Episode 47

E47 - Bridging the Tech Divide for Inclusive Educational Futures with David Bara

David Bara is the Co-founder of the social enterprise WeCanAccess Ltd and WeCanAccess Training. He is also a Senior Lecturer of Special Needs, having successfully supervised over 220 people internationally with their MA dissertations. He is the father of two children with additional needs and disabilities. In 2012, his daughter was treated for a malignant and aggressive brain tumour; WeCanAccess is his response to the challenges his family and others like them face when trying to navigate life with hidden and visible disabilities. David's company has been identified as a pioneer in their field by Learning Planet. David's mission with wife, Emma, is to make the world a more accessible place for all.


  • AI has the potential to support individuals with special educational needs and enhance their learning experience.
  • The effective implementation of technology in education requires addressing cultural attitudes and ensuring proper training and support for teachers.
  • The purpose of education in the modern world should focus on developing flexible skills that are applicable in an ever-changing work environment.
  • Education should consider the social pressures and mental health challenges faced by students, particularly girls, and provide appropriate support.
  • The education system should recognise and value different forms of knowledge and skills beyond traditional academic achievements. Soft skills and critical thinking are essential for students to thrive in society.
  • Parents play a crucial role in fostering curiosity and learning in children.
  • AI can assist teachers and provide more time for creative and flexible thinking.
  • Board games can be used to develop cognitive and social skills in students.

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00:01 - David Brown (Host)

Well, hello, everybody; welcome to the Creatives WithAI™ podcast. I'm your host, David, and on today's show, we've got David Barra, and I ran into David, I think, on LinkedIn. Is that right, Dave? It was a mutual connection that connected us, and the reason I wanted to talk to you is as we were chatting about a few minutes ago. I think you sit at a really interesting intersection between education but also special education as well, and I think that the conversation around AI just for education is one thing, but I think personally, I think it has a lot of opportunity to help people with special educational needs and those sorts of things, and I really wanted to just have a chat with you to kind of pick your brain on that. If you don't mind, do you want to give a little bit of background, just so people kind of understand where you're coming?

00:59 - David Bara (Guest)

coming into the forefront in:


Wow, and also in the early:

02:26 - David Brown (Host)

Brilliant. And what's the bad news? I'm going to end on the good news. I want to talk about the positive stuff later. So what's the stuff that worries you with AI? Or where do you see that kind of bringing AI into education or, in a broader sense, technology I guess? But looking at the AI that's coming along now, what sort of issues, potential issues, do you see with that?

02:49 - David Bara (Guest)

s in charge of IT back in the:


So through the cultural perspectives and people's attitudes, so through the cultural perspectives and people's attitudes people were actively undermining the systems. So the money was wasted. For example, in the school that I was in, I think my budget was anywhere between 250, 300, 400,000. I've lost track of how much it was, but it was a phenomenal budget and I can safely say the majority of it was wasted because the culture and the attitudes weren't there from the staff, who, who? While my head teacher was an early adopter, the rest of the staff weren't, and that caused tension and that caused a lot of financial wastage and ultimately, you had tensions within the staff, weren't? And that caused tension and that caused a lot of financial wastage and ultimately, you had tensions within the staff. That's the bottom line, and so it's a real when you say wasted, what do you?

04:33 - David Brown (Host)

Can you give me an example of something that would be where it would be wasted?

04:37 - David Bara (Guest)

Literally equipment not being placed appropriately, data not being used and equipment basically being stolen because of where it was placed, equipment not being treated properly, so it was broken by staff. The kids respected it, the kids saw the potential, but the teachers didn't understand how the technology was enabling the kids, how the data from the technology could be used for good and it was data for good in order to support the children in terms of their performance, supporting them psychologically, emotionally and and the soft element of what the technology can do. But the teachers didn't see that. So there was a lot of staff meetings and it was a lot of wasted time. It was as simple as that. So there was financial wastage and economic loss because the systems weren't integrated effectively or they hadn't recruited the appropriate staff with the mentality to adopt this.


Now people think nothing about interactive whiteboards, computers and other bits and pieces, but 22 years ago, massive amounts of attention and again I did. One thing I did was I did a project for the bbc. It was called, I think, BBC 24 or something other. It was kids and we used to go over to white city with the kids phenomenal project and the BBC were supporting kids in terms of developing stuff and software. But again, certainly the school that I was in, it was resistant and it wasn't pushing and enabling the kids and it basically was holding the kids back. And these kids now they were 11, so that's 20-odd years ago, so they'd be in their 30s now and to them it's actually nothing. So it was attention and it was the cultural attitude that was the.

06:29 - David Brown (Host)

That was the big, real big problem and do you think, was it the staff were afraid of it because they didn't understand it and didn't know how to use it effectively, or did they think that it was some sort of threat to education in general? Both?

06:45 - David Bara (Guest)

in all honesty, it was. It was. They didn't understand it and they were. There was sort of come out with it, but they were stuck in their ways. They had a perspective on what education was. They were trained in a certain way, they had a certain attitude and the ironic thing was they were using mobile phones. They were using computers for searching holidays.


They were doing all the technology they were utilising in their everyday life yeah, but they didn't actually see the see how it can support them in their work, because it was the we used to the old ways. The old ways were effective, and they didn't see how it fitted within the education, even though, though.

07:24 - David Brown (Host)

Were they effective.

07:26 - David Bara (Guest)


07:26 - David Brown (Host)

What the teachers? The old ways.

