My #edtech journey as an ICT teacher

Mark Martin

Mark Martin aka @Urban_Teacher is recognised around the world for his insight and passion for education and technology. He has taught ICT for over 10 years, and has become an expert in helping teachers and schools use technology to improve teaching and learning. Mark is an international speaker, travelling to different countries inspiring educators to become better facilitators. He is also actively involved in the UK tech sector, supporting tech companies and promoting cultural diversity within organisations.

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[Original published on 30th June 2015]

When I first started teaching ICT most people said that it is one the easiest subjects to teach because students like playing on the computer. This is totally not the case; there is a big difference between playing on a computer for leisure purposes compared to passing an exam or coursework. The boundaries and guidelines teachers and students need to go through is strenuous and cause lots of teachers to spoon feed students through the learning process.

As a result, there was added pressure on me to make ICT lessons fun, engaging and challenging. This is because if the students got a hint of boredom or lack of teacher confidence then flash games and trivial websites would be pop up on many of the student’s screens. The continuous challenge of making innovative and inspiring lessons has instantly turned me from a novice ICT teacher to a person who would continuously push the boundaries of creativity and innovation in the classroom.

"Edtech had helped to build gain staff confidence and develop effective relationships with my colleagues."

Several years of teaching ICT to thousands of students and teachers non-stop has provided me with an in-depth insight into how you teach people about technology and how you get them to use it effectively. This is a very important part of getting tech to be used throughout a school or a technology company. One of my first school responsibilities was to get over 100 staff and 900 students using an online virtual learning environment (VLE) platform so they could work smarter and from home.

I thought this job was one the easiest responsibilities to have because of my background in and approach to using technology. This meant I had a big grin on my face for the first few weeks. To my surprise, that grin slowly but surely disappeared because the majority of staff were reluctant to log on, let alone use the platform to reduce their workload.

Therefore, I had to put weekly training sessions into place, as well as reward systems and an open door policy for staff who wanted one to one tuition. These methods had helped to build gain staff confidence and develop effective relationships with my colleagues, providing genuine support. This taught me about technology and showed me that you can have the best technology in the world but if you can't make it connect with your users, then it’s pointless.

My golden tip is not preach of the utopia tech-land, but let teachers experiment and help them to get there. Meaning if you want people to use tech effectively, give a few pointers on possibilities, but don’t spoon feed them too much because they will soon become reliant on you to perform miracles.

The experience of guiding people through technology had spurred me into attending tech events where start-ups and tech companies were pitching their new tech or innovation. From the loner at the back of the room to presenting at these events, it has given me great insight and expertise in the tech scene and industry.

I then set up a platform to help edtech companies get better feedback on their products and provide students with the most innovative technology. Since last year’s meetings with tech start-ups in coffee shops, I’m now travelling over to the US to visit Microsoft in their Redmond, Washington HQ. My tech knowledge and experience on what makes a good tech product in education has enhanced. I now consult for some of the top tech companies, and am preparing to create the most innovative classroom in the UK. The challenge is to create a space that inspires teachers and students to think about what teaching will look like in the year 2025.

If you told me six years ago that I would be a major influence in the education technology scene I would have laughed. This is because I was a novice, and didn’t see how technology could inspire students or staff to improve their performance. My top tip is to see technology as a bridge to get your colleagues or students to reaching their full potential. Technology is only the vehicle and the teachers are the drivers, so take off your L plates and drive into the 21st century doing innovative and creative stuff with edtech.

Has edtech had such an influence on your career? Let us know in the comments.

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