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.

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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.

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Read 1 comment

  1. Sounds like an amazing journey, that’s just beginning. I was gutted to miss the deadline to apply for ADE and am wishing the next 18 months away to apply. Plenty of time to embed more ideas in school though. Look forward to reading more of your journey.

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