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Episode nine transcript

The Virtual Staffroom Podcast

Episode 9: Hour of Code Special Edition

 

Joachim Cohen:

Welcome to the Virtual Staffroom, a podcast made for teachers by teachers and all with a dash of educational technology thrown in. My name is Joachim Cohen, your host, and the school's technology innovation lead with the Technology 4 Learning team here at the New South Wales Department of Education. And yes, you've got it in one. It means that I do have the best job in the world. And today I'm joined by two rather awesome members of the Technology 4 Learning team Yvette and Linda. Now you're going to find out today is all about recipes. So consummate storyteller plus out-of-the-box ideas plus journalistic prowess equals Yvette Poshoglian.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Hi. Thank you so much. I think this is a very cool episode, because we're going to be talking everything hour of code, I hope I have not just given that away. Lots of ingredients here

 

Joachim Cohen:

Fantastic. Indeed. You got it. And we're also lucky enough to have passion plus techno-smarts plus student first equaling Linda Lazenby.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Hello. Now I really wish we wrote an algorithm for Joe, maybe next time we will do that!

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Next time.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Absolutely. So what have we got in store? Well, Yvette has given it away. This podcast as it's released computer science education week, and the Hour of Code will be the words on the lips of every school teacher and student around New South Wales, around Australia and around the world. So we've put together a special edition of the podcast to find out more about it and get you inspired and ready to engage with coding and computer science in your classroom. So what are the variables that are going into today's Virtual Staffroom algorithm?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Well, we begin with Linda, Yvette and I taking you through our favorite source of coding knowledge as we chat courses that can build your capacity. After that, we head to the US as we are joined by Susie and Harrow from the Minecraft Education Edition team to find out what they are doing for the Hour of Code. Then we break for lunch and chat with coder, game developer and co-founder of Girl Geek Academy, Lisy Kane to find out what a career in computer science really looks like.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Finally, to get you started. We take a peek at some resources you can use tomorrow to power your classroom with code. Now, as we do this, you might be wondering, what is all the fuss about code and why, or why are we focusing on it here in the digital staffroom? Well, as we know, the world is becoming increasingly digital and this will see our students' futures involved in the creation, the modification and the understanding of digital systems. And this is where coding and it's more encompassing problem-solving focused computational-thinking, bigger brother, it's a mouthful, come in.

 

Joachim Cohen:

The ability to program, to configure and develop digital systems to develop solutions, make lives easier, and innovate, amazing ideas. Plus it's part of the curriculum. Take a peak of the Digital Technologies curriculum in stage four, and also the Science and Technology curriculum in stages one to three. And you will find loads of references to digital systems. And this is where coding comes in. Code is just the buzz, but digital systems and computational thinking is where it's at.

 

Joachim Cohen:

So future-focused, curriculum linked. And as you already know, or will find out hugely engaging, but are you still feeling a bit apprehensive? This podcast is all about being the antidote. So let's get started. Now, if you're listening to this podcast, we know you are inspired to get coding and problem-solving with your students. But how do as teachers build those skills? We're going go to quench our own curiosity? Well we here at the Virtual Staffroom had been scouring, and this is what we've come up with. Linda.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Hey, so I found a great website that teachers can be using called Skill Finder. Now, I think it's really important as a group of educators that we realise that teachers do not need to be the keepers of all knowledge on all things. They need to know where to find the information for their students. So Skill Finder is a great platform that's Australian-based and I had a little hunt through and you can find different courses from beginner, intermediate and advanced.

 

Linda Lazenby:

There's a great range on coding. One of the ones I looked at was understanding the basics of code and that's a two-hour Google session. Some of them go for up to 20 hours. So there's that real credentialing that you can get and really expand your knowledge. Some of the other fields in coding there have is basic, software development, web development and backend coding.

 

Linda Lazenby:

And I just liked that idea of you could set some student to do one of those courses. They can do it self-paced and some students may then explore other fields that don't just have coding. There's a lot on this Skill Finder site. So I'd really recommend you have a bit of a look at it and see where you could build it into your classroom practice.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I really like this too. I also like the AI that's built into the way you can actually discover courses. So I think getting students to think about how they might be able to code something that as well, once they've gained those skills might be really cool, but you're right. Such a gold mine, Linda. I like that one.

 

Linda Lazenby:

It kind of walks through, what do you want to learn more about? What kind of level are you? So it does help you curate what you need.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah. Well, on that, Linda, there's also plenty of great action over on LinkedIn Learning. Now we've talked about this before and it's not just for teachers. Students can access it as well. Some of our wonderful T4L interns from Big Picture at Liverpool Boys High School have been doing some courses and checking in and up-skilling in Photoshop, I believe, in the last couple of weeks as they work on a portfolio.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

But, I think a lot of this Hour of Code that we're talking about today is about demystifying some of the concepts as well, because there's a lot of phrases bandied about. And for me it was actually understanding why are we calling it computer science? And I think it's good to understand that that is what the science is called in the states. And we've inherited that to a certain extent, but really it's about how it's going to fit into your digital technologies curriculum or that you're delivering or it could be in your geography classes.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

In particular, when we chat to the Minecraft and Minecraft Education crew, we're going to hear a little bit more about that. So in keeping that in mind, it's a Python-based challenge this year, and there are thousands of courses you can do or an up-skilling in Python, say, in LinkedIn Learning. So if you haven't checked that out could be a good place to start as well.

