Top Five Takeaways from EMEIA ADE Institute 2015


Inspired by my good friends Gavin Smart, Mat Pullen, Matt Smith, Martin Coutts and Dan Oakes, and the many games of ‘Top five’ during down time at EMEIA Apple Distinguished Educators Institute 2015 in Amsterdam. I though it would be a good idea to create a top five things I took away from the institute, this (like the biscuit top five, custard cream anyone??!!), was a really hard task BUT i’m willing to give it a go and see what happens!

  1. People – I was so inspired by the people I met and become good friends with! Everyone had a great story but much more than that, everyone I met had the same outlook on so many things as me. This is not a common thing, especially when it comes to education, where I often feel like I am the ‘mad iPad man’ within our school or more commonly the resident geek! I felt none of this at institute, just an array of people that I could relate to and were as passionate about pushing the boundaries of using technology inside classrooms, to deliver amazing outcomes for the students in our schools and classes.
  2. Bill Frakes – I was so happy to have listened to Bill talk at length about his inspiration for photographs he had taken and the stories he was telling through the images. The film ‘Nebraska Skies’ was amazing and since returning from Amsterdam I have viewed this film several times. I was massively inspired to (attempt) take more higher quality photos and images and think about the story the images are trying to tell.
  3. Christopher Hills – Now, he wasn’t at institute, he didn’t present, neither was he featured in a Showcase. A video of him using his skills as an Apple Certified Final Cut Pro tutor to create an amazing set of images and film, although he suffers from Cerebral Palsy, using one switch, his head and his iOS device. This was a huge inspiration to me was shown to us in an accessibility session. I always knew the Accessibility features built into ALL Apple products were powerful but this really brought it home to me. I urge everyone to check Christopher’s YouTube channel here, and defy you not to be moved by this young man!
  4. Design – Alan Rosenfeld took to the stage for a workshop based around the fundamentals of design. This is something that I found so engaging and interesting. I always look at things with a critical eye for design, but struggle to make my own presentations and documents look good. With Alan’s simple advice I feel I have improved massively already. I just hope that the word on the street, of an iBook with the content will be released at some point soon, does come true!
  5. Passion – I was struck by the passion that everyone had, not just for Apple technologies but for pushing the boundaries of education. To this end I feel like I have not stopped; working, creating and thinking since I  returned home, to push the boundaries of my own practice. Literally, everyone I spoke to was so passionate about education, technology and Apple. This is what makes the fantastic community that is Apple Distinguished Educators, long may we all work together and drive each others passion for education; and in turn instil passion into others within our institutions or region as a whole.

As I have said before, and no doubt I will say again, this was one of the best experiences of my life. I have been massively inspired by so many people and thoughts.

I really hope that one day I have the chance to do it all again and be a part of the journey of many other ADEs during their institutions and in turn be inspired by them.


To finalise this post there were four main goals set out at the start of our institute, these were:

Inspiration, Discovery, Professional Growth and Collaboration

During the week I feel that I achieved all of these things in large measure, I left inspired after discovering lots of great individuals that have all aided to my personal growth and led to lots of collaboration.

I also feel I need to make a mention of the use of some amazing hashtags during the week, these will stick with me for a long time. Some favourites were: #devilishlyhandsome, #expolodingballs, #dandandandandandan and #tvvoice; you probably had to be there!!

Please also read my more detailed posts on:

ADE Institute Days 1 & 2

ADE Institute Days 3 & 4

Apple Distinguished Educator Institute 2015 – Day 3 & 4


Day 3 of the EMEIA ADE institute began with the showcase session, the standard was incredibly high and I thought there were some standout presentations, firstly my good friend Dan Oakes and his story of increasing children’s self esteem through film making, secondly Marta Ruiz Benito reminding us why we became educators through some slick images and beautiful words and lastly Sarah Wright talking about future forward thinking and preparing our young people for a brighter future! Again every single showcase was amazing and really thought provoking.


