Edith-Stein-Gymnasium in München

Edith-Stein-Gymnasium in München

AV1 avatars help absent students at a secondary school in Munich, Germany, to attend classes

Why do a robots reduce the workload of our teachers? Andreas Frölich, 47 years, is headmaster at the Archbishop Edith-Stein-Gymnasium in Munich. We asked him a few questions to learn more about his experience with using two AV1 avatars in his school within the last 2 years

Mr Frölich, from an educational perspective, what do you think are the biggest risks for children and young people who are unable to go to school for a long time due to illness?

I think it's not so much missing out on lessons and having gaps in their subject knowledge, but I think what's missing is actually being integrated into a functioning social structure and simply having contact with their peers. The pandemic has also shown us how important it is to be in dialogue with your own learning group.

How did you find out about the AV1 school robot?

I remember the announcement from the Ministry of Culture, a letter that basically dealt with the issue of home schooling and how to deal with pupils who have been ill for a long time. Attached to the letter from the Ministry of Culture was a brochure that presented the AV1 avatar, with the note that there were other technical providers or solutions. I then went to the No Isolation homepage and was very impressed and also surprised, because it was difficult to imagine what the term avatar meant at first.

What was your first reaction when you heard about the school robot?

On the whole, I was very critical of the school robot model because I thought that at some point we would no longer meet at school and one teacher would soon be standing in front of 20 avatars. And in the end, it will go on and there will only be avatars or holograms or whatever sitting in the teachers' conference (laughs). Today, I have to say that the day-to-day work and the commitment have won me over. All the prejudices and rejection beforehand were completely unfounded. I went from being a critic to being the AV1 avatar's biggest fan.

How did the teaching staff react to the school robot?

Education was also necessary here, but in view of our pupil's dramatic illness, there was also a lot of understanding and support. Especially because we knew that clinics don't necessarily have a hospital school attached to them, so in my opinion, contact via the school robot is irreplaceable, especially for lengthy therapies and treatments. In addition, all of our teachers are convinced that participation in their lessons is an important indicator of learning success in a pupil's career.

How time-consuming was the implementation of AV1, for example the purchase of the avatar, but also the implementation with the teachers and class?

In terms of the forms and everything provided by the manufacturer and the government, it was straightforward. However, we still had to talk to a few parents in a one-to-one meeting, as they were initially unable to distinguish between distance learning during the pandemic and the school robot and thought that the avatar was live streaming for everyone. And, of course, it was also very important to go into the data protection conditions, explain them and show that this transmission has nothing to do with streaming during a pandemic.

How is the school robot embedded in your technical infrastructure?

The school robot was embedded in our WLAN and could therefore always be used in the classroom. The great thing about it is that it works independently of the school infrastructure with a SIM card. So it was also in the schoolyard during the breaks. You can immediately see the difference to streaming: even lessons outside in the school garden or an outdoor reading lesson were possible.

What do you think are the biggest advantages that the school robot offers you and your school?

For me, the biggest advantages are the trouble-free verbal communication, so that you can speak in small groups as well as contribute your words in class. Digital communication works very well, for example via this nice variant with the eyes or when the head moves. It's a bit cute, of course, because the "little mate" does what it says or is remote-controlled. You couldn't guarantee this direct interaction with a normal tablet that we set up in the classroom.

What was your favourite experience with the school robot?

My favourite experience was when the pupils who were responsible for it picked up the little guy - I can't even remember the name they gave the school robot - in the morning, tucked him under their arm and walked him into the classroom. That showed that people can apparently accept machines when important support measures are carried out by robots.

What would you say to colleagues and teachers who are reluctant to use a school robot at their school?

I would like to point out the advantages of this 1-to-1 communication and data protection-compliant solution. For example, a screenshot on the sick pupil's end device immediately leads to an immediate interruption of the communication channel and I am not aware of any system, either for screenshots on the computer at home or with any other tool, where such unauthorised recordings, which the teachers do not want and which are also not permitted, can be prevented. In this respect, you can use the AV1 avatar with much more peace of mind.

Why should school authorities finance the school robot?

Because it is a technical support measure that we owe to our patients. Being affected alone is not enough. Illness is not self-chosen, is not self-responsible and can affect any of us. And I believe that this should not be a financial issue. We have to be there for those who are struggling with a serious illness and enable them to connect with the school community. And that is of course particularly important to us as a church school, which is why our church sponsor has also supported us.
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