AI in Education, Technology in education, eSports in secondary education with Ben Greenup, Director of Technology of Brisbane Boys’ College
In Episode 017 of REDD’s Business and Technology Podcast, our hosts Jackson Barnes (Head of Business Development – REDD) and Brad Ferris (CEO – REDD) interview Ben Greenup (Director of Technology, Brisbane Boys’ College). Ben has over a decade of experience in managing & supporting complex school IT environments.
We discuss ChatGPT and other AI in Education, the evolution of technology in Education, Cyber security for Education, eSports in High schools and more. It was great to get insights from Ben on how technology innovation is changing teaching and education in 2023.
Recorded Thursday, 19th of December 2023
00:00 – Intro
00:21 – Show Intro
00:49 – Benjamin Intro
02:34 – Benjamin Career History
08:57 – How did COVID-19 change technology and education
10:29 – Leadership team responding to remote working during COVID-19
15:13 – AI in school (ChatGPT)
16:38 – Good and the bad out of ChatGPT in Education
17:50 – Software to detect plagiarism – Similarity Checker in school
18:37 – Using ChatGPT to write malware
19:05 – Using the AI from the teacher’s side
20:17 – Teaching AI in schools
20:45 – Learning to code is not the same as learning to be a programmer
21:35 – How we are preparing the next generation for a world with technology
22:48 – What did IT look like 10 years ago
23:55 – Technology in the classroom
26:02 – Selecting the right technology partners
27:08 – Choosing the right laptop in school
32:07 – Challenges of being an IT head in the Brisbane area
32:51 – Advice for other IT schools around cybersecurity
34:30 – MFA usage
35:44 – Gaming and E-sports in school nowadays
39:53 – Future of E-sports in schools
41:23 – VR headsets in school
43:28 – Future of technology in 10-15 years
46:17 – Close
If you would like to discuss any of the topics discussed in this episode further with a REDD expert or if you would like to be a guest on the show, please get in touch either via our website or through any of the links below.
Thanks for watching!
REDD is a Technology Success Partner business headquartered in Brisbane, Australia. The Business and Technology podcast focuses on the commercial application of digital technologies in business. Guests will include industry experts, vendors, customers, business owners and anyone with unique insight to share. We discuss and explore current events, issues and stories relevant to business leaders, entrepreneurs, technologists and everyone in between.
REDD is a leading provider of the following services
- Digital Advisory Consulting
- Managed Technology
- Cloud Computing
- Cyber Security
- Unified Communications
We believe, in the not so distant future, that people will not only deserve, but demand greater access to frictionless tools and systems that enhance and uplift their lives. Technology can create a truly blended lifestyle between work and play that prioritises mental health and wellbeing for our people, while increasing efficiencies and the effectiveness of emerging technologies in the workplace. We believe the future of work is built on perfectly balanced and curated tech stacks that seamlessly interface with the people they are built for. And it’s that future we’re building toward.
You can read the full transcript below:
– Hello, and welcome to Redd’s Business and Technology Podcast. I’m your host, Jackson Barnes, and I’m your co-host, Brad Ferris. And today we’re sitting down with Ben Greenup, who’s the Director of Technology at Brisbane Boys’ College. We’re discussing today, everything around the future of technology and education, touching on a bit of AI, ChatGPT, cybersecurity, and selecting the right partners in the role. Ben, I really appreciate you coming in. Did you want to start with your background before, and how you got into education and technology.
– Thank you, Jackson. Hey, Brad, How are we doing?
– Very good, thank you.
– So, I suppose my history in teaching has been a lifelong journey. I’ve been a teacher for a while, but I suppose teaching and learning has been a focus of mine throughout my schooling, and then through University. So, I suppose worked both in Technology to start with, but-
– Did you study Technology at Uni or teaching?
– I did. So, first I did Multimedia at Uni, and that really got me interested in this thing called eLearning. And at the time, I suppose there wasn’t any, there was no YouTube, this is before video on the internet. This was learning was done through a very simple website, and you’d click through and that sort of thing. I was like, this could be really useful. This just needs a bit of wait for the technology to catch up to the ideas. And then, sure enough, as I was graduating my undergrad YouTube’s hitting the stream and teachers are starting to use that. So, then I thought, okay, we could do a lot of what a teacher does online with a computer. We could really help this. And I suppose if I’m going to make changes in this industry, I should probably learn how to teach myself. So, went and did the post-grad in Education, became a teacher and sort of thought, “Okay, now I can experience what a teacher’s job is, what a teacher does, and couple that with my technology understanding, and, yeah, just really make the best of both worlds,” and…
– Yep, makes a lot of sense. So, what was the, so you went and studied that, and then did it post in Education there. Did you start as a teacher or did you start straight into like IT Manager Schools?
– No, I started in IT Support at a school.
– There was all two of us in the IT Department back then. And you think back to the days when, yeah, you’d have 1,500 students and two IT guys that somehow managed the whole thing, that was a world ago. So, I was the tech at a school for a while, while I was studying Education, so-
– Ah, right, yep.
– Then I used those inroads to teach, so.
– So, when you finished teaching degree, then you went and taught straight after that?
– Yeah, so I did some teaching practice, so how to crack out in the country to teach in remote schools, and-
– Oh, where’d you go?