07:28 - David Bara (Guest)

The old ways.

07:29 - David Brown (Host)

No, the old ways. I think and I'll give you a second to think about that, because I think we have this sort of rose-coloured spectacles view of the past and what the past was like. And I think I think a lot of us, you know, we tend to remember the good things and forget the bad things. And if I think back to what school was like and what's, you know, the, the tools and everything that my son has while he's in school now, versus what I had when I was in school, I would a hundred percent, if I was then, I would a hundred percent take what they have now. It would have been amazing. I would have had so much more access to information. I had, you know, so many better tools, all sorts of stuff.


And I don't know if I think that there's some sort of nostalgia maybe that we all have about when we were kids and things were so much better. But it actually wasn't really that much better at the time. I don't know if you agree with that, but sometimes it feels that way. It's like we live in such a good world, like a lot of people complain about the world the way it is today. Complain about the world the way it is today. But actually, compared to 200 years ago even, which is nothing in the grand scope of time, the world is so much better a place. You know so many fewer people die, so many fewer people get injured. So you know, people are across the board, are so much better educated than they ever were. And I just I, I don't know sometimes it obviously it strikes a nerve with me a little bit when people say that and I know this isn't you, I know this is them, but I'm just wondering if, yeah, if you agree, or you think that did it used to actually be better.

09:18 - David Bara (Guest)

The thing, certainly from a technology perspective, is what's the purpose behind it? Yeah, in other words, the software that was used, and there was a particular software that we tested, um, and it served a purpose to support literacy very, very specifically. Now, at the time when I was there, I didn't have kids um 10 years, 10, 5, 10 years later or so, I'd got married. My wife had a couple of kids. Both my kids struggle with literacy and I came back to that program. That was you. That was developed initially for the um spanish population in america and then it was, then it was adapted for the us, for the english-speaking population, and then it was brought over to the UK.


d processing packages back in:


So it's understanding the purpose of the tool and understanding the limitations of what the tool can do. But without people's attitudes the tool won't be effective. It's like you know what's the use of a fork. You can use a fork in loads of different ways. What's the purpose of a knife? So if you understand what the tool is and the limitations of the tool, if you can explain what you can do with the tool, then it's a very, very powerful thing.


When you're coming back to the past, it's what was the purpose of education then? What was the purpose of education now? Because the kids now and my kids are 14, and what purpose does education serve them? To enable them to move forwards in society. And I've got a big question with what the politicians are actually doing with the state of education, because education seems to have been a real big football for many, many years and it's bounced around and other bits and pieces. So what purpose does education serve? And I'm going to move it on to north korea. It sounds really, really okay. In north korea, for example, in the dictatorship, education serves a purpose to serve the state. In england I'm not. It doesn't seem to be that there's there's it seems to be a lack of clarity in certain countries, in england, in the states. What's the purpose of education? Because without that lack of clarity, how can you fit in all the rest of the systems? Does that make sense? Or am I going off off on a tangent?

12:24 - David Brown (Host)

no 100 and I I would guess that the purpose of education broadly in the west is to create workers. That's the only they're not. For me, at least the way I see it and has done for decades in the west, is it's purely education is about giving people enough knowledge that they can go in and fill a role in a workplace and create value for someone else. I mean, that's, that's pretty much it. So the the whole thing is to create workers. It's not to go into interrupt?

13:01 - David Bara (Guest)

yeah, so in the:


so it's not the rosy days of but, many, many years ago there were, there was structure. Now it's. You need flexibility in order.


I mean, I've had 20, 30 jobs in my lifetime at least I've lost track, to be honest about it but yeah you need, and that's where technology again comes into enabling yes, because technology can enable people to build up the skill set to then have transferable skills. Even driving is more technology. You know there's far more sensory input when you're driving than there was 20, 30 years ago, and so it's a lot more information processing. I think that's going on off the tangent, but again it's what's the purpose of education and how can technology support that?

14:49 - David Brown (Host)

Do you think that education is serving its purpose at the minute the way it is?

14:56 - David Bara (Guest)

I would say no, although yeah, no, yes, it does for, for for, yes, but but then, yes and no, yeah, yes and no, yeah, because if you look at the amount of kids that are have got mental health issues, if you've got the amount of kids that aren't going to school, who who are struggling, then actually is education serving a purpose, because?


Or are we more aware of kids' needs. So, from my position as a parent with a couple of kids who've got additional issues, I can say that education isn't serving its purpose at all, because it hasn't served, because it hasn't served the, it hasn't met the needs of my, of my children and the community I'm part of. I'm talking about the special needs community. It's caused a lot of trauma and I know particularly I've got to speak up for girls. It's girls who hit puberty and this may sound a generalisation, but girls struggle, might struggle slightly more in the education system than boys, and I feel, and I feel that that actually the education system needs to support girls more, because because it's more, it's just because it again, this is purely subjectively it seems more complex and my daughter's on the autistic spectrum and you have levels of complexity with with with that as well. So I think the education needs to really support girls a lot, a lot more and is that do you mean in mental health?

16:44 - David Brown (Host)

Because I think most people would say that girls are generally more mature than boys at that age, particularly in the teenage years. This is the received wisdom, and I'm sure they've done some studies on it or something, but I'm not a professor, but I think everybody pretty much agrees that usually girls are more mature than boys and whatever. So is it mental health? Is it the social pressure? It's the social pressure. Is it the social pressure? Yeah, and is that around actually the actual learning aspect of it?

