Outside of conferences like Educause, or trade expos like CES, instructors don’t have many dedicated opportunities to interact with different technologies designed for (or leveraged by) educators. OSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning sought to remedy that in its first-ever session with an exclusive focus on Ed Tech, hosted by Cub Kahn and me.
The highlight of our session was a telepresence device by Double Robotics. If you can imagine an iPad running Skype or FaceTime, mounted on a tiny, remote-controlled Segway, you’re close to getting the idea behind Double.
“While roving with my Double, Mark IV, I am continually surprised by the reactions from people I encounter,” says Mark Dinsmore, from OSU’s Technology Across the Curriculum (TAC) program. TAC purchased the Double in November. “Usual reactions range from, ‘Ewww, creepy’ to ‘That’s fantastic. Is your last name Jetson?’ Functionally, using the Mark IV allows me to be at my desk while visiting with colleagues down the hall or in The [Faculty Collaboration] Zone, sharing in a brainstorming session. Using the Mark IV brings a new dimension to collaboration for me.”
In December, the TAC director, Jon Dorbolo, brought the Mark IV for a faculty visit to the OSU Cascades Campus, while Dinsmore piloted it remotely, from more than 100 miles away. “Realignment of space/time creates opportunities for relationship,” says Dorbolo. “The potentials of human interaction have always transcended conventional limits. When the work-space and learning-space is anyplace, we accomplish so much more.”
Dinsmore visited two of the conference rooms and chatted with passersby in the hallway. The Mark IV can use both of the iPad cameras, one to look forward and interact with people and the surroundings, the other to look down (via a mirror) and see the local terrain. With the head retracted, its top speed is approximately 1 mph. “I felt like I was piloting Curiosity [the Mars rover]… Had to be careful of wireless coverage,” Dinsmore recalls. “I did manage at one point to open the main doors using the handicap access button, but did not dare to venture outside… Unfortunately, I was unable to sample the pastries and refreshments.”
Along with the Mark IV demonstration, our session discussed some of the technologies highlighted in the Educause 2013 and 2014 Horizon Reports, and how they have influenced instructors and classes here at OSU.