Thursday, July 24, 2014

ADE 2014

I have just returned home from The Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Global Institute in San Diego, California.  It was, to no surprise, an incredible week of connecting, learning, reflecting, and sharing with over 350 ADEs and 100 plus Apple employees from around the world. In pure Apple style no detail was missed. Unlike last year when we were bombarded with incredible PD but never left the building, this year we were fortunate to receive both incredible PD, and field experiences.  If you don't want to read any further here are my three key take aways. None were actually new thoughts for me but I love how they came out over and over again over the week.

1. Our Earth matters and we need to do what ever we can to protect it.  
2. We have the power to positively change lives each and every day.
3. Curiousity is inside all of us and needs to be fostered.

Curious to learn more, please keep reading. I apologize for the length of this blog post but it's written just as much for me, as it is for you.


I arrived Sunday afternoon and was greeted by good food and great friends. Food and friends were certainly a theme of the week as I was surrounded by a ton of both. Once registered (and fed)  I hopped onto the Apple provided shuttle to the La Jolla Coast Walk.  While flying to San Diego I pre-read the book recommended to us in the iTunes U course created specifically for the for the week.  Here are some photos from this first adventure.

La Jolla Coast Cliffs
Birds Galore (Sea lions too)

A view from the town.
The ride back was filled with reflection on the natural beauty of the area.


Monday was the first official day of the institute. After breakfast we learned a little bit about what they had in store for us.  We also listened to John Couch an executive from Apple share many of the stories he's sharing around the world.

After John's keynote we learned more about our week and what adventures they had in store for us.  There would be four excursions over three days. Each excursion had required pre homework (some of which I did before I arrived in San Diego), and tasks along the way.  Apple was modelling how an iTunes course can work in action and how mobile technology can be used in the field as a tool for learning. More about these excursions later.

In addition we would have times to interact with Apple employees who work with the products we use such as iBooks, iLife, iWork, iTunes U, iBeacons, Final Cut Pro, and iPad Accessabiilty features. This time was called Apple Lab time and the face to face time with the Apple employees allowed us to share what we liked, disliked, and would love to see from their products.

There would also be keynote speakers and master classes.

The first keynote speaker we met was  E. O. Wilson.  Among other things he is the author of Life On Earth , FREE interactive books.  If you haven't seen them yet you must, especially if you have a passion for or are a biology teacher.  They are over the heads of my grade one students but the graphics, and interactive videos can certainly help answer some of my students curiosity questions.

Dr. Wilson spoke about starting with big issues and questions that students already care about. He also talked about characteristics for success.  In his words these include a restlessness of curiousity and the desire to do something big. Curious to learn more, check out his Ted Talk. You won't be disappointed.

I left his session thinking about how I inspire curiousity in my classroom, and how I can continue to bring in more "real life" learning to my students.  This year I actually got rid of a typical "timetable" most Wednesdays so that we could explore our passions.   My class and I had many full days exploring hands on topics that were of interest to my students.  A lot of what Dr. E.O. Wilson talked about strongly resonated with me.  Children need to learn about things they are curious about.

In the afternoon we had our first master class with  Brad Ovenell-Carter.  I am very lucky because Brad lives in my part of the world and I've been fortunate to learn with him before.   However  I will admit (as I did to him) that I'll take any opportunity I can to continue to learn with him.  He has a brilliant mind and I love to listen to how he thinks. Brad spoke about sketch-noting.  In our iTunes U course he shared this excellent sketch note primer.  As he spoke I was inspired to purchase the upgrades from the Paper53 app and play a little.  Keep reading, I may share one of my sketch notes.

We then met in our Geos - which means each country met with others from the same country.  There were over 50 Canadian ADEs in San Diego and it was great to have time with them.  Following our Geo meetings was dinner.

Enjoying a meal with my good friends Kristin Ziemke, Robyn Torry, and Kristen Wideen
After dinner we had an international fair which was a ton of fun. Each country set up a booth with activities. It was a great networking event filled with tons of smiles, giggles, and new connections. Nothing like learning how to wrap an iPad in a Japanese cloth, how to write my name in Korean, sample tea and biscuits from England, reminisce about my year in Australia, and so many other activities.

