For the last week I have had the great privilege to take part in the Apple distinguished educator institute in Cork.  I met great educators and heard from some amazingly inspirational speakers in what can only be described as a whirlwind of a week.

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This post will be a summation of both the things I have learnt and a reflection on the people I met and how they have inspired me.

Day 1

We arrived at the institute with some ideas around what was going to happen but in general were fairly in the dark about what we were going to experience.  Sunday was just a settling in day on the programme, a chance for the 200 or so ADEs to travel and settle in.  No time is ever wasted though and this was the first of many opportunities to network and make some great connections.  After just a few minutes it was clear that I was surrounded by great educators that were going to have a huge impact on my week and beyond.  @headdowneyesup @tessenglish1 @linakerict @mrjonesict @wsoeldner @gavinsmart @ictevangelist (more would impact later)

First session was an orientation, a chance to get an idea of what the week was about. Advisor, Ambassador, Advocate and Author. That is what ADEs are.  We heard about what we would be doing this week and were told that the people we meet would become friends for life (at this point I hadn’t met all those people who would fit this bill but no truer words have been spoken)  The week would be a mix of inspirational talks, smaller workshops to meet our personal needs, opportunities to get expert advise and a chance to work within a PLN of similar thinkers.

This institute covered Europe the Middle East and India bringing together over 200 of the most innovative educators around, a real mix of cultures, languages and experiences.  This would lead to a real mix of ideas and possibilities.

Day 2

Today was all about creating our PLN to get together with like-minded individuals to share ideas and develop our network.  This PLN would become integral as a support network when creating new things as they were people who shared a similar passion.  Making these PLNs was a great tool in itself for any development session.  First we had to write down a keyword that summed up what we were about.  Maths, Leadership, Creativity, Media etc.  We then walked around holding our signs to see who else shared that passion.  This started to merge into conversations to explain what the passion was in detail and allowed for those keywords to change.  Eventually we found groups of like-minded individuals and began to think about what tied us all together.  My PLN was ‘Think Different”  a range of teachers from different backgrounds, some primary, some secondary and a range of subjects.  We all felt that the things being taught needed to be done in a new way to really develop students thinking. @gavinsmart @tessenglish1 @linakerict @mrjonesict @snarfje @jespersh

In these sessions we also looked at team building activities with the utterly amazing Rebecca Stockley (improvlady.com @rebeccastockley)  I will say more about this great lady later but the session was designed to break down every barrier in the room from language to the usual British reservations of things.  First find a partner and find out how to say hello and thank you in other languages.  Next, a game of simply counting from 1 to 3 with a partner.  Alternate between each person counting in sequence.  This is where we were introduced to ‘the failure bow’ an opportunity to accept failure and to celebrate it.  When mistakes were made we cheered, this is a great tool, especially for my students that fear failure.  We then adapted the game, taking out the 1 and replacing with clicking fingers.  This continued, trying, failing, celebrating, changing partner, failing some more.  Such a simple approach but very powerful in breaking down barriers.

Next we looked at a game to open up conversations.  Yes, and….  n this game we had to tell a story, a random story about a place we may like to visit.  One person starts with, do you remember when we….. When they are done with their statement the next person has to start with yes and.  In this way the statement from the previous person is positively accepted and then built on, rather than being dismissed.  It makes you really listen to the other person, co creating a story and building the skills of adaptation and acceptance.

This would be the first of many references to storytelling being a very powerful tool to be used in education.

Next we looked at Accessibility.  Learners with a range of needs have had their access to the world changed through technology.  Here we learnt about the whole range of options available on iOS devices to really help with this.  From voice over to closed captioning.  When creating any content for learners it needs to be added in.  This was a really powerful message and really made me think about the things I make and how to adapt them or enhance them to allow everyone to access.

Next up.  Looking at the SAMR model for using technology in the classroom and what it is doing to the learning.  Lots has been written on this by Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist and I urge you to read his work as it really makes it clear about the purpose of using technology in education.

Finally we were treated to a great talk from Bill Frakes @billfrakes billfrakes.com.  he is a world-renowned photographer.  he was talking to us about digital storytelling.  Basically the message was that our brains are wired for storytelling, it’s what we remember about things we are told and that devices we use enable us to easily create and share these stories.  I urge you to look at his work as it is simply inspiring.  He also shared a video with us that was really special.

That was all just day 1 of the institute.  Some amazing experiences and some awesome friends made, and still 3 days to go…..

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