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'Bob' the robot helps students learning remotely at Centennial school

School purchases cameras for synchronous learning
Posted at 6:56 AM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-05 16:50:11-05

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Like so many kids around the country, Jayana Henderson is learning remotely from home this year. But the third-grader at Heritage Heights Academy in Centennial is still able to hear and see everything that goes on in her classroom, thanks to Bob.

“Bob is like a little robot, he will follow the teacher wherever she goes,” Henderson said, describing the classroom’s newest addition.

Bob is what the third graders at Heritage Heights named their Swivl camera. The school purchased the devices for every classroom this year so that teachers could teach their in-person and remote students simultaneously.

The Swivl cameras track teachers as they move around the room and pick up the voices of other students in the class. Teacher Zak Sloan’s 5th grade class has nine students in person and 10 learning remotely.

“(The Swivl) allows me to be free in the classroom and also the kids at home don’t feel so much like they’re just talking to a screen — it feels more interactive,” Sloan said.

Heritage Heights Academy Principal Natalia Miller-Forrest said the school decided to purchase the cameras rather than using an alternate day schedule for students, or offering a separate remote learning option.

"It feels as natural as we can make it, even though 40% of our kids are online and 60% are in school," she said.

The Swivl cameras cost the school $20,000, but Miller-Forrest said in the future they could be used on snow days or if families travel during the school year.

Back at home, Jayana is glad she doesn’t have to miss out on any of the classroom action.

“I still feel like I’m part of the class, every part of it,” she said.

Her mom, Latia Henderson, said Bob the Swivl camera is helping her daughter stay connected, and reducing the need for parental support.

“It’s really great that she has that independence doing her work and that she’s learning to build that relationship with her teacher to get the support she needs,” Henderson said.