17:20 - David Bara (Guest)

It's the identity within school.


To me it's you know and bringing it back to me. It's you know, it's because, and when you've been bringing it back to technology, because you've got the technology, you've got people on facebook, tiktok and all these other bits and pieces. So it's when, when I was growing up I'm 53 it was you go to school that you had various social clubs and other bits and pieces. You were in with some, you weren't in with others. But actually the kids are getting information. I might. I used to get my news from itv, the bbc. Now they're absorbing so much more information. There are so many more pressures that are around and again the kids are on whatsapp. They can join whatsapp groups, they can join all the other bits and pieces. So there's a lot I I think kids, well, kids are under a lot more pressure. So the technology again it's an advantage or disadvantage. They've got Childline around, which is great for kids and supporting their mental health, but it's got its limitations. So it's a double edged sword. There is. There is no answer if that makes sense kind of stuff.

18:25 - David Brown (Host)

Yeah, I was. I was listening to Jonathan Haidt the other day and on a podcast I can't remember if it was, it might've been Joe Rogan or another one, but he was talking about I think he was talking about where they had interviewed teenagers and they said you know, what do you think about not allowing teens to have mobile phones, you know, until you're like 18 or something? And he said that the most common question was well, does everybody not have one, or would I be the only one? And they said, well, everybody. And then they said, well, if nobody could have one, then I would love it, it would be great.


And that's, in a way, sort of reinforcing what you're saying right Is, with access in your hand constantly to social media, all the pressures that come from that. But then you've got WhatsApps and Snapchat and all the other stuff that kids use. I mean, I have a 16-year-old son. You know he's year 12, I guess this year he's going to do his A-levels next year and he hates all that stuff and he's never used it. But he's like it's just ridiculous. He's like, you know, going on there, it's like the Wild West and he's like people are just idiots and he's like so he's quite good. He literally doesn't live on his mobile phone, couldn't really care less. He's a gamer. So he, you know, plays online and plays with his mates and they get on and you know that's where their social interaction is. But, you know, even he can see it and he's just like, yeah, this is terrible. And even he says that he's like it'd probably be best if we just didn't have phones.

20:00 - David Bara (Guest)

If we move back to COVID again my son again is a bit of a gamer, yeah, and he's got friends. The beauty is and COVID was phenomenal for this he was on, I think, roblox or some of these other games and he was actually. He was developing, and this is where technology was phenomenal. He was developing soft working skills on Roblox because he teamed up with people. I think he was a guy from denmark, singapore, scarborough in england and somewhere in the states and they were developing roadblock stuff. So they developed business, they developed project management skills, they learned about geography and time zones and what they're doing is they were coming up with their own social media strategies. Now, that was covid was, however, many years ago. He's still mates with these people now yeah and yeah it's.


That's where, again, technology is good, because it enabled. It enabled the social development for people who weren't particularly forthcoming in terms of liking physical social interactions. But it was developing those soft skills. And coming back to what the purpose of education is. The beauty of, let's say, for instance, the stuff that your son does, my son does, is they're developing skills that are useful for the workplace. They're actually for this. Yeah, if you look at what the son's doing, that strategy, that planning, that coordination on all of those things they are the skills that are needed in a lot of jobs going forwards, that mental flexibility yeah, if you then look into what the education system is doing and what the kids are actually learning in school.


Are they learning all of those soft skills? And you're shaking your head, and this is where so does.

21:47 - David Brown (Host)

It is education serving its purpose yeah, no, no, I agree with you. I don't, I don't, I don't think it is either and I don't. I, I don't know what the answer is, and I think a lot of other people don't either. You know, I think some places and and we're talking about education, so Finland has to come up at some point. But, um, sorry, if you notice that I'm laughing, I'm instructed in the background. All of the soundproofing that I've put up behind my computer is all falling off the wall because the tape's not sticking to it. So, literally, as I'm sitting here, I've got blocks of styrofoam falling behind my screen. It's making me laugh. So also, if the sound gets a bit terrible, uh, throughout the podcast, I apologise. But um, yeah, no good thinking about the thing and then I'll come back.


But I think, think there was a, there was an age group, so that was what four years ago now. So that was the 13, kind of 13 year olds, 12, 13 year olds around that time, and I would say probably 11 to 14. There was that cohort of students, probably more the boys than the girls, because boys tend to game more than girls do, although a lot of girls game, but I think it's a generally a boy thing. I mean, it didn't impact him at all and his friend group at all. In fact it, like you, exactly like you're saying, it made them, it gave them different skills, but they just continued doing what they did anyway, like they never hung out with each other outside of school. Anyway, you know they, they were forced together during the day, but then they, they wouldn't even go to each other's houses, they'd rather sit at home and they'd game together and they'd get eight or ten of them would get on discord and then they play a game and they chat on discord at the same time and, and you know, they did it that way because then strangers couldn't come in and they didn't have to talk to like random weirdos off the internet. And you know, it was in fact I.


I think that he, that little cohort of people probably weren't so badly affected by COVID and the lockdowns as the rest of the kids on either side of that.