The next session was a masterclass with Bill Frakes, an award winning photographer who had the honour of taking my portrait earlier in the week, or should that be the other way round! Bill spoke at length about his love of telling stories using images both still and moving. He showed some quite unbelievable films and imagery, explaining the process he and his team went through to capture the shots and the stories behind them (many of which were very humorous!)

The following film – Nebraska Skies struck a real cord with me, I thought the story of homecoming for Bill and the beautiful imagery of the state of Nebraska were unbelievable, I wish it had been able to go on and on!

The room was ‘buzzing’ after such an amazing man had spent the time to speak to us, a true honour to have been photographed by such a creative genius! He even made me look pretty good, if I do say so myself!

The remainder of the morning was spent plotting with the rest of my Creativity in the Primary Classroom team working on our individual projects and assisting each other with theirs.

After yet another hearty lunch, we began our individual workshop tracks. I attended a workshop on accessibility, that was very interesting, especially as I got to see the features built into Watch. Then I moved  onto looking at ‘Creating Great Content using iOS Apps’, we looked at the series of iBooks Apps in the classroom (have a look here) worked through an example lesson in the Hopscotch book, and analysed the learning that took place and what we learnt. We all decided that these were a great resource, especially to assist less confident teachers to new apps and ideas (and for me to support teachers that attend my RTC sessions). We then spent time developing ideas that could be made into an iBook for ‘DoInk Green Screen’, these books are such a valuable resource for teachers of all levels, I strongly recommend checking them out!

Then onto the final workshop of the afternoon ‘Formative Assessment using iPad’, this for me was quite exciting as the previous week I had been invited to present a ‘Deep Dive’ session into student learning journals within this workshop, I had created my content and was ready to present to my peers once more, a true honour! I was going to talk about SeeSaw, one of my favourite apps. I have to say that the feedback from the group was great and yet again I learnt a lot from the rest of the session, once more I left the room fulfilled!


Some of the work submitted by the workshop team to a SeeSaw test class.

After these sessions we had some free time, so a group of us went to the pool and sat around in the jacuzzi chewing the fat of our experiences so far, until it was time to eat yet more fine food! Followed by some beers, laughs and building some fine friendships!

So, like a whirlwind, the final day of the EMEIA ADE institute was upon us and although excited to see my family back at home, I was also sad that this weeks experience was drawing to a close. More fine presentations followed, the two stand out presentations for me were from Danny Ross, who spoke about using Augmentative reality to inspire his reluctant learners in his SEN school and also the ladies (Iva and Lenka) from iSEN in Czech republic showing some of the amazing work they are doing with SEN children using iPad as the catalyst for some great learning. All in all, the ADE showcases were amazing and a true highlight of the week as a whole-well done to everyone who took to the stage to present!

After a brief break we were then treated to a special guest speaker, the rumour mill had started; Will.I.Am? Dr DRE? Ant and Dec?!? Who knew? Who would it be?

Turns out it was none of these greats of entertainment, it was actually one of the most important classical composers and conductors of our generation, Eska-Pekka Salonen. He spoke to us at about how he used digital technology to inspire and engage more people with classical music, some of the work he showed us was truly amazing, he then introduced us to an App, that Salonen and his team had been working on ‘The Orchestra’, that allows the user to follow exactly what is happening across an orchestras performance of several pieces, a really powerful app for music departments across the world.

We then split into our groups for a final time where we finalised our plans for our projects in our Creativity in the Primary Classroom team. I cracked on with creating my Lessons for the Classroom iTunes U course, that will hopefully be featured along with the others here!

After our final luncheon, we got together in our UK team and discussed the possibilities of meeting up in various regions and things we could do to support each other. We also spent ten minutes saying hello to any of team UK that we might not have spoken to during institute so far! There were quite a few that had slipped through my net, apologies for that! I feel that the UK team of 2015 is very strong and it complements and adds to the previous classes, filling holes (if there were any!). As such a big group we had to find a space large enough for us to have our photograph taken as a group, but we found a location!


