In July I was very fortunate to attend and present at the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute in Berlin. This was a gathering of just under 400 teachers from around the world who actively push the boundaries to develop innovative teaching techniques.
This is my second Institute and like the first, it was one of the most inspirational weeks of my teaching career. I’m very grateful for St Andrew’s College who paid for my airfares to attend this week of professional development.
The ADE Institute runs from a Sunday evening through to Thursday night. This year it was just for ADE alumni, no new people were accepted to the programme. In 2017 there will be regional Institutes for Europe/Africa, Asia/Pacific and the Americas which new people can apply to be part of (keep an eye on ade.apple.com early in 2017 for applications).
The structure of the Institute can be summed up in this (rather blurry) image:
One of the best parts at the conference centre/hotel was the ADE Central. This was a large lounge where you had time to work on your projects, collaborate, play with STEM toys like Bloxels, Spheros and VR. Most importantly, it was a great place to meet other teachers over a drink and discover common interests.
This year there were some fascinating presentations from Apple staff. Once again, John Danty (Head of Logic & Garageband) was another highlight with his demonstration of the new features in Garageband on the iPad.
It was also great to see Final Cut Pro get more exposure as many educators I know regularly use it and think it’s a fantastic video editing application for high school teachers.
And of course, these sessions are where a lot of the scene is set for our projects, where info about Apple updates and educational initiatives are shared and where all our conference admin takes place.
This year ADE was structured so that we had much less time having full Apple Sessions in the ballroom. Instead, there were multiple workshops on a variety of topics. I attended workshops on Advanced Editing with Final Cut Pro, Advanced Keynote and how to deliver fantastic presentations.
The last session was particularly valuable. Not just for the workshops that I run with teachers, but some very good strategies and techniques were shared for presenting to high schoolers as well.
Apple were very generous by flying out many of their team leaders for various software development teams. They are very talented, smart and accessible and the smaller (in some cases one-on-one) sessions they ran were perfect for teachers trying to find answers to problems they’ve had, or for getting more information on what was shown in Workshops and Apple Sessions.
I had a great time catching up with John Danty who hosted me (along with Matt Baier) at Cupertino last year. It was inspirational to see that John, as busy as he is, has just released an album. If he has time to be creative, then I certainly can’t use school as an excuse not to invest time into practising my instrument!
For many, including me, this is the highlight of ADE. This is where teachers have three minutes to present something to the conference about innovative teaching techniques they’ve been using with their students. Ten teachers per session are selected. There is a pretty rigorous application and development process before you’re allowed to get up at an ADE Institute and present, but I was fortunate enough to present about my department and how I’ve changed the culture of St Andrew’s College music to enable growth.
Preparing for this presentation made me do a lot of inquiry around whats made my department successful, and it has been really great for giving me a framework for further innovation in the department for 2017.
This is where the long term benefits of ADE come from. It’s where you get into a small team of educators from around at the world and you work on a major project together.
This year I’m working on developing a website with tools for junior high school teachers who are wanting to deliver cross-curricular programmes.
Another new initiative at ADE 2016. This is where teachers have a chance to run workshops on various pieces of software, teaching techniques or anything which they think will benefit the community.
I ran a workshop on showing how the three Apple music apps, Music Memos, GarageBand and Logic Pro work together as part of the musical composition process. I blogged on this before and you can read a summary here.
One of the coolest things we did was essentially have the day in the middle of Berlin to explore. Apple dropped us off at the Brandenburg Gate with a Museum Pass, sightseeing bus passes, metro cards, lunch vouchers, maps and guide books, and essentially told us to explore for a few hours. We just had to make sure we took lots of photos to share to our collaborative Photo Streams.
We then met back up at the Apple Store for an amazing presentation by the makers of the Eye-Em app and a well known Berlin Photographer.
From the photos, you can see I had a really nice time. I got a good tan and it was great to get away from a NZ winter for a couple of weeks. But what difference has this made to my teaching?
Well, the real benefit is not in any resources I develop as part of the project team, or the information I learned about how to use Final Cut Pro more efficiently for editing school music videos, or even the chance to present to 400 of the worlds top educators.
The real benefit for me is in the relationships I’ve developed and friends I’ve made with people who are at the top of their game in their schools and communities from all over the world. Every single person I met is an innovator. They all love to see kids grow and meet their potential. Every person I met doesn’t only see teaching as a worthwhile vocation, they live education. Like me, they spend their weekends, evenings and holiday time thinking about their classes, developing resources, looking for opportunities to up-skill, looking for ways to better serve their students. Teaching is their vocation, but it’s also their calling and their hobby.
And to be surrounded by people like that is heaven. It’s inspiring. It means I come back to St Andrew’s College and my networks of NZ Music Teachers with new ideas but also with a renewed passion to see music education in New Zealand produce the finest young musicians, composers and educators in the world.