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Can technology be a obstacle in education - WM Talks

If you're interested in education, technology, and above all, technology in education, I invite you to check out our latest episode of WM Talks, where we talked with Dominik Koziarski - CEO of Little Bit Academy.

Hello Dominik, today I would like to talk to you about technology in education. The pandemic has shown us that remote learning, as well as activities outside of school, represent a significant opportunity for companies operating in the EdTech industry. Tell me, how did it start for you at Little Bit Academy?

We, above all, started earlier, before the pandemic - in 2017. And it began when a doctor from the University of Reykjavik, with whom we still cooperate to this day on educational programs, came to the company I was working at. He was involved in CSR and restructuring business models. Through discussions, it became clear that education needed to be supported with various solutions. I was sufficiently mentally supported to create Little Bit. A year passed, from the moment the idea took root, until we prepared our first pilot. And in 2017, we launched our activities.

We all see that the EdTech sector is continuously developing. Estimates say that by 2027 it will be worth 233 billion dollars. What do you think this is due to? What causes such rapid growth of this market?

Indeed, that is the case, because, generally, all the reports created so far regarding EdTech take the pandemic into account. And it's clear that during the pandemic, we had to look for new solutions. The pandemic pushed us towards digital solutions and remote education. The current situation in the industry has somewhat leveled these human tendencies and concentration only on online classes. Hybrid solutions are being introduced and a range of other solutions, which now also touch on artificial intelligence. We will certainly return to this topic. However, this market is large, there is a need to support and change education. It's obvious where it stems from - I think everyone sees that. And in our activity, we include, apart from our daily work, in the form of conducting remote and on-site classes for children, our own proprietary solutions, which we try to convey to schools, meeting the needs of teachers, students, and parents.

Here is a vast field of opportunity for companies. However, it is not the case that someone simply decides - okay, we've had a pandemic, let's enter into technology in education. Experience, knowledge of this industry and its needs are extremely important here. In education, above all, solutions that are smartly geared towards developing passion in children, or - transferring specific knowledge to them are adopted. How this is done is already know-how, which often comes from experience.

In your work, you focus mainly on children, teaching them creativity, unconventional thinking. Do you think every child has a predisposition to learn these types of behaviors?

Definitely yes. And these are some of the core values we use at Little Bit Academy, namely the belief that we are able to discover certain passions in these children. It's not the case that we're going to make a programmer out of every child, as some say. This isn't a 'child project' where we try to program their future. Our classes and our approach are designed in such a way that we're able to create a space for children where, for example, we simulate a game studio. We teach kids programming, design, sound, but also, above all, teamwork skills. These are soft skills that are turbo important. Look, today everything is changing very quickly. Certain technologies, including artificial intelligence, can take a lot of space when it comes to changing approaches to certain solutions. Among other things, there is a discussion about whether programming will be so necessary for us, given that we are able to write a few prompts to Chat GPT and it will generate some specific code for us. But already how we will do this first, what use we will make of it and how we will want to use it, that is a matter that is present in our classes and in our program.

This is something that slumbers in every child - a desire to do something, and we just need to discover it, give these children a bit of faith in themselves. We explain what programming looks like, they learn complex programming languages, sometimes already at a university level. This is quite a professional level. However, it's not for everyone and not everyone fits into this. It's not like every child is now suited for programming. We are different, children have different predispositions. However, we show them that new technologies can be used basically in various fields and it's simply worth knowing this. You don't have to be a programmer or an engineer right away, you can be a biologist and just understand what's happening and use these new technologies in your field.

Sure, these new technologies often interest kids. I also know that you participated in a project related to drones, which must surely be fascinating for kids. Could you tell us a little more about it?

Sure! This is exactly the theme of introducing these activities into schools. We created a project called "Drones in Education". This is a project named "Flying with Class". It involves introducing educational drones into schools, which can be programmed, which are safe and won't do any harm. We created our own scenario for this, which helps to alleviate some of the burden on teachers, which is very important today. Because, okay, we introduce drones that teach safety. We introduce drones that can be programmed. We introduce drones whose program presents future professions - we talk a lot about this. You are able, already in the seventh, eighth grade or the first year of high school, because it is targeted at such a group, to consider that, aha - okay, so I can generally go in this direction, deal with aeronautical robotics, or I can be a drone operator, who, for example, reforests different areas. There is a lot of this, in these scenarios, the whole range of what can be done is presented.