I think the much younger kids who didn't maybe do that as much probably were affected, and I think some of the older kids who maybe didn't game as much because it was a little bit behind them, you know, they might have been impacted a little bit because that was their social time going out. That's when they should have been going out to, you know, pubs with their friends and drinking in the park and like I know, whatever. But that's what we all did and you know that was a lot of the social bonding that teenagers have is, you know you do that and you run around and you know you learn a lot during that period and they didn't get a chance to do that. So sounds like maybe your son and you know some of his friends were just in that same cohort as well and they might have got through it all right, but there's a whole huge group of kids that didn't and there's a whole huge group of adults that didn't either.

24:55 - David Bara (Guest)

See, again, the technology was coming back to the education it allowed. My son struggled at secondary school. My son struggled at secondary school. He then moved to a small school and he sat his GCSEs a year early. Now that the the skills that he learned. And and again, sorry, talking about technology, it enabled him to mature. It enabled him to develop those skills which are applicable in the workplace and build up that level of skill basis.


So the technology was an enabler as much as it was, it could have been disabling, utilised in the, in the appropriate way, in a guided format, not in a dictatorial format of. This is what you must do. It's within a semi, within the structure of a game, yeah, within the structure of a planning thing. So you've got the freedom to run wherever you want to, but you've still got these, these rules and regulations. That is a phenomenally powerful tool because it allows people to intellectually go wherever they want to within their capabilities and develop that skill set without real judgement from adults. But they're still being scored, they're still being measured, they're still being assessed the whole time and they're measuring their own success.


So again, the technology. It's not as though there's a teacher that's going along and saying your grades are terrible. You're doing this really, really badly. It's actually something else that's guiding them through, and if they're not happy with that particular game, so to speak, they can move on and develop their skill set elsewhere. So technology is phenomenal, because otherwise all you're doing is you're working with individuals who've got their own biases and they're making the judgments based upon scores that they're given the games. The games and the technology can help structure it, even though it may not appear to be structured yeah, I totally agree and there's, I think I mean I love to play games.

27:00 - David Brown (Host)

I, you know I grew up with the first generation of. You know I'm I'm only a couple years older than you, so I was basically, you know, grew up at the same time and I was our first. Our high school in memphis was the first high school to have computers and you know so I was a teenager when when kind of really pcs came in and then, you know, instantly, games were part of pcs, you know, in the beginning. And then you had a you know, games on on Commodore 64 even and the old Atari systems and Pong and all that. Like, I was that generation that grew up with those games.


And you know I look at games now and I'll pick on Fallout 4 because there's a really interesting part of Fallout 4, which is you can build your own houses.


And what's really interesting and I could see that from my son's perspective, watching him do it because him going through it, trying to learn how to build a house that works versus one that doesn't work, was really interesting.


So he learned a lot about spatial relations and and how to, how to build a room that works, and you know, then you try to put furniture in it and you're like, oh well, it doesn't work because it's not the right shape, or he would build some crazy design and then he'd try, and you know, make it functional and it's like, oh well, that doesn't work.


And, just like you said, that was a neutral feedback loop. Right, it wasn't like some adult going you're no good, you didn't do a good job, that's terrible, go do it again. It was a system and he went, oh yeah, ok, that didn't work, I got to try it again, and so it was a much softer, more passive feedback loop. But at the same time he learned super, super quickly and now he can look at stuff like you know, I'm redoing my office and he can come in and look at it and he's developed some skills to be able to look at oh, where should the furniture go and how should we arrange the room and which he probably never would have got any other way and so it's developing that cognitive, cognitive awareness.

29:02 - David Bara (Guest)

And again, so can schools keep up with the cognitive ability of the kids? I mean, we've literally moved house um on the wednesday, wednesday, thursday I forgot, I've lost track of time, um. But I met one guy and he was we had the movers in, yeah, really really nice bloke and I asked what did they do? And these guys work really, really hard Physically. They are moving boxes all day. And one bloke like how did you do this? And he said I left school when I was 13. I was bored and I really didn't like school. Now this guy contributes to society massively. He is doing an absolutely vital job. He knows how to drive a truck, a blooming great truck. He works, he. He really works very, very hard physically, cognitively speaking, and school wasn't suitable for him. Yet he's actively contributing to society massively. And I spoke to a couple of other builders as well. They're not educated, but boy are they. Have they got good spatial awareness? Do they understand certain things? They've got phenomenal minds within a context but they have a different education absolutely.

30:18 - David Brown (Host)

And I think that's and I I get the feeling that we're coming out the back of this. I think the pendulum I you know the pendulum was way over on one side where nobody was educated very much, and then the pendulum swung and it's like well, no, we've got to educate everybody. So the pendulum swung all this way and it's like you must go to university. If you don't go to university, you're not educated. And then you, you have all these people who went to to university and I'm going to say this and you, whatever, come at me if you want, bro, but you know there are a lot of people that go to university then look down on people who didn't go to university because they think they're uneducated somehow. But what those people are is they're educated in a different area.


Most of the people that I know that went to university couldn't fix their car. They can't even change the tire if they have a flat. Now, I think that's practical knowledge and I think that's knowledge. And you know, there's a lot of people who can't do plumbing, they can't do basic electrical, they couldn't build a wall in their house if they wanted to tear out a wall and move a wall, they would have no idea how to do that. I know how to do that because I worked manual labour jobs and I worked construction when I was younger.


But that is a special knowledge skill and it, it, it's sort of again I get wound up. I'm actually quite easily wound up today, but it kind of winds me up when people are like, oh, they're not educated and it's like, no, they're just not educated in the stuff that you're educated in, and I think it's all equal. I don't think there's like levels. Just because you went to university doesn't make you special. It just gives you a certain. It means you can write papers in a certain way, using a certain style of language.

