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.

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