It’s been just over a week since I returned from the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in Austin, Texas. Many family and friends have asked me how the experience was and what I learned while I was there. The challenge has been that I haven’t felt like I’ve been able to articulate everything that I experienced.
Jenny Grabiec (@techgirljenny) curated a collection of reflections written by other ADE’s and Alumni, who have described the events of our week together. This was a good summary for some of what I’m trying to process, as this collection of blogs describe exactly what the week looked like.
While the Institute certainly shared characteristics of conferences I’ve attended previously, it was far more than even my best experiences to date; The facilities were a hybrid of hotel conference and post-secondary seminar rooms. The break-out sessions were collaborative with time to learn from presenters as well as share with other attendees. And every day there was flexible time to work with others on shared interests.
There was a great deal of training on how to better and best integrate technology, specifically Apple technology, to create better learning for students, but it was not about training any attendees. It was about making connections and finding others with shared interests based on people’s personal expertise and experiences.
I guess the best way to describe my week is an experience. A professional learning experience unlike any other I can remember, because the entire week focussed on our individual creations; Each member was challenged to produce content to be shared with others. This content is not just anything – it is narrowed to what we believe is our “One Best Thing” in education. We spent the week fine-tuning what we would produce and this led to conversations with others, including experts, ranging from photography to design. I experienced the feeling of being treated like a Rockstar for the week with personalized service and a team of support that ensured I had everything I needed. And perhaps the most important experience was that of the creation of new friendships – the kind that unite people with a unique connection instantly because of what they share in common.
It’s difficult to put into words all of the things we did during the week. The best example of how powerful this experience has been can be summarized by the fact that a full week later I find myself awake in the middle of the night, head swimming, still trying to process all of the learning and further narrowing my “One Best Thing”.