However, we must remember how today, at least in our local market, teachers have a lot on their minds. I think you also know perfectly well what today's education looks like and how much children simply have to do, they have such heavy bags that today they even need those bags with wheels. Sometimes I rub my eyes in astonishment that a child is able to endure so much. Then there is the teacher, who has to handle all of this. Therefore, when designing a solution and talking about EdTech, it is worth considering their needs. The solution itself, the technology - okay, but it will always be grounded in some specific realities and capabilities. One should simply consider not to give teachers too many things to do. And this program works - we are already training teachers, they receive certificates that enable them, of course, to conduct classes with educational drones. And yes, step by step, we get very good feedback that this is the right direction.

Agnieszka Giemza and Dominik Koziarski

Since we are on the subject of education in Poland, tell me, do you see any one main barrier that is currently blocking the introduction of new solutions, new technologies into schools?

You know, one of the barriers is always finances. This is something that in this case is extremely important because even though someone wants to, I see that schools are struggling - okay, how can we manage these funds. There are various programs that allow for the subsidizing of these solutions. It can be figured out, but the barrier, for example, related to the fact that someone simply physically cannot handle certain topics, is already difficult to overcome. It's about the fact that we have teachers and solutions that are very popular - for example, 3D printers. And these printers, in some schools, I don't want to say in most, but in many, just stand and gather dust. And literally. This is due to the fact that, fine, there is a solution, everyone is excited, it is necessary and even essential. But, how to use it, how to take advantage of it? There are, of course, programs that allow this. However, later it closes off.

We should use these tools in such a way as to focus on projects, that is, creating various solutions that change, experiment. And here there should be precisely the solution that is introduced, simplified. The whole functionality around it should be extremely understandable and trained by teachers. So this is a barrier that sometimes blocks certain solutions. Talking also about software solutions, sometimes it bounces off the current equipment in schools. That is, for example, the condition of existing computers, which sometimes do not support basic programs, because they are, for example, outdated. This happens in few, fortunately, schools now. I don't know if you know, but in many schools sometimes there is no Internet, it is not used during lessons, which is simply some kind of abstraction. Sometimes it is so that computer science, unfortunately, looks in such a way that hocus-pocus - handle some Excel, Word. This has nothing to do with today's challenges that we face. It can sometimes be so that the school, for example, even wants to do something good, buys that solution, because someone sold it to them, even pressed it, but it is not compatible with the equipment, which is, for example, in the school. Someone buys a solution that is for Windows, but not necessarily for a Chromebook and that money, unfortunately, is thrown away. There are several of these barriers - financial, teacher workload, and the way to use these things, incorporate them into lessons.

I agree with you. I have a school-aged son myself and I am constantly aware of what it looks like. There is equipment, there is something new, and the kids don't even have the opportunity to use it, because there is no one with the competencies to explain it to them and introduce them to the world of technology properly.

And this can be done because we are able to shift some problem-solving even to older children. And this fits exactly into the issues related to the program, because after all, we need to teach children some specific skills, some abilities. I think a lot depends on the way these solutions are created and designed.

In today's world, children come into contact with new technologies, phones, the Internet, and consoles from an early age. From your experience, can you specify an age at which a child should have their first contact with these types of technologies?

We see, and you probably see it too, that two-year-old children are able to navigate YouTube on their mom's phone or tablet. Here we start very early. The youngest generations are in contact with technology practically from the first years of life. Everything indicates that this is not entirely good. There are various trends, there are different opinions, these are things that often depend on common sense. Technology can be used in a moderate way from an early age, but not for, for example, several hours a day spent in such a passive, consumer way in front of a screen. However, if we are talking about a specific age, I think it is the age of eight.