– I was at West near Murrumburrah-
– Oh, yeah, near my Murrumburrah wasn’t it?
– Yeah, your old stomping grounds.
– So, that was an experience for a city boy to go up there and-
– Then came back to Brisbane, and started teaching a few schools, and they, the jobs of like a multimedia technician at a school sort of interested me. So, I went back into that side of the job and from there I was an AV-Technician at a school.
– And that was great. I was just enjoying, you know, the school life, school routine, that sort of thing. And then, I kept getting asked to do more and more things. It was like, “Oh, hang on, you’re a teacher, right? Well, how about you take this class?” And, “Oh, hang on, you’re pretty good with those computer things, how about you’re doing more and more with them?” And then, a few years in, tap on the shoulder, “Oh, we want you running the IT Department now.” I was like, “Okay.”
– Yeah, right.
– Take on each role as they come and keep going.
– Yep, and what school-
– So, that was St. Rita’s College.
– Oh, St. Rita’s.
– Yeah, for about a decade.
– So, all my formative years in my thirties was St. Rita’s College.
– Awesome School.
– Starting as AV-Tech and then doing some teaching, and then running the IT at ST. Rita’s. And then, now what are you doing?
– So, now I’ve moved over to Brisbane Boys’ College where I’m the Director of Technology Services. Ironically, I started at BBC as an IT Integrator back into the eLearning side of things. And then, a few weeks into that job got tapped on the shoulder again and said, “Hey, how about IT Directing again?” So, here I am once more.
– Yep, and you’re still teaching today as well though, right, you’re not just doing the Director Technology, you’re also teaching still?
– Yeah, I still keep my hand in it to keep those skills up to date and really, I suppose the cold front of a classroom, being involved in the classroom is just instrumental. I’ll learn in a few minutes what the kids are doing, what the teachers are trying to achieve, and then, be able to target a technology solution to solve that. Got all of that done in a matter of minutes. That would take ages if you weren’t involved firsthand.
– Nigel and I, still have a memory of being in, I guess whatever it was called, computer class. We would’ve been in grade seven or eight in BBC, and it was near the Chapel Hall, I remember that. And it was the dot matrix green screens, I can’t remember what it’s called. Nigel will be able to tell you all the tech specs, but had the, you know, the paper reels that were that long and had the letters on the end, yeah, I remember those, ’cause Nigel’s really good.
– Was that below the Chapel?
– Yeah, below the Chapel.
– All right, oh, I found that, that’s a staff room, that area and I was digging through the back of it to find the racks and things and I’m like, what this used to be-
– A lab setup.
– It was, no, so, I mean, I haven’t seen an IT classroom in a High School, I guess, literally since I was in high school. So, it’d be interesting to contrast, it with what it was when I was there 25 years ago or so.
– Yeah, ’cause everyone has their own devices now. When I was in high school, we didn’t have their own laptop. It was just like computer labs you would go to. But now, it’s, you know, from an early age.
– One of the things I was saying, I was in the boarding house at BBC until 1995, I was in grade 10. Then I went, I’m originally from Canada, I went back to Canada, and I went to a boarding school in Canada. And it was amazing just on the tech, so I was always into tech. And you’d go from those computers that I’d just described to, they had a LAN network if you, I had a DX-75 megahertz processor laptop with like eight megabytes of ram. And I was like, oh, this is amazing. And you could have it in your room. They had like a LAN that you could plug it in, so you get on the internet in your room. I was like, wow, this is amazing. So, I’m sure it’s a bit different now.
– Is that when you were editing DJ tracks?
– That was the beginning, man.
– That’s where it all started.
– Well, it actually was because there was a bit of software that my uncle worked, which is now Logic on, Mac Apple bought it, but he used to call it Emagic MIDI Notator, I think it was called, so he didn’t have digital audio, you just had MIDI. So, my uncle worked for Emagic before Apple bought them. And he would always give me the copies of the program. And I remember, I think that was the Logic Audio came out, I want to say ’97, and that was unbelievable because I was a guitar player as well. And then, you had digital signal processing, you could go into your computer, you could add effects, and it was just like, oh, my God, this is amazing, so.
– It was a game-changer.
– It’s been fun to watch the, I suppose the transition of technology over time like you’re saying that your, the computer labs when you were at school. Well, that’s when I started in IT at a school and it was a lab, and then we were starting the first rollout of laptops, and the first go at wireless in the classrooms. And then, all the questions that we still don’t answer quite well of like, “How are we going to keep these things charged? Now, where are we going to store these things when they’re not using, are the kids just going to keep playing games on them?” Like all these Double questions, they haven’t changed in 15, 20 years, yeah.
– Graphics have just gotten better.
– [Ben] Yeah, that’s it.
– Smaller devices I guess as well, but that’s quite funny. So, really looking forward to getting some insights out of you today, Ben, it sounds like basically, your whole career has been in the Education-Technology space, so looking forward to it. Let’s start with rolling back to COVID-19, and how that changed Technology and Education.
