Uczniowie to moi Partnerzy - Wywiad z członkiem rady programowej Łukaszem Gierkiem


Students are my Partners – an interview with program council member Luke Gierek

artificial intelligence edutainment graphics learning logical thinking program board
Uczniowie to moi Partnerzy - Wywiad z członkiem rady programowej Łukaszem Gierkiem
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reading time

17 MIN


2023-10-03 08:02:00
Table of contents

Answer something about yourself to begin with. What do you do for a living? What do you do?

Until the beginning of this calendar year, I worked as a teacher. I am currently on vacation. I work at the university in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Radom and in the Department of Criminology at Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce. I am passionate about digital solutions, for example, 3D printing, 3D design, implementation of virtual reality, augmented reality. In the area of education, I have my own business, where I provide training of just such a digital nature. I am also a member of a working group at the Ministry of Education on the use of artificial intelligence specifically GPT chat in education. That’s it in a very nutshell.

Why did you choose to work in education in the broadest sense? Here a school, there a university. Here criminology, there technology.

Guess what? This job of mine, my job as a teacher… I’m a computer scientist by training. I worked as a computer science teacher in the beginning, but somewhere throughout my career, computer graphics “followed” me. I also dealt with it professionally, I worked as a graphic designer, as a webmaster, I develop websites and make them all the time. In the meantime, I did a postgraduate course in programming of numerically controlled machine tools, and there’s a lot of 3D graphics, 3D modeling, and that’s where my adventure with such other graphics began. By different I mean 3D graphics, modeling. Then came the fascination with VR and augmented reality during a study, erasmus visit to Finland. And criminology also came out of graphic design, for the reason that I at the Department of Criminology started with such a subject, which was called “Diagnosis and Prevention of Digital Image Forgery,” that is, I showed students how to check whether an image is real or fake, based on a generated image. How to verify a photo from the Internet? And so from one subject to another, where they are related to computer science, I have been working in the department for several years now. That’s how it’s all connected. And when it comes to artificial intelligence and some beginnings of how I got there. It was a few years ago that there were such films, for example, “Warsaw 1939”, which are “colored”. I wanted to see what it would be like to “color” black and white film. Normally, coloring black and white film is very simple. One frame of film is taken, so if the film consists of twenty frames per second, then a second of film, is twenty pictures. We color the photos, which is a fairly simple matter, but labor-intensive. I found a simple story on the Internet with a tutorial that showed how this could be done using just AI. And I managed to build such a solution. I made such a film, which is called “Radom 39.” Working in the use of artificial intelligence has become part of my activities and accompanies me to this day. Now we have all these solutions, like Midjourney, E-DALLE, which are just related to graphics. Plus I’m still working on using artificial intelligence to, with a written command (prompting), generate a three-dimensional image. That is, if today I ask AI to draw me a rectangle with certain coordinates in Blender, a 3D graphics program, AI will learn to do it. And now the question remains, what will I do next with it. AI also coincides with my work at the department related to cybercrime. We are talking about fake news, things related to just such cyber security. So it’s kind of all around the graphic, it’s all connected, but every time it’s connected in some way.

I would say even more broadly than around graphics, but also around technology in general. It all stems from your commitment, your interest in new technologies.

That’s for sure, too. One through the other. VRs are similar to ARs. AR, VR, 3D printing have one model that will be prepared on the computer. You can print it out. You can take it to augmented reality or virtual reality. It gets very, very mixed up. In addition, as I said earlier regarding this programming, issuing a text command to draw a three-dimensional object, this is also already some form of linking this. Plus other such educational things. I’ve been working as a teacher since 2005, so some of these people have passed through and some of all these things have also changed over time.

That’s to elaborate a bit more, before we move probably again somewhere closer to technology. You’ve always wanted to be a teacher and to work with students and pupils, did that somehow come out by accident?

