Many people have questions about how to become an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), if it’s worth applying, and just what exactly they will get out of it. All of the information about the process is on the Apple website. Apple does a great job of explaining all of the details, so I will let them do that. If you are hoping for an inside tip from someone who has gone through the process, I can only recommend being authentic, and telling your story in the best way you know how.
Having just completed ADE training in Austin and now an official ADE, Class of 2013, I wanted to pull together an overview of why I found it to be the best professional development training I have ever attended. The reasons may surprise you, have little to do with technology, and the concepts could be replicated in schools throughout the world. Through this program, Apple has up-leveled professional development in so many ways. It is actually hard to describe without attending.
Here are five of the take homes which I will think of when planning professional development at my school:
High energy, highly connected and relevant activities. Everything we did, starting with registration, was designed with optimal learning and community building in mind. Even the music being played when entering sessions was positive and energetic. This would be easy for any school to replicate, great music gets teachers (or anyone else, for that matter) in a more positive mood before the sessions starts.
Personal Learning Communities. Through building self-selected, interest-based personal learning communities, teachers from Canada, the United States and Mexico were able to work together on meaningful projects. The key was self-selected, based on interests. This could work in individual school, across districts, or among different states or countries. Through tools such as FaceTime and Google Hangouts we can tap the collective knowledge of the entire teaching community.
Celebration: The event was studded with moments that made many a teacher feel like a rockstar, literally. When is the last time you attended a five-day professional conference and left feeling like you were the rockstar, as if you really can change the world? When is the last time you left a staff meeting, or grade level planning session feeling that way or even excited about trying something new in your classroom?
Teachers were treated like adults: More often than not teachers are treated as if they were the age of the students in their particular classroom. Not at ADE training. I felt like my ideas, opinions and experience were all valued and that my voice was not just heard but listened to. Not once was I served a juice box with cookies for a snack.
The food was amazing: It may seem strange to include the importance of food. However, there were healthy options all day long. The buffet line and snack tables seemed more like a collection of precisely planned menus of the exact foods that foster good health and brain development, than an afterthought run to Costco.
Granted, Apple is at a great advantage both financially, as well as when considering the audience. We all worked very hard to be selected as Apple Distinguished Educators, so the spirit of the participants was positive and enthusiastic. However, I challenge you to think about what small changes could be made to traditional professional development that would up-level the experience. If every person and organization providing PD truly looked for ways to honor and celebrate the participants, treated them as the professionals they are, provided authentic experiences based on choice, and did their best to nourish both the mind as well as the body, we might begin a real movement of improvement among educators.
I highly encourage you to tell your story when the next application process begins, and once accepted, get ready to rewrite it as you learn and grow as a member of the ADE community.
My journey as an Apple Distinguished Educator has just begun. Based on the training experience I know that there are great things to come.