It's not that at the age of four, five, six years, we will now be accepting programming classes, for example. I believe that this is a time when we should be going out to meet people as much as possible. And, of course, for today's generations, the virtual world is also a normal world. It's not something that seems unknown to us now. No - it's just a normal form. However, it's very important to use it sensibly. If we already use new technologies, screen time, because it eventually comes down to this, we try to limit it and also choose, which is very important, and what parents sometimes don't know - the solutions that are used.

Most often these are games and some forms of animation - cartoons or videos. And here it is also worth paying attention to what you use. It is worth using smart educational games and selecting them, and at the same time - not to exaggerate, because some games even help in development - they improve logical thinking, problem-solving, or color recognition. I think you just have to have, simply, common sense. Of course, I understand all the parents who, for example, can't afford to do their duties because there is a child who requires full attention and sometimes the tablet is given to it so that it can occupy itself. I understand that and in this case, it would be worth it if the solutions that children are already using were thoughtful. It's worth checking out, googling a certain topic, limiting screen time in the settings of phones or tablets and consoles.

Yes, and I also think that you shouldn't leave a child alone with a phone for X hours because it always ends badly.

Especially with a credit card attached.

That for sure too. What can children receive from you who are educated at Little Bit Academy? What knowledge can they gain and how can they use it in the future?

We have, in fact, several directions. We already call them directions because we have dedicated a lot of work to ensure that our programs contain, first: current knowledge, and secondly, an important, from our point of view, approach to children. I would start with soft skills, which means what they shape, how they communicate with each other, and for example, create projects. See - technology will change, some programming languages will fall out, for example, it will be reduced to a niche. Many different things or factors can simply change our functioning. This is happening today and it is happening quickly. Therefore, so-called cognitive flexibility is very important. So that these kids were able to adapt. And this is a skill that is strongly considered by all HR specialists and the HR industry when it comes to forecasting. As much as you can actually predict anything here. Secondly, we try to convey to these children the ability to express and come up with their own ideas. Not only to come up with them but also to be able to communicate with them. Which sometimes does not happen, even I would say that sometimes it is so that when we ask children what empathy is, it used to be that out of seventeen people, one raised their hand and asked if it was the empathization of women? Total abstraction. These are such fundamental things that we should already be talking about in school, if by some miracle it's missing at home, to discuss.

With us, it looks like this, that in the program we use, for example, design thinking methods. It's all such a creation of a project. We don't have dry knowledge, on the principle of: ok, you're now learning a programming language, e.g. Python or C Sharp. And now, what to do with it? Nothing. We leave you with that. The point is that you learn it to later create your own project. And creating it, you empathize with the user who will be on the other side. We explain that there is a person behind every technology. All this should be done in such a way that good solutions take human needs into account. And these are, among others, these are the things, these values, and skills that we convey, when it comes to creating and working on these projects. Not to mention communication, where a programmer with a graphic designer must somehow communicate and convey a problem or ask for something specifically. There is also a bit of assertiveness in it.

Focusing now specifically on such merit, just programming skills and teaching programming have a positive effect on many aspects, namely, critical and logical thinking. It is important today to make mistakes. We have an education system where only some key answers are assessed. And every mistake is somewhat stigmatized. However, we learn from mistakes. Sometimes, through a mistake, we are able to come up with some ideas. And here we say exactly that failure is just your friend who will always be there, because there will always be some failures. It's important what lesson is learned from it. And this is very common in programming, that mistakes are made and it is a normal thing. Not to mention learning design, for example, designing something and, first, getting to know the tool, how it's done. And secondly, how to design so that someone understands what you mean or. what you want to express in some way. We combine all this together, a lot of work is put into these programs and a lot of experience to make it all work.

So, to sum up, even if such a child does not become a prominent programmer, they will actually use these skills in any field of life. And in every profession they choose for the future.

That's right. They may also often have to work with programmers - they will then have an entirely different perception, a different way of communicating.

LittleBitAcademy

We've already mentioned Chat GPT earlier. Aside from all the controversies that have arisen on this subject, tell me, do you think this tool can be used in some way in education?

