Deploying ‘Kenny the Robot’ to Make Remote Connections

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

You never know when you might need a little help from a… robot? CC is known for its small class sizes and strong connections between professors and students. However, there are occasionally times when someone can’t physically make it to class. Associate Professor of History Jane Murphy called on Kenny the Robot in this exact situation when Maddie Bodell ’20 couldn’t make it to one day of Murphy’s History of Medicine class during Block 6.

Kenny is an iPad attached to a wheeled, mobile base that can be remotely controlled and maneuvered by the user. Users are also able to control Kenny’s line of sight. Kenny’s ability to be remotely controlled was particularly handy when Bodell couldn’t be in the classroom for an integral day of Murphy’s class. For this course especially, the classroom community and participation were important. Murphy says, “writing intensive classes are capped at 12 students and we exchange drafts of work throughout the block… You need to trust people to share your writing drafts with them — that participation in a process is a large part of the work we all do.”

On the day Bodell had to miss, Murphy had arranged to Skype in with Nancy Bristow, CC history alumna and professor of history at the University of Puget Sound, who authored “American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.” The discussion about Bristow’s research and the students’ research “was our final element of the course and not something I could make up later,” Murphy adds. Via Kenny, Bodell was able to engage in the discussion with Bristow and her classmates.

“Kenny enhanced my learning experience by allowing me to participate in a class discussion in a more natural way when I couldn’t physically be present. It was fun having more of a presence than just a computer screen,” Bodell explains. Additionally, the day she missed was the day of the “bomb cyclone” spring blizzard right before Spring Break, and she was able to direct Kenny to the window to see the storm. “I could move him around since he was on wheels and I could use my computer keys to control his movement. He’s actually pretty fast,” she adds.

Murphy says, “We are fortunate to do most of our teaching face-to-face, in a context in which we have gotten to know and trust one another.” She says she sees Kenny’s potential to enable further classroom participation when a student cannot be in class.

Contact the ITS Solutions Center if you have an opportunity to use Kenny in your class: (719) 389-6449.