 

Linda Lazenby:

And across both, Yvette there's heaps on LinkedIn Learning, there was heaps on Skill Finder. The other thing that I think is critical is remembering that it's not just one week of the year and it's not just one hour like Hour of Code says it is. And I think it's making sure teachers know where to find the resources and kind of put their toe in the water, I suppose, for Hour of Code, but then where can they go next and weave it through their programs through the year.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Well, I love the background of Hour of Code? Because it's literally about getting that Hour of Code into the classroom or at home in some form of activity. And it's all been about demystifying the art of coding. And I think it's great to just remember that. It's about building those skills but also uncovering, with maybe a little bit further along than we were a few years ago, but even if it's an hour, let's build on that hour, that's just the very basis of it.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Awesome.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

What'd you find, Joe?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Well, look, I think one thing you both have pointed out for me right now is the idea of this terminology that we've got coming up. We've had computational thinking. We've had Digital Technologies had Python, we've had JavaScript I'm sure will come up somewhere. C++ and that is really overwhelming for a lot of people. Thinking about, "Well, what do they mean? I'm not sure about what those terms are." So I found something by the Computer Science Education Research group, CSER. People know it by CSER. And they've created, a MOOC.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Tell us about the MOOC.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh, okay. I forget. Sometimes you just say it automatically, there's another piece of terminology. But a massive open online course. So, which is something that's free, easily available and also revolves around the building of a community. But I think of it a little bit like what we currently term now as micro-credentialing. So a way to gain some key new skills but also to share that knowledge in as part of a group. And it's been developed by the University of Adelaide, which is fantastic because you can be sure that the content that they're producing is going to be having a reasonable amount of rigor.

 

Joachim Cohen:

It is based around the Australian curriculum but the terminology is also reflected straight through to the New South Wales curriculum. So what I love about these MOOCs is it assumes no knowledge and actually starts to unpack these key terms that are inside the curriculum so that you understand them as a teacher. And you might understand what is Python all about or what is computational thinking? What's an algorithm? And they're not scary they're just words. And you use them every day, but we just need to understand what that key with the meta-language.

 

Joachim Cohen:

That's the word we use often, isn't it? So it's that metalanguage of digital technologies and of coding. So I really encourage you to go and take a peek at the CSER MOOCs. There's one for all different stages of the curriculum that you can go and investigate. So there's, ones for the primary curriculum and then for the secondary curriculum. But they've also just put some new ones out there about Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity. So definitely worth going and exploring those because there are two key areas that I think are future-focused for our students.

 

Joachim Cohen:

So, some really great ones to build our knowledge. And I noticed, even if you're going and having a disconnected a holiday this year, you can actually ask them for a USB and they will send you a whole course on a USB. Isn't that cool? A bit old school, but cool. And it tells you it's for everyone.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I have an algorithm, Linda. MOOCs, plus summer holidays equals amazing.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Yes, indeed.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I love it equals an amazing time. Absolutely. What goes with a cocktail, a CSER MOOC I can tell you. Now it's time to get building as we immerse ourselves in the world of Minecraft Education Edition. A platform where students can create and innovate and can prototype. But did you know you can also code inside Minecraft? From programming, a robotic helper to conjuring scientific formulas and experiments. Today we are going to learn Minecraft is way more than a game. But also a great way to build students' skills, their innovative capacity, their problem-solving and prototyping potential across the curriculum.

 

Joachim Cohen:

To help us find out more about Minecraft and also the way in which you can engage with this powerhouse tool during the Hour of Code, we are lucky enough to be joined by two people from the global Minecraft team. Joining us from the good old US of A. Now I was fortunate to meet our first guest a couple of years ago now in the UK of all places. And she inspired me with her passion and enthusiasm for making an impact. And that person is none other than Susie Tinker.

 

Joachim Cohen:

As a member of the Minecraft education team, Susie focuses on customer experience and adoption of Minecraft Education Edition in the classroom. She leads professional development and onboarding, ensuring that educators understand how to use Minecraft as a learning tool in the classroom to engage in STEM learning. And today we're also honored to have software engineer, yes, you heard right, a software engineer is in the Virtual Staffroom. Haro Moncivais.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Haro leads a team of developers that build versions of Minecraft for classrooms around the world. She grew up in Mexico and came to the United States, to study computer science at the University of California in San Diego. She's super passionate about improving computer science education and making sure everyone has the opportunity to learn code. Haro also taught high school computer science as a volunteer for several years. In her free time she likes to read fantasy and Sci-Fi, and play tons of video games. Oh my goodness. Linda and Yvette, I am so excited. And Susie and Haro, welcome. We really are blown away to have you on the show.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Welcome Susie and Haro. Thanks so much for joining us from the other side of the world today. And I can tell you, we're pretty excited to have you here as the team behind Minecraft Education Edition with us. So to start with, can you tell us about, what you get up to each day, Susie, let's start with you.

 

Susie Tinker:

So thanks so much for having me. My name's Susie and I work on customer engagement on the Minecraft Education Edition team. So I get to work with customers all over the world and help them learn how to use Minecraft Education as a teaching and learning tool embedded into the curriculum, embedded into standards, really as a teaching and learning tool, whether that's history, English language, arts, science and definitely computer science.

 

Linda Lazenby:

And what about you, Haro? What's your day look like?