– Yeah, so COVID was a massive disruptor to teaching as we knew it for, well, forever. We’ve had a teacher in front of a classroom, students there with them, teacher directing what to do and teaching the class. We’ve had the technology of things like Teams and Zoom, and that sort of thing to do video conferencing and to do that, but for a classroom setting, well, that didn’t really exist in any full-scale effort. So, as far as the disruption to teaching went, it was massive because suddenly, teachers need to, one, learn how to use all this technology that for a lot of them, and age wasn’t a factor in this, just across the board. Your teaching is about your relationship with the student and helping them mostly face-to-face. And now, that’s being done on a computer. Wow, that’s just, how do you actually do that? How do you get the teachers trained upon how to troubleshoot kids connecting to a class? Because now you’ve got 30 kids trying to connect and you can imagine every conversation you have with your mom and dad over the phone. Oh, can you see me now on the Video Chat? Like that’s one-to-one, and you’ve got troubleshooting. Now, you’re trying to troubleshoot across the board.
– What was it like at St. Rita’s? So, when you were at St. Rita’s and actually here in terms of battle stations, everyone’s screaming at the IT team to get remote working happening, and little issues connecting?
– Well, the leadership team was extremely effective at responding to it. So, we were in the start of the year 2020 looking at this unrolling across the world and going, okay, this is happening, what do we need to do to get prepared? And said, okay, we, at the time, we used Zoom solution for that one, so it’s like, okay, we’ll get Zoom, tick, we can do that. Get our classes synced with the systems so that the class groups are all there. Yep, we can do that, okay. So, ticking all these boxes in preparation, weeks and even months before anything came into effect, we were ready to scale at a minute’s notice. We had teachers preparing lessons for the following fortnight, the following week, going, okay, just this lockdown may happen and it could just be, don’t come to school tomorrow kind of thing, so prepare your lessons for the next day, the next week, and just keep yourself with this sort of two-week buffer of lessons. And that worked extremely well. So, I remember the training session that I did for teachers, because obviously there was a lot of panic with misinformation around the world and everyone was at high-stresses going, what are we doing about this? So, I was standing in front of all the faculty staff and all the teachers and going, okay, this is how you use Zoom, this is how this works. And just the looks on their faces went from this stress to this relief going, actually, this could work. Yep, okay, I can work with this. And the pieces fitting together and clicking together was all just happening. And I’m sitting there wondering going, oh, sitting here reflecting, just going, “Wow, this was the fastest uptake of any training session.” Like I’ve done training sessions for years and, you know, you’ll have five, 10% that are super keen, and you’ll have the rest that are like, “Ah, we’ll use it when we need to,” and then not people that are not picking it up at all. No, Zoom for COVID prep, 100%. Everyone was like, yep, we’re on it, we’ve got this. And then, I’m getting follow-up queries on, “Oh, well if I use this, can I make a breakout room from a subgroup of my classes?” And then, it’s like, okay, alright, you are now starting to think of things that I hadn’t thought of in preparing for this, and this is awesome. Let’s see how we can make this work, so-
– They get some good creative thinking. I did know there was similar for business as well. I remember I’ve always loved this kind of technology, even going back to like that story before when I moved to that school and I’m like, wow, I’m on the internet and this was really cool. And one thing I was always really big on, like I love since I went to move back to Canada, had friends here, I was always looking, how do you collaborate with people or work with people, or keep in touch with people when you’re remote. So, I’d always love that, so, then obviously Teams came out, and one thing I really found is even in business, or at work was people just wouldn’t, you had these video chat applications, but nobody would turn their video on. Everyone kind of was, no, I don’t really want to do that. But, you know, visual communication is very important and when you’re dealing, when you’re not face-to-face in your remote, you need every kind of cue you can get. So, visual audio, you know, the Whiteboard or the Screen Sharing. And so, for us, I really struggled. I’d get really frustrated actually. I said, everyone in red you must have the camera on if you turn up to a video meeting. But clients, then there’s like, people wouldn’t turn the camera on.
– Mm-hmm, early in the stage, I agree it was very much like 50-50 whether people were going to turn camera on or just do a Chat room video and you would like, you are already missing the human elements. So, it really put a hindrance on things.
– Just really hindered communication. And then, that was the one thing for, I really liked out of COVID was like, it became standard and common practice and almost you, it was kind of weird if you didn’t turn your camera on. Yeah.
– So, that really helped in business, I really learned, so it was a good, that was one good thing out of COVID for us in terms of the web conferencing and things like that.
– And now, I think everyone is pretty much, you know, everyone on Teams meeting with a camera because all the technology’s got good cameras that work and everyone’s got meeting rooms and that kind of things. There’s always cameras on, it’s a good spots in the house. So, but pivoting a little bit to a topic that’s pretty hot right now around AI in schools or in particular, ChatGPT has really come out and done a lot. So, do to give a little insight into that for people listening, everyone probably has heard it, but if not, it’s essentially an AI algorithm. It’s super, super smart like a ChatBot that’s been developed by a company called Open AI where you can feed information and then say things like, you know, let shorten this as many words, write me a blog on this, for example, and you can tailor it and talk back to it is the real key into it. But I imagine education that’s going to change, probably already has changed how, what, how students are doing essays and that kind of thing. So, what are you seeing, Ben?
