Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) 2015

So, this post isn’t specifically about coding in the primary curriculum, but I wanted to share with you nevertheless.

Last week I spent a week in The Netherlands courtesy of Apple who selected me as one of their distinguished educators for 2015. The ADE programme has been running for 21 years, since 1994, and there are currently over 2000 ADEs across the globe who are using Apple technology to support teaching and learning. This year, they selected around 650 worldwide, 50 of whom were from the UK, and these educators were invited to attend an institute in either Florida, Amsterdam or Singapore.

How are teachers selected?

In order to apply to become an ADE, teachers are required to answer 4 questions (within a specific character limit) and create a 2 minute video to share their story with the team. The idea is to show how you are making a difference and how Apple has helped in some way. For my application I focused on my community support work with Coding Evenings and supporting teachers within my school and the wider community. I mentioned use of iPad within the school and how 1:1 deployment has changed the way children study. For my video, I focused on the changes I’ve made and how I support people in my school – if you really want to see it, you can find it here.

My impression, from talking to other people there, was that Apple selected teachers who were collaborating, inspiring, innovating, supporting teachers and communities and making a difference to more than just their own class. The people who are seeking out new and innovative technologies that can truly make a difference to teaching and learning and are reaching out to share what they are doing with those around them.

What can you expect?

The first thing I found from joining the ADE community was that I had a ready made group of friends – there were lots of people who were keen to share their ideas and practice. There were lovely people as excited as I was to meet each other and one lovely teacher from France suggested we all bring souvenirs from our own country for a gift exchange. On the community site, I found a primary school teacher from Lincoln on the same flight as me and we headed off for a week in The Netherlands.

When we arrived at the hotel we were surrounded by loads of people wearing matching lanyards; we were all given a badge, jacket, t-shirt and itinary on Filemaker Pro and told to make sure we had our lanyards on display at all times.

The institute didn’t start until Monday, but we arrived on Sunday to have a chance to get to know each other, and it was a welcome opportunity to relax and get used to our surroundings. On Monday morning, we were in the hall by 7.45am and ready to start. Each morning started with some very loud house music pumping into the hall, which was overwhelming at first, but become completely unconcerning by day two.

Part of our first day was to split into learning communities – the presenters were keen to stress the importance of selecting a community that reflected your passions and not just what you teach and so, by lunchtime on day one, I found myself labelled as group leader of the primary coding group – 11 educators from around the EMEIA region (Europe, Midde East, India and Asia) with a similar passion for code.

There were a few activities that were focused on corporate stuff (correct use of the Apple logo, guidelines on creating iBooks in the Apple style) and presentations on Apple software, which encouraged me to think more carefully about some software that I’d previously dismissed, but the best and most interesting part of the whole week were the showcases by new and existing ADEs letting us know what they were doing to inspire other teachers and learners. All of the showcases were interesting and fascinating, but one or two were truly inspiring – my particular favourite were two women from the Czech Republic working in a special needs school and using iPad to support learning (they had me in tears with their story).

I also met some really wonderful educators that I plan to stay in touch with and share ideas with – I already can’t wait to meet up with them again. Special mention to my room mate for the week, Sarah Jones, who is using technology to bring together journalism students from around the world in a collaborative and interesting way; Benji Rogers, who supports and trains our next generation of teachers at Plymouth University whilst being a real life magician; Caz Barnes, a primary computing teacher in Geneva using green screen to make learning in Geography more interesting; Tim Lings, an inpiring techy teacher from London, who can moonwalk like a pro and last, but by no means least, my plane buddy and all round amazing teacher and amazing person, Chris Copeman, who kept me sane no matter what else was happening during the week.

Apple let us play with a load of third party tech such as Sphero and Dash, which can be controlled from an iPad as well as some other really cool tech and I’m already thinking about better ways to integrate this into my teaching in a cross curricular way.