 

Haro Moncivais:

So, hi, thank you so much for having me. It's an honor to be here. I'm Haro. And I'm the dev lead for Minecraft Education Edition. So that means I manage a team of, I think it's nine developers now. And we work on various different parts of the game. And so my job is mainly to make sure they're unblocked and help them get their work done and help them connect with other folks as they need to.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh wow. Now I can tell you that hearing both of those little introductions, our audience is getting a little bit curious out there to know a little bit about how you got to where you are, what your journey is. And when did the bug bite that you wanted to get passionate about digital technologies about STEM? Was it a teacher? Was it playing a game or was it seeing some amazing technology in action? Haro, can we start with you this time?

 

Haro Moncivais:

Yeah, of course. So both my parents are actually engineers, I grew up in kind of an engineering household. We played a lot of video games growing up, so I've always loved technology. When I actually got into computer science was in high school. My high school had an intro to Java course, and I remember the very first program I wrote it printed, "Hello world." In Spanish. I took it to Mexico. So it was 'Hola Mundo', on the screen. And just the fact, I wrote this program, I ran it and the computer did what I told it to do. It was just insane that I could do that. That I could create something out of nothing really. And so that really hooked me into this path of programming.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh wow. Gee, and in the end, what you produce isn't always techie sometimes it can be really artistic and really creative. And do you have a favorite game at the moment that you love to play?

 

Haro Moncivais:

Oh, right now I'm playing a lot of a little game called Spirit Fair. You are a spirit that helps people pass on to the next life.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh, that's what I'm going to have to investigate. I think it sounds amazing. Unbelievable. And Susie, where did your passion come from? What drove you and what drives you every day?

 

Susie Tinker:

I come from a business background and it's interesting because going through university myself, I was always really interested in education. I almost did Teach for America which is a program that we have here in the states. And I actually ended up joining Microsoft out of college, through the Education Sales program. So I actually got to learn right out of college about all of the products that Microsoft sells from the cloud and Azure to security, but we were also selling Minecraft Education Edition, which is a brand new product on the sales team.

 

Susie Tinker:

And I remember I had my first call with someone who was on the team that I'm on now and they demoed how you could use Minecraft for one of my customers for math. And I remember watching the demo and I was just blown away at how they were modeling fractions with blocks. And I'm I'm not a gamer at heart in my background. And I had never played Minecraft myself, but I was just captivated by what the tool could do. And so I actually moved over from the sales team to the product team to help build out our customer engagement strategy, to get more customers and schools and districts and ministries of education using Minecraft.

 

Susie Tinker:

And I've just been really blown away by the different ways our product can be used in schools, across subjects, grade levels. We have students using Minecraft in university to learn code for the first time. So it's just an amazing tool that I think we all feel super fortunate to get to work on.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Oh, definitely. Susie, thanks. This is Yvette. I think we're all driven by very, very similar things. I'm wondering Haro if you can tell us a little bit about the world that's just been released in time for Hour of Code and maybe give us a bit of insight about how you develop a Minecraft world.

 

Haro Moncivais:

Yeah, absolutely. I think Hour of Code is pretty special for us. It is probably the world that we put the most work into. And so probably three or four months before we want to release it, the whole team gets together and we decide on what's the cool thing we want to showcase. So for this year, I think one of the cool things we want to showcase is Python in the game. And so it's being able to code with texts and have that run and affect your Minecraft world.

 

Haro Moncivais:

So once we decided on that, the engineering team kind of had our job to do and the content team decided, okay, what's the theme going to be? What do we want to show along with Python? And for this year we thought, equity and inclusion would be a great theme. And so the kinds of things you need for equity and inclusion theme are, for example, great storytelling. So the content would come back to us in engineering and tell us, "Hey, right now, storytelling is very limited. What can you do for us to make it a little bit richer?"

 

Haro Moncivais:

So our new MPCs where you have branching dialogue. And so it lets students as they're playing through the world, really get to know this village and get to know the characters and understand, how this theme of equity and inclusion is kind of being showcased through the world. So I think that it's kind of this back and forth.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

It's a tale of two villages this year. And I think, there's a lot happening in this storyline. Can you just go into a bit more detail about what the world is like this year?

 

Haro Moncivais:

So this year it's actually an open world, which is different from last year. Last year, it was a fixed path. This year students can explore the full world and try activities and go back to them again and again, in whatever order they would like. The world is split into these two sections, it's the villager section and the illager section. And so these two kind of factions are not really at war, but they don't really get along. They don't understand each other. And so, the student is trying to help them understand each other a little bit better. And use their coding agent to code solutions that helps them get along better.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I always get blown away by the power of video games and the way they immerse students and users into a world and give them experiences that they could never normally have and really challenge their thinking. This sounds an amazing world. Thank you, Haro. And Susie, you drive excitement, engagement and connection with computer science through the amazing work you do with Minecraft. What are some of the stories that have really warmed your heart and that you've seen over the last year of inspired students and teachers that really connect with how to use Minecraft to develop some amazing skills?

 

Susie Tinker:

I think my favorite story was from a teacher that I met on one of my trips who had been doing the same lesson for years and years and years. He took his students on a field trip to visit a castle that was in their community. And the students were supposed to write a history report on the castle. And that was really the gist of the entire lesson. And when the teacher had the opportunity to start using Minecraft, he totally flipped the lesson upside down. He had the students work in groups of three to four and they were actually going to take down the dimensions of the castle when they visited on a one-to-one scale.

