Robin S. Rowe, the KBEV-TV Interview

Broadcasting LaptopBeverly Hills High School television station KBEV interviews Beverly Hills Unified School District candidate Robin S. Rowe

BEVERLY HILLS, CA ( 2020/09/16 – KBEV is a student television station in Beverly Hills, California. The KBEV studios are located inside of Beverly Hills High School. Broadcasts on Spectrum Channel 6 to 100,000 homes in the Beverly Hills area.

Today I’m here with Robin Rowe. How are you?

Fantastic. How are you?

I’m great. So can you tell me a little bit more about yourself and your platform for public education?

I’m the only teacher who’s a candidate. So there’s that. I’ve taught at two universities. I’ve taught Computer Science at the Naval Postgraduate School, which is where if you’re a naval officer, you go after Annapolis. And, also at the University of Washington. Most of my background is not as a teacher, but as a technologist. I work in innovation. I was recently the AR strategist at the number one PC maker in the world. I do all kinds of very interesting innovation work.

I was the facilitator at a military conference this past week, where we’re using the most advanced Distance Learning. I was coaching naval personnel in how to do the best in Distance Learning. So, I’m a technologist. I’m a professor. And, I’m your candidate for School Board.

You have a Monday night podcast for Beverly Hills, parents, students, teachers and guests. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Yes, called Ask Your Question. It’s a call-in talk show. It’s really just whatever people call in and want to talk about. I’m all about positive change. So I tried to steer away from talking about what’s wrong with the system, except to the extent of fixing it.

In your platform, you talked about putting students first and the 10s of millions of dollars of school budget waste. What will you do if elected?

The question is, what about the school budget waste?

The way that the school budget works now, it’s pretty shocking. In the March election, I was at a debate at the Beverly Hills High School that was hosted by the School Board. Coincidentally, I had recently read run an article about $16 million dollars in School Board funds that got diverted from education by the School Board into politics and lawyers. Stuff that isn’t the mission. And this is money that had been specifically earmarked for building renovation. It wasn’t even just general education money. It was actually money that was specific for restoring your high school. I asked about that. It was a stone wall response.

That was what prompted me to run in the first place, to get to the bottom of this budget thing. And we have another measure on the ballot, we have Prop 15 that’s on the ballot in November, which would again give more money to the School Board.

When you read the lobbyist’s position on Prop 15 it says we should give more money to teachers and to guidance counselors and librarians. Nowhere in Prop 15 does it say that will actually give the money to teachers, guidance counselors or librarians. And that’s the problem with our system. We keep raising money for education, but it doesn’t go to teachers. It goes to somebody else. It goes to high priced consultants. It goes to attorneys who are friends of the board. It goes all over the place. It goes to trips to Washington, D.C. It doesn’t go to pay for education.

I think that’s a great point. And I like how you also mentioned that was actually one of your running points to make sure that we can help those particular problems. So could you also tell me some other issues that you feel is facing our education system today?

COVID-19 is on everybody’s mind because of what we’re going through right now. The bad news is that in 2,000 years of pandemics, it has always taken two years to emerge from a pandemic. No one has ever managed to do it in less than two years. So, if that’s our guideline, that means it’s March of 2022 before we can go back to quote-unquote normal. We have quite a road ahead of us.

Now, that could change. We live in a technological age where perhaps some kind of miracle cure will be developed. But planning for that, making that our plan that we’re going to expect some kind of miracle is not a good plan. We need to plan for what is most likely to happen, which is that we’ve got a long road ahead of us in dealing with this.

One of the things that means is distance education has to get a lot better. We’ve known that Distance Learning was coming for 10 years at least. There’s been resistance in the education system because it just didn’t seem like the most important thing. Teachers are underpaid. School buildings are falling down. People have been worrying about those things for years, not solving them, but focused on them.

In the meantime, Distance Learning has gone along at a standard rate of innovation instead of being a crash program. Now, Distance Learning is all we have. Yes, we need to give it the focus that we should have given it 10 years ago. We need to make this a technology that we’re not dropping out of calls, and that the call is managed much better.

When I was facilitating a military naval aviation innovation conference two weeks ago, I had multiple sessions that I needed to monitor. On Zoom, WebEx, Miro….but I couldn’t switch between them smoothly. I couldn’t be in one session and just mute that and look over there and work on this session. I had a whole thing that I had to go through. If I had four screens set up so that I had every session in some screen, maybe I could do a little better. But that’s not what students have. They don’t have four screens on a computer at home.

