched by the French Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the Digital Education Directorate and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. The first feedbacks are very encouraging and today we would like to share with you the story of Maël, 10 years old, a 5th grade student in Auxy, in Saône-et-Loire.

Telepresence robots arouses incredulity, then enthusiasm

A year ago, Maël needed to use a Beam® telepresence robot in order to attend class, due to a serious illness. For this purpose, the Pedagogical Assistance Service at Home (SAPAD) of the department accompanied his family and his school in the deployment of the device. The teacher’s fears in terms of complexity of use and connectivity were quickly allayed. The device quickly aroused interest and became a great human experience.

In the small village of Auxy, a digital desert with just over 900 inhabitants, the arrival of the robot sounded like a real revolution. The people who believed in the project could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Moreover, the teacher was not very familiar with computer tools. The support of the project, in particular by Mr. Jean-Yves Gaudillière, digital education advisor at the Dijon education authority, made it possible to smoothly integrate the robot into the classroom. The Dijon University Hospital also contributed. Indeed, at first, Maël had a lot of trouble showing himself in front of the other students. The hospital then delivered an educational booklet on Maël’s disease to his family, but also to the teacher. Each day, before Maël’s connection, the teacher read a page from the booklet to the students. In this way, she was able to prepare the children for certain changes, especially physical ones.

"Maël taught me as much as I was able to teach him".

- Maël's teacher

The first time Maël logged in, his twin brother, Noah, also a fifth-grader at Auxy, was chosen as a buddy to record Maël’s answers on the board. Afterwards, all the students raised their fingers to be Maël’s buddy and assist him during class. Beam® has become a real group cohesion tool for the school.

Teacher involvement is key to a successful telepresence experience

According to Maël’s father, the teacher’s role was crucial. Indeed, once her apprehension was over, she fully invested herself in the project. For example, she did not hesitate to stay later in the evening so that the next day’s class could be adapted to Maël. Similarly, the robot was never put aside and Maël could log on whenever he wanted.

Moreover, the teacher made it a point of honour for the children to follow the lessons and progress together, at Maël’s pace. The use of the robot became part of the school’s daily routine: Maël could connect from 20 minutes to 2 hours when he was in the hospital, or spend the whole day with his classmates when he was at home. Noah, his twin brother, also went to class via Beam®. It was the safest way to keep Maël safe from potential germs at school when his immunity was weakened.

Maël’s father is very grateful for the involvement of the teacher and the students, but also for the support of all the villagers of Auxy. Such solidarity and recognition of the path Maël has taken has been a tremendous encouragement to him and his family. Thanks to them and the Beam® robot, Maël has never felt excluded because of his illness. On school trips that Maël could not attend, the teacher never failed to bring back souvenirs for him. For example, she gave him a T-shirt when the class participated in the Saône-et-Loire Games. Throughout the year, she also asked her students to draw pictures for Maël, without forgetting to laminate them so that they could be accepted in a sterile room. Many little touches that make all the difference.

"Thanks to everyone's will and hard work: we did it!"

- Maël's father

Back in pictures on Maël’s surprise visit to his teacher

For this reason, because of her immense devotion, Maël’s father wanted to thank the teacher by surprising her with Maël’s arrival at school on Tuesday, July 5, because “today, she is more than a teacher”. A moment rich in emotion that will undoubtedly mark the big family that the village of Auxy has become, united around this project.

Adopting telepresence, a challenge met for the small village of Auxy

The arrival of the Beam® robot has shown that a rural area is also capable of meeting the challenges of connectivity. Despite the initial uncertainties, the village was able to take on this technological innovation. A great feat allowing Auxy to be on the forefront: “The school was able to adapt and make it an asset.”

The story of Maël and his robot continues…

In September 2022, Maël will enter the 6th grade, in middle school. Mr. Jean-Yves Gaudillière will continue to accompany him in his use of the robot, in order to promote Maël’s inclusion with his new schoolmates.

Thus, the story of Maël and his Beam® robot at school was rich in emotion. The whole Awabot team is proud to have made such a journey of inclusion possible and thanks all the actors involved in this project: Maël and his family, Mr. Jean-Yves Gaudillière, the SAPAD71, the CHU of Dijon, the village of Auxy…

And you, what do you think of telepresence as an educational link between disabled students, their teachers and their classmates? Let’s discuss it on our social networks!
Want more information about inclusive telepresence robots and projects? Want to schedule a demo?

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