Homebound Students Receive the Same Instruction as Their Peers

By Betsy Hardy, Distance Learning Coordinator, Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES

Did you get the chance to watch the sitcoms where Phil and Sheldon were able to be in two places at once?

Did you know students in the Cattaraugus Allegany County region can also be in two places at once, enabling them to stay part of classroom instruction from home or while they are in the hospital?

As part of the Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES Distance Learning COSER, two VGo robotic devices are available to reserve for situations when students cannot be in school.   The VGo robotic telepresence solution is currently helping two siblings from Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School stay connected to their teachers, classmates, and instruction.  Emmalee and Patrick are two fun-loving middle school students, who many times throughout the school year can’t physically attend school due to illness.  Instead, Emmalee and Patrick can drive the VGo to every class and receive the same instruction as their peers, and they can even socialize with friends going down the hall.

The VGos were purchased as part of a recent USDA RUS grant that CA BOCES Distance Learning coordinates to help students stay connected to their studies.  In the past, schools had to deliver course material to the student’s home.  Now, the student comes to school via the VGos and engages in the course material firsthand.  All the student needs to participate at home or in the hospital is a laptop or iPad with an Internet connection.

What are the benefits for the students and the parents?  There are many, but let’s learn from Emmalee and Patrick’s mother how the VGo has helped her children stay connected:

  1. What has been the best part of having access to the VGo?  Access to the Vgo allowed my children to receive important class information including discussions, math examples and most importantly a connection to ask the teacher a question and receive a response immediately.  We didn’t have to go through a tutor or emails to ask questions.
  2. How has having access to the VGo impacted Patrick and Emmalee’s ability to keep up with school? It has been very beneficial!  Spending time in class helps them to complete the work with better understanding.  There are definitely things that they still fall behind on because they aren’t feeling up to par, have treatments, etc. that run into class time.  Sometimes it is overwhelming the amount of work expected of a “sick” child whose needs aren’t entirely focused on school.  If the student is healthy enough, or has the time/ability to be in school via VGo, it is definitely an asset for the student! 
  3. How has having access to the VGo impacted Patrick and Emmalee’s moods/attitudes while they are out? Is the social connection helpful?  The social aspect is immeasurable! It definitely raised their spirits!  They both enjoyed being able to “see” their friends and talk to them!  I think the social impact VGo made is more important than the educational impact.
  4. How have their teachers and other students responded to the VGo? The other students have responded positively to having VGo in the classroom.  They are happy to see Patrick and Emmalee and get a chance to interact with VGo . . . it’s like a new toy!  Once the “newness” wears off, it is less distracting to the students.   As a math teacher, I loved it because math is one of those subjects that if you miss a day of instruction, you really get behind!  That was the class that Emmalee really wanted to be sure and attend via VGo! 
  5. Have you had any pushback at all from teachers? Some find it is distracting at first, but when the newness wears off, it is okay.  Some are even positive about it and with it. 

How do teachers benefit from the VGo?

Mr. Kaleta, C-LV middle school teacher, shared the following:

  1. What has been the best part of having access to the VGo?  Interacting with the student who would otherwise be missing school. Sending work/papers (to the student) is one thing, but being able to see how they react to instruction is another.
  2. How has having access to the VGo impacted Patrick and Emmalee’s moods/attitudes while they are out? The other students enjoy seeing and talking to them through the VGo and they (Emalee and Patrick also) seem to enjoy it.
  3. How have their teachers responded to the VGo?  Some teachers like it more than others and some lessons work better than others when using the VGo.
  4. How difficult is it to get the VGo around the school and in place between classes?  No issues.  It’s very easy!

As the Staff Specialist for Distance Learning, I had the opportunity to visit Cattaraugus-Little Valley to see how the teachers and students were adapting to the VGo.  I walked into Mr. Conner’s History class where the VGo was in action, and there was Emmalee’s face, all smiles sitting straight up in her hospital bed learning about Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay.  There could be nothing greater than witnessing a smiling student benefit from Distance Learning technology!  The VGo provides the ability for students to participate in class, collaborate with peers, and socialize as a typical middle school student would.

If you have a student who could benefit from the VGo, please contact CA BOCES Distance Learning at 716-376-8270, and we will deliver the VGo to your school for easy access!