So….I’ve been home from the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute for a few days now. I’ve unpacked my bags, caught up on laundry and sleep and now it’s time to reflect back on my experience. Was it what I expected? What did I learn? What was the best part? Was there a worst part? Was it, as one colleague who is an experienced ADE said, “a life-altering experience?”
My first indication that this was not a regular conference occurred at Dulles Airport. I had taken the red-eye from Seattle, arriving in Dulles at 5:50 am on Sunday. I fully expected to have to wait several hours until the regular shuttles started running. I figured I would pick up my luggage, locate a Starbucks and settle into a chair to wait for things to get busier. Imagine my surprise when, just before the baggage area, I encountered a man holding up an iPad with my name on it?! He was here extra early, just to give me a ride to the hotel! Talk about feeling special! Huge thanks to Erika and the logistics team who made sure people were picked up and taken where they needed to go.
Later that morning I met my roommate, Gail, a Grade 5 teacher from Calgary. We registered, got our swag (a very nice backpack) and headed into DC to tackle the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Back at the hotel after an exhausting day, we settled in and started meeting other educators from Canada, the States, Mexico, Brazil and Columbia. The excitement was building!
The next three days were a blur of large meetings, presentations, small meetings, learning sessions, hands-on exploration, inspirational talks, challenges, meals and social time. And woven through everything was a certain “Apple-ness” that is recognizable around the world.
So….was it what I expected? I expected to learn new things, and I did. Keynote on iPad? So powerful!! iMovie on the iPad now has green screen…yessss! And I can finally (in a very minimal way) create music on Garageband! And to top it off, the people I learned these things from were, in some cases, the software engineers who actually created the apps!! Mind blown!
I expected to be inspired, and I was. Educators sharing their passion, their stories, their hardships and their triumphs are always inspiring. And Battlemania was something I will never forget! Learning, laughter and entertainment all at the same time!
I expected to meet new people, and I did. I met Jessica from California (“I’m from a small town called Compton,” she would say, and as listeners’ eyes would widen in comprehension she would add, “I’m keepin’ it positive!”) Her energy was magical and I could listen to her talk all day. I met gentle Rafael from Brazil – we bonded over Robotics. I met several teachers from Mexico who let me know that student privacy is a growing concern for them, too. And then there was Steve from Chicago, whose presentation on student self-reflections really got me thinking about what I can do with an iPad, the Clips app and the high school Robotics students. Perhaps my favourite “new people”, though, were the other Canadians I met. I feel like I have new friends who totally understand my crazy job and the things I get excited about.
The food was good, the beds were comfy and as far as the insanely hot and humid weather goes…..well, Apple is not (yet) powerful enough to control the weather. So, was there anything negative? What was the “worst” part? For me, nothing was worst or bad, but there are two things I worry or wonder about, and they are kind of related.
The first is “imposter syndrome”, which was mentioned several times during the course of the conference. You know, that feeling that maybe, just maybe, your name got on the acceptance list by accident? You really aren’t meant to be here, in the company of all of these people who have done all these incredible things with their students? Yeah….I definitely suffered from that and although it got better as the conference went on, it still lingers, perhaps as a result of my second concern. I teach in a BYOD district – kids bring in whatever tech they have. To be sure, there are lots of kids with Macbooks or iPads, but there are lots of kids with other devices – Chromebooks and such. Most of our elementary schools have iPad carts that I can use with classes but they need to be booked. We’re not an “Apple” district, I don’t work in an “Apple” school. How will I be able to create a project that effectively leverages Apple technology in a meaningful way?
Was the Institute life-changing? Too soon to tell. But it was an awesome summer learning experience and since they had a name tag with my name on it, I must not be an imposter. After some thinking, I have three projects in mind, all of which leverage the Apple technology I do have in different ways. And best of all, as I work towards implementing one or all of them, I now have a whole family of ADEs who I can turn to for support and advice!