My five years working at King’s Rochester came to an end in April this year when I undertook my current role as Director of Innovation at RGS Worcester – an Apple Distinguished School (ADS). Interestingly, just before I left King’s, after several years of preparation, we had just been told that we met the requirements to become an ADS School in 2020.
Apple Distinguished Schools are recognised by Apple as ‘centres of leadership and educational excellence that demonstrate Apple’s vision for learning with technology‘. To qualify, schools must have an established one-to-one programme; be able to demonstrate innovative use of the Apple platform; ensure their staff are proficient with iPad and/or Mac and be able to provide documented results. Those schools that meet the requirements and achieve ADS status are then invited to attend the annual Apple Distinguished Schools Innovation Summit, somewhere on The Globe – and for this reason, I recently found myself in Berlin with other members of the ADS community.
My trip began with a quick visit to the Berlin Metropolitan School, where @JenOFee is Head of the Primary Section. It was great to see the pupils meaningfully use a range of technologies as they prepared for their PYP (Primary Years Programme) exhibition; taking place that very evening. The PYP is a transdisciplinary framework that places an emphasis on inquiry-based learning. The exhibition itself happens at the end of year six and provides pupils with the opportunity to share their newly developed knowledge and skills with their peers, teachers, parents and wider school community.
The student work on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning was of particular interest to me and was testament to the fact that if orchestrated properly, inquiry-based practice can have high-impact on student learning.
Next stop was the Innovation Summit itself, taking place next to Potsdamer Platz – itself once at the helm of innovation when the first traffic lights in continental Europe were installed back in 1924.
The Summit started with an overview of the ADS programme, specifically in the EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa) whose schools were represented at the Berlin 2019 summit. 86 Schools from 17 countries were represented and it really was brilliant to see so many familiar faces from the ADE Community there as well. Indeed, some of the highlights of the whole summit were hearing from delegates from several different schools and how they had managed to successfully embed technology within their curriculums, change culture, strengthen communities and empower learners, often in very difficult circumstances.
We also took a detailed look at the ‘Elements of Learning‘; a book published by Apple in 2018, in conjunction with SRI International, that aims to help educators to design lessons that incorporate five elements of learning when using Apple Technology. The elements are:
- Communication and Creation
- Personalisation of Learning
- Critical Thinking
- Real-World Engagement
The book contains detailed chapters on each element and features lesson plans that are supported by both guiding and reflective questions. Although, by no means definitive, the book certainly has some interesting and valuable ideas that could easily be customised to fit in with most schools curricula.
Moreover, the session provided an opportunity to reflect and discuss Apple’s ‘Elements of Learning’ in relation to our respective practices.
Day two kicked off with a look at how Apple prioritised meaningful innovation when designing their products. It was also good to hear that their US operations (for example their data centres) are now running on 100% renewable energy, whilst worldwide – that figure stands around 93%.
Further workshops then followed, allowing delegates to investigate various aspects of teaching and learning. One option was a session focusing on the excellent Everyone Can Create curriculum that provides ideas for students to develop and communicate their ideas through drawing, photography, video and music.
I attended a session on Augmented Reality (AR) and how teachers are using it purposefully in the classroom. As much as I love AR, I do find there are a lot of impractical ideas floating about on social media that fail to take into account a time-benefit analysis. However, these sessions offered some really nice, simple workflows. For example, using apps like Insight Heart or Froggipedia, in conjunction with ‘screen record’ for students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of difficult concepts such as coronary circulation.
Next up was an excellent session by fellow ADE’s @DepHead_Jones and @LynseyCarrMPS who discussed how they empowered their respective school communities through active collaboration and problem-solving – working together to build momentum behind the commitment to continuous innovation taking place at their schools. Time was also taken to discuss how this commitment to community engagement could be developed in each of our respective schools. I referenced some of the great work completed by @MattWarne and @efaulkneruk in this regard; earlier this year Matt and Emma released the worlds first online Apple Regional Training (RTC) online courses. Created on Padlet, some courses have all you need to know to use some key apps – for example, Keynote or Swift Playgrounds,whilst others look at areas such as productivity on iPad.
The final school story of the Innovation Summit came from @cat_ht, ADE and Deputy Head of the awesome Holy Trinity Primary