A small view from above of  the USA, and Mexico displays


After breakfast  we had the pleasure of listening to Drew Berry and his involvement with Ed Wilson's biology books.  He's both a scientist and an animation specialist and his work is incredible. He creates true to life animated videos of biological concepts. The true to life part is really important to him . His animations are extremely engaging.  I loved the  project he  showed us on germs, selecting specific coloured lights, and music to match the germs. You can learn more about Drew and the incredible work he is doing by watching his Ted Talk.  A recurring theme with Drew and E.O Wilson's talk is that science should not be dumbed down.

After the morning session each group headed off in different directions. I was part of the green group labeled Green A1 which meant Tuesday was a half day excursion for me to the San Dieguito River Park and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.  One of the purposes of these excursions was to put us into the role of a learner.

San Dieguito River Park

Our first stop was the San Dieguito River Park where we had five stations to work through. Each station was different with a unique set of tasks for us to complete.  My first rotation was one entitled Art in Nature.  There I created a replication of what Iwas seeing using a variety of media forms.  Everyone created something different.  I love how it pushed my brain to be creative, and then how I was encouraged to share it with the world. Creating art is difficult for me as I can rarely recreate what I am envisioning in my mind.

Our second rotation was a Ranger-led Walk where we learned more about the history of the area and the plans for the future.  While learning from the Ranger-Led walk I kept thinking about what I could do to help protect the area. 

Our park rangers sharing some of the changes over time in the area.

My third rotation was Birds and Binoculars. Here we learned a bit more about some of the bird species in the area and then had a chance to spot some of those birds. I loved looking through the scope and finding birds on the lagoon. 

My fourth rotation was The Lagoon Ecosystem.  Here we learned about some of the animals that are living in the environment and how they interact with one another.  

Some of the animals collected from the lagoon.

My final rotation was the Water Quality Sampling station.  Here we used special sensors to collect data on water samples provided.  This information was collected in an app.

Between each rotation snacks were available to us if we needed them.  If you haven't figured it out already Apple takes good care in making sure we are well fed the entire week.  

The snack table filled with healthy and less healthy choices.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Our second adventure for the day was to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.  It's located on the top of a hill with stunning vistas of the ocean below.  Here I learned about many of the plants in the area, including of course the five needle Torrey Pine. I also learned about the rich iron content in the sand. The views were stunning as we travelled through the park.

A Torrey Pine - known for it's five finger like look.

A prickly pear cactus. Did you know some have a fungus that grows on the back and emits a red dye?
The stunning view point.
Another stunning view of the rock formations on the area.
The iron what was easily drawn out of the sand with a magnet.
My group returned in the afternoon for our first taste of the Apple Labs.  After picking up a boxed lunch I headed to learn from people at Apple who work on iTunes U. To no surprise I had a lot of feedback for them.  I want  my students to be able to curate and share content with other grade one students instead of me dictating their content.  The product isn't there yet, and may never get there but I felt that I was heard which is promising.  

The second lab session I went to was around iBooks Author/ Keynote.  I learned some pretty cool tricks in keynote that I can add into an iBook.  In fact I was playing with Keynote and I created an interactive fortune teller. Depending on which item you clicked on you received a different answer, but eventually all responses led you back to the initial page.  This little bit of knowledge had my brain spinning on what my students could create either with partners, or with an older big buddy.  I learned several other things about both products that I didn't already know.  It was a good way to spend the afternoon.

During dinner I was reunited with my friends who had different excursions.  It was interesting to hear their perspective on their adventures and gave me something to look forward to. I enjoyed the post dinner collaborative time.

Tuesday night I was also fortunate to attend an optional session led by Bill Frakes. Talk about an incredible photographer.  He is a visual story teller and his images and videos he shared were incredible.  If you've got a moment take some time to check out his work. I am still pretty new to photography but I've been told I've taken some good photos. I think I see things differently than others and so it's most certainly something I want to explore more. I love to capture images and stories. 


