I spent a big chunk of last week in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City attending the Apple Distinguished Educator workshop for 2011.
Along with sixty other educators from around Asia we spent the week working on a variety of activities. We reflected on how we could be advocates, authors, ambassadors and advisers to other teachers, all on the behalf of Apple. I am ok with these types of roles. After a week of immersion, I feel along with lots of others, that Apple is at the forefront of technology in education and is driving a lot of change.
For me…. It felt like a school camp for teachers… except that we were staying in a grand hotel, had amazing breakfasts and got to go out at night. Maybe the similarities between a school camp and workshop were few, but it had a level of energy and enthusiasm that I have never experienced at any other conference. In my opinion it was a well structured, student centered week of learning with an ok mix of tutorials, discussions and project based work. By the end of the week you felt part of a little group of educators that was trying to create change on their local patch, but linked globally to others on the same journey.
Takeaways from my week
The main thing I am still reflecting on is the importance of creativity and story telling in learning. As a teacher of Economics to senior students, I struggle to find the time to include more creative tasks in the learning and tend to plod through the curriculum with blogs, wikis and activities focused on text. I think I know how to include more creative tasks, but embedding them into my practice will be a hard task. For an ADE to articulate the importance of creativity to teachers who are soo focused on exam sessions will be hard, but I think it is an important discussion to have with staff.
I really enjoyed the deep learning with Joseph Linaschke around Photography and using Aperture. I am again motivated to get back into some more photography. In the future I will try to develop some authentic photography/video tasks for students, but perhaps teach them directly to the students in modules or in cool after school extra curricula activities. I think students should leave school as confident users of a computer/technology to express themselves in lots of creative ways. For instance, in all of the ways that traditional assessments and examinations don’t allow. I have perhaps overlooked some of the simple uses of the iTouch camera for students to learn and create and cool apps such as Instagr.am. (I have been following Jason’s instagr.am stream since leaving Vietnam and its amazing virtual tourism)
Through the branding activities and general discussions at the workshop, I feel more focused on my philosophy about why the use technology is important to learning. This clarity is what I wanted to get out of the week. Next August, I will stepping into a new school to lead their iLearn Initiative and I wanted to be sure and clear of my philosophy and how technology benefits education. It is always the first question that teachers and parents ask when you begin handing out new laptops and in the past my response has always been a bit muddled. It was good to gain some affirmation with colleagues and to chat with them as they refined and reflected on their personal brand as a 21st century educator.
So where to from here…?
I want to make an effort to keep in touch with some of the people I meet at the workshop. Many of them in far flung parts of Asia. In the week since leaving Vietnam, Twitter has been more meaningful to me, as I know more about the people who are sharing information and ideas. Hopefully this trend continues and that I get a chance to visit some of great schools that the teachers of the ADE class works in over the next few years. I am looking forward to seeing how our local ADE group in Singapore gets off the ground. With such a huge part of the 2011 class working in Singapore we should have no problem getting something off the ground.