Expert insights from the Urban Teacher [interview]

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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Computer Science educator Mark ‘Urban Teacher’ Martin has become a big name in education, and can be regarded as a true edtech expert. During London Tech Week 2018, Mark won the Diversity Champion Award at the TechXLR8 awards. Here, the South Bank UTC Computing lead - and Tech City UK digital business academy mentor - discusses favourite resources, representation, the people who inspire him, and more.

Why the 'Urban Teacher'? How did that name come about?

Well, that was the only suitable name available on Twitter at the time, but it’s seemed to stick, and people like the ring of it. Plus, the name ‘Urban Teacher’ best describes my journey of an inner-city teacher sharing my everyday experiences!

You were quoted, while presenting at The Edtech UK Global Summit, as saying that "edtech is helping to solve the skills gap and teacher workload crisis". Tell us more about this.

The rise of edtech has the potential to help alleviate some of the manual task that teachers do on a daily basis. In particular, schools should be looking out for tools that offer data analytics, content and quiz creation, online tests, and cloud-based systems. The best of these tools are simple to use, requiring minimal clicks. They give quick feedback and online access, which is obviously ideal for busy teachers.


One look at your bustling Twitter feed shows that social inequality is a great concern of yours. What is your advice to British educators looking to tackle inequality in their respective areas?

It’s important that all teachers - regardless of sex, race, colour, creed and heritage - have a voice and platform to challenge any injustices that occurs in the education system. We need to create more safe spaces in schools, ones where underrepresented teachers and students can voice their concerns and to speak out. I’m very privileged to have a great following; I have the ability to use my platform to highlight or challenge any malpractices that occurs in schools. My main advice for British teachers is to constantly self-assess implicit biases, cultivate inclusivity, solicit feedback from outside observers and regularly solicit feedback from students. That’s how we go about making change for the better.


What have been your favourite edtech resources of the year thus far?

Two words: Adobe Spark. This has been far and away, my favourite edtech resource for this school year. There’s so much to love: it very simple to use, and enables you to create great content in a matter of seconds. Spark is now a game-changer for teaching and learning, as it’s available for free for schools. This is the ideal resource for giving students the opportunity to produce professional classwork with minimal effort.


Tell us about the people and organisations who have been an important part of your journey.

Oh, there are so many people in the education system who give inspiration and advice on a daily basis. I’ve got a lot of people to whom I’m grateful. You’ve got Julian Hall, the inspiring edu-entrepreneur; Paul Mundy-Castle, who’s a top headteacher; Claudine Adeyemi, who leads young people to successful careers; Alison Kriel, the amazing people-person; Phil Badham, a real encourager; Renaldo Lawrence, the most creative teacher I know; and Bryn Llewellyn, who always got a good word of encouragement! There are many more, but these are a few that come to mind.


What do you hope to achieve in the next year?

The main thing I would like to do is produce a documentary on my experiences as teacher, in turn shedding light on the current state of the education system in the UK. This would be a great achievement, because I’m still frequently asked by teachers to share my experiences. People want to know how I’m able to travel around the world, helping education systems to enhance their tech usage, and preparing students for the outside world. So look out for that!

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