Wednesday after breakfast we were treated with one of the most incredible keynote sessions of the week.  Lisa Jackson is Vice President, Environmental Initiatives at Apple. She shared her journey to change the world and what Apple is doing for our environment. It's funny, I've never thought of Apple as an environmental company but I was blown away by all the intiatives they have been implementing.

During this session I actually created my own skitch note using the Draw53 iPad app.

If you can't tell some of the highlights of Lisa's session include her belief that the environment and the economy can co exist successfully together.  She shared how Apple is trying pay attention to climate change, go green, and use renewable resources.  She shared how all the Apple cords are made with non toxic products, how the data centre is powered by solar energy, and so many other environment issues Apple is trying to deal with and reduce. Did you know that Apple is using 94% renewable energy to run it's company? Lisa also acknowledged they still have a long way to go.  Here are a couple of her slides.

This slide shows where Apple's carbon footprint is right now, a number they continue to decrease.
An Apple ad run on Earth Day.
(Notice the solar panels, a renewable resource)
After Lisa's keynote my group was off to our full day adventure at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.
We visited four different places in the park.  At each stop there were iBeacons to discover too but unfortunately none of them registered on my device.  Had they I would have received clues at each stop.  Thankfully some people shared with me the clues they found so I could still play the game. :-)

Our first stop was with park ranger Michael. He explained to us what is happening with the Goldspotted Oak Borer and how it's killing the Oak trees in the area.  He showed us how to identify the bugs entry and exit marks. 

Don Goble has created an excellent video of our park ranger talking about the dangerous tree killing beetles. 

We then were given time to search the area looking for trees that were affected by the bugs. We used a special app to document what we saw.  At this point Kristen Wideen and I went off in a very different direction from the others. It is here that I took one of my favourite images of the entire week. I shared it on Instagram and Twitter with the hope that someone would help me come up with a caption for it.  This is the image and the caption I went with, a combination of a few suggestions.

We must unlock our students' potential.

Our next stop was the Fire Ecology/Restoration at Paso Picacho Campground. Here we saw the damage that fires have done to the area and what is being done to plant more trees and revitalize the area.  It is here that we all adopted a tree and documented our adoption in another site specific app.  If you haven't noticed yet one of the goals for Apple this week was to show us how powerful mobile devices can be in the real world.  For me this wasn't anything new as we are often taking either our iPads (when we are exploring outside on our school ground) or some iPod devices (when we are exploring away from our school) with us.  My students understand the importance of documenting  learning, and it's very natural for us to learn with technology while learning outdoors.  I also strongly value outdoor learning and discovery.

Fire damage and new growth.

My tree!
Our third stop was at the Stone Mill Mine to notice the change over time.  Here we went for a little hike and noticed the changes in landscape from the effects of the wind and the sun.  On one side of the hill it was extremely windy, on the other it was calm.  We heard stories of who used to live in the area. We also took a tour of the remains of an old mine and heard many stories about it.  A lot has changed over time.

Another stunning vista.
The final stop at the Los Vaqueros Horse Camp touched me the most as we met some incredible people who are from the area.  In Canada we call the original people Aboriginal People but I'm not sure what they are referred to in America. First Nations perhaps? Or Aboriginal as well.  Any how two very passionate men spoke to us about their land and their history.  The second touched me deeply with what he was saying.  As part of my curriculum I do my best to invite Aboriginal people into my classroom to teach my students about their history, culture, and traditions.  The stories I heard in San Diego and those I hear in my own country are far too similar.  These people have been treated very poorly and deserve way more.  I loved the strong connection to the land. This is something we could all learn more from. And the thing is here I was attending an Apple Institute yet the connection to earth was most strongly explored.  It's a lot like me, and how I teach.  So many peg me as the "technology" teacher when really I'm a teacher, always looking to do  what's best for my students. Technology has opened up a whole new way of teaching for me and my students but in no way has it devalued real experiences and time in nature.

