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Articles > Building Your Community > Q&A: Jill Hodges, Founder of Firetech

Q&A: Jill Hodges, Founder of Firetech

Hear from Jill Hodges, founder and CEO of Fire Tech, on the changing landscape of educational technology in the wake of COVID-19.

Educational institutions may be better known for celebrating traditions than driving innovation, but COVID-19 has accelerated the move towards digital education, and the edtech industry is at the forefront of this adaption. We caught up with Jill Hodges, founder, and CEO of FireTech, a leading global tech education company for young people aged 8-17 which provides courses for children to experiment with different technology concepts, from app-building to music production, to find out what she thinks the future of edtech looks like.

How do you see technology education evolving and changing over the next few years? 

I think the way we best learn won’t change in the next ten years. We will still need to learn by engaging directly with great teachers, by building and creating and learning in an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes. These are core things embedded into the Fire Tech curriculum.  We are still delivering great learning with inspiring teachers - but now we can deliver that anywhere in the world online.

Tech skills are a means and not just an end - we want kids to be inspired to create, problem solve and inspire, using technology.  For some kids that will mean a deep dive into coding but there are plenty of tools that rely on analytical thinking skills rather than knowing all the coding syntax.  So we can use those to really empower kids no matter what their coding level is.

What do you think will be the main challenge for edtech in the future?


I think the best way to learn won’t change in the next ten years. Young people still need to learn by engaging directly with great teachers, by building and creating, and learning in an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes. These are core things embedded into the Fire Tech curriculum.  We are still delivering great learning with inspiring teachers - but now we can deliver that anywhere in the world online.

Tech skills are a means and not just an end - we want kids to be inspired to create, problem solve and inspire, using technology.  For some kids that will mean a deep dive into coding but there are plenty of tools that rely on analytical thinking skills rather than knowing all the coding syntax.  So we can use those to really empower kids no matter what their coding level is. The big question is, how do we inspire millions of young people to learn these skills? 

Which edtech trends did COVID-19 accelerate?


Without doubt it was digital learning. Digital learning has a long history, but take-up in schools and colleges has been erratic. COVID changed that. In the past, schools were slow to adopt digital learning, which was not their fault. Schools have limited resources and countless priorities. Teachers struggle with heavy workloads and lack the time to innovate. They have fears around security and privacy. This was of course before COVID. Almost overnight, educational establishments around the world were forced to adopt digital learning and quickly came to rely on edtech platforms whether they wanted to or not.

What are the advantages of educational technology?

The skills we teach...

Technology allows us to bring our tech expertise, role model tutors, and world-class curriculum into family homes and reach young people we couldn’t have otherwise. It allows us to personalise each student’s learning experience and capability to tailor to each student’s progress and learning preferences.

How did you come up with the idea for Fire Tech?

I started Fire Tech in 2013 when I realised that I couldn’t find for my kids to learn how tech works by getting hands-on.  If they were going to consume so much technology, I wanted to be sure that they understood it and hopefully could spend some of that time constructively!  Also, I am a huge believer in project-based learning and they weren’t getting as much of that in school as I thought they should, so this was how I took matters into my own hands.  I’d been working in Finance and was ready for a change, so I started Fire Tech to build the inspiring learning programmes I was looking for!

Since then, we have established ourselves as the UK’s leading provider of exciting, challenging, and relevant tech education experiences for 8 to 17-year-olds. It’s extraordinary to reflect on what we’ve achieved since then: we have worked with over 70,000 students and families, in countries ranging from Australia to the Seychelles. We have helped these young people tackle problems, develop their creativity and computational thinking, and have lots of fun while building and programming AI models, producing videos and music tracks, and bringing whole new gaming worlds into existence. 

We are very proud of the work we do and we are delighted to be growing our network to bring these skills to more and more young people around the UK (and beyond). 

How has Fire Tech adapted to remote learning? 

In March 2020, we accelerated the roll-out of our remote tech courses so young people around the country and world could still take part and engage with tech education. Students could experience the structure and value of expert bricks-and-mortar classes, now accessed remotely from their own homes. This includes:

  • Small class sizes: there is a maximum of eight students to one tutor, giving kids plenty of one-on-one support. 
  • Specialist tech-savvy tutors: each one is hand-picked and trained by Fire Tech.
  • Project-based learning: each child will be creating and making with technology, not passively learning.
  • In-depth courses: each course lasts for four or five days, allowing children to go deep.

There has never been a more pressing need to give young people access to learning and advancing, especially without traditional styles available. We believe quality extra-curricula tech education, in particular, will give them the best chance of advancing in the future of tech.

To find out more about Firetech courses, visit their website here

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