Yes, and we are even working on it. Here I can reveal that, as far as our needs are concerned, we want to teach children programming. And it's nice later when they can use this programming in the specific projects we want to do with them. These are games or IoT solutions. In all this, we try to make the kids think about how this solution can positively impact the world. These are, for example, games about smog, about the problem of intolerance, various things. Now we will be entering into IoT systems, where the kids will make sensors for greenhouses - they have workshops, small and micro-farms, and will see how they can manage there. And Chat GPT and LML languages are supposed to help us - we want to create an AI Tutor that will be at the child's fingertips at any time and will communicate with the child in the appropriate language. We want to simply understand these things, through repetition, through the right approach because programming language is a constant. Of course, to some extent, it evolves, but it is concrete knowledge. You can go through it with artificial intelligence, and then take advantage of a mentor's support. We use this knowledge in specific projects and start to cooperate, interact with people.

Artificial intelligence today, especially Chat GPT, has the potential to change current solutions when it comes to education. Especially at universities and generally in higher education. It looks like this: today, Chat GPT is able to review even a master's thesis, so we reach the point where the student writes the work using Chat GPT, and the university reviews it, also with its help. Therefore, most likely, as it turns out from various conversations, discussions, and dialogues between universities, they will change in such a way that they will be more focused on creating various kinds of projects. Using specific knowledge, with the use of artificial intelligence, to actually create some changes. And universities can create micro-teams that simply create new solutions, and your task will not be writing a master's thesis. Your task will be to create some specific solution, project, some thought, depending on what kind of school it is.

To summarize, because we have already started talking about your plans, your ideas, about how the sector will develop in general. Do you have any more vision of how the EdTech sector will develop in the coming years?

Today it is very difficult to assess. All forecasts are needed because we feel better entering the future with some plan, a specific vision, and we feel safer. We don't like uncertainty, so we forecast. As for EdTech and solutions, certainly a lot of them will be created based on artificial intelligence. I think I should say something important here that has not been said. Sometimes, this education is not attractive to various teams that deal with technologies. It seems to me that this results from a lack of appropriate funding, that there is some great barrier, where there is no entry. These are schools, it's all stiff and hermetic, whereas if you want, you can start introducing certain things from the bottom up. It's good for small teams.

Currently, we are dealing with large companies, such as Google or Microsoft, which are very strongly entering into educational topics. Google has its first projects, which it is already using in public schools. Google Classroom, solutions that are able to suck around this one platform. And large corporations see this need, they see that new technologies must be present in schools, this also has its dimension. Behind this goes a series of various smaller, or larger, teams and companies that also try to introduce these solutions to schools. Many are similar, many are, sometimes, unnecessary. However, it has to happen - this market always needs new solutions and this will be needed. It will be difficult to determine its specific value. Whether it will focus around a few entities, where large corporations will try to stick everything together, or these will be proprietary solutions of smaller companies.

An interesting example is, for example, the company Librus from Katowice. Just as we once had a journal, a diary, now it is on Librus, it's already a brand name. Just as sometimes you say a Karcher from Bosch or Adidas from Puma. On that principle. So, speaking of the market, there is a lot to be done, we will still try to draw in educational games. This is a very important topic, next to drones and AI Tutor. This is something that is currently largely talked about by the European Union. It's starting to clarify and it's already to some extent. Of course, sometimes these are poor executions. However, when people who typically sit in game development and games begin to combine forces with all these educators, with education, with educators, then very cool solutions will emerge that will enable lessons to be conducted without, largely, the need to use a teacher. And again, he would have to know some specific technologies inside out, he would have to know what is there, what is the topic in that game. Kids have quests, they have tasks to figure out and simply solve problems themselves, learning the knowledge along the way.

Webmakers crew with Dominik Koziarski

Dominik, thank you very much for this fruitful conversation. I think it's a handful of very important information for all of us. I keep my fingers crossed for your further development, I firmly believe in it. I think our kids need this step in education so that they can develop better and better. I wish you success.

It was very nice, I thank you very much for all this and also to you.

See you.

See you.

edtech industryEdTechtools for educatorsWM TalksLittle Bit Academyeducationtechnology in the EdTech industrytechnologyprogress monitoring in learning
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