CEDIC: ‘Homebound’ children and their use of technology to reconnect with school

Are you interested in social, ethical, political or legal issues concerning digital citizenship and the digitalization of the public sector?

CEDIC is an Excellent Academic Environment at OsloMet with the mission to produce groundbreaking research, provide training and advancement of mid- and early-stage researchers, and provide a fertile student environment for PhD and MA students. MA students who work on projects for CEDIC will be members of and participate in a multidisciplinary research team.

Research Centre for Digitalisation of Public Services and Citizenship (CEDIC) – OsloMet

Background

The welfare state is undergoing an unprecedented structural transformation with increasing digitization of public services. These technological transformations have the potential to relocate life chances in ways that are likely to be asymmetrical in terms of who are able to benefit from them, raising concerns of access, de-humanization, effectiveness, equity, service provision and precision.

CEDIC aims to produce new knowledge about how the digitalization of public services impact different groups, such as the elderly, ethnic minority groups, persons with disabilities, and claimants and beneficiaries of means-tested social assistance. We combine sociological, psychological, philosophical, technical, legal and human rights perspectives, and are interested in how the provision of digital social services across the different welfare regimes of Europe.

Project description

Recent decades have seen increased interest in ‘homebound’ children, who are unable to attend school because of symptoms, treatments or recovery from illness. In becoming homebound, a child is removed from a social context that constitutes four to six hours of their daily lives. This can lead to both educational and social setbacks, with the child becoming likely to fall behind in instruction, feel isolated from their peers, and experience loneliness and depression.

One promising development for homebound children is the recent advances in communication technologies. A key example is the piloting of telepresence robots in an increasing number of schools. Telepresence robots are video conferencing devices fitted onto remote-controlled robots, allowing homebound children to communicate with peers and navigate a remote environment autonomously.

We invite MA students to explore what telepresence robots and similar technologies can – and cannot – offer students who are homebound for illness-related reasons. Possible projects can include:

  1. Reanalysis of interviews with AV1 users: We have already conducted 160 interviews with homebound children, teachers, healthcare workers and other stakeholders of the telepresence robot AV1. These data are rich in details on various user experiences with AV1 and can easily be used for a qualitative MA thesis.
  2. Different experiences by different groups: One pressing issue is how AV1 (and similar technologies) offers different benefits and challenges for different user groups. For instance, while we know relatively much about how the robot is used by children with cancer or chronic fatigue syndrome, studies have only begun to look at how telepresence robots are used by children who suffer from ‘school avoidance’ (skolevegring) in relation to social anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, or similar disabilities. The few interviews we have done on school avoidance suggests that telepresence robots can be particularly useful for this user group; however, we need more knowledge on exactly how, for whom, and to what extent the robot can be beneficial for these users.
  3. How telepresence technology is regulated: Telepresence robots have yet to be fully recognized by the public services. Their legal status is often unclear, and authorities have yet to decide on how the use of telepresence robots relates to issues such as privacy, rights to participation, etc. Moreover, as telepresence robots have yet to be recognized as part of any formal public support scheme, their use is limited to those individuals who have the funds to acquire one privately (or through charities or similar organizations). We need more knowledge on how such political, legal and bureaucratic issues impact on the use and non-use of telepresence technologies.

Data sources: We can provide access to some of the 160 interviews with users, teachers, healthcare workers and other stakeholders of AV1. We are also interested in students who can gather new material, either through reviewing existing research, studying political documents, or interviewing health- and social care workers. Other suggestions are of course welcome.

Number of students: 1-3 students

Contact persons:

Research assistant Maria Lokna: marialok@oslomet.no

Professor Rune Halvorsen: rune.halvorsen@oslomet.no

Professor Marit Haldar: marit.haldar@oslomet.no

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