Linköpings kommun

Linköpings kommun

25 AV1s help Linköping, Sweden support school absentees with medical and mental health needs

Erik Helmersson is ICT coordinator for years 0-9 at Linköping, a municipality in Sweden. He helps the schools with digitalisation work, and coordinates their project of 25 AV1 robots for absent students.

About the AV1 robot project at Linköping

"We’re a team of four ICT coordinators, with two in primary school. It was my turn to be part of a pilot study which we all take turns on, and it just happened I was on the AV1 pilot study which turned out to be a great and very successful tool. So I’m also coordinating an AV1 team, now in our third year – we started in March 2022. So I am the one coordinating AV1s and taking them into schools to introduce to the staff who are going to use it.

“We have over 70 schools across primary, secondary, and special schools managed by the municipality. A few private schools have borrowed our AV1s through the same system, although we have to limit the number they can borrow based on student population size.”

“In my role, I do  everything from strategic discussions with head teachers, to actually training the teachers when we get a new digital system to work with. At the municipality level, I’m part of working out which systems to use, how to use them and make sure they are GDPR compliant. The best and most fun part of the job is being out in schools.”

Why the municipality first decided to invest in AV1 robots

The ‘digitalisation council’ had heard about AV1 and encouraged Linköping to try it.  The hospital school and a couple of schools in the area had also tried them, although the schools were having some trouble with getting them used.

Erik and his team decided to trial a small number, but very soon saw positive results and over double their fleet to 25:

”We saw immediately that they were really, really useful, so quickly we got a total of 25.”

“I ran a session to introduce it to all the schools. One principal couldn’t attend this meeting due to surgery, so she actually attended through the AV1 I brought with me. This meant that all the others got to see it being used, and she went on to use it for about a month during recovery with no issues whatsoever.

Meeting the demand

“We’ve had about 70 students use AV1 over these 2/2.5 years. Maybe half of the schools have tried it, of course not all uses have been successful and some like it more than others. We’re trying to figure out why the other schools have not tried it yet, we don’t know that yet.

“We usually have most of the AV1s out with a couple of spare. This is the third spring of using AV1 and this allocation has been about the same each year.

“We did a calculation to look at the number of students we could help with AV1. Taking the number who are home 100% of the time, and knowing that half of AV1 interventions were positive, meant that we calculated we could do with 375 AV1s. Unfortunately we don’t have the organisation ability to manage this number, we don’t have the funds, so as of today 25 is perfect for us.”

Working with schools

Erik shared with us how students are identified and approved for an AV1 intervention:

“It is officially the principal’s decision to apply for an AV1 loan. Since I meet with them every other week, they’ll usually just ask me if there is one available. Once I have confirmed that, they will send in a formal application. These applications are almost always accepted, I think we have only ever denied two.

“In the team there is me, a special pedagogy teacher, and a child psychiatrist working with the student health teams, so this is the team that decides whether it is a good intervention for this child. Usually it is, so then I contact the school and we arrange a time for the introduction.

“Depending on the intervention, one of us in the team is responsible for planning the intervention together with the school, following up and checking how it is going. More often these check ins happen early on, but become less frequent once we can see that everything is running smoothly.”

Measuring success

When asked about the reasons for students using AV1, Erik said:

“The biggest group now is students with long-term school absence (emotionally based school avoidance). At the start it was mostly students who were chronically ill, and specially gifted students using it to attend lessons with more senior year groups but still physically stay at their own school. We cannot use it for teaching for this group because we’re not allowed to.

“The reporting of school attendance has to do with the temporary parental allowance that guardians have the right to request from the Social Insurance Agency when they stay at home with their child. If the student is not in the school premises, they must be reported as “absent” even if they participate via AV1. If, however, the student is participating through AV1 while physically in a school organised facility, they can be marked present.

“We usually say it is a step back into school if they need to build confidence, see the teacher, and see what it is like to be in school after having not been there for three years. So it is a step towards being physically present in school.

“That is different for the different use types – a child with long-term sickness is able to use AV1 for a long period from home to take part in classes.

“We had one kid who broke his leg badly and couldn’t get to school, so AV1 was used to make getting back to school easier because he didn’t miss so much education and time with the teacher.”

Defining whether an AV1 intervention has been a success is “very subjective to the teachers.” Erik has spoken to a couple of AV1 users, but usually talks to the school and the school talks to the student.

“It doesn’t have to be more physical school attendance for us to decide it is a positive intervention. We like to talk about a student’s movement towards school. It could be that the teacher feels the student is more positive about school, or closer to school in any way, this is a good thing and seen as a positive intervention. We rely on the teachers to decide this.”

The success rate for each use type

“For problematic school absences, in year one we were at about 60% positive interventions, I think now we are at about 50%, which is still good.

“For physically ill students, that’s much easier as they want to be in school, and success is almost 100%.

“Of the 70 interventions, around half have been for kids with problematic school  absence. So if 50% of them are a success, and they are closer to school because of AV1, that is 25 kids who we are helping to get a better life long term. You can’t really measure how great that is.”

Looking ahead

“I hope and think we’ll continue using AV1 because it is a good thing. I know Uppsala and Gothenburg have got the first ever permits to use distance education. So of course that is something we are following closely to see if that would work for us too. At first I thought the schools would buy their own AV1s, but so far they haven’t and perhaps for that reason it’s good to work at a central level. I think we are going to continue like this. The actual need will be at least the same or maybe more, so I think we’ll continue using AV1 and maybe even more than we are today.

“We’re trying to be very open minded about how we use AV1 and trying new ways to use it because it is a great tool.”

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