The landscape of the area.
This passionate man left me thinking.

We returned back to the hotel with hearts and brains filled with knowledge.  After dinner I choose not to attend the optional activities and collaborated with friends instead. I also worked on some of my homework.


After breakfast on Thursday we had our first set of ADE Showcases.  This is where a fellow ADE shares something they are passionate about in 3 minutes.  At the end of the three minutes their mic goes off, the lights turn off and the mic and lights on the other side of the stage turn on to start the next person.  The first set of showcases featured 16 ADEs.  To no surprise I was glued to my chair listening to their stories.  So much passion in one place.  Fellow ADE Bradon Kari captured each session in a sketchnote. I wish I had too.

After the showcases my group was left back at the hotel for more Apple labs.  Once again these ones did not disappoint.  After hearing great things about the iLife iWork session I started there. For 90 minutes I listened and learned. There is so much you can do with each of these pieces of software. I'll certainly need a lot more time to play and learn. It was great to have the inside scoop for certain.

My next session was on accessibility. Because of the different lengths of the Apple labs I arrived at this session late.  Even in the short time I had there I learned a lot about the accessibility features available on the iPad.  If you're not familiar with some of the incredible accessibility features on an iPad we should talk. Several of the ADE showcases focusses on how the accessibility features of the iPad have transformed learning for students with special needs.  If I can't help you I certainly can put you in touch with someone that can.

Lunch with a really great crew of fellow ADEs. 
After lunch we headed to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, our fourth and final excursion of the week.  Scripps is located at the beach and the area is absolutely stunning.

Kristen and I exploring our classroom!

The view from Scripps Pier
Our first adventure was to explore from Scripps Pier.  The pier is typically only open to the scientists at the institution doing their research but Apple had arranged for us to learn on the pier too. Here we learned about some of the research that was being done.  We also got to try out a Pro Scope Microscope. When set up with the free AirMicroPad we could all see what the scope was seeing but on our device screens.  Apparently up to 250 devices can be connected to the scope.  I can see huge potential with that in a science class.  Here are a couple of the images that were captured with the Pro Scope and AirMicroPad on my iPad.

Cloth (denim I think)
An eyeball.
From the pier we headed inside to learn about plankton diversity  in the Surfside Lab. While we were in a classroom/lab the windows were huge and the view was spectacular.  

The view from the plankton classroom/lab.
Here we watched a movie and learned more about plankton.  We then had the opportunity to use microscopes and try to identify different types of plankton.

In scientist mode trying to identify plankton.
Kristen confirming my observations.
From the Surfside Lab we headed inside to the Vaughan Classroom. Here we watched a 3D footage of plankton in its natural environment.  We looked at what features it needed to move since plankton can not travel on its own and needs a current to move.  After the movie we created our own plankton with enough weight to float just below the water (but not too close to the surface) to capture food, but not too much weight so it sank to the bottom.  The plankton I created with feathers, sticks, plasticine, and beads was not quite heavy enough. It floated a bit too near the surface which means birds and other enemies would eat it. 

After a great afternoon of learning we returned to the hotel for another great meal.   After dinner I was in a rehearsal for my showcase presentation the next morning. I won't lie I was extremely nervous during the rehearsal.  I spent a bit of time working with fellow Canadian Jay Wilson to go over my showcase.  He was great for me and some how practicing with him things just clicked for me.  I knew my stuff, I know my students are amazing learners, and I was ready to share how powerful something as simple as adding voice to work as been for my young learners.  I actually slept well ( a relative term since there wasn't a whole lot of sleep during the institute) Thursday night.

Jay and I 


Friday morning was the morning I was most nervous about all week.  As I mentioned above there were ADEs chosen to share their story with the entire ADE family.  Pushing my boundary, I applied to share too and my application was chosen.  Any one who knows me knows that I love to share what is possible with young learners. I love to share how they are way more than just cute. Keeping to the them of transformation with iPads the focus of my presentation was Making Thinking Visible: The Power of Voice. My goal for my presentation was to smile, breath, and speak from the heart.