We need to figure out a Distance Learning solution that works for everyone. That it isn’t just for superusers and people who have the best Internet connection and have the best computers in the world.

I think that’s very important. And especially with this pandemic we’re facing as a society. You’ve mentioned before about how to prepare students for post-COVID.

Not even post-COVID. It’s actually right now.

One of the things that I want to bring to the curriculum is AI (Artificial Intelligence). I’m chairman for a world standard in innovation. And, we’re drafting the standard. Traditionally, the way that this would be done is that a bunch of experts get together and each of them writes a few pages. Then the whole group of experts gets on it and changes every word. Very frustrating to those who wrote the first draft. And then we go from there.

It’s very hard to get people to write the first draft of these world standards, because they realize that it will be unrecognizable when it’s done. As humans, we take ownership. Those are my words, why are you changing it? It was perfect. So what I’m doing instead is having Elon Musk’s OpenAI GPT-2 software, which I’m a maintainer for, and it has written the first draft of our document. GPT-2 is a complete-your-thought AI system. Give it a paragraph, the first paragraph of your term paper and tell it: keep going.

GPT-2 will write the rest of your paper. It many write the most brilliant paper in the world. Maybe kind of a mediocre paper. But from a student or a workers point of view, that is so much time-saving. Because we quickly have a first draft.

We don’t necessarily want AI to do everything for us. We still want to have some purpose here. This is like being able to go to Google, do a search on something and quickly find an answer instead of having to go to the library and check out a book. This is just a continuation of that process. And, students have not been prepared for it at all.

Have you ever done anything in AI? No? If you’re a student today, you’re either going to have to learn to work with AI, or you’re going to be replaced by AI. Because in the future, we’re all going to be working with AI. AI is going to take over tedious tasks that students have dreaded for for ages. I never liked writing term papers when I was in school.

So this system, AI, is going to write our term papers. But, we better not leave it there. We better go back, put the human touch on it, make it our own. Otherwise, it’s just like everybody else’s.

We have to bring, a higher level to what the AI provides to us. Just as when we Google something. I do a lot of software development. And I’ll be like…well, gee, I don’t know how to access that screen driver, or some fairly obscure piece of code that I need. I realize it’s probably like 20 lines of code, but I don’t know it. And so I google. It comes back with some coding website. Here’s a little snippet of code. And I just copy that. I’m going to rewrite that code because it probably doesn’t have error checking. It’s just showing what the call looks like. But, it saved me a lot of time.

We’re all going to work like that in the future. We’re all going to be editing things that have been done for us by AI. People who are doing it manually, they’re just going to have no chance. Because AI will do it in five minutes. To keep up, we’ll have to write a term paper in five minutes.

A common concern that students have about Distance Learning and online learning is screen time. How would you help the students who are constantly on a screen all day. How would you help those students who are worried about screen time?

I think we need to get people off of screens. I’m one of those people who spends all his time on screens as well. It’s a personal concern of mine. My vision is not as good as it once was. I had 20:10 vision before, and now I don’t. One reason is that I’m looking at the same distance all day long. That doesn’t exercise our eyes. Our eyes are designed to be looking for predators, and predators can be at any range. They aren’t all three feet away from us. So my eyes aren’t getting the proper exercise.

In California, particularly Beverly Hills, we have an advantage because we have such nice weather. We could have classes outside where the ventilation naturally is good. We can have in-person classes outside with separation, and it wil be no more dangerous than going to Whole Foods.

Putting people back in classroom is very dangerous. Politicians are understating the danger. For one thing, our schools haven’t been repaired. We have classrooms that don’t have adequate ventilation in our school buildings. That’s just asking for trouble.

We need to get outside, for our eyes and due to COVID. When AI has already written your paper for you, you don’t need to stare at a screen all day writing it. Because AI wrote that paper for you, you can just print it, take it with you, go sit in a nice grassy knoll with the other students and talk about what’s in your paper. That might be, Wow! The AI had this great idea, that I wouldn’t have thought of this. In another section, what the AI says seems really lane.

Students might discuss where to go with this section. Are we going to rewrite that section ourselves? Or, are we going to go back to the AI and tell it how to rewrite that section? As a student, do you do that? Do you have the know-how? Have you been trained to use AI?


Can you tell me what would make you the best School Board candidate?

This isn’t a hard question to answer, except that you’re asking me. I don’t t like to say how great I am.