I don’t know. I don’t think I can answer that question. I used to wonder about this, how it was that I became… I mean I know how it happened that I became a teacher, because it looked like I applied to the ABW and applied to the school. The moment I was already in front of the ABW military unit, I got a call from the school director saying that I could come as a substitute. I thought I would give it a try and stayed there for six months, and then I stayed for the whole time. In fact, after a few years I think I only found that this is my life’s work. I really enjoy being a teacher. Teaching makes me happy. It was a little less fun to see high school as an institution, because it is “shackled” with such shackles of professional exams or building dogma or program implementation. On the other hand, studies are such wings that allow you to do anything you want. I work at my place in the art department. Just like here at the moment. Here is such a patio. We have a garden here. Two benches. I sit on them very often with students. This is how we start classes or prepare for classes. This is how we open our minds or just talk to each other. Only later do we turn to computers and do something. Sometimes we don’t go to computers. Here we make up in our heads how the object/design will look like.

So you like to introduce some of that non-traditional, modern approach to teaching in your classes?

Yes, and every time I try to make sure that the subject is not just one subject. For example, my students, when they have an assignment to learn Blender or some other 3D graphics program, I tell them to make buildings, but in order to make buildings they need to know their history, in order to know the history, they suddenly find out here that, for example, in the place of a church there used to be an Orthodox church that nobody knows about. This is the link between all these threads. Today’s world cannot be so zero-one. I don’t know how many jobs you have worked in so far. Is this your first job or is it your second or third? But my contemporaries had a dozen of them, and my grandfather had only two, and my dad had four, for example. My children will have had dozens by now, because you have to be flexible to what you do each time. This education should show that this flexibility, creativity should be taken to a higher level yet. This is most important to live and function in the future.

And do you have such a favorite technique or teaching method?

You know what, I think group work. I think so. Or group-project work. Very often I ask a project and wait for the results. And I’m just such a conductor in this orchestra, trying to get the music out of my students or my students in some way. I think so. I don’t like this kind of zero-one work, for example: hand in the assignment and forget the topic or complete the task I gave you. I don’t do homework. I didn’t ask. They are pointless as far as I am concerned, because you are not able to learn anything and I am not able to check if you have learned anything.

In practice, however, this group work turns out to be not such a simple technique to engage students in this work.

Well, yes, but you can always choose a student as a group manager and also choose either the one who is the weakest or the one who is the best. Then he, when he is the leader of the group, must either manage them well or learn this management.

That is, again, you add to their subject some self-organization, team management or corporate work structure.

Yes. As, moreover, in normal life. You work remotely, then you need to be embraced or embraced professionally. I mean, today coffee is five minutes, not coffee is fifteen minutes plus a newspaper and still Netflix, because you are at home. Just you are at work, then you go and do. So here it still teaches all this some self-discipline. At least that’s what I’m trying to do, to teach them that too. This, moreover, is a bit different. I function a little differently with them. With students. With students, it’s a whole different tale. On the other hand, I work differently with students, because I treat them as partners.

How can you start such work as partners? Because it may not be obvious to everyone either.

There is no such rule. It is a matter of treating them. If you treat adults or maturing adults as adults, they see that at some point it’s not on a student-teacher basis but on a partner basis. I, for example, have such a method when I was still working at school. At the time when, for example, they were doing an assignment for a grade, a very simple assignment that took, for example, three minutes, we had to take a timer. That’s our timer was Rickroll (ed. internet meme, which involves sending a link of a potentially interesting thing to end a discussion, and in fact the link directs to a video of Rick Astley’s song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. “Never Gonna Give You Up.” In this case, it involves playing this song during the assignment) and each time the song was played, there was a lower rating. That is, the first time the song was played there were fives, the second time there were fours, and so on. There must be a clear assessment of these rules every time. They need to know what the rules are and not to break them. You know, if you are honest, honest as a teacher with the other people, they also see that this is a different tale. In the same way, for example, I can ask a task in fifteen different ways. For example, I can tell them to do… There’s a simple command in html called… I slipped my mind. In very simple terms. You select for yourself a piece of the photo, which becomes a button. That is, for example, if you take my picture, I can put a button only on my eye. Well, and I can do it in the form that I will give them a graphic of a square and a triangle, and I want only the triangle to be active. I can also stage Christopher Kononovich, playing the guitar, and I can ask that when I hover over the guitar, it should trigger a song of some sort. This is a much more interesting task for them, not one for them to look at two rectangles. It’s the same task just structured differently, and that also makes them want to do it.