I know there is a lot of anti-Apple sentiment out there, including some in the Pi Community, and I know some people will assume that the week consisted of a load of fans who love apple and love everything about them, but actually I felt like it was more about creating a learning community and collaborating with peers. Yes, there was a focus on Apple devices, but at the end of the day, the most important thing was about getting together and sharing what works. No one blinked an eye at me setting up a Raspberry Pi to demonstrate, in fact, a couple of the Apple staff came to take a look at what I was doing! I wouldn’t describe myself as a massive Apple fan, but I like my MacBook Air and iPhone and I like what they’re trying to do – I went in with my eyes open and was fully prepared to become annoyed with an overwhelming corporate message, but that just wasn’t the case. It was a lovely opportunity to meet some truly inspiring people as well as playing with some great resources and I’m so grateful to Apple for giving me a chance to meet them in such a lovely, friendly atmosphere.

So, if you are using Apple tech in an innovative way, consider applying because it really is an opportunity not to be missed.

Egham Jam & Picademy Round 2

As some of you may have noticed from my twitter, I’ve recently been invited to talk a couple of times about the things I’ve been doing since I attended Picademy last year. Firstly, I went to Egham Jam and met the lovely Albert Hickey, as well as a bunch of lovely and enthusiastic Pi people. Albert was showcasing his mind reading, flappy birds game, which had decided not to play ball, but was still interesting nevertheless. I also took a look at Seven Segments of Pi – a simple DIY introduction to coding and making, which really interested me and, when I have more time, I will definitely be taking a proper look. I was realy grateful to have the opportunity to talk to a room full of people which included school governors, children and makers. There were lots of questions, mostly from governors, who were really keen to get their schools involved with Coding Evening.

My next stop was day two of Picademy in Cambridge, where Carrie Anne Philbin had invited me to speak to the current cohort of RCEs about my journey over the last twelve months. It was a strangely exhilerating experience for me since it was exactly a year to the day since I attended Picademy and it was so refreshing to feel the energy and enthusiasm in the room. What I was not expecting was for Carrie Anne to tell the ‘students’ that I’d be on hand to do some primary level Scratch projects should anyone want to do that for their independent project so I was a little bit anxious when I sat down with two lovely ladies, Gill & Carol, to come up with a project that they could take home and show to their headteachers and demo easily in the staffroom. They both insisted that they wanted to use only the resources they had been given in their goodie bags, so we were lucky that they’d been given both a PiStop and a CamJam EduKit.

Without any input from me, the ladies came up with a project that I’d been looking at for a number of months, but still hadn’t put into practice: using Scratch with the PiStop, then the EduKit to demonstrate how to use a breadboard to create a circuit.

For the first part of the project, I knew what to do so I let the ladies work it out themselves, with a few gentle nudges from me; I was so impressed with their attitude and willingness to give things a go, especially with the difficult task of wiring up the breadboard. Just as we got it all working, Carrie Anne came in with a PIR sensor so that we could make our traffic lights sensitive to motion. All credit goes to James Robinson for help with Scratch as well as Martin O’Hanlon who helped us to solve the problem of how to detect someone jumping the lights! The ladies were really pleased with their final project and couldn’t wait to take it back to school; I felt so excited and proud to have been involved and to help inspire them further.

I was also really pleased with the overwhelming interest the other RCEs had in my Coding Evening project – there were at least three people who were keen to start their own and I’m really excited to be able to support teachers and other community groups with sharing their learning and ideas.

So, I’ve attended Picademy for the second time and, once again, I’ve left feeling ultra enthusiastic after meeting a great bunch of people who are all so eager to teach the new curriculum properly. I loved my first experience at Picademy, but I loved my second experience too and it still counts as my best training EVER. If you’ve not applied yet, make it your first priority next term – convince your SLT to let you take a couple of days off, do whatever it takes to get yourself up to Cambridge, or wherever else the course might be.

So, a final note, on Sunday, I fly over to Amsterdam to take part in ADE training with Apple (Apple Distinguished Educator) and I plan on wearing my Raspberry Pi Certified Educator badge with pride.