Way back when my when I was still in university, I became the editor for a dance documentary that the dance department was producing that I helped shoot. I said, who’s the editor? And they said, we don’t have one, so it’s you. I spent the summer working at the cable TV station. I was always there underfoot, had no idea what I was doing. The the station director took pity on me, would come and say, Robin, no, don’t press that button. You don’t want the red button, press the blue button. That’s how I learned to be an editor.

And at the end of the summer, the station manager came to me and said, Hey, Robin, you’re so enthusiastic. Would you like a job in television? I said, Oh my god, that would be amazing. I would love to work here. And he said, Oh, no, not here. This place is a terrible place to work. Let me make a phone call. And that night, I was working at NBC. The same day, I had a job at NBC. I had never imagined that.

I became Technical Director for nightly news at NBC. I then had a chance to switch to engineering. I built the NBC studios in Chicago. And then the University of Washington called and said, would you like to teach flight school? We hear that you’re this great trainer for C++, because I taught a corporate class.

Then the Naval Postgraduate School said, you’ve done a great job at the University of Washington, would you like to teach postgraduate at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey? And, we’ll also make you a Navy research scientist.

Then the company that I’d worked with on the NBC project, they called and said that they had a job for me, but they couldn’t tell me what it was. Come down and meet the team, but we can’t talk about what you’re actually going to work on. Taking that job sight unseen made me the research lab director at a mult-ibillion dollar defense company. It was fantastic. I sailed on an aircraft carrier.

I wrote a column at Linux journal about graphics. Writing that column, I interviewed the CTO of DreamWorks Animation. And he asked, Robin, what do you do? I said, I’m a research scientist and blah, blah. He said, at DreamWorks Animation we hire the best computer science research scientists in the world. Just say the word if you’d like to work for us. I’m said, Okay, I’ll go right now.

That’s what brought me to Los Angeles. I’ve worked in Los Angeles on innovation since 2003. I’ve worked for GoPro, DreamWorks Animation, AT&T DirecTV. I have a really blessed life.

My purpose in running is not to say how great I am. It’s not my lifelong ambition to serve on a school board. I’m just trying to give back. This is my civic service.

Amazing. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. Tune in to KBEV for more candidate interviews and the candidate debate on September 30th.

I’ve got questions for you guys if you don’t have to be somewhere else. I want to know more about KBEV and what you guys need. As you just heard, I have a background in television journalism. I’m uniquely positioned to help you guys, assuming I get elected to have the authority to do.

We strive to ensure we want to ensure that all students who are interested in television production in the broadcast industry have the full package of experience in the professional studio we have. We have a really massive studio that has all professional cameras. The switcher is just like the major production studios. We’re on that top notch level.

How many students?

Currently we have about 200 to 250 students.

Out of how many for the entire student body?

We have 1,200 students enrolled.

Ok, about 20%.

Yes, it’s the biggest elective. And normally, there’s a waiting list for students every year, because our class is just very popular.

What I would propose is that all students take this class. I would take it from 20% to 100%. I think I think video production is pretty much a requirement in our Tik Tok world. It doesn’t make sense that we’re not teaching this across the board.

We have a visual Performing Arts requirement, and that is one of the classes that fills that but you can also do photography or dance or you know, music of some sort. But I think in general, more funding. I think what you’re saying is right. There’s a lot of funding that goes towards nothing that actually helps us learn better.

In Los Angeles we’re in the center of the arts. Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. It’s 5% of the U.S. economy. The economic impact of the Arts is humongous. Bigger than coal and other things some politicians are trying to save. Coal is not savable because coal costs more now than solar. We need to give the Arts their due financially. Make the arts be the center. The Arts should not be the thing that we cut when when funds are short. [In the U.S., our third largest industry after healthcare and retail.]

I think outdoor school could be a very interesting proposal. Personally, I don’t think online learning is sustainable for months and months and months. It’s going to have long term impacts.

We’re really lucky here that we can do outdoor. We’re not in Minneapolis. In Beverly Hills, inside and outside are almost the same every day here. Do you know, has there been any proposal by the School Board to do outdoor? Because I haven’t seen it.

Right now I don’t really think they’re looking to change anything.

Yes, there’s a lot of resistance to change. I see that. I’ll make that one of my planks.

Thank you, guys. I’m gonna say that outdoor schooling is a way to go. Thank you so much. Appreciate you taking time to tell me about you guys.