Legendary American graphic designer and Oscar-winning filmmaker, Saul Bass, once said, “Design is thinking made visual.” This seemingly simple concept couldn’t more aptly describe the creative philosophy of ACG School Jakarta Design Technology Teacher, Mark Ellison.
A deep and abiding love of design saw Mark enjoy an extensive career as a product designer in the corporate sector, before moving into the field of education more than a decade and a half ago. The talented innovator has since taught Design Technology across a variety of schools in both his native UK and in Beijing, before joining ACG School Jakarta in 2019.
Currently working with students in the design and build of a bespoke makerspace (a collaborative workspace inside a school), Mark believes it is important for students to recognise design communication in its entirety. He feels this understanding fuels inspiration, creativity and professionalism among his Year 7 to 10 classes and always encourages them to produce their best.
Making learning accessible to all students is a priority for this energetic educator who infuses his lessons with real-life examples from his time in the corporate world. He considers this approach provides a more authentic teaching platform, with coursework frequently delivered through project-based initiatives.
“I pride myself on providing opportunities for students that build on their passions and individual strengths, encouraging them to realise their potential and successes,” he explains. “Drawing on my own experiences has, on many occasions, allowed students to actively work and take action within the local and wider communities, empowering them to explore their interests within the parameters of the curriculum framework.”
By combining academic courses with real-life activities, Mark demonstrates the importance of why, what and how students find solutions to a specified problem.
“I believe that pushing boundaries and front-loading students with the necessary skills for the twenty-first century will allow them to provide solutions for unseen problems that they may encounter in the future.
“ACG provides a flexible curriculum that allows for conceptual learning and skill-based activities, as well as serving the personalised needs of its students. It is important to provide rigorous, yet achievable challenges that allow students to become independent, responsible life-long learners who strive for excellence, not only for themselves but for their peers and community around them.”
Mark’s energetic teaching style, creative flair and ‘no-limits’ approach to design act as a strong motivating factor for his classes, as does his obvious expertise and infectious enthusiasm. However, it was an encounter with a student sixteen years ago that defined his teaching career.
“I was challenged by a disengaged student who didn’t want to be in school, let alone in design class. It wasn’t that the student wasn’t able, it was just tasks at the time lacked purpose. I realised I needed to shift my teaching style to focus on the individual, allowing for discussion whilst providing support and encouragement within a safe environment.
“Using this approach, the student quickly engaged with the project, gaining widespread recognition and high academic achievement awards. This experience was not only rewarding but definitively influenced the way I delivered future lessons. There is no better feeling than knowing you have made a significant impact upon a young person’s life.
“Since then, I have seen many students enjoy personal success through design related opportunities, working alongside industry professionals in a variety of contexts.”
With an eye to the future, Mark is focussed on keeping at the forefront of design technology.
“One of the most exciting and enjoyable aspects of teaching is the need to embrace the ever-evolving technology and new skillsets within the area of design. Teaching allows me to stay creative and productive while crafting projects to further inspire pupils. It also gives me time and space to reflect on work practices and how they can be enhanced for the further development of both my students and my own pedagogy.”