My colleagues and I of the VIPTeach Global Online Teaching Fellowship were honored to connect recently with Nick Martin, CEO of TechChange, who was a special guest speaker to our cohort. Nick began his presentation to the VIPTeach Fellows by having us reflect on our journeys and how the decisions we’ve made have brought us to where we are today. He spoke about his own journey as a university professor, lifelong learner, and founder of one of the largest providers of online education for the nonprofit and social sectors.
Educator, technologist, and social entrepreneur
Nick received his BA in modern poetry and education from Swarthmore College. He then pursued a Master’s degree at the United Nations University for Peace near San Jose, Costa Rica in Peace Education and Human Rights, and returned home ready to change the world.
He gathered a group of like-minded people who together took hundreds of online classes in order to learn as much as they could about online education and best practices to educate people globally. These “nerds,” as Nick lovingly describes this group of animators, programmers, educators, and international development practitioners, took what they learned in the online education world and developed TechChange.
TechChange is a one-of-a-kind social enterprise based in Washington, D.C. that builds online courses and events for individuals, organizations, governments, and institutions who want to make a positive difference in the world. TechChange focuses on developing a well-designed platform that will work even in remote locations, helping thousands of organizations deliver highly-engaging training on topics such as disease prevention and response, human trafficking, climate change, and many more.
TechChange has a bright future ahead. They have been educating online for 10 years now and are considered innovators in their field. Other examples of their work include courses on digital transformation in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, gender data collection for UN Women, and the COVID-19 pandemic response for frontline workers in Africa. TechChange is also implementing strategies to use their platforms to run large events, create virtual three-dimensional hubs to enable meetings using avatars, and educate the world on the positive outcomes that can be achieved through online engagement.
TechChange Learning Philosophy
Nick shared the 10 pillars of TechChange’s learning philosophy with us which resonated strongly with the Global Online Teaching Fellows and stimulated a lively discussion. It is notable that TechChange begins the list by underscoring that “good teaching is absolutely essential, whether it’s online or in-person.” Throughout our Fellowship program, we will explore and put to practice what it means to be an effective online educator. And Nick provided some excellent insight to empower us in this process.
As a math teacher in an online setting, TechChange’s emphasis on blending and varying approaches and making data-driven decisions especially resonated with me. Differentiating instruction based on your students’ learning styles can be challenging in the online classroom, but it is so important for student success. As my colleague Susan Landaira explained in her recent article on differentiation techniques, it is important to teach in a manner that reflects each individual student’s needs. I also believe that data does need to drive decision making. I love to learn from other teachers’ feedback and see the data on how our teaching impacts student learning so that I can better my approach to teaching each student.
Perhaps the most popular pillar among the VIPTeach Fellows was the ninth, having fun. One Fellow pointed out that if she’s not having fun teaching, she can tell the difference in her teaching style and the students’ responses. Fun teachers enable students to have fun learning, and engaged students learn better.
What is your educational philosophy? Here are TechChange’s ideas.
1) Good (online) teaching matters
2) Co-create the learning process
3) Build relationships alongside skills
4) Ensure pedagogy shapes technology
5) Blend and vary approaches
6) Let the data drive decision making
7) Make it beautiful
8) Make it relevant
9) Make it fun
10) Never stop learning
We began and ended our evening with Nick Martin with a dream. We began by discussing our parents’ dreams for our lives. Nick knew early on that he wanted to be a teacher, but his father had other plans for him. Thankfully, Nick’s dad not only accepted his son’s chosen path, but he himself became a top TechChange student! We ended our evening discussing Nick’s dream of teaching others how to become better online teachers, causing us all to reflect on the impact we can have on our students to pursue their own dreams. We thank Nick for motivating us, and we thank VIPTeach for continuing to give us resources to fulfill our passions and become better global educators and leaders.