31:57 - David Bara (Guest)

This is where AI is threatening those jobs. If you look at the lawyers and a lot of these skills, I mean. I met many, many years ago. I used to work in a. I worked in a five-star, super deluxe hotel and I met one guy who was phenomenally rich. Um, he's functioning, literally. I think that one of the richest people in England who owns a chain of shops and I can't remember which one it is cannot write and and you've got a wood fire.


I'm not sure if it's not Target. I can't quite remember what store we've also got. We've now in our house we've got a wood fire and I went to a timber merchant a sawmill, um yesterday and I spoke to a bloke and he left school when he was 13. The guy's in his 70s now and he said I won't sell my business for 20 million now. This guy owns sustainable forests up north and he can read people and he will charge prices. I used to work down markets and people would. The classic one that I tell people is that I got taught how to look at people's shoes, look at people's fingernails, and the prices would vary, would go up by up to 400 percent to see because when people were wearing rubbish shoes, they could be, expensive and you look at if people are aware of what do you call it, have got their fingernails buffed, which means they've got money.


You then look at people's watches. That in itself is a skill set which isn't taught within schools, which isn't taught within universities which is so can AI teach this? Can schools teach this? And these are the soft skills that enable people to really thrive in society.

33:36 - David Brown (Host)

But so let's move. I know I mentioned Finland earlier and then I never went back to it, and just let me close that loop before you move on to the next thing. But I think I have a lot of friends who are Finnish and I love Finland. I could live in Finland 100%. I would love it, including all the mosquitoes.


Including the mosquitoes and all the cold in the winter. I don't mind. It's worth it, frankly, but that's just me anyway. But one of the things that I find really interesting that they do in their schools is they teach the kids or they're now starting to teach the kids a lot about trying to analyse things that they read online and understand. Is that something that they should believe or not believe? And they're teaching them those skills that, the analytical skills to be able to say, ok, you've seen something online, should you just believe it, or should you maybe try and do a bit of research to see if you think that that's actually correct? And it's actually something that they teach them in school? And I'm like that's so amazing. You know they're not doing any of that in the UK, at least as far as I know. Anywhere I've not heard of it and they certainly don't do it at my son's school.


And it's that, the critical thinking, but also the skills to understand where to go, how to, you know, go, where to go to find information, how to check it, how to see if it's correct, and it's like you're saying it's those sorts of skills.


That's not a direct knowledge skill. It's not, like you know you have to memorise something or you know biology, but that's kind of one of those soft skills for digital and online it's. You have to be able to develop a sense of that doesn't sound right and then be able to do your own investigation, and I think that's one of the things that we could start to teach. That would be an easy thing to teach and I think would be an easy thing to add to a curriculum that wouldn't cause too much extra effort, although I could see where that could. That could get somewhat dodgy based on political lines and stuff. If you had people within a personal political agenda, then you know that that could be a little bit risky. But other than that anyway, that's what I was thinking about the Finnish system is that they teach the staff to feel comfortable enough to be challenged and that's.

36:00 - David Bara (Guest)

And so, therefore, it comes, and I agree I would be interested to know the types of staff that they recruit within Finland and the personality types that they recruit within Finland, because for that to be taught or enabled, the staff should not feel threatened by the kids. And then if you're looking at the assessment system as well, that then you need to create an environment where in England where we've got ofsted, where ofsted value that type of thought process where they see the kids. When my son was at school last year, the kids were actually arguing with the teachers, but they weren't actually arguing with them. They were actually encouraged to argue for that process. Now, it was a very small school and the kids absolutely loved it. It was mentally challenging, but they had a very, very small number of staff and the staff were recruited and had that mentality.


The question is you would need to. Well, no, no, no, it was not the question. It's the case of does the current cohort of educationalists that are in the system have that skill set to feel challenged by the children, yeah, and by the, by the pupils? Because you need more of a growth mindset. You need that level of flexibility and in coming back to when I said that north korea and other bits and pieces, it's you know like do you want people who are linear or completely flexible? Yeah, and so it might mean that in Finland, the type of type of stuff they're actually recruiting actually have a certain type of mindset and they're not threatened and they're comfortable with it, because also you need people, you need staff to feel comfortable with them themselves as well.

38:13 - David Brown (Host)

So, it's.

38:14 - David Bara (Guest)

I can again, sorry to. I agree with you. Do education systems have the ability and flexibility to incorporate that, because that's absolutely vital? Are the right people in the right place in order to do that, particularly with the staffing crisis that they have? And coming to AI, and this is where AI could be very, very useful, because there's a shortfall in teacher numbers. So actually the AI can take up some of the slack from lesson preparation and all the other bits and pieces and then enable the staff to actually do that work of flexibility, of thinking creative, challenging and other and those sorts of environments as well, and know that it started within a structured structure that you can argue and then the moment that lesson stops, then you walk away. It's like actually we're getting on with the world, but we were there to argue because that was the lesson.

39:20 - David Brown (Host)

Does that sort of go that links?

39:21 - David Bara (Guest)

into the Finland sort of stuff, or have I just gone off on a?

39:22 - David Brown (Host)

tangent. No, no, no, exactly. I think that, yeah, the whole. I mean the whole education system. Just to talk about that from what I know in Finland is, you know, every teacher at every level is master's degree minimum, but they also pay their teachers extremely well and it's a respected role in society. So parents respect the teachers, the kids respect the teachers, the government respects like. They understand that. You know that is a hugely important role and I think in a lot of other countries that's maybe not.


