I’m out of adjectives to describe my week at the Apple Distinguished Educator institute in Bali. Seven days of hardcore geeking out with a spectacular group of educators in a breath-taking location is my nirvana. I frequently had to pinch myself wondering if I was *really* there and how on earth my application got accepted given the astounding level of teaching talent amassed at the event.
I didn’t know that much about the Apple Distinguished Educator programme when I applied. As result, this week was really a leap into the unknown. I was (and remain) a bit concerned about a company giving their seal of approval to teachers, when really I think teachers should be the ones giving the nod to good products.
However I liked that idea of learning with and from other educators passionate about using technology in the classroom around the Asia-Pacific region and I like using apple products in the classroom so I was quietly optimistic that I was in for a good week.
I was so wrong.
I was in for the one the most amazing experiences of my professional life.
At the risk of sounding like a cult member, the highlight for me was feeling like I was home. I spent my days and nights surrounded by people who share my passions and had me asking ‘show me how you do that.’
Which is really the point of the Apple Distinguished Educator programme.
Take a couple of hundred people who are already passionate about using technology in the classroom, throw them in a room together by day (and down the water slide at night) and you’ve got the makings of a tight-knit community of teachers dedicated to globally transforming education.
Because it was learning from other teachers which made the event special for me. I can often be found giving advice and helping people with using technology which I enjoy doing (after all I’m a teacher). However it can sometimes get exhausting being a source of information and advice for others.
Over the course of this year, I have been secretly fretting that my teaching was getting stale and that once other teachers figured out my bag of tricks, they’d also figure out that what I do in class isn’t all that amazing.
I was in need of some inspiration and ideas.
Now my brain is exploding with new possibilities and new passions. Everywhere I turned during the conference it felt like I was getting a glimpse into the future, of what might be mainstream in a few years time.
If I was going to make a prediction, it would be watch out for Multi-Touch literacy. I loved how seamlessly layers of video, audio and images could sit in one document. There’s something almost primeval in the ability to manipulate information using your fingers. Multi-Touch technology books makes work seem so much more real and engaging. Immediately I thought of all the video and images I have of my class and my students and had a go at creating a mock up of a student portfolio.
I was impressed by how simple it was to use and how I could create a really rich learning story for the child encapsulating photos, videos and text to stand alongside the PDFs of standardised test results (though for some reason I can only see the first page). The files could just be dragged and dropped in making it very child friendly to use.
No faffing around with embed codes and trying to make existing work fit into rigid templates that don’t work. The results are just gorgeous to look at and have the potential to be published to global audience.
My post would not be complete without a big shout out to the Apple education team. I tend to be a bit wary of big business influence in education and had a secret fear that the week was going to be an extended sales pitch by some dull conformist corporate types who have no idea the realities of the classroom.
In reality, the Apple education team are a creative, caring, diverse group of individuals dedicated to making the programme a success. I was particularly impressed by how many of the team, some of whom I had never met, asked if I was ok after I had asthma attack during the institute. Before I move on, let me give a quick shout out to the awesomesauce Meredith who looks after New Zealand.
It’s hard to believe the week is over and in a few days I’ll be back to reality. Finding the time to keep my projects going when faced with the demands of regular teaching duties, managing access to devices and being the sole ADE in Wellington city will be challenging.
However what happens during a conference is somewhat meaningless; what really matters is what we do differently afterwards based on what we learned while there. As my roommate at the institute, the fabulous @donnasmithnz, said we need to keep #ade2013 alive.
I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned with other teachers at my school, #ignition2013, an ignite talk and also through educampZQN. To add to the nuttiness of my life, I’ve also got #educampwlg to organize and I have a few ideas to implement inside and outside the classroom in the pipeline.
So yes, I’m sure I’ll get a bit of a ribbing from some some quarters for selling my teaching soul to giant multi-national company and yes I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to work in a 1:1 environment. However I’m committed to using what I’ve learned over the week to improve the experience of students in my classroom.
Because really it isn’t about the technology, it’s what you do with it that matters.