The final session of the day involved being in the main ballroom for one last time and saying our thank you’s and goodbye’s to each country, as well as having more group photos by the one and only, Bill Frakes (who doesn’t seem to take health & safety that importantly-those that were there will know!!) We were also given a special gift from Apple to commemorate our induction into the Distinguished Educator class of 2015.


We then had some more down time, which means another trip to the pool! Then we ate, drank and danced (and sang!) the night away in true style, a great end to a great week! One that will live with me for the rest of my life, having made some amazing friends that have made me realise that I am not mad, I am just am member of a unique group of educators that really want to push the boundaries! Thank you to all that spoke to me, tweeted me, laughed with me/at me, supported me and attended the institute, making it such a fantastic experience!

In the true style of EMEIA ADE Institute 2015, I shall be posting my top 5 things from the institute, at a later date!

Please also check out my memory from EMEIA ADE Institute Days 1 & 2 here.


Apple Distinguished Educator Institute 2015 – Day 1 & 2


I have just returned from one the greatest week-long experiences of my life in both a professional and personal manner, a week that will stay with me for the rest of my life! This week was the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Institute that I attended in Amsterdam along with 250+ colleagues from around Europe, Middle East, India and Africa.

I shall rewind back to February/March when I was applying to become an ADE and my reflections upon being accepted in late April, here.

The week began arriving at Birmingham airport bright and early on a Sunday morning, waving off my family and checking in for my short flight to Amsterdam. Travelling on the same flight was Sarah Jones, so we sat and drank coffee, chatted about work, family and what we expected to experience during the coming week. I don’t think either of us had any idea how far off the mark we would be!


Image courtesy of Sarah Jones @SarahTVNews

Upon arriving in Amsterdam Schipol airport we were treated by a lady pointing us to the ‘meeting point’ we walked there to be told we had a 15 minute wait for the shuttle bus to arrive. Once on board we travelled into the unknown for around 20 minutes before arriving at our hotel for the week. Once quickly checked in we went for a quick bite of lunch and then began the Apple registration process, one of the first people I bumped into was my good friend Greg Hughes, who is a legend of the ADE circuit and also an Advisory board member along with Catherine Mangan and Miriam Walsh, who I bumped into shortly after. I was issued with my t-shirt, pin badge, jacket and most importantly my ID card. I was also given my agenda for the week and generally made to feel comfortable. I was then ushered into a small room for rehearsals!!!

On the weeks before institute I had been asked to present for three minutes to tell one story from my classroom, I had agreed to present and had done the bits needed before hand (working alongside EMEIA ADE advisory board member Gavin Smart) but hadn’t thought too much more about it! When inside the room all ADEs that had been asked to present were practising their presentation and were being given feedback from a  variety of Apple staff, ADE EMEIA Advisory board members and their peers. I did my presentation and was happy that my feedback involved changing an image on a slide and a word in the presentation! I have to say this was one of the most nerve-wracking moments of the week and indeed my teaching career, the level of pressure to present in front of peers that you respect  was intense!

The rest of the evening was spent eating, relaxing, catching up with old friends and making new ones; and also waiting for the legend that is Dan Oakes to arrive, as I was sharing a room with him for the week (poor soul!) I’d like to say an early night was had by all, but there was none of that happening this week!

Anyone that knows me will surely know that mornings aren’t easy for me!! So when the alarm sounded at 6am, YES SIX, it hurt but I was excited to see what was in store for the rest of the day. Myself and Dan, got showered and dressed, then headed off for breakfast. An aside here that I’m sure us Brits stood out a mile in the restaurant for each meal, as we would all have a most bizarre, mountainous combination of foods on one or sometimes more plates, and so began the random selection of foods being served in various glasses (shot glasses being the most popular!).

At 7.45 we were being ushered into the main room, by the use of a small bell (another feature of the week!), as we walked into this cavernous room the nerves kicked in for my presentation the following morning, the room was massive, easily the biggest room I have ever been into for something like this. Another feature of the week was the banging, and I mean banging house music being played as we all walked in and took our seats!