 

Susie Tinker:

And then they were asked to recreate that castle together in Minecraft. And so what is really incredible about this story is not only are they incorporating collaboration and communication and now math but the teacher asked the students to use code in some way to build part of the castle. So some of the students figured out that they could use their agent, which is our coding robot buddy helper, to build the castle walls, which is the most time-consuming monotonous piece of the castle. So really a lesson that was totally changed across the curriculum incorporating so many different subjects and really inspiring the students to learn how to create and code in Minecraft.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Thanks Susie. Now, Haro. I know teachers and students often ask us what's next. And it's interesting to know how the Minecraft team plan what's next for Minecraft Education Edition. Can you walk us through that?

 

Haro Moncivais:

Yeah, of course. We received a lot of signals for what we should work on next. A lot of those come from Susie and she talks to educators around the world and tells us kind of what they need to better use the game. Some of those come from our support team or our feedback website online, which is public. Some of those are things that the business leaders and the team want to chase after they think there are big themes in education ways to make the game easier, more accessible. So as I said, something like three or four months before we release, we all get together and we pick kind of the top, let's say five to 10 things that we want to go chase after.

 

Haro Moncivais:

And then the engineering team gets to estimate how long they're going to take us. And so we kind of dig a little deeper into what each of those features really is. And we say, "Okay, that's probably about a month of work. That's probably about two months. That's probably about a three." And so then that goes back to the business leaders and they decide with that cost, which ones they want to chase after and what order.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

And on that point what should teachers be keeping an eye out for next?

 

Haro Moncivais:

Well, I think part of that is probably secret, but our users are very excited about the Nether update and bringing that to Education Edition. So that's probably something to look out for.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh, which one was that? I missed that. What was that, Haro?

 

Haro Moncivais:

So, the Nether update that was released on the vanilla Minecraft, last summer is something that I know a lot of our users are very excited about. So that's probably something to look out for in Education Edition.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I'm excited. You heard it here. First on the Virtual Staffroom. There we go. We love an exclusive, I can tell you. Now teachers are going to be so keen to connect with this world during the Hour of Code. This amazing new tale of two villages. So can you, maybe tell us where we should be sending teachers to find out more about this? So Susie, can you tell us where should they be going?

 

Susie Tinker:

Yeah, definitely. So if you go to the Minecraft Education Edition website, it's education.minecraft.net, you will see our landing page is the new Hour of Code 2020 lesson. So in that page are a tonne of amazing resources. We have an incredible educator guide that walks through how to set up the lesson with your students, how to introduce them to the theme and some of the concepts like diversity and inclusion and equity. And then we have an answer key for both Blocks and Python. So you can help your students with some of the answers if they need it. And there's also an amazing educator walkthrough video. It's six minutes long and it introduces to the educator how to set up this lesson and introduces a few of the activities to start with.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Well, that sounds great. And I really love the idea that you're going right back to basics. You're showing even the new users, how they can connect in with Minecraft Education Edition. I know we'll pop a link to that in the show notes and also a link to where our users need to go, to go and learn more about Minecraft in the New South Wales Department of Education. But this applies to everybody across whatever system they're in, go and find out how to get ahold of it. But you two, you've got a bit of a challenge coming your way.

 

Joachim Cohen:

We didn't tell you about this one and it's called Rocket Ship Robots. And we do this with every one of our guests. And we say, unlike this amazing program in the UK, it's called Desert Island Disks where you have to choose the music that you would take with you onto a Desert Island. You have to choose the piece of tech that you would take with you into outer space. So we're going to start with you, Haro. What is the piece of tech you would take with you into outer space?

 

Haro Moncivais:

I would take my Nintendo Switch.

 

Joachim Cohen:

A true gamer. I like it. That is the first time we've got that. And what's on your Switch at the moment?

 

Haro Moncivais:

Well, animal crossing, I think is probably what I'm playing the most

 

Joachim Cohen:

I like it. And it's not dependent on the internet. You thought about this. I really, really like it. Well done. Now, Susie, well over to you, is it going to be a Switch or something else?

 

Susie Tinker:

Oh, Joe, I am so basic. I honestly would just have to say my iPhone.

 

Linda Lazenby:

I hear you, Susie. That's how I feel!

 

Joachim Cohen:

Exactly. We also want to make sure we take the whole internet with us. So don't forget. We've made sure that that's part of the inclusion, but we like it. Absolutely. I can tell you that we are absolutely so blessed to have had you both on here today. Thank you so much. Keep creating and making amazing experience for students and teachers around the world and especially right here in Australia and in New South Wales and any ideas, it sounds like we need to send them to the suggestion form so that they can influence the future of Minecraft. Is that on your website as well?

 

Susie Tinker:

Yes, it is. you can go to our help center, which is linked off of our main website and we have a wishlist where you can post all of the things you would like to see in Minecraft Education Edition, and you can upvote other people's topics and let us know what we should be prioritising to build into the game.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh my gosh, I think I'm going to be heading there straight after this and my colleagues probably know what I'm going to put in. So we will see, but thank you both so much, right from the US of A we are so lucky to have had you both Susie and Haro, have an amazing day. Thank you.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Thanks both.

 

Haro Moncivais:

Thank you.

 

Susie Tinker:

Thank you for having us.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Now we have explored resources, portals and training. So you're all set to embrace the Hour of Code and the power of computational thinking and tinkering with digital systems in your classroom. But why? What are the opportunities and what are the pathways we are preparing our students for? Well, today we are joined by someone rather special. Who has forged a career in code and now even inspires others to consider a career in technology. Yes. We're about to have a chat with game-changer video game producer. Yes. You heard it right. Co-founder of the Girl Geek Academy, the truly inspirational Lisy Kane. Hello, Lisy. Welcome to the Virtual Staffroom.