As you know, in the US, from when I was there, you know, if you said you were a teacher do you know what I mean? It wasn't like it's, it's not like you're a doctor or a lawyer, whereas in Finland it's kind of at that same level. It's like, you know, doctor, lawyer, teacher, it's, it's a, it's a very at that same level. It's like, you know, doctor, lawyer, teacher. It's a very well-respected thing and I think that propagates through everything. It's how the parents tell the kids to respect the teachers and you know it permeates through all of society, which makes the whole system better. Now I realise that Finland is a country that's geographically as big as the UK, but it's only got like four million people. So you know, the population is much smaller to have to deal with and it's easier to deal with smaller populations, and I get that. But you know, anyway it's always an interesting, you know, sort of model that people talk about. But I agree with you, I think not only can AI help the teachers and give them more time, but I wonder at what point are we going to? Ai is not there yet. It still hallucinates a lot and, you know, makes up stuff that isn't always correct, but I think as we move forward over the next five to ten years, that's going to pretty much resolve itself and it's going to be. It's going to be way more accurate than any human is ever going to be, and so if you go and ask it about something, you'll get a good answer, I suspect.


But then that opens the question like but then what do we need to teach people? Like, what's the value of like? I guess it's what we're talking about, but what does that free us up to? Then learn other stuff? Do we go back to learning art and do we go back to learning music and trying to be creative and doing those sorts of things and doing the stuff that humans are good at, which is interacting with each other, instead of knowing multiplication tables, like who cares? You don't even need to know, like I don't need to know. I don't need to know any of the algebra that I ever learned in school trigonometry, none of that, I don't need to know any of that.


If I want to be an engineer yes, absolutely then that's when you learn that stuff, if that's what you want your career to be. But there's machines to do all that stuff. Now I don't need to know that. So is that? What AI gives us the opportunity to do is to say, ok, we can relax on learning, you know all of this stuff. We only really need to know about 20 percent of all the, let's say, mathematics that we try and teach kids up to A-level, like we don't need to know all of that. We need to know basic arithmetic. And if we spent twice as much time on basic arithmetic and less time trying to teach statistics and algorithms and that sort of stuff to kids who, frankly, are never going to use it and don't care, rhythms and that sort of stuff to kids who, frankly, are never going to use it and don't care, could we better use that time and do we think that ai is going to help with that and help us be able to reorganise?


I don't have an answer, there's a lot in there. Sorry, I tend to do that okay.

43:12 - David Bara (Guest)

So in not answering your question, the education system doesn't teach people how to learn and think, coming back to the finish thing. So again it's again.


I don't know how many jobs you've had, but I've had loads and loads yeah so my dad who god rest his soul, and he'd be in his late 80s or whatever as he told me, always have a backup, always have a backup plan. So I was an apprentice aircraft engineer when I was 17,. Yeah, I've done many, many, many different jobs and if something doesn't work out, I can become a lorry driver. That's it, it's absolutely fine, it's, you know, something that pays the bills. But my dad taught me that mindset which I've never, ever forgotten, which is actually learning how to learn. Yes, education doesn't teach people how to learn, and that level of flexibility. One of my favourite jobs in the whole wide world was welding, and I'll look at a weld and I'll go oh my good God, this is not work of art, this is absolutely beautiful, but that I learned about the fine motor skills and that level of coordination and that social skills and about my body, on how to move it and other bits and pieces.


So I learned and I've met I mean, I was a security guard once and I met some phenomenally educated security guards who were immigrants, particularly from Nigeria, and they were trained lawyers. Some of them were doctors. I met somebody, a colleague of mine. Her father was a vet from Albania and his skills literally didn't transfer. The paperwork didn't transfer either.


And so people will do these manual labour jobs. They'll do jobs to survive, but they've learned that level of flexibility on what do I need to survive? How can I be flexible in what I need to do? And that unfortunately and I and the education system is failing people in learning how to learn. And so when you're saying that the ai can do the grunt work, but what happens if the AI fails? So there's a core set of skills that people need to know how to do writing, arithmetic my spelling, again, I'll readily admit, isn't great when I write stuff down, but I know how to spot a spelling mistake. It takes me two or three times as long as somebody else to write something down manually and it'll go yeah, but I can spot the spelling mistakes without a shadow of a doubt.


You know I can read people's work, that's not the problem. But my own stuff is very, very laborious, which is why technology is the advantage. So when you're talking about letting the technology do the grunt work, absolutely brilliant, but I know how not to do stuff and that's where the technology the technology is an enabler, but if we don't.


If kids aren't taught that mentality, they're not taught that level of flexibility, and it comes back to your son, my son and what they're going on in finland. People need to learn how to be flexible in their thought process, or at least learn how they should be flexible and how much of that is on the parents okay, right, so I would say where are?


we going with this because part of it is I'm a parent of two kids who have got additional issues. Yeah, and you've got ageing, you've got old parents who are older as well, yes, parents who are. To be honest about it. People are struggling. People are struggling with themselves, financially, socially, emotionally, and so how much?