I will admit that I was very, very excited so the photos began and at the stroke of 8am the show kicked off, this was slick, as I’d come to expect from attending many an Apple event over the last year or so, but on a much, much larger scale! Some of Alumni were doing short presentations, sharing their stories and they were great, Catherine, Greg, Miriam, Anna Razdorskaya and Daniela Rubio, were obvious highlights for me personally, although everyone had such an amazing story to tell.

The next session involved us meeting new people and grouping ourselves with like-minded individuals who had a similar story to tell. I moved around the room settling upon the group for me: Early Learning and Primary. Within this a sub group – Creativity in the Primary Classroom (aged 7+) formed and this was my home for various sessions for the week!

Before lunch, we were introduced to our ADE project for the coming few months, we could select one of three options…

  • Publish a One Best Thing multi-touch iBook – some amazing  previous examples here
  • Publish a Lessons for the Classroom iTunes U course – some great Classroom Lessons here
  • Work on a community engagement project with a museum or gallery to produce digital media for them.

The ADE alumni that were in attendance took to the stage once again to present on their One Best Thing iBook and Lessons for the Classroom iTunes U course, all of which I had been lucky enough to have read before institute. Notable highlights were presentations by Darryl Bedford and Simon Pile.

A particular highlight of the first day and the week, was listening to and seeing a demonstration of Garageband, Final Cut Pro and Logic (the latter – two mac apps I have no experience of using) being used to create a movie and soundtrack from nothing! This was incredible and showed how easy the more powerful apps were to use if you had a handle on using Garageband and iMovie. It was great to see the passion in the presentation from two guys that spend their 9-5 day jobs developing these tools!

The theme for the week was ‘Storytelling’ and to this end we had a great session on the principles of telling a great story, analysing stories (Finding Nemo!) and then creating and improving our own stories! This was great fun, although by this point in the day I was feeling tired and the levels of excitement had worn me out, although there was plenty more to be getting on with before I could rest, including a dress rehearsal for the three-minute presentation and meeting of all the UK ADEs. Obligatory food, beers and chats followed until late into the night! An amazing first day was had by all!

Day two began in a similar way to the first day, an unusually early alarm call, strange combinations of food for breakfast BUT then arriving in the main room earlier than the majority as it was my turn to present my three-minute story to the 400 people in attendance.

image image

This was a fantastic experience and I have to say that I felt no nerves before stepping up on stage and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, particularly the simply unbelievable feedback from so many people from all around the world! Thank you all that spoke to me in person, via Twitter or iTunes U discussions it means a lot! The other stories that were being presented were also amazing and it was such a valuable and humbling learning time in the whole institute experience.


The remainder of the morning was spent listening to updates to the education apps and processes within the Apple eco-system and time spent with my Creativity in the Primary Classroom group talking about the project we would all undertake. At this point I was well on the way to deciding upon my project,but it was interesting to work with such a diverse set of educators whom all had similar outlook and level of passion towards using Apple technologies inside the classroom.

The afternoon of the second day introduced us all to the various ins and outs of using the Apple logo and various ethical issues surrounding the whole ADE programme. We were also treated to an outstanding session on the finer points of design and how, with some simple steps we could all make our work, Keynotes, iBooks all look professionally designed, this was one the stand out sessions from the week, I learnt so much from this! Another thoroughly enjoyable workshop was a quick run through of the accessibility features built into iOS devices and to the mac OS. This really engaged me, as I am a huge fan of these features (I especially look forward to new additions that arrive with iOS 9) and have spoken about them before here.


Image courtesy of Tricia Friedman @FriedEnglish101

The finale to the second day was a ‘Playground’ this involved using ‘toys’ to aid STEM learning with iPad such as: Sphero, Dash, Parrot Minidrones, MakeyMakey, Lego Mindstorms, LightUp and 3D printing. This was great fun and although I had already had experience with most of these ‘toys’ the rooms were awash with excitement and practical work.

A superb end to the opening two days at institute, some amazing new connections, friends, stories and incredible experiences. I, for one, was exhausted but so excited to experience even more over the final two days!

Please also read my post on ADE Institute days 3 & 4, here.