 

Lisy Kane:

Hi. Thank you so much for having me. And what an intro. What an intro. That's me.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

We are so pumped to have you. Can you tell us a little bit about your day and what it takes to be a game producer and a little bit about how that links to code and coding.

 

Lisy Kane:

Yes, definitely. So a video game producer is basically my role at the team is I'm responsible for making sure that all of our projects come in time and on budget. Sometimes that's not the case. But, a lot of my job, my day-to-day is working with anyone from technical artist and engineer and animator, our biz dev team, our operations team, recruitment teams, across the whole gamut of game development to make sure that our games are coming to life and being brought out at the right time and at the right speed, as well as just making sure the team's happy and healthy and all of our processes are spot on and everything like that.

 

Lisy Kane:

So honestly, every day is very, very different. And mostly I cannot plan for a day. It can just really just happen. But most of it's about untangling blockers, untangling and problem-solving for the team and really making sure that for example, an engineer can focus on programming and not have to worry about, all the other things that are coming up ahead. I'm laying the train tracks while they're driving the train, essentially.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Wow, and I think it actually sounds like a real computational puzzle in itself. Just listening to what you're saying and you really need to have knowledge of all of those components.

 

Lisy Kane:

Yes. I have to do a lot of research. Sometimes our lovely engineers, they'll have these full-on conversations and I'm just quickly Googling things, I'm like ok what is root motion, I don't understand what this means. Google, Google Sheets, all of the Google programs are my number one tools, my number one weapons of choice.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Lisy just on that are all the projects the same length or do they differ, how do the production schedules... What do they look like?

 

Lisy Kane:

We're a really bad example of the delivering games on time and on budget. We make games. So at League of Geeks, which is where I work, our games are quite bigger in scope. So games can have a variety of different things, so people can make games on the weekend. We decided not to do that. We make games over a four to five-year period. So we make very, much more complicated and longer products. So our games can take a long time to make.

 

Lisy Kane:

The first title we've worked on Armello. I joined the project at year three, I think it was. And, we still had a couple of years after that for development. So I was joining the project when they were just about to go into early access on Steam. So they were still in a beta phase, while with this project, which I can't talk specifically about, but can talk high-level, we're still in what we call pre-production. So we're still figuring out all our processes and you, unfortunately, can't just copy and paste what we did for our last project.

 

Lisy Kane:

We have to actually start again and build a lot of those concrete platforms before we can actually build out pipelines and just build content so that this project is still another few years away from even being able to talk about it. So much bigger scope, but definitely, there are projects out there that are much smaller than this. And also like the platforms that work on are different. So we make games for PC and consoles while other folks make web games or mobile games. And it varies widely across the industry.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Gee whizz it really does sound like a massive process and something that I know so many of our students and teachers would like to know more about. Can you tell us about how you got to where you are today? What does your journey look like?

 

Lisy Kane:

So, I have quite a long journey, so I'll try and give you the shorter version of it, but essentially, I always knew I wanted to work in technology. I always knew that I wanted to work in a creative sphere. I've always played music. I've always been interested in movies. But getting those two things together and getting technology and creativity talk was always something, I didn't quite know how I would do that. I went to a school that didn't really have an IT program.

 

Lisy Kane:

I didn't really see games as being something that I could have a career in. I never really knew that industry existed for a very long time. So it took me a few years until I, and a few failed degrees before I figured out that I could work in games. So I actually did a film and music degree after I finished high school. I had started studying that. That was fully100% creative, not as much technology involved. And I kind of bounced off that straight away. I didn't get it. I didn't like it. It did not work with my brain at all. And I dropped out of uni.

 

Lisy Kane:

And then I got a full-time job. I actually worked at a bank for like eight years and I worked in there, towards the end, I worked in their IT department and actually learned a lot about software development through working there, even though I wasn't an engineer at the time, I was learning just from being there and being a fly on the wall, essentially. And at that stage, when I was working there, I was like, "Okay, I should go back to uni. I should figure out what I want to do with my life."

 

Lisy Kane:

And found you could study game design and that kind of completely changed my life. As soon as I literally online just looking at courses and one day found that at QUT in Queensland, you could study game design. I was kind of just completely blown away. I played games, but I'd never really put the two and two together. And from then it just took off. That was just the end of it, for me. I just completely embedded myself in the industry, researched everything, knocked on people's doors, sent emails, was doing all my research.

 

Lisy Kane:

And basically after graduating, I ended up in Melbourne where I live now. Because I knew that that's where most of the games industry was in Australia at the time. And really just started networking. I started building the company called Girl Geek Academy up and that's how I met my current boss and founder of League of Geeks, Trent Custers. And really just from there, was lucky enough to get a job and pretty much have never looked back. Honestly, that day of figuring that out really just changed everything for me.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Oh no, thank you for being so candid. I think that picture really is so important for our students to hear teachers, to hear particularly teachers that may have retrained and have gone into teaching and have real-world experience as well. I think it's very important for particularly our students to hear about that. And also what you said about the marriage of the creativity and the tech. Because the more I've learned about the world of tech it, the more I see how creative it is. So I think particularly given your breadth of experiences it's just awesome to hear about everything that has gone into your particular job. I mean, my first question is, do you get to play the games that you create? And what do you feel about that?