47:03 - David Brown (Host)

Let me qualify what I meant. I don't mean the teaching and the spending the time teaching, but I think parents foster an environment of curiosity and learning by how they interact with their kids. I think and so you can encourage your kids it doesn't take any extra effort from being a parent. If you're busy and you're a single parent, or you're an older parent and you've got jobs and responsibilities and you're struggling with money and everything else, you can still help your children to be open to the idea of learning and to be curious and to stimulate that sort of that activity. And I think even more so now than you used to be able to, because there are so many more resources now that are easily and readily available. You know it used to be when I was a kid.


If I was curious about something, you know, my grandparents had Encyclopedia Britannica, so I was all forever being told go look it up, go look it up, go look it up. And they never said you know, they never discouraged me from that. They were always like go look it up and come back and tell me what you learned. And so it was. You know, it's those little things that you can do. I think that's what I mean more about it's more how you talk to your kids about it and how you teach them to be themselves in their worldview. I guess is what I'm in. It's not up to teachers to do that, it's up to the parents to do that.

48:36 - David Bara (Guest)

In my view, Again I come back. Some of the world that I live in. People are on antidepressants, people are on medication and people are you've got again ageing populations with underlying health issues as well. So do people have the cognitive ability, the actual capacity, to do that? Or are people too exhausted to even think? And so, yes, parents should do that for sure, without a shadow of a doubt, and it's something as it's. You know, you could I mean the classic science lesson for me, if you're talking about curious, is classic science lesson to me is cooking. Yeah you meet.


You come, you're making pasta and it's like you want curiosity. Right, we've sat down at meal. We've had've had some pasta. It's a bit hard, mum, it's a bit hard, dad. What is it? Well, actually the science behind it is this, and let's do a science experiment. Yeah, and what's it like, the tomato sauce is just a bit too off. Okay, so let's add a bit of sugar and it's that natural curiosity that you can actually embed within it. So the learning is all around. Yeah, the learning is going for a walk with a dog, with a cat, the other bits and pieces. It's like you brushed a cat a little too hard. You see a bird flying away because you're a little close. You can naturally do that within everything you can. I mean, the beauty of Netflix and Disney Plus and all these other little bits is you can play things back. Now you can embed natural curiosity in it.


And coming back to the Encyclopedia Britannica, that was actually very disabling, and the reason why it was very disabling is because if you weren't literate, you didn't have access to that knowledge. But now, through the technology, the beauty is you've got text to speech, you've got all of these other bits and pieces. So actually Encyclopaedia Britannica. Even if you were the most educated, people came from the best family in the world. Whatever it had absolutely everything. You were illiterate or you couldn't read. You couldn't access that knowledge.


was a kid and this was in the:

51:45 - David Brown (Host)

My son was.

51:46 - David Bara (Guest)

He had cooking classes when he was in, like, year seven or eight, it's the parents of tomorrow being taught the skills that we were taught in a soft way in schools. Yeah, and so it's that generational thing. So how can we be good parents if some of the stuff we weren't taught within school from our parents?

52:11 - David Brown (Host)

Does that? Yeah? Yeah, that makes sense, yeah, I mean. No, it's a great question, but these are the questions that we have to try and answer. I think and this is where I think, potentially a tool like some sort of an AI tool brings some advantage to it.


Like you said, the other thing about Encyclopedia Britannica thinking about it is that it was also enormously expensive, like they were not affordable. Luckily, my grandparents had a. You know, they had a good lifestyle. My grandfather owned a real estate agency and, you know, made decent money and whatever. But you know, certainly, when I lived, my mom was a single parent and I stayed with my mom a lot.


I lived with my grandparents a lot and my mom a lot, and you know, when I lived with my mom, we didn't have anything. So you know everything I, all the books I got and everything I got from the library. But then again, you know that was a totally different world. There were big libraries back then. There's no libraries now because no one goes to the library anymore. But it was again, it was a totally different you know kind of thing.


But I can't help, but I guess my hope is that you know we can, we can use ai and that some of the ai stuff that's going to come out is going to be useful. Do you know what I mean in that sort of way to really open it up and and maybe the, maybe the kids and whose parents don't know some things or they don't have access to some of the tools, or, you know, they're just trying to make ends meet they can't go out and buy expensive laptops or whatever that maybe, through the school system and through some of the tools and the mobile phones that they'll, they'll be able to use some of these tools to actually, you know, answer some of those questions and to actually get the answers to stuff that they don't know yeah, I mean, yes, I completely agree.

54:06 - David Bara (Guest)

I mean, if you think about like well, I remember if a commodore 64 or or I had, um, I forgot what, the Sinclair Spectrum or something rather, and it was about 200 quid. I mean, what's ridiculous is my mobile phone. I refuse to pay any more than 150 quid for a mobile phone.


to about:


So, although the tech may have come down in price, the actual cost of accessing that tech because of the electricity bills is going up and people are on electricity metres and there are those issues around that. So there is a cost to accessing this tech and it's not an equaliser. So the AI is a phenomenal tool and the AI potentially is free, but the electricity isn't. The computers and the phones aren't that expensive, relatively speaking, I go for second-hand computers. To be honest with you, I don't need particularly powerful ones. That does me for what I need for the moment, but it's the cost of electricity that comes, and so if you've got people, who are financially distressed or disadvantaged, then are they going to be metered on utilising the AI and all that technology?


I'm throwing that into.

56:25 - David Brown (Host)

No, it's no, no, no. It's a great, it's a great question and it's gonna it's gonna be really interesting and it's gonna force people to make decisions. I think it's going to be really interesting and it's going to force people to make decisions. I think it's almost the thing it's. It's almost the position we're getting with sky, and I know this is going to sound totally random but, like sky TV.