A great keepsake image of me just about to begin.
In the end I think I acheived my goal. By far of the three times I presented (twice in practice) this was the most polished of my deliveries. I actually enjoyed the process and some where along the way I lost those my extreme fear. Few.

Friday's showcase presentations were equally as good as Thursdays. It's pretty incredible what my fellow ADEs are doing with iPad technology.  Particularly inspiring is the way it is making what was once impossible, possible for our most vulnerable children. One session in particular blew me away.  A child, who was pretty much deemed a "vegetable" was finally able to learn, be heard, and excel because of an iPad.  I cried hearing how he learned his letters, sight words, and actually beat his classmates in a spelling bee.  This was a child who people assumed couldn't do anything. An iPad has given him a voice. There really was something trapped behind his eyes, and how incredible it was that an iPad freed him. WOW! 

Friday's showcase presenters
 Once again Brandon Kari captured the showcases in a sketch note. Can you see me on the top row, far right?

With the showcases finished it was time for us to learn about our "homework" from the institute. I won't talk too much about it now, but when I have something to share I will, of course.  My home work last year was my One Best Thing contribution.  If you haven't downloaded it yet I highly recommend you do, particularly if you teach in the early years.  In it I talk about how I set up my classroom to provide my students with choice.  I can't stress enough how strongly I feel about putting students in control of their learning, even at six years old.  There's a link on the side panel of this blog. It's free too, so please go check it out! Thanks.

After that we met in our Geos again.  There is something pretty special being at a global conference but being in a group of inspiring Canadians.  I can't tell you how proud I am to be a  part of this incredible group.

Most of the afternoon was spent in celebration as this year's institute marks the 20th anniversary of the ADE community.  It was fascinating to see how the program has changed but really how it has stayed the same.  ADEs have always been seen as advocates, advisors, authors, and ambassadors. It was interesting to hear from so many different ADEs from around the world.  As much as we are all very different with different roles in education, we all want what's best for our students.

After a bit of free time it was time for the final celebration of the week.  Of course no detail was left unattended to.  It was a total celebration of a week of connecting, learning, and sharing. It was a wonderful crazy evening.  Here are a few celebration  photos. 

Inspiring CANADIAN Apple Employees Vivian and Audrey
Me with the inspiring Caroline and Kristin from Chicago
Robyn and I
Some of the incredible Canadian crew with Maxx Judd

I will admit Saturday was tough. Saying goodbye is never easy.  Doing it after a week of incredible opportunities, conversations, and adventures on little sleep only makes it harder.  But I am so thankful for what I was a part of.

The final photo with my very good friend Kristen. It's too bad she lives on the other side of the country.
The institute was way more than what I've just shared.  It's the collection of people, incredibly inspiring people doing amazing things.  It was about laughter and love. It was about meeting new people, connecting with those people, and knowing that these people, no matter how close or how far we are, are still very important people in my life.  This blog post can't describe how great it was to have a running joke with some, to smile every time I saw others, to hang with my Canadian friends, to be with  my first chat peeps, and to converse with educators from all around the world.  I also loved connecting with the people who work for Apple and I'm thankful for the 1:1 time I had with Vivian, Audrey, Anne-Marie, and John. At the time it seemed so normal, but now that I'm home, away from everyone I realize how special it really was.

If you have the opportunity to apply to become an Apple Distinguished Educator I encourage you to.  The processes isn't easy and I am still incredible thankful that I was successful with my application.  I know many educators who should be part of this family with me and I hope you will consider applying (or re applying).  There is no family quite like this one.  As much as our connection to the love of Apple products is what has brought us together, it goes way, way beyond that. I can't stress that enough.

Until next time my friends....


  1. Wow, this was an inspirational post. Both for the possibilities for PD out there as well as the brilliant opportunities Apple offers educators. Thanks