September 19, 2005

It's not the Tech, it's all about the Teach


I’m actually writing this post on the train home from a travel-heavy day to the Wild West of Scotland (well, Kilwinning, at least). And, yes, I’m taking a break from putting together this research report that is due in 36 hours (minus 72 hours if I were respecting the actual deadline). But after a day on the move we all need a break. Pictured is my beautiful starting point this morning at 5.30am on the Shore, Leith, waiting for the bus to arrive.

First stop was Kilwinning, a small town in North Ayrshire (for my US buddies this is the country of our national bard, Robert Burns). I was presenting the “pre preview” of the Modern Foreign Languages Environment, or MFLE at However, I have to admit to hating making a sales pitch for something that I am convinced will be good in the months and years to come. The material comes from those of us at the chalkface (although sooner or later I am going to end up not being considered one of those particular miners), so it should be good and relevant to what people want.

We don’t have the kit to do the job properly
There were the expected complaints on the lack of actual tech in the classroom with which, having taught with one computer and (luckily) a data projector, I could partly empathise. The point has made it into the conclusion of my research paper although, when I’ve tempered it a little more, that’s the kind of polito-educational statement that will end up on the cutting room floor.

What it has inspired me to do, though, is put together a pack for teachers who want to bid for equipment but don’t know how. I know what you’re about to say: “you only had one computer and a data projector”. Yes, true, but I did manage to bid for several other items that have helped the whole school’s ICT presence (and its pedagogy perhaps). When you tot up what you can get as a newly qualified teacher then in the two years proceeding it, it’s quite frightening why people don’t apply more often fo the cash. It’d stop people like me getting hold of it, for a start:

£1000 – An optimist’s estimate at the cost of a study trip to Canada (2003)
£5000 – An ICT Enhancement Award (2004)
£2500 – An action research award (2005)
£1200 – New iBoards for school
£3500 – New laptops for teachers in Modern Languages department

That’s £13,200 in 3 years!

If you wanted, you could get a suite of laptops for your classroom if you wanted to spend your money that way.

It’s more than the tech
But I think my point is that you don’t have to: you can get quite a lot out of your limited technology by investing the same money in research into how we teach, how we could teach better and then a small trip to the ICT suppliers to get the few tools that are required to make this work.

This brings me to on what he would have in his ideal classroom. It was all hardware which, in his defence, he knows. He points out, too, that it’s not the technology but what you do with it that counts.

Teachers are not web designers, graphic artists, content editors, post production techies or TV producers. If we were we would be earning far more money making the evening news or the latest Hollywood blockbuster. But we are good at one thing, by and large: teaching.

Can you teach? The answer is hopefully ‘yes’. Why then do we forget to teach when we are thinking about technology. Stop thinking about the Tech, think about the Teach.


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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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