Austin, Texas was the incredible destination for the Apple Distinguished Educators 2018 Worldwide Institute. Alongside 400 other educators, from 38 different countries, Institute took place in mid-July whilst Texas basked in a heatwave that was, according to one local, “as hot as a billy goat in a pepper patch”. It involved four intense days of learning, networking, brainstorming and creating. As ever, there were a million things to take home but I thought I would summarise 5 star points from the Lone Star State…
1. Everyone Can Create
The main drive behind #ADE2018 was that ‘Everyone Can Create’. I believe this is the case whether you have an Apple Device or not; anybody can pick up a pencil and create some artwork. However, if you are lucky enough to have an iPad you can not only develop your artwork skills, but you can create remarkably high quality film, animation, music, code, art and photography all from the same device.
Some depressing statistics about the corrosion of creativity in schools were shared during one seminar that particularly resonated with me. The data showed how there has been a deprioritisation of creativity in many school systems across the globe. The UK is no exception to this worrying trend where teaching to the test is becoming the norm. Even Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, has warned that children’s chances of getting a “broad and balanced education” are at risk due to exam reforms. However, Apple have created some amazing iBook curriculum guides that can help your pupils to make remarkable creations on their iPads that will be released this Autumn.
The focus on creativity reminded why we have a 1:2:1 deployment at my school and why it is important for children to be given the opportunity to create. Whilst it’s true that everyone can pick up a pencil, not everyone can pick up a piano. But with an iPad you can can pick up a whole orchestra and have each instrument at your finger-tips, which leads me to my next star point…
2. Austin Rocks (literally) – and so can you…
Austin is home to many amazing things. One of the bridges that crosses the Colorado River is home to an estimated 1.5 million bats, that choose to leave their home at dusk in search of food. The stream of bats leaving the bridge is a remarkable sight that hundreds of people gather to watch every evening. In the river itself, turtles swim freely and if you choose to higher a paddle board or kayak, you can get a close up view of them as they surface for air or bask in the sun. Austin also brands itself as the “Live Music Capital of The World” and when taking a stroll through the City, there is literally music playing on every street and the musicianship is on another scale.
However, with iOS, each and every one of us can emulate these musicians with some of the incredible features of GarageBand. The GarageBand demo was one of the highlights of the week; many of the superb features were shared including the ‘Learn to Play’ interactive tutorials that can help everybody learn an instrument. Furthermore, there is a specific Everyone Can Create Music guide, arriving in Autumn, that will help teachers facilitate some awesome music production in their classrooms.
3. The Schoolwork App can seriously enhance workflow
Another workflow enhancing tool that was shared was ‘Schoolwork’. The cloud based App provides teachers with the ability to create, distribute and annotate student work whilst providing instant feedback. Furthermore, almost any content can be easily shared and you can collaborate with students in real-time! There is even a growing list of educational apps with which you can monitor progress through Schoolwork. For Schoolwork to work, you will need it set up in Apple School Manager and therefore, the devices need to be part of the DEP (Device Enrollment Program). More information on getting started with Schoolwork can be found here.
However, an interesting question that a few of us ADE’s asked ourselves, was where does this leave iTunesU? Many schools, including my own, have invested time and effort in creating iTunesU courses and hope that support and updates will continue.
4. The Accessibility Features of iOS are unbelievably good.
Another highlight was the Apple presentation concerning the accessibility features that are inbuilt into every iPad. From simple functions like zoom and magnifier, that can assist the visually impaired, to more complex tools utilised by the remarkable ADE, Sady Paulson. Not only were we treated to a live FaceTime with Sady, who has Cerebal Palsy, we also saw this incredible film that was edited and directed by her that summarises some of the tools much more eloquently than I ever could.
It would be well worth having a conversation with the SENCO in your context to see if they are aware of how children with different educational needs can take advantage of these extraordinary features that have clearly been a labour of love for the Apple team behind them.
5. Keynote and Pages can save your school serious dollar
The iWorks update includes some brilliant new features to Keynote and Pages, both of which are free and come with any purchased iPad.
Regarding Keynote, the fact that you can now export your presentation as a movie, means that you can create some brilliant animations – particularly when combined with the Apple Pencil. The pencil functionality means that you can animate drawings using slideshows when using the ‘Line Draw’ build. It really is a cool feature and there are some great examples out there on Twitter – just take a look at the #EveryoneCanCreate feed. Certainly, I feel that the flexibility of KeyNote could mean the end of justifying the £10 fee for Explain Everything.
As far as Pages is concerned, it too has brilliant functionality with the Apple Pencil, effectively becoming a powerful sketching tool as well. The workflow means you can easily create interactive EPUB books that can be viewed in iBooks. When starting a document, scroll down to find the Books template. Once selected, you can add text, photos, image galleries, videos, shapes, tables, charts and your own drawings to your document. On iOS you can also record audio directly to your document. This effectively means we will no longer need to spend £5 on purchasing the Book Creator App.
By exploring these apps in a little more detail and utilising all their features, schools can save at least £15 per device, which in the current environment of budgetary difficulties, represent substantial savings to educational establishments.
The ADE community is truly exceptional and I feel privileged to be part of a group that includes some of the most passionate and innovative educators on Earth. I can’t wait to see all the projects, that originated in Austin, come to life across The Globe. In my context, plans are already underway to revolutionise digital literacy.
The personal connections are too numerous to mention here, but it is worth pointing out that it is not just digital devices that bind us together. Moreover, it is the sharing of practice, ideas, friendship and the drive for change that really unites us and make us a true force for evolution in educational institutions worldwide.