Apple Distinguished Educator Institute. What’s The Story?

No sooner had term ended, I packed a bag and gadgets and headed off to meet fellow arrivals at Schiphol Airport for the EMEIA Apple Distinguished Educators Institute 2015. Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) echoed the preparation perfectly in this Tweet!

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I’d been watching the Americas Institute trending on Twitter and looked forward to my own first experience. There was an upbeat vibe as I met the first of my international colleagues boarding the bus with a passenger mix from 6 countries.

Arriving for check-in my first impression is one of super smooth organization, friendly faces and lots of people; people everywhere. During registration walkthrough I was issued with a lanyard, jacket, t-shirt and pin, plus an appointment for a photo shoot with the legendary Bill Frakes! Excited and feeling very welcomed, I wandered along to get apps loaded and synched for the week’s schedule.

First impressions really do speak volumes and I met more chatty, smiling people in the first hour than I meet on an average month in the Netherlands!

The theme of Institute this year was Storytelling and at dinner that evening I had the pleasure of meeting some of the Apple Team who were mingling and avidly listening to peoples’ stories. What a great way to start.

Throughout the week, I felt that every conversation mattered, but not in a corporate network way. Everyone I spoke to shared something, and was curious to hear my story too…

The atmosphere of genuine interest is SO refreshing and focuses on exchange rather than competition. Many people expressed as I did, how lovely it is to discuss ideas on a level that is different from regular daily ones that often involve expanding info to support and coach. Usual daily output contrasts the learning opportunity at Institute that is all about absorbing input, development and above all collaboration.

This reverberates through some of the key sessions.

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So what’s it all about and what role does an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) play in the education and leadership community? Here’s my interpretation:

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Being selected as an ADE by no means signals ‘We’ve arrived’, but moreover, that the work is just beginning as the global Class of 2015.

What’s Next?

Time to let new ideas sink in and then grow. Conversations that begin at Institute lead to connecting with others to find out more. Last year I worked on links with a couple of schools in India for a Y3 Project that didn’t mature. One of the EMEIA Showcases led by Mayuri Ambule from India led me to put her straight on my ‘get in touch’ list. [Mayuri there’s an email heading your way at some time soon]. I got an insight into what she has been working on and the ADE Community promotes direct connection with global colleagues. Knowing that fellow ADEs are also passionate advocates, increases the potential of project success.

My Personal Highlights:

ADE Showcases: Three mornings began with a quick fire round of 3-minute showcases (with red digital timer facing the audience-eek!). 45 of them in total and impressive to see so much variety going on out there in education. Each one introduced you to ideas put into practice by talented educators and let us see and hear from children that are part of these amazing journeys. A brilliant, and challenging set-up and my congratulations to all the Showcasers involved!

Master Class with Bill Frakes: Wow! Bill talked us through his photography journey, sharing powerful, personal images and a glimpse into the relationships that developed in the run up to capturing such life moments [I’ll be writing a separate Images post, inspired by Bill’s session].

Bill speaks with ease, authority and in such a personal way that draws you in to share the moments his images portray.

I found it highly emotional. The power of the image, light, context and the story behind them captivating. Bill played us Nebraska Skies and the nature shown just takes your breath away, see for yourself below…

Make sure you ‘Take A Moment’ here – watch it on full screen, turn off the lights, push away ALL other devices and simply focus. Like me, and many others in the audience, you may find its impact raising tears. You’re likely to find you want to watch it more than once!

Workshops: I would love to have had MORE of these. I attended the iTunesU, Apps For Mac and Making Great Books With iBook Author. I found these to be punchy, relevant and exploring many challenging aspects.

iTunesU: Impressive updates rivalling Showbie! Very welcome new features to expand upon learning range of educator-authored materials and to ease hand in and student feedback in Version 3.0.

I attended the session that combined an overview and further detail about account setup and Suzanne Lustenhouwer’s iScholenGroep publications. Practical questions from attendees already using iTunesU generated interesting discussion points. It also explored specific challenges and Qs about how to work between a Private and Public course, as well as when to use either one. A very helpful perspective.

In the primary school context I can see the potential for both categories, for example, Private for ones that share events and images in school, such as special event journals, examples of learning in action for CPD. Public to share and invite feedback on student published stories/ideas/designs plus publishing teaching ideas for educators such as the One Best Things series.

Apps For Mac: A high-speed session in style! Rapid ⌘ commands and authoring multi-touch material – some familiar and some great new tips. Great ideas to take away and try out. Earlier in the week there was a fantastic mainstage ‘Design Session’ outlining Repetition, Contrast and Generosity Principles, among others.

Making Great Books With iBook Author: Seán Ó Grádaigh shared his work building iBooks into Initial Teacher Education (MGO ITE Programme in NUI Galway) and the huge audience launched into adapting a template with media provided, en masse!

We also worked in Region, country and language groups, which then further split into school groups, e.g. IB, British, NC groups. After the last session where I found myself in the British International group of 2, I also wanted to hear more from international projects, whatever the curriculum. I believe learning bridges all demographics and felt there was a missing space in the community to bring International Schools ADEs together. Over coffee, Monique Vergoossen and I chatted about this with the Apple Team. A few minutes later we got news saying ‘It’s Live – go for it!

We’ve started connecting those with an interest in sharing ideas for international schools, so far the country list includes Netherlands, Finland, UAE, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, India, Germany.

What I loved about the Apple Institute overall was the amazing diversity, and authentic interest in what educators are doing. Just like my example above, the window between idea and make it happen is a very short and swift one! This is not always the case when driving change in our educational settings where things can take longer to bring to fruition. Within the Apple community, the dynamic is different: ideas are welcomed, explored and acted upon through collaboration which gives energy and drive its own oxygen tank ✓.

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Finally, my thanks go out to the whole Apple Team who made the week such an impressive experience. The work behind the scenes to create such a smooth event is colossal and so many of the team go unseen, working diligently on logistics, tech, hospitality and more. I’m sure it wasn’t all plain sailing but want to let you know that from an attendee perspective the organisation appeared seamless. Congratulations!

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