 

Lisy Kane:

All the time? And you end up not enjoying the games, right? It's not like that at all. Yes. So a big part of my job is actually going through and helping give direction to the team in regards to 'is this thing down or not?' So a lot of the time I'm jumping into our builds playing it seeing where we are at, giving statuses of the build. So I work very closely with Trent who's the game director. So he actually is responsible for more the creative direction of the product, the game itself.

 

Lisy Kane:

So I'm working with him and being like, "This thing is not in yet. This feature is not in yet, or this feature is in, but it's half done or it's like these are all the bugs that are in there that point and time." So I'm in the build every day, making sure the quality is being met and that we're on track and then troubleshooting those problems with the team and figuring out where to go from there.

 

Lisy Kane:

And you'll be absolutely amazed how many bugs that would appear in any given day. And what's happening on my machine may not be happening on one of our level designers machine. And they'll, "I swear it wasn't, it was working when I looked at it." So constantly playing the game. If I'm not playing the game, then it's actually, that's a big part of my job.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

And obviously the resilience factor when you're working is a huge one. And I'm just wondering if you could, give us some advice if we have students out there who are interested in computer science and interested in following a career path like yours, what are the subjects they should be taking on?

 

Lisy Kane:

Yeah, definitely. So, for sure, definitely looking at things like information technology and everything like that. And obviously that very basic approach to computer science. But also we talk a lot about in our industry and you were kind of talking about it before, but the idea of having these, what we call T-shaped people or T-shaped workers. So someone that has a deep specialization in, for example, engineering or coding, but has all these other skills on the side.

 

Lisy Kane:

That's actually in video game development, incredibly valuable because we may have an engineer that loves animation so that they can then focus on engineering for the animation team. Having these people that have these other skills as well is actually really valuable. So just because you're studying engineering doesn't mean you should stop studying psychology or history or all these different things. We actually have one of our engineers on our team. She actually didn't do a computer science degree. She did a psychology degree and because of the data-driven work behind psychology and all the things that she did there, she ended up in engineering after her university.

 

Lisy Kane:

And you'll be amazed at a lot of people in our team like our, co-founder, Blake Mizzi, he is our head of design. He has a history in engineering but full civil engineering. So building oil rigs and stuff like that. But then ended up in design, but uses all those things that he knew through that degree into what he does now. So he's a very systemic designer. So once again, I didn't do a computer science degree. I learn about coding and did some very early coding classes. But a lot of the reason I'm good at what I do is because of what I did in high school.

 

Lisy Kane:

And then what I learned from working full time. So there's a whole range of different things that you can learn. And what you study in high school doesn't often really translate into you can't then make games after that. If I did what I did in high school, I would not be where I am today. So if I use that exact same skillset, for sure.

 

Joachim Cohen:

What an amazing story there is there and what an amazing message I think for all of our teachers out there about the way that so many different skillsets intermingle out in the real world and in the classroom, we need to be cognizant of that as we're teaching skills together, particularly the way technology can play a role in so many other different curriculum areas. Ah, it's really inspirational.

 

Joachim Cohen:

And I think leads us to our next question, because in addition to your amazing professional career, you've also started an organisation called the Girl Geek Academy. And I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about that and how it's aiming to change the face of technology in Australia and beyond?

 

Lisy Kane:

Yeah, definitely. And it also interlinked with my story about getting into games. Like in high school. I didn't realise I didn't have that thing to look towards and that vision to look towards. And it's a big reason why we founded Girl Geek Academy is it's about representation. And it's about being able to have a girl gang and share your successes and share your problem-solving with a familiar group of people. So we founded it because basically one of our co-founders Tammy Butow, she was going to hackathons.

 

Lisy Kane:

She was attending a lot of hackathons. And the common thread that she was seeing, it should be the only woman that would be there. And it was beer, it was pizza. It was things that she didn't really enjoy. So she decided to put together a hackathon that she would enjoy. So she got a bunch of people together. She got cupcakes, she got a yoga instructor. And she ended up getting a hundred women in Melbourne to turn up to this event because it had never been done before.

 

Lisy Kane:

And it's one of those things, especially in Melbourne, I feel sometimes it hasn't been done before. It's like, "Oh, let's go try this thing out and see what it's like." And everyone had a great time and we celebrated not necessarily what we built but the connections that we made and the friendships that we put together and the current founders were all at this hackathon. And funnily enough, it was a weird subtle ploy of getting us all together. So we could form this company and have this commonality. She's like actually now we're all making company and what we all represent the different founders, we all represent different areas of the STEAM branch.

 

Lisy Kane:

And we all kind of have our own roles where we try and encourage more women and girls to try out technology and see what it would look like if there are more women building the internet and doing all great things and the whole gamut of STEAM, because at the moment, obviously a lot of these infrastructures have been built by men and it doesn't necessarily serve everyone. So it's a big thing we're looking to do around representation and the whole pipeline. The pipeline is very leaky across from primary school up until when you're a CEO.

 

Lisy Kane:

So we kind of look at all those different areas in the pipeline and where we can serve and where we can help encourage different areas. So whole different range of things that we run and do. But it's been really, really exciting and really awesome to see, how the industry continues to change and evolve.

 

Linda Lazenby:

That is so cool. I want to be part of that girl gang, Lisy.

