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.

Apple Distinguished Educator


Today started as any other day, the alarm went off waking me from my slumber, I thought about hitting snooze BUT then it struck me…the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) alumni had been contact the previous night, my iPad and iPhone may be harbouring a cheeky email that could put a grin onto my weary morning face!

I had applied to be an ADE in early March, after preparing for many months before. I had created a variety of resources for the school, including iTunes U courses and multi-touch iBooks. As part of the application process I needed to make a two minute video sharing my vision and achievements, this included recording my class hard at work on iPads, me delivering training and (the worst bit) delivering a piece straight to camera! I actually enjoyed making this ‘movie’ it really focussed on how amazing the work my students were achieving and how far the school and myself had come on our 1:1 iPad journey. I do wish I could share it, but due to e-safety concerns, I sadly can’t!

The second part of the application was a written part outlining you, your vision and how Apple technologies (not just iPads!) had transformed the learning environment. Anyone that knows me will know writing does not come easy to me, but this writing was some of the easiest I have had to do. Possibly because of the opened ended nature, a limited character count or the fact that I am just so passionate about using these technologies in my classroom.

As an ADE the role is to be an author, advisor, ambassador and advocate for the use of Apple technology in education toe hence teaching and learning. I have been inspired by many ADEs on my journey so far, to name but a few Neil Emery, Greg Hughes, Gavin Smart, Mat Pullen, Tom Riley, Marc Faulder, Daniel Edwards and Mark Anderson. They are a great community and can be relied upon for great ideas, inspiration and answers to queries!

I am delighted to say that I have been selected to be an Apple Distinguished Educator in the class of 2015. It is a great thrill and honour to be in this select group of educators across the world. I can’t wait to join the ADE institute in Amsterdam in July, where I am looking forward to learning loads and upon my return helping others to enhance the curriculum using Apple technologies in the classroom!!

Mentions and thanks to my headteacher, Vic at Academia and also the Apple Midlands Education Development Manager (whom shall remain nameless!!) for all the support through the whole journey!

Apple Education Resources

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Apple have announced the launch of their ‘For Educators‘ page on the App Store. This page curates content from a variety of sources including Apps, iBooks and iTunes U courses. Having all this content in one easy to reach place is excellent for all educators beginning their iPad journey or those that are already along the road. There is some excellent content including the brilliant ‘One Best Thing’ series of iBooks created by Apple Distinguished Educators, click here and have a look!

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 14.19.26

Also, a dedicated collection of Multi-touch books written and published by educators for FREE has been released. This hand picked selection of iBooks includes titles on Mathematics, History, Science and a lot more besides. The Free Books by Educators collection is available here.

Both are well worth looking at for ideas, inspiration and to see the possibilities that Apple technologies allow inside the classroom, in an SEN context or more mainstream!


Birmingham SEN Apple RTC

We are pleased to announce the launch event for the Birmingham SEN RTC is now available to book on via this link.

At this event, put on in partnership with our Apple Solution Expert partners, Academia, we will be:

Introducing you to the Birmingham SEN Regional Training Centre (RTC), what to expect from us, why use iPads and Apple in SEN schools, explaining our story with iPads, what you want from us, get hands on with iPads, an opportunity to network with our RTC team, others teachers and sessions from Apple Distinguished Educators and our RTC trainers.

We are lucky to have secured the services of two highly in-demand Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) to run hour long training sessions, allowing you the opportunity to get hands on and see the potential of these devices inside the classroom. Our own skilled RTC trainers will also be presenting a session.

Lunch is provided. Displays from SEN focussed iPad product resellers.

Held on Friday 27th February 2015 at the MAC, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, this is a must attend event!

RTC Trainers session

Children in the SEN classroom have a variety of ability levels and need to have their imagination captured to produce work they are proud of. In this session we look at using a variety of animation Apps, giving hands on experiences for delegates, focussing on giving students great outcomes with varied ability levels. Attendees will leave with some simple cross curricular ideas that can be easily taken back to their classroom.

Neil Emery and Chris Smith joint sessions

The success of any technology is through exploration and having time to play, a message Apple Education Trainers Neil Emery and Chris Smith are keen to promote. During the afternoon sessions attendees will get hands on to create their own PECs symbols before being part of a media showcase containing image, video and music. Sessions will contain ideas using apps, workflows and processes giving attendees confidence to try out what they have seen back in their own schools and classrooms. 

Flyer for event: RTC opener

Flyer for all future events :RTC full course flyer

Accessibility features built into iPads.

Since the introduction of iPads in 2010 there was a raft of accessibility features built into the operating system (iOS). These features enabled users with a variety of additional needs to make effective use of this new innovative technology. In each update to the iOS, Apple have invested heavily in allowing their technology to be accessed by as many users as possible. In the latest update, iOS 8, Apple have added even more excellent features to the accessibility menu. This means that the iPad is a user friendly teaching tool for any classroom but especially inside an SEN one.

How to find the Accessibility features:

Useful tools for the Visually impaired (but not limited to) include:

Invert colours – useful for some that struggle to see white

Greyscale – takes colours off menu makes less fussy

Speech (Sub Menu)  (great tools for the SEN classroom)

Speak selection – highlight text pop up menu will say speak

Speak screen – swipe two fingers down and will speak all text on screen, menu allows options

Speaking rate – change speed of speech

Highlight content – highlights the words being spoken

A run down of how these Speech Accessibility features operate:

The second sub-menu for the visually impaired include:

NB Some excellent features here for any SEN classroom.

Larger text – choose the size of text in most Apple apps

Button shapes – adds an outline to the main buttons to go back through menus; makes them more button like.

Increase contrast  (Sub Menu)

Reduce transparency – takes away the see through nature of some parts of the iOS ecosystem, making them clearer to read

Reduce white point – makes whites and other bright colours less bright and glaring


Reduce motion – stops the ‘whoosh’ of apps when they open or close. Stops the movement of the background behind the menus, lots report stops feeling sick when using. Highly recommended to do this to class set of iPads.

On/off switches – gives buttons a 1 and 0, making it clearer for on/off

A run through of these Accessibility features:

The next sub menu is that of Hearing. I personally have very little experience of using this area of the Accessibility menu, although knowing how user friendly iOS devices are i’m sure it would be a simple process to make use of these features in the classroom.

Hearing Aids – allows connection via Bluetooth directly to some brands and models of Hearing Aids.

Mono audio – changes headphones output and speaker to one channel, can change the level for L or R.

A look at Mono Audio feature:

Next, comes the Guided Access function. This is the function that is potentially the most requested by all teachers, but especially those working within the SEN sector! Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the world of…

Guided access – when turned on allows you to lock to an app. Also allows to disable areas of apps, such as buttons, adverts etc. Make sure to set a memorable passcode (the same for all being used in a classroom)-once locked in guided access very difficult to get out of without loosing all data. Also allows to set time limits for children to be inside app, great to use for rewards with TEACCH system.

Lastly, a great tool for those children that have poor motor skills. Inside the Interaction menu, we have..

Home-click speed – allows you to adjust the speed of double and triple clicks on the home button. Three settings. Very useful for those children who struggle to press buttons quickly.


Have a play and a try with some of these in your classroom, some really great, free functions!