What are the biggest challenges or barriers facing teachers who just want to introduce some new ideas, methods or technology into their classes?

The first issue is the implementation of the core curriculum in the upper grades. We are not talking about elementary school here. In high school, it’s more of something that is a curse, because everyone is afraid that if they don’t realize this basis, there will be a problem. So much so that there will be no problem. It can be implemented in very different ways. This is the first thing. The second is openness to technology, and it seems to me that this openness in front of new technologies she has already passed a little by the pandemic. She caused everyone to suddenly have to start using Teams and Zooma and still other communicators to do lessons, because it couldn’t be done any other way, and they saw that there were also tools that were tools of interest. Once I have this teams or zooms mastered, maybe we could add Kahoot or Forms or whatever to make it more fun. This also just describes that technology is not such a bad thing, but it also shows that we often have concerns about using it.

What do you think deters teachers the most from using technology?

Fear that I will not succeed. You know I’ll just ridicule myself in front of the students. Only problem is that if the students see that you want to go beyond your scheme and PowerPoint presentation, to do something on a touch screen, even if you are not competent to do it, they will gladly help you do it, for the reason that it will be an attractive activity for them. No one will laugh at you that you don’t know how to run a projector or a particular device, because they will try to solve this task with you. Teach you to make the next lesson even better and more interesting. Education that involves touching or tasting something is expertly called cognitive education, cognitive science. Touch. Try. Test. Learn. That’s when we also say that she is much more engaging and involving. Kids like interactive solutions, because they are more used to that these days than to “sitting in a book” and, for example, imagining what a heron’s banya (ed. the prototype of a steam turbine) might look like. And if they saw it: “aha, it works so-and-so, great”.

What does technology look like in schools or universities these days? How does it work? And what do you think it should look like in an ideal world?

I, in general, think that Polish school, Polish teachers, Polish education we are very strong technologically, which can be seen from the Bett fair (ed. a large educational and technological fair, held on three continents) and the Polish stand, which was visited by foreigners. Everyone’s jaw proverbially “dropped” that we have 3D printers, that we have VRs, that we have other robots or a solution like Knowla here. On the other hand, in my opinion, technology is being used poorly. Namely, I will return to the topic of the core curriculum, the creativity of teachers, their duties outside of school, that is, for example, tests, essays, papers, cause that there is no time to learn it, to open minds, that it can be done better, in a different way. I guess that’s kind of the answer to that question.

You’ve already touched on this a bit. You’ve traveled a bit around the world’s educational conferences. In your opinion, is this Polish education somehow different from that of the world? And what would you most like to transfer from other countries to us?

I believe it is no different. We have this perception that we are a bit, like such poor relatives in relation to other countries. We are certainly like poor relatives in the area of teachers’ salaries and opportunities to live decently on a teacher’s salary. Our colleagues in primarily Western countries are in a much more comfortable living situation. Another important issue is respect. In my opinion, the teaching profession is such a profession, as if to say… it has recently become less respected. It used to be that if you were a professor, or if you were a college professor, a high school professor or a teacher, there was a lot more respect from parents and society. The current situation, strikes, reprisals against teachers have made this respect a little less in society. We have lost out as teachers on such a general perception. It also makes you, as a teacher, uncomfortable. You go do what you have to do and leave. There are few or very few teachers in whom this spark still smoulders. If we this spark is able to arouse, this education will look better and be very competitive with other countries. As for other countries, there is, for example, more slack there in terms of the use or freedom of teachers. That is, the teacher teaches a math-type subject. It is supposed to prepare them for some sort of tests and exams, but it has a very high degree of freedom in choosing content, ways of teaching, using different tools. In our country, this freedom does not exist. In our country there is coercion, coercion and more coercion. Because we will be chased by the results. Because there will be something different, for example. And that’s more or less what it looks like. It revolves around this.

Now how about we move more specifically towards Knowla. Then how did you find out about Knowla or Knoocker?