 

Lisy Kane:

Join us.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Now look, as we're releasing this podcast Hour of Code will be underway and computer science week will be happening in schools. What advice do you have for students and teachers who are undertaking this and give us a little bit a inspo.

 

Lisy Kane:

I think the biggest thing with learning new things and trying things out is that you need to remember that code is going to be there forever and it's going to change and it's going to evolve, but what you do in this hour, what you're doing this day. It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to take risks. It's okay to learn things and never come back to it ever again. I think I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't take risks or I didn't try things out. It's really scary.

 

Lisy Kane:

And it can seem so, even the word code seems, like, makes people seize up sometimes because they're like, "I could never do that." But just try it out. Try and work with friends, see if there's anyone around there. And I always do things with friends because it always makes me feel a little bit less nervous and anxious about those things, but just trying things out and you never know where it will take you next and you never know what you'll do. You'll always regret not trying something, but I don't think you'll regret trying something new. So just jump in.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I love that. Absolutely. And that's exactly what we want to encourage.

 

Lisy Kane:

It's really exciting. It's amazing what you can make. Especially watching kids put together things, I am always what comes from their imagination. It's always amazing, always amazing!

 

Joachim Cohen:

It's totally unharnessed. Isn't it? They haven't been told, "You can't do that. You can't do this. You can't think like that. And their ideas are unbelievable.

 

Lisy Kane:

Yes, definitely. I totally agree.

 

Joachim Cohen:

So, Lisy, I think we're going to be really intrigued to hear your answer to our final question today, because it's all about the type of technology you might take with you. If you are on a rocket ship being taken into outer space, we call it Rocket Ship Robots. And I think you're going to blow us away with your answer. What would you take with you?

 

Lisy Kane:

What type of technology? What would I take with me? I'm trying to think, do you mean physical tech or do you mean anything?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Oh, my gosh.

 

Joachim Cohen:

The world is your oyster. We're not going to fence you in.

 

Lisy Kane:

Well I definitely have to take my Nintendo Switch and make sure that there was some kind of solar charger. I'm definitely all about solar energy right now. And I would love to figure out a way that I could generate solar energy, wherever I'm going or whatever type of harness that energy. So I can have a completely self-sustaining bubble. So I wouldn't have to, would make sure that switch would work. Because it's very important to me. Definitely figure out how to have internet that's for sure. I need to make sure I have the internet.

 

Linda Lazenby:

That's a given. Sorry. We didn't say that that's a given in space.

 

Joachim Cohen:

It's coming in our ship. Somehow we're putting the internet into our ship. Yes. We can't believe it actually Lisy because you're the second person on today's podcast who said that they're going to take a Nintendo Switch with them. Unbelievably the other video game engineer producer also said a Nintendo Switch. We're like, "What?" We got to get one.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

can we get one for the office Joe? Thanks Lisy!

 

Lisy Kane:

The biggest reason why is because I love playing games on my computer, but if I'm in space, I want to be able to take it on the go. I want to be able to have a game on the go and it's got my cozy games. It's got the games that I can just play and enjoy. So it goes with me wherever I go. It's my biggest travel item anyway. So it 100% has to come with me.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Thank you so much, Lisy, for your time for your inspiration and the amazing work you do. And the people and students that you inspire. I think your final comment, which was about having a go, don't be afraid. Just get out there and create and innovate is one that's going to stick with all of us. Thank you so much.

 

Lisy Kane:

Thank you for having me.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Linda, Yvette, are you inspired?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Absolutely.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yes.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I am too. And I'm ready to get started with the Hour of Code tomorrow and to give my students a real chance to engage with digital systems, to explore their potential, open their minds to opportunities and really get creative. So what is your go-to Hour of Code resource, Yvette?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

It's a wonderful blog that I wrote Joe, isn't that just incredibly egotistical but I'm passing on a story. A story that was told to me by one of our STEM leaders, I'm going to give him a shout out Andrew Balzer. He actually undertook the hack the classroom challenge for the Minecraft Tale of Two Villages, challenge this year, which we've been talking about with the crew in Seattle. Look, Andrew's take on this. I really encourage you to head to this piece because he's really unpacked his pros and cons, actually it's just the way he approached this particular, challenge. And he just unpacks the story of it and the potential of using it in the classroom. So, we'll have that linked in the show notes.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I'd totally be going and looking at that. And what I really love about the article that you've wrote and also that world is that it's a real focus not on the technology at all but on the solving the problem.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I think the thing that I loved about it and is it an accessible entry point for lots more teachers, is that it's actually about collaboration and building empathy and understanding other communities problems in order to solve on the behalf of everybody, which is exactly what we're trying to get our students involved with every day of the week. So there's a fantastic correlation this year. So to learn more about those skills that kids are going to pick up head to the blog article.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Absolutely. Look, I did a little bit of hunting myself as well. And one of the gems is there's actually a hashtag. #hourofcode and I just did a little search on that this morning. And I discovered four resources in the four first posts that I found. So I encourage everyone to go out and use the #hourofcode. And you'll find there are activities around using the micro:bit, around Minecraft as we already found. The official Hour of Code website. So make sure you jump onto that official Hour of Code website that's been created by code.org so that you can actually log your school's use of the Hour of Code to add to the global numbers so that we can really push the boundaries in 2020.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yes. Because I heard that there were over 52000 official Hour of Code activities with ahh if you go to my blog article I can refer you to how many there are in Australia.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Amazing.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Quite a few hundred.