So you know a lot of the content that you used to get on TV and you could get access to for free. Now it's been put on a, you know, behind an app that you have to subscribe to. So you know you either subscribe to it on the sky's platform or you subscribe to it directly. And it's like, well, now what's the point of having sky? Because if all the stuff I watch is on two or three apps, are the two or three apps individually less expensive than I would pay for sky and then pay for the those channels on top of it.


And you know I'm having to look at that and it's like, well, I have to make a choice. So I'm about to just bend Sky off completely because I get discounts, you know, on things like discovery and you know, like the sports stuff I watch is all on TNT or what used to be BT sport, which is all part of EE. So my mobile contract is tied up in that. So when I renew my mobile contract I get discounts on all that, like it's all shifting and moving and it's like you said, you know we're going to have to make decisions on what do we do. Do we still have a TV? Do we still, you know, or are we going to just use our mobile phones?

57:53 - David Bara (Guest)

And this is where the maths comes in.

58:01 - David Brown (Host)

So, coming back to the schools, this is where you need basic maths in order, but that's like I said, though, that's arithmetic, that's basic maths, it's not. You don't need algebra for that right. So again, I think we'd we'd be better off spending time making sure that everybody really understands the basic arithmetic and reading and reading you know, comprehension as much as you can to to be able to understand what you're reading, to be able to read and to be able to do basic maths and and basic calculations, and then, if you have that base, that's the base level you need to then learn anything else you want to learn.

58:37 - David Bara (Guest)

If we go back to the old kind of stuff, I think they should actually have lessons, dedicated lessons, on board games like chess, drafts, backgammon, world of Warcraft and all these board games.

58:52 - David Brown (Host)


58:53 - David Bara (Guest)

Which is actually teaching those cognitive skills and those social skills as well. They actually, to be fair I don't mean it's a games lesson, you know literally learning different games. Yeah, that would be a phenomenal, that would be a very, very powerful tool, could that? Because that would allow people to develop that flexibility, that those social skills, everything else, those numerical values. I mean, one of the best games ever is Monopoly.

59:18 - David Brown (Host)

Yeah, and Bridge if you want to get more complicated, and Bridge if you want to get more complicated.

59:23 - David Bara (Guest)

Never played it. It's a nightmare. Those skills.


Rummikub is great and it's that level of flexibility that then have those transferable skills, which then, because AI isn't when you're using AI, I think, and what I've used of it, you still need to know what to put into the AI in order to get the feedback and that cognitive flexibility. To think around it, it's rubbish in, rubbish out, and if you and if you still put in the same rubbish, you're still putting in the same stuff time and time again, you're not going to get the positive feedback. So you need people to teach that level of flexibility. Be it. And you said about the parents. So what you need to do is the parents need to teach the kids the level of flexibility and that curiosity. That's what really needs to be embedded within the education system to then enable people to maximise the technology, to think it's not just a tool, it's how can I utilise a tool to serve my purpose and for good?


Yeah, David, I just realised we're at an hour.




No, no, no, it's brilliant. And do you know what I particularly liked about our discussion and the points that you raised is you actually, in a lot of the conversation you talked about how you know, part of this solution is the fact that the teachers have to be willing and able to teach the stuff that they need to teach, or? You know, it's all well and good for people to say we need to change. You know, we need to change what we teach our kids, but we need people that can teach that and that are willing to teach that and are able to teach that, and that's something I think that a lot of times gets overlooked and I think it's fantastic that you mentioned that in the conversation a few times.


That came up a few times today and I really, really like that and it's.


I know I didn't drill down on it too much, but it has absolutely given me something to think about and it's it, but it has absolutely given me something to think about and it's, it's.


It's something I'm going to think about for quite a while, I think is, you know, we need to remember the teachers and we need to remember, you know that there is somebody who has to deliver all this stuff and it's all well and good for us to to talk about it, but if we can't implement it, then it doesn't make any difference, and you know so. There's a whole other side of that and that's a whole nother podcast. That's a topic entirely on its own and I know I've talked about this a few times and I do want to set up an Education with AI podcast specifically to only talk about education, because I think there are a lot of conversations to be had about education, because I think there are a lot of conversations to be had, you know, from from the, the perspective of the schools, the teachers, the parents, the students, government. You know that because you know or more viewpoints to to kind of bring together and to to understand how it all fits that's the way.


I'm more than happy to chat to you about that, because my wife and I rewrote the inclusive education policy for Nigeria with the support that I have. I'm happy to chat because I wear different hats.


Brilliant. Well, I think that'll do us for today. Is there anything you want to end on?


No, thank you very, very much. Any words of wisdom. Thanks very much for the conversation.


Brilliant, all right, well, thanks very much and hopefully we'll speak to you again soon. Cheers, cheers, bye-bye.

About the Podcast

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Creatives With AI
The spiritual home of creatives curious about AI and its role in their future

About your host

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David Brown

A technology entrepreneur with over 25 years' experience in corporate enterprise, working with public sector organisations and startups in the technology, digital media, data analytics, and adtech industries. I am deeply passionate about transforming innovative technology into commercial opportunities, ensuring my customers succeed using innovative, data-driven decision-making tools.

I'm a keen believer that the best way to become successful is to help others be successful. Success is not a zero-sum game; I believe what goes around comes around.

I enjoy seeing success — whether it’s yours or mine — so send me a message if there's anything I can do to help you.