Hailey & Lenny: Changing Lives through Double Robotics

Hailey & Lenny: Changing Lives through Double Robotics
Written By: Jen Bertrand & The Coniber Family
Bookbag? Check! Homework? Check! Robot? Um…?
Taking one look into a 5th grade classroom at Wolcott Street School (WSS) you would expect students working, lesson materials, Chromebooks, etc. but what you may not notice right away is the use of Double Robotics. Our very own Le Roy Knight, Hailey Coniber, daughter of Jason and Missy Coniber, has been using a Double Robotics unit, affectionately nicknamed Lenny, to attend school from home for the last three years. It was our WSS principal, Carol Messura, who first heard of Double Robotics and reached out to our local EduTech seeking more information; Director of EduTech, Kelli Eckdahl, has led the way with using Double Robotics in classrooms for students who can not traditionally attend school. Eckdahl shared that health, medical, & anxiety are common reasons students use Double Robotics and that use of the unit, “allows them to maintain their friendships and their social connection.” Currently, there are seven Double Robotics units in use through the Genesee Valley/Wayne-Finger Lakes region,” says Eckdahl. We are so fortunate to utilize this device within our district; Lenny has become the answer for Hailey, allowing her to form friendships with peers, connect with teachers and continue her education despite medical challenges.
Hailey’s Point of View with Double Robotics
Introducing the use of Double Robotics into the classroom the last three years could not have been any easier! Through the use of clear expectations, trial-and-error, loads of patience and of course fun, our students and staff at WSS have taken to Lenny as just another student in the room. “The kids just don’t get hung up about it, they still see the individual not the technology,” mentioned Eckdahl in working with students. Double Robotics has allowed Hailey to be seen. To be heard. To be a friend amongst her peers. To learn, struggle and succeed right alongside other students. To have a full education experience despite struggling medically. “I find instructing a student using Double Robotics technology very rewarding. Seeing Hailey’s smiling face each morning, hearing the love of learning in her voice, and getting to know her bubbly personality makes her an integral part of our classroom,” remarked her classroom teacher, Dorreen Caldwell.  So how does Hailey like going to school using a robot? Take a look for yourself to what she thinks.
I really like working with Lenny. He lets me see my friends and be in a real classroom. Sometimes
it is hard being the kid with cancer, but Lenny let’s me feel like a normal student. I can do centers, switch classes, raise up if I have a question, and even go to specials. When I don’t feel well I can
log off without having to worry. My teachers and friends like to dress Lenny for holidays or special occasions in school. I think it makes the robot feel more like another person. It is funny to go down
the hall and have the other grades point us out! – Hailey
Throughout 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, Hailey’s peers have been a constant support in her life while using Lenny. BlueTooth causing a problem? Audio or visual glitching? Is Lenny doing his famous “dance” because of WiFi issues? You can bet a student is at the ready to troubleshoot. When asking some of her friends about having Lenny in the classroom, one of her peers responded, “I just feel special having Lenny in our class, I feel like the robot is helping other people.” Another student commented, “It’s really cool to know it’s like she’s with us even though she can’t be, because she’s interacting with students and teachers.” Hailey’s classmates enjoy having Lenny as an integral member of their class and see the impact this technology is having for their friend.
Parent Perspective on Double Robotics
“In 2009, Hailey was diagnosed with Stage 4 Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma.  It was soon discovered that cancer had metastasized to her lungs. To date, she has undergone more than 10 lung resection surgeries. She is currently being treated at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, New York, and is in a study group at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Due to weekly clinic appointments and approximately 27 daily doses of medication required to supplement her adrenal insufficiencies, it has become necessary for Hailey to attend school from home. From 2013-2014, Hailey received tutoring from our school district focusing on math and reading for 6 hours a week. She soon started falling behind, as it was hard to cover a whole week’s learning in a few hours. As parents, we were also concerned about the social skills lacking from not being around classmates. Our special education team soon had a suggestion, know as Double Robotics. We were skeptical at first…we were unsure how easy it would be to operate, and of the reaction by other children. Would we be setting Hailey up to bullying?
Having Lenny in the classroom has been a tremendous advantage for Hailey. Not only does she follow the daily curriculum, but it allows for her to work directly with her peers. She very quickly adapted to the maneuvering of the robot and functions for operation from home or inpatient at the hospital. The class acts as if Hailey herself is in the room, and have been extremely helpful when travelling down the hall. Lenny allows for participation in specials such as music and art, the ability to take breaks as needed, and for medications to be administered without interruptions to the class multiple times a day.
We are fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive school district in Le Roy. It truly has taken the community of teachers, tech support, and staff to make Lenny the success he is today. Just like any child, Lenny has his off days and grumpy moments. At times we have had to work independently or use Google Hangouts until he is back up and running, but these interruptions are minimal compared to the other daily challenges a child undergoing treatment often faces. For these reasons we have decided to reach out to others by sharing not only our journey but also how a classroom robot can have such a positive impact during a difficult time.” -Jason & Missy
Hailey’s sister, McKenna, has also been a key player in Hailey’s experience with Double Robotics. The first year of using Lenny, McKenna was tremendously helpful in delivering assignments, homework and all sorts of lesson materials back and forth between school and home for her sister. Three years later we have the help of our wonderful district courier, Randy Boyd to transport materials and McKenna is now a student at our Jr./Sr. High School. In supporting her sister McKenna reflected that,
I think that a robot in the classroom is beneficial to the person using it and the other students
in the classroom. For the student it helps them to be able to sit in a classroom with other people to learn.
They can learn alongside their classmates and ask questions when they need to. The classmates also
benefit since they are able to communicate with the person who is using the robot. I feel like Hailey has
made amazing progress ever since she started using the robot. -McKenna
The Future with Lenny
The Coniber family’s experience with Lenny the last three years has been revolutionary. Hailey is receiving a full education, better yet she is managing friendships and forming connections independently. Hailey will continue to require the use of this technology until medical scans show no evidence of disease for a minimum of five years. Our WSS team is excited to support Hailey in her upcoming transition to 6th grade and then to our Jr./Sr. High School building when she enters 7th grade. Hailey’s math and science teacher, Deb O’Geen, said it best when she stated, “I hope other children, like Miss Hailey Coniber, will be able to benefit from Double Robotics. Nothing in the world beats teaching and watching all children receive and earn an education, including the students who are homebound and are unable to attend school. Double Robotics is the key to their future.” If you would like more information about Double Robotics please review their site or contact your school district to connect with your local EduTech/BOCES. Our hope is that this glimpse into Hailey’s journey with Double Robotics will create numerous positive ripples, impacting and changing student lives for the better.
*Jen Bertrand, Instructional Tech Coach for Le Roy CSD has worked with the Coniber family as well as WSS staff and students supporting the use of Double Robotics; the aim of this article was to capture the voices of those most closely tied to the use of Lenny in a collaborative piece in order open the door of possibility for more students and families. Questions or further information about Double Robotics and the use of Lenny can be directed to Jen’s email at jbertrand@leroycsd.org or Twitter @jbtechcoach.