 

Joachim Cohen:

let's make it more!

 

Linda Lazenby:

And does that website Hour of Code that you've flagged there, Joe, is that available all year round?

 

Joachim Cohen:

It is absolutely. So co.org they've got loads of activities on there.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

And Hour of Code is awake long December 7th to 13, but in your life, Joe, it continues all year. I know that for a fact. So it's something to just get started with. You don't just have to do it next week.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I love that. And that's the point I think we need to make to everyone as you have been all throughout this episode, this is just a beginner, a taster, a chance to get everyone connected on the coding page or computational thinking page.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Absolutely. Now I looked far and wide and got as far as the STEM learning library like I always do we've created a board 778 is that board number. And we've got a range of resources from Tynker, Minecraft Education Edition. There are some Christmas activities on there which some schools might celebrate Christmas, some might not. And if you're on the hunt for some secondary resources, we're trying to add those as we speak. So you only need a device. You need some time and you'll be ready to go. You don't need one of our kits to support, just check out Board 778.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

And, Linda, I'm guessing there's 777 other boards.

 

Linda Lazenby:

There's actually more than that Yvette. But yes, I don't have the official number as at today but there are lots of boards, but that's where I'd be going for coding resources.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Fantastic. And I think also that little call out there for secondary resources as well is share.

 

Linda Lazenby:

And as always, if you've got something that you've created that we could include on the library, let us know.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Wow. Well, I think we've just given people so much gold to go and look at throughout today's episode, but don't forget, share anything you find with us. We want to discover some new things as well. It's homework time. Linda and Yvette, this is their last episode for 2020. Are we going to give everyone a free holiday pass?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Absolutely. Everyone's earnt it this year.

 

Joachim Cohen:

I reckon so. Absolutely. So and on that, how are you feeling and what has been your standout for 2020?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I said to someone in the lift this morning, I mean, for a start, there was someone else in the lift. Hasn't there been a turning point and I feel it's really happened in the last week or so that everybody's feeling much more positive and great work Australia to get us to that point. So I feel like I really want to maintain that mojo going into the break and maintaining my learning, my interest. I think, we're ending on a bit of a more positive note, which is fantastic for everyone and I just really want to wish all those teachers out there well, and you guys, you need this break. So enjoy.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Whereas I'm just excited as well, because we know everyone's earned their great holiday, but 2020 has been a journey for teachers. And if we looked at some of the numbers, which we've talked about before about the up-skilling that's taken place this year and teachers have really tried different things in their classrooms. So that's been the standout for me. And I can't wait to see what teachers do with that in 2021.

 

Joachim Cohen:

We can't wait, and I really hope...Will you come back in 2021, Linda and Yvette?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yes we shall.

 

Joachim Cohen:

We'll do it all again.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Joe, what's been your takeaway for this year. What are you feeling like getting into next year?

 

Joachim Cohen:

Look, I think my big takeaway is the fact that, what I can see is that there's an amazing ability to tap into anyone's interests and passions and combine that with learning a great new skill. So no matter what you're passionate about, you can find a way to connect it in with a need. So I was thinking back to the idea of drawing and designing, and you can connect that in, as we saw with those amazing, Adobe, MAX courses into an interest that you might have.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Well not to mention, I've seen you sporting your own designs, you did some drawings you got them made into t-shirts. I just love that. And that was at the height of so much going on. So I think it was a real outlet for you.

 

Joachim Cohen:

It is, it is absolutely. So that's my personal one, but on a Virtual Staffroom plane. I think I've just been inspired by the amazing stories that I've seen of resilience, of innovation at the school level. I saw the amazing Game Changer Challenge. I was fortunate enough to be able to host the grand final of the Game Changer Challenge to see those students' ideas, their innovation, they blew my mind. Our world is in such safe hands. When I see the empathy, the compassion, the innovation, the ideas of young people and the candoitivity that they have.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Trademark word.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Absolutely. It's going to become an Oxford word next year. But that's what's inspired me and through all the adversity, we've just seen so many great stories as you guys have said. So 2021, bring it on, hey?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Absolutely.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Absolutely. And listeners, we are planning a slight change for the podcast in 2021. So stay tuned, we're planning more in-depth interviews, fortnightly news, plus some stories direct from school change-makers. You have spoken and we have listened. Exciting times are ahead. So make sure you share your ideas with us as we fine-tune those preparations. Yvette and Linda as always. It has been a blast. This podcast has been produced by the masterful Jacob Druce with the assistance and supreme coordination of many members of the awesome Technology 4 Learning Team.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Just a little note, please be aware that all views expressed by the podcast presenters, that's us, are our personal opinions and not representative of the New South Wales Department of Education. Discussions aren't endorsements of third-party products, services or events. And please note that as much as we sound like it, we are not experts in legalese, tech speak or anything in between. We're just passionate people keen to boost Technology 4 Learning in the classroom and to help build the skills in your students and for you to solve the problems of tomorrow. Do your due diligence, read further and if we've got something wrong, let us know. We too are always learning and always improving.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Before we go, please make sure you send us through your comments, your questions for playground duty, your thoughts for guests and segments. And if you liked the podcast, give us a rating, so more and more educators find us and be inspired to get that little bit techie in the classroom. As we move towards the holidays, we hope you have a restful break, plan to recharge your Energizer batteries for an exciting 2021 that lies ahead. Stay safe, stay curious, stay excited, everyone. And of course, stay compassionate. Thanks for joining us.