You know, I know Anna (ed. Anna Lewandowska – Product Development Director at Knowla). This is the first issue. The moment Anna changed jobs and moved here to the current solution, I learned more about it. She simply showed me what it looks like. I have also seen them at trade shows and conferences. I was fascinated, interested. I started talking. Find out how the solution is structured. The magic of balls bouncing off the wall. Or graphics, because you also have beautiful graphics. The presentation of the whole thing made me interested in Knowla as an educational tool.

Students are my Partners

What was your first impression once you touched the Knowlę Box like that?

Definitely a wow effect. I am completely serious now. It was such a wow effect. Super that version with the balls and the graphics that were there. I still saw her earlier. It was cool before, but now, the one that’s in right now, it’s eatable. For the rest, when Anna worked at the previous company, there was also a product there that had beautiful graphics, and this is the basis for someone who wants to play. You can have a really cool tool, which is, for example, such an app for your phone created by employees at Harvard or Massachusett University. She is called PHET. This is a physics, chemistry, math app that has terrible graphics. So clumsy, as if drawn in Paint. Educational, substantive firecracker. Graphically zero. Because of this graphic zero, you don’t want to learn it. And here it all comes together. You have graphics that are beautiful plus you still have substance and it builds you a whole picture of what Knowla is.

What technological and educational potential do you see in this solution?

Very large. From learning the basics of programming to critical thinking, to gamification-related competition, for example. All your games that we can play in doubles, we play together with the opponent next to us. In addition to wanting to win, we will learn. That’s what’s most interesting about this whole story. Plus mobility. It’s also a cool thing that you don’t have to keep it in one place either, hang it on the wall, just move it around. It has wheels. It looks lovely. It is idiot-proof when it comes to use. There, too much can happen with it.

In your opinion, is it worthwhile for Knowla to appear in every school?

I think it is. When it comes to targeting grades one-three or even a little older,it is the perfect tool for learning while having fun and having fun while learning. This is such a basis, because it also gives you the possibility of such a super-fan and you learn without knowing that you are learning. This is the coolest thing about it all. Well plus a task resource or game resource that is still being expanded. This makes it impossible to get bored in it.

What is your advice for first-time Knowla Box startups?

My advice? To explore. To check the possibilities of every activity that is out there. Plus test. Play with it. Even if we don’t understand or aren’t programmers, because we have that programming part in there, to just try to do it. And then once we’ve done that and continue to study it or teach it, or continue to study it with students, we can think about how it’s structured. How does that ball that bounces off the wall, or that pen that we touch the wall where the digital image is displayed. How is it structured? These are already issues of physics. How it works. After all, it’s not a mouse, it’s not plugged in. There in the ball is no bluetooth transmitter. And somehow it works. This is such a second issue of expanding curiosity. Because curiosity is the most important thing in education. Watch the kids go to school, ask lots of questions. And why do trees grow? And why is the grass green? And why are the berries purple? There are a lot of questions. And the higher you go in the world of education, the fewer these questions you have. You inflict fewer of them. In high school, few of these questions are asked. In the last grades of elementary school, the number of questions decreases. Because you know the knowledge is also greater, but also curiosity is the basis to function well, to be creative and to live in this modern world.

What does it mean to you: it’s smart to have fun?

A tough question. It seems to me that it is so twofold. I can interpret this in the sense of such digital security, for example, not to sit too long at the device. We are then talking about the safe use of technology here. This is one thing, is that there are two types of games. One is the kind of tight loose. Related to our emotions or our interests, hobbies. I am referring here to playing with Barbie dolls or toy cars. And the other fun is that it requires us to learn something during this fun. Playing chess can be fun. Playing Chinese can be fun. Because we have a game here all the time, but we are also talking about also adopting a certain strategy to win against your opponent. But we learn something new every time, whether it’s new moves or strategies. And in the case of Knowl’s solution here, we are talking about combining fun with education. Here, all the time, whatever we run we have learning, which simply makes us smarter through this fun. This is how I can relate to it, as far as Knowlę is concerned.

Do you have a favorite activity in the Education Universe?

Yes, in Planet Smart, 3D Puzzles and 3D Constructions. Given my graphic interests, these activities are very much appreciated. They are very good for developing spatial imagination, I think they can also be very helpful for adults.

Thank you.


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