Let me start by saying, our latest Edtech Superhero needs no introduction. A winner of the recent Edtech Influencer Award at Gess Dubai 2021, Jethro Mac Donald is not your ordinary Edtech personality.
In his day to day, he works at LearnIT, a Google partner in the Middle East where he works as a Service and Trading Manager for the Middle East and Africa.
Shall we dive in and get to know Jethro a little more?
Teamwork makes the dream work.
1. How do you kick off your mornings?
My day starts with a very strong cup of coffee, as I’m sure most of our days do. Since we have been working from home and don’t have much interaction with colleagues and clients.
A trick I learnt from my boss is to schedule my meetings as early as I can in the day. It allows me to have a conversation with someone besides myself, helps get my brain going, and gives me something to look forward to early in the morning.
2. Is your morning coffee accompanied by anything to eat or does that bridge get crossed at lunchtime?
I’m pretty bad with eating in the mornings. I will sometimes have a snack, but my mornings are the busiest part of my day which I’m sure is the case for most people involved in education. I will usually have something to eat at lunch once things have calmed down a bit.
3. Team Google or team Apple?
Team Google, but first and foremost, I am there to help teachers so regardless of the platform you use in your classroom my job is to help you. We are a Google for Education partner, but I have worked for other companies in the past in the sphere of education.
The reason I enjoy Google so much is because it is very user friendly. I know from my experience when I deal with teachers the first thing I have to do is convince them of the new concept and having something user friendly in the classroom is a great help.
With Google, everything is in one place and it gives the teachers full control. Once we get over the initial challenges of introducing them to the cloud and how to use it, then the process becomes seamless.
“…first and foremost, I am there to help teachers…”
4. What music are you listening to right now?
I am more of an old school kind of guy when it comes to my taste in music. I got most of my music taste from my Dad. I’m a fan of old school rock, Neil Diamond and Gun n Roses are two of my favourites. I like something to get me up in the morning. The more fast-paced the better.
5. Can you tell us a little about your journey?
My journey started a year out of high school. I was lucky enough to find a program funded by the South African government, it was a 6-month computer course that taught us how to fix computers. During the course, we had to do an internship and frankly, after high school, I didn’t see myself going anywhere near a classroom again. I was lucky enough to be selected by a company called Computers for Kids and I ended up working at Computers for Kids for 4 years, which is where I’ve gained all my knowledge around how to use and introduce technology into the classroom. Through working with Computers and Kids and their partners, I ended up doing some projects in the Middle East.
One project I found quite fascinating involved game-based learning. Which was something completely new; taking games and using them as a platform to teach in the classroom. As you can imagine it was a difficult sell in the beginning, but we were able to showcase the value of it and teachers quickly got on board because it was interesting for the students. The main platform we used was Minecraft and we tailored a curriculum around that.
After that, I met our current partner at the time, LearnIT. From then on I started working closely with LearnIT and eventually it was a natural migration because I knew all the products and I had relationships with the teachers. I started building my career in the Middle East about 3 years ago.
I’ve enjoyed my 3 years working in the middle east and I’m looking forward to the future, that being said we have a good reach into Africa, I’ll never forget my roots. We help schools in and around Africa with some of the projects we do. We help them in their transition online. We have projects in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia. I feel very privileged to be able to work with my country and other surrounding African countries.
When we are young, we don’t appreciate the value of education. We assume that we are done and we will never have to see it again, but I must say I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. It’s so important and I’ve fallen in love with it.
“When we are young, we don’t appreciate the value of education.”
6. What have been some of your highlights so far in your journey in education?
When I started my career in education we were responsible for a project for the Department of Economic Development and Tourism of South Africa. We had to place free wifi routers throughout some of the underdeveloped areas in the Western Cape, so we placed free wifi in all the wards in the Western Cape.
Our job was to go and train the communities on using the internet to find employment by teaching them how to get on the wifi, how to apply for jobs, how to conduct themselves in an interview, and creating a CV. We reached over 500 000 people through the project. When the project ended we had a massive celebration and hundreds of the people we helped attended. We got to hear from them who had found jobs and hear their success stories, it was something special.
7. How does it feel to win educational influencer of the year at GESS awards in Dubai?
It was honestly quite a shock getting it, especially because there were a lot of nominees and it was a big evening, but I’m incredibly grateful for it. It was the Mark Duncan award for Educational influencer of the year. Mark Duncan was a colleague of mine I worked quite closely with. He showed me the ropes when I first moved to Dubai. He was the first person I knew and the first person I met here. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of years ago and the award is really to commemorate him. It was a great honour to receive the award not only for what the award means within the educational space but also for what it means to me personally.
“It was a great honour to receive the award not only for what the award means within the educational space but also for what it means to me personally.”
8. What invaluable advice would you give to people who are having to deal with working from home? What would you say has worked well for you in that aspect over the past two years?
First of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is something completely different to anything we’ve ever faced before, especially when it comes to not having proper support systems when you are not in the office or not being able to travel to see your family. There is an assumption that teachers are supposed to know it all, but this is a completely different situation, where we are introducing technology and new tools and most of the time students know more about these new technologies than the teachers, so you are going to have to ask for help inside and outside the classroom. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to try something different.
I know it can be challenging to get students to engage when teaching using technology so try something different, it might sound weird and look weird, but if you are doing something different you are getting students to engage which is the most important thing.
9. What is your mantra for 2022?
Wear less pyjamas when you work from home, I’m just kidding. My mantra would be to just go out of your way to help people. This goes back to the last question, people are hesitant to ask for help, so if you think you can help and you’ve got advice to give then get that out there either through interviews like this, or on Youtube, or even blogs.
Everyone is going through something as a result of the pandemic so just try to help as much as you can.
“Everyone is going through something as a result of the pandemic so just try to help as much as you can.”
10. Is there anyone in the industry that you’d like to shout out who is doing incredible work?
Yes. Firstly, I’d like to shout out all the amazing teachers I work with and all the effort they go through day by day adapting to using technology and keeping their students engaged during these tough times. I want to also shout out to the managers who are looking to get support for their teachers.
I’d also like to shout out to all the people who have helped me in my career, a few names I’d like to shout out are my first boss Russel Pangelli, my current boss at LearnIT Paul Crossley, and of course, Mark Duncan who taught me everything I know. I also have to say thank you to my partner as well. She’s a great support system.
More from Jethro
Thank you for your time, Jethro, it was a very insightful and inspiring discussion. This conversation also came with so many lessons for me. I appreciate the importance you put on asking for help.
Thanks again to Jethro for chatting with us, and I hope others who read this are as inspired by your work as I am. It was an absolute pleasure speaking with you. Discover more about Jethro Mac Donald and all the amazing work he gets up to on his LinkedIn page.
Team Mobile Guardian