– Well, I’m seeing some very, very positive responses to this. I reflected upon, or rather I think back to your Wikipedias and your Google searches from the ’90s, and early 2000s, right? That was, our people are plagiarizing assignments by just grabbing it off Wikipedia. That, and at that time, like that was a game-changing moment for education was, oh, how do we respond to this? And it was a, well, we don’t trust it and it’s not good and it’s not rigorous and that sort of thing. Fast-forward to now, well, I mean, if you look up anything you’re going to read the Wikipedia article, it’s probably more accurate than some website that the company has written. You want that peer-moderated type of thing. I think this ChatBot stuff’s going to be the next step of that. Like I was playing around with it last night just having it write songs about my dogs and I would just say, “Write me a song about my fluffy dog Felix.” And off it went and it was this 6 verses and chorus and everything, and I’m just like, this is impressive. This can only get better and this can be used for so many things, so.
– It’s really impressive, maybe we should do a new theme song, Brad, for the podcast. See, what it comes back with?
– Well, yeah, load up ChatBot, and see what it does.
– Writing a song about Jackson Barnes.
– So, what do you see as like good and the bad out of ChatGPT in education?
– So, the obvious bad is, well, we can use that to cheat. We can use that to go write me an essay on whatever Australian history, and give me it in a response of a year-nine student. Like you can have its responses tailored down to exactly what you want to hear. So, it doesn’t become this university-level type of response that you might have got in the past. Your answer is somewhat realistic.
– Too realistic.
– It is. So, there’s potential for that to be used. The counter-side of that is that the plagiarism scanning technology is aware of this and they’re writing things to detect when an AI has been used on a piece of text, so.
– I did see that a couple of days ago, which is pretty quick in response to when this has actually been released. But that’s definitely a good thing required.
– So, it’s quickened response for us, but we got, remember, this hit, so US have been dealing with this over Christmas and December.
– And so, you have, there’s software to detect plagiarism that the schools use now as well?
– Yeah, so we use a similarity checker built into our learning management system, which is awesome. And if you upload a PDF file or a Word document of anything, it’s going to scan it for similarities and that will help detect whether there’s plagiarism, so.
– Yeah, times have changed.
– That’s it, yeah, you wouldn’t be able to, I suppose, I think back onto what my marks would’ve been like, had not been able to.
– Lean on tech. I did see the thing I saw a couple of days ago was that basically, it was a bit of software built to detect any phrase in a essay, for example, that has been written by AI and it was like really, really accurate.
– Well, I suppose with all these open APIs and ways of it to communicate, it’s just one system looking at another system and it goes, oh, yeah, that was from me. Signature’s throughout it, right?
– Yes, on a scarier side, I did see that people have been using ChatGPT to write code for malware as a service and ransomware heads that kind of stuff, have you, did you see any of that?
– I Did, and on both sides of it. So, now we’ve got AI writing the tools to hack, and the viruses, and then we’ve got AI writing the virus scanning, so it’s just computers versus computers and who’s going to win. Similarly with the school thing, right? So, from a teacher side of things, you can use the Chat AI to interpret a rubric to mark a student’s work. You could submit a file and say, using this criteria, what grade would you give Jackson?
– I didn’t think about that.
– Yes, so now you’ve got the kid doing the work using an AI to generate it, and the teacher doing an AI to mark it, and no one’s done any work and we all can sit and-
– I did hear, it was interesting, I was reading or listening, watching, I can’t remember a conversation around your example about music, and writing music, and who’s going to own the copyright and who’s going to own all the rights to it if the AI writes the music. And I guess it was, well, whoever told it to write it, I suppose, but it’s a bit of a philosophical slash legal question there, I suppose.
– Well, that’s not unsimilar to, was it the monkey or the ape that took a photo of itself, and then there was discussion over whose intellectual property that was because it wasn’t the photographer because he didn’t take the photo but he owned the camera and, yeah, so.
– So, it is been pretty scary I guess, and exciting how that’s going to change. Do you think they’re going to teach AI in schools? Is that part of the curriculum going to change to be AI and how you use it? ‘Cause from what I’ve noticed it used to be like, you want to teach coding to kids, that kind of thing. And then, is coding getting less important? Because you can just get AI to write your code for something, right, isn’t going to teach AI, and then how you use that AI in that for realistic, you know, monetary benefits or business or solving problems.
– So, I suppose there’s two separate ways to view this one. So, learning to code is not so much about learning to be a programmer. Learning to code teaches you those fundamental problem-solving skills and logical thinking that pays dividends in any career. So, that skill should still be learned, and it doesn’t matter what code you’re learning, doesn’t matter what program it is or what you coding, just that experience of coding and doing that exercise is phenomenally important. So, that should always continue. Similarly, how Maths has continued, even though we have Excel and calculators, so-
– Those skills will still carry on. But learning AI as a topic, learning AI is how to use it, how to wield it, that’s exactly what we should be teaching. And that’s the part of education that I get really passionate about is how are we preparing this generation and the next generation to a world with technology, to a world that we are not familiar with, that we are just fumbling our way through and, yeah, how are we going to prepare them for this? Like I, thinking back to my career, like my job didn’t exist when I was at school. Integrating IT in a school was not done. It was like that was someone’s part of someone’s job or something, but yeah, it, as an industry eLearning wasn’t there and now it is, so what’s going to happen in the future? It’s going to be pretty awesome to watch. And I like being right on the forefront of that, and, yeah, definitely.
– That’s pretty exciting, ’cause I know a big thing now when you’re picking a school is like HAG goods, the robotics program and coding program for example. So, it’s going to change-
– That’s it. Yeah, exceptionally good by the way.
– Yeah. That’s really how good as AI learning as well. So, let’s roll back to education. You’ve been essentially in education teaching or running IT teams for 15 years now. What did it look like when you first started maybe 10 years ago in IT? Was it just computer labs, and what did it look like back then compared to now?
– Yeah, so back then it was computer labs, like laptops existed, and there was not many of them. They were expensive, their batteries didn’t last long and wireless technology was terrible. I mean, it’s 2.4 gig, you couldn’t have more than half a dozen rooms with an access point before overlapping was an issue when suddenly-
– [Jack] Yeah.
– You just couldn’t handle that load. It was fine in smaller groups, but, yeah. So, technology at schools was computer labs and not in every classroom, it was, you would go to the computer lab, right, that’s-
– That’s in.
– I remember that, yeah. In Uni actually go on the computer line.
– Yeah, did you, and then, what else, what other changes have you seen over the time? You would’ve, something that was a bit interesting is like the interactive touch-panel space, which I dabbled in maybe like eight, 10 years ago into schools where it was like a hype for a little bit and they were teaching as part of the University Curriculum and then the take-up for teachers hasn’t really been there. What’s that space looking like now?
– Yes, I suppose you’re entering the classroom AV, as we call it now, so you have Technology in the classroom to assist the teacher in presenting and often, that’s done with just a projector in the room or an interactive projector, or like we have here a panel on the wall. So, that technology has certainly improved across schools and over the years, like projectors get brighter, laser projectors last longer, the quality is getting there. We used to have to turn the lights off in the room so you could see the projection on the pull-down screen.
– Yeah, yeah.
– Those days are gone with these ultra-bright interactives that are clear as day.
– Yeah, and a lot cheaper now as well, from what I’ve noticed is that when the internet touch panel ITP kind of first-hit education, it was quite expensive, like 18 grand for a power kind of thing, where it’s really come down a lot now just because of technology assisting that, so-
– It was massively expensive and took up so much space in the room, like I’ve, we’ve been redesigning some interactive spaces at BBC now, middle school to demonstrate what technology in junior classroom could look like now. And it’s an interactive panel, but rather than take down the Whiteboard and put up the panel, the interactive panel is going on the wall that is where the windows are. So, in the past, you wouldn’t be able to do that because the glare from behind the windows would’ve been too much. But with a nice bright television that’s not an issue. So, now we’ve literally got another wall to play with when it comes to instruction. You’ve got Whiteboards either side and interactive on the window.
– Yes, right.
– So, you’ve got technology coming all over the place.
– Yeah, every angle literally, we’re a joke about this technology’s everything in the school, so you got lump with a lot of jobs I’m sure. So, part of your, what you’ve done probably the last, what, 10 or so years is selecting the right technology partners and offerings. You got any advice you can share people listening on how to select a right IT partner or tool for a school?
– Oh, advice on your partners. Well, it’s, there’s a lot of people that want to get involved. There’s a lot of businesses out there that do this sort of thing, and finding a partner that has the same sort of thinking as you, the same sort of values that’s really where a good partner lies. It’s working out fundamentally what is it that we’re trying to achieve through this partnership? What is it that we get out? What is it that they’re getting out? And is it just a transactional thing? Is it just money changing hands? Well, then that’s not really the value add that I particularly want to see.
– Yeah. I want skin in the game from the other side to say, “Okay, our name’s on the board there with you and we’re not just selling you the tech, we’re not just dropping it off and dusting our hands. We’re in the thick of it with you.”
– Mm, that’s good advice, and I imagine a lot of stuff you get would be like laptops, for example, which is a big part of technology or education in education you can kind of get from anywhere, right? This is just the same thing from a from a person. So, how do you go choosing who you would partner with in that space?
– So, that space comes down to I suppose a lot of, are they able to deliver when we need them to deliver? Like a lot of laptops need to arrive on the doorstep at the right time. We can’t delay the start of the year for there not being laptops. We need the right technology that the kids want to use, that the teachers want to use. So, we need a lot of user engagement with selecting the model, but at the same time, it’s not a, we are not a bring-your-own-device school. We as experts and educators and technology professionals, I would dare say, we know better as to what technology should be there. So, we are researching whether it’s a Lenovo or a HP or a Surface or a Mac. We’re looking at all the different options from a repairability standpoint. What’s our warranty? What’s the accidental damage protection? Because believe it or not, teenage boys aren’t the most-
– Gentle with the-
– Gentle, yes.
– With their devices.
– So, having those boxes ticked as to what makes a good device, having a battery that’s going to last the school day, having, yeah, just having the right device.
– Is the school providing mobile devices as well or is it just kind of a laptop?
– No, it’s just the laptop at this stage, I mean, we’ve got like iPads in the junior school area down in prep one and two or-
– And you mentioned no BYOD, so no, they can’t bring their own iPad or something like that.
– Well, they could bring it but, and connect it to our wireless, which would nicely segregate it to a dirty wireless network and they can-
– They can still get a connection but-
– But not access the kind of educational content.
– Well, interestingly, all of that is online now.
– Right, okay.
– So, there’s very little, actually, there’s nothing that a student accesses from our internal network Without going via the internet via filtering, right, so, yeah.
– You brought back some horrible memories, Ben, when you mentioned the delay of getting laptops in time. I was also like working in that space with a lot of schools, and I remember in that year 2020, when the delay on hardware, for example, with certain models and suppliers was like six to nine months. So, I remember going to these schools and they hadn’t even thought about like getting ready for the next year and they needed to water basically like in June to get their stuff in time for January next year kickoff. Is that kind of what you experienced as well?
– Oh, Jackson, you’re bringing flashbacks, yeah. Funnily enough, this time last year, right, this was today in the last couple of days, we dishing out laptops to the students that need their laptops changed, so we do like a three-year cycle, right? So, the year sevens and tens getting their laptops swapped around and we are sitting there going, “Oh, remember the last year, what were we doing, oh, that’s right, we were in lockdown.” We were, our laptops had just arrived the week before off the truck from the, and we’re sitting there going, “This is a whole lot of a much smoother start to the year.” We had our laptops delivered weeks ago and, yeah. So, we were right in the thick of that at the end of 2020 I get a call, “Ah, those laptops have been, they might not arrive until February.”
– I said, “Well, school doesn’t not start just like, hang on, this is my first year as a director here at BBC. I’m not going to be the guy that didn’t deliver laptops at the start of the year.”
– That was a wild time. I do remember that, and it was just such a, people were canceling orders and changing orders and going different branches so I can get it in time.
– It was like the process you’ve explained before about what’s the best support in ADP and teaching you that came out of the window, I was like, who can get me stuff by January? By January.
– And to their credit, our primary supplier is Lenovo and they delivered, and we got what we needed. And that plays into why we have selected them in the past.
– And continue to do so is because they do and did deliver. So, those relationships, being able to lean on ’em, and going, oh, actually I remember how we’re put potentially the largest educational customer, and the one that you like to demonstrate to other potential clients, well, yes.
– You’re drawn some of those cards, get us our stuff. Yeah, I know.
– Yeah, I mean, you can only play the card you dealt, right?
– Yep, yeah. So, apart from, rolling back to now, past when it’s obviously a lot better now, the supply constraints for anyone, the scene that was primarily because of the IC chip shortage, and there was screen shortages and there was a bucket load of just hardware constraint from COVID and factories being shut down and closed overseas. But rolling forward now, what’s keeping you up, or not so much you, but more heads of IT in schools in the Brisbane area at night?
– Well, I suppose, in any industry it should be cybersecurity is the one that I suppose you want to be prepared for. We’re in a world where attacks and stuff happen, and it’s no longer the days of women and children are safe for this sort of crime, it’s anyone that can pay will try and get, so.
– Yeah, that is obviously, a big factor in my mind of, okay, how prepared are we for a response, how prepared are we for protecting? And that sort of-
– Okay, what other advice would you have for other heads of IT at other schools around cybersecurity to try and mitigate that concern?
– Definitely engage with other people, experts in the field. Like you don’t have to be the knowledge base of everything. You don’t have to be a cybersecurity expert to know that you need a cybersecurity expert.
– [Jack] Mm.
– So, either hire one, find one partner with one, get some advice on cybersecurity as to how you can benchmark what you’ve got, what you can improve, And then start chipping away at it. Almost any action in that area is probably going to pay down the track, I would say.
– Mm, that’s good advice, and it’s funny, the evolution of school IT, right? There was no IT team then it was like one person with like two computer labs to look after and now it’s this big team and now they’re looking at cyber as well, kind of falls under the IT team. So, it’s crazy involved.
– Yeah. It’s the old saying if it plugs into a wall, then it’s an IT problem.
– That’s ringing true, just because these cyber crimes are happening on the computer doesn’t mean it’s just the IT’s problem. This is an organizational-wide effort that needs to be made, and.
– Mm, that’s not just our education. A lot of businesses are like that. If they have internal IT teams, they kind of, and even us who are being responsible for businesses IT, but just on the support side, they kind of like, we get lumped with the security element as well. So, it’s common across every industry right now. But I think that’s going to change rapidly this year, which is from all the breaches that happened in last year, and all the large sticks and compliances that’s getting pointed directors and that kind of thing.
– Yeah, so we like to not waste a good disaster every now and then, and one of the big, with the recent hacks, like we were rolling out multifactor authentication to all our staff at that, around that sort of time. And it was just so timely that that happened and staff went, “Oh, good, yeah, well that’s the right response for this sort of thing, I’ll accept that.” I can imagine, you know, five years ago, if I had a push to an MFA solution for staff, they would’ve-
– Been up in arms.
– That’s right.
– Now, it’s just become, “Oh, yes, that’s, I accept that change.
– Where’s my MFA, come on.
– Yeah, you alluded this before, but teachers typically don’t like change very much.
– Oh, Jackson, I don’t think anyone likes change, so.
– True, that is true. So, putting MFA before this stuff would’ve been a battle. So, yeah, that’s interesting. Brad, any questions you got before?
– No, I’m good, I’ll just follow your lead, man.
– Okay, okay, I don’t want to touch on, the next topic I want to touch on, Ben, was gaming and eSports in schools and this was definitely not a thing, I imagine 10 years ago. And not something that we are fully across here, but how, what’s that industry doing in schools, because I know they are encouraging it now. There’s competitions, there’s some-
– Not new in me particularly, but I know some of the other guys.
– Other guys that read for sure.
– Oh, for sure, yeah.
– But what’s happening in that industry? Is it being encouraged by schools? What does that kind of scene look like now compared to five years ago?
– So, it’s come a long way since those early days of just gaming and computer labs and that sort of thing. It’s becoming a lot more structured and with all the, I suppose public perception of eSports, it’s such a massive industry, right? Like it’s larger than many of the other sporting codes.
– [Brad] Yeah, it blows my mind.
– And that has paid, so the schools are reflecting that, and going, “Okay, well, actually this is legitimate. This isn’t just for fun, this is training. This is rigorous, this has legs,” and, yeah. So, that’s getting a whole lot of support as a legitimate sport, so.
– What does it look like? What’s day-to-day in eSports in high school?
– Well, so you got to start with a game that’s scalable, that’s accessible, so “Rocket League” and “League of Legends” are typically the easiest ones to kick off and they’re familiar for-
– So, just kind of, instead of PE class, you go to eSports class?
– Well, it’s more, this is like a co-curricular activity, right, yeah.
– So, outside of school hours.
– Outside of school hours. You come and you learn, and you train on “League of Legends”, you train on “Rocket League”, and-
– So, they come back into the school and then train to-
– Yeah, instead of go to rugby training like, you know, the after-school.
– Yeah, as well as, so the BBC does the, as you may remember the tartan style of extracurricular stuff, so you’ve got your sports, and so, you’ve got a whole lot of bits and pieces that fit together and this is just one of those options and being very heavily driven by some key staff members that aren’t IT staff, which is great when it’s, again, this isn’t IT driving it, this is IT supporting it.
– Mm, so I think, I assume you still have the same kind of good qualities that usual sport would, right? Like you get that team camaraderie and, you know, going and doing something with your peers that’s so similar, like being in the same music class, that kind of thing.
– Absolutely. If not even more so, because unlike a sport where you are watching it in the distance, you’re watching a team play over in the field. With the streaming technology, now, you are watching the gamers’ point of view when you are watching their stream, you’re not just, so it’s as though you are immersed in, yeah.
– So, are they playing other schools?
– Yes, so they have comps that they attend-
– Like, in the GPS schools they’ll play eSports against each other.
– Exactly. No, I don’t believe there’s a GPS comp yet. There’s other schools that have started comps and they all, yeah, compete together with them, so.
– Cool, so there’s a BBC eSports team for a game and they verse another school’s team?
– Correct, yes.
– Is it the same by age?
– I’m not sure how those logistics work. Yeah, I think it’s per game, and-
– What are the prizes of that stuff?
– Just trying to think, there was a lot of sponsorship from Lenovo with their “Legion Fleet” of gaming devices. So, yeah, there’s a lot of external prizes that they get for gaming kit and-
– That’s cool.
– How big is that scene? So, there’s competitions you go to where you would go, so you would invite another school to BBC and then you would have a competition where you prizes the thing, and how many people attend? Is it like displayed so everyone can see it, or people will just watch the stream, what does that look like?
– Both, yeah.
– So, they do it in like an open area and as well as streaming it, so.
– You’ve been to a view?
– Not with COVID interrupting everything, so.
– Yeah, okay.
– Does BBC still, they still do the lines and the colors and all that on the blazers?
– They do, so we haven’t got the eSports one there yet, but that’d be what I’d like to see is, yeah, just a real…
– Ah, it’s cool.
– ESports blazer, yeah.
– Oh, it’s like you’re saying before, like, you know, 20 years ago, what was it? This would, if you said something like this, it would just, no way, not be reality, but now here we are, right? And so, yeah, what is it, what’s, how’s that going to evolve? What’s that going to look like in five years, 10 years, et cetera, and then what’s next, so, yeah, it’s cool.
– What do you think the future’s going to look like for eSports, so does it mean I have, you know, statewide championships with more skills going and competing or what’s that space going to look like?
– Yeah, I’d see it at a much larger scale, more involvement. So, more games, more accessible games, games targeted at the school level, so, having I suppose more exposure at an earlier age to this sort of thing is really what it’s going to grow towards. We’ll have, I suppose accessibility to the technology. Like it may not be on a laptop in five years’ time. Probably won’t be, it’ll be on some device that we haven’t thought of.
– It’ll be, what is it? What’s the Facebook thing? The metaverse.
– In the metaverse, yeah.
– Oh, yeah, the headsets.
– Wow, they got to ditch the headsets. They got to find a way to not have to wear this five-kilo thing on your head.
– Yeah, well, that would look funny, a bunch of kids’ faces there anyway.
– Well, think about your classroom going to that sort of level of tech. If you’re able to get full immersion in a virtual environment, then-
– It’ll be like the glasses, I mean I still, really, I know they’re out there, but I haven’t really seen it like the-
– The HoloLens and-
– Well, we’ve got the HoloLens. The problem with, I find with the, they are quite bulky, but even, you know, we’ve got the VR room, but now even since when we bought that two or three years ago, it’s changed. So, you don’t need the sensors around the room. You can just wear the headset and you’ve got the HoloLens, so, but they’re still quite bulky. And I know this is a problem that, you know, what Facebook has with the metaverse attempt. It’s like you got to wear this big thing on your head, mate. It’s not really.
– But if you can get to the glasses, if you can get it down to a glass, or-
– Once it becomes a, yeah, a weight issue, and I suppose that’s a big factor. Like we have VR headsets in our junior school. They’re used, they’re a pretty impressive device for what it is, it’s a class VR set and the teacher can direct a group of students to be viewing the same thing, or is a 3D model held with a merged cube in your hand and you can manipulate it. A lot of that content is still in its very early days of quality. And I just look forward to that being more accessible, and-
– Like mobile, right, like mobile, it’s kind of like, it’s come a long way like the Craig’s got the headset, we’ve got the HoloLens and it’s, yeah, it’s a lot more portable than it was two years ago, three years ago, but it’s still, I compared to something like this or an iPad or a laptop, it’s still arguably bulky compared to its kind of competitors in that tech gadgets space.
– So, rolling back then. So, at BBC currently, is it like a co-curricular activity that the students can opt into to go play an eSport or practice an eSport where on like a list where they would select like violin and rugby and cricket and that kind of stuff?
– Yeah, effectively, yeah, so the eSports was a trial that was started this time last year by a group of staff.
– So, that’s quite new.
– Very new, yeah, for BBC. So, we’ve been, yeah, effectively getting prepared. The students still love to practice in their own time, right, so that’s quite good.
– They probably already are, right? And if they’re already doing that, it kind of makes it, it does make sense actually when I think about it that they’re probably going to be playing video games at home anyway and if they can do that as part of the school kind of curriculum with their classmates and get a bit more, you know, culture around it that-
– It’s getting structured, it’s getting, I mean you think you could play soccer at home, right? But if you have a coach, then you improve.
– Oh, so there’s actually like coaching for people.
– Oh, wow.
– That’s it, so.
– I feel like I know nothing about it, but that’s cool. All right, so we’re back to general technology. Now, you’ve been in education and technology for 15 years now, what do you think it’s going to look like in another 10, 15 years?
– I think the technology is going to, well, become more hidden, right, so at the moment, we have technology in your hand and your laptop, and that sort of thing, like this, these things are getting smaller, lighter, transparent, and integrated with the wall, integrated with the table. Like the technology you may not even see, it’ll just be there.
– Built-in, yeah.
– So to speak.
– So, I see a lot of less visible technology coming into play, and it just all working in the background and, you know, you might walk into a room and just start talking and the technology turns on because it knows that’s what you want it to do, and-
– Like there’s, I suppose that automated-type assistance technology is really just starting to kick off. Like, I like it on my phone when you get a call and you can ask Google to screen the call for you and it start to answering it and take the message for you.
– So, you think that it’s still going to be robotics and coding and maybe some AI that people are going to teach, but AI might change the way that the other technology in the classroom, for example, operates?
– Yeah, I think that’s where it’s headed. Like it’s, I think we’ve still got a fair while to go with these laptops. They’re not going anywhere super quick. There you go, we can, yeah, take the date on record that Ben said laptops weren’t going away.
– Oh, look, I agree with you. Oh, I’ve got all of the, you know, the watch, the phone, I mean I’m an Apple boy, I’m in the ecosystem. But the watch, phone, and I’ve got the iPad in the middle, and I just whichever is best for the task, whichever format best suits the task. But the laptop is the workhorse. Yeah, it’s the content creator, whereas I’m more consuming reading, et cetera, on the other devices.
– Yeah, so what happens when now you can consume and read without the device because it’s just in your earbuds or on your headset? Then you don’t need-
– E Musk brain chip.
– Brain chip, yeah, download it. There’ll be something like a contact lens or something that will allow you like, so if you don’t wear glasses, you don’t want to wear glasses. Like, I can’t see it past the scope of imagination where you just put a contact on and it would, shoop, you could read.
– Yeah. Or maybe it’s the step in-betweens the phones are getting so smart and powerful now, you just plug that into a screen and that’s what you work off in a classroom and there’s like an interim apart from that.
– Well, they do, you can’t do that with the iPads. I just hope it doesn’t end up like that movie “Terminator 2”, mate, SkyNet.
– When was, what year was SkyNet, wasn’t it 2030?
– Maybe, I don’t know.
– I think it was a while ago, actually, I think we passed-
– Passed SkyNet.
– We won that one, I guess.
– Maybe we did.
– Aren’t we in the simulation?
– Oh, no, or are we in “The Matrix”?
– We might be on the wrong podcast for that.
– All right, of time, thanks, Ben, we really appreciate you coming in. You shared some good insights around the future technology and cybersecurity and AI. Hopefully, listeners get a lot of value out of this. Thanks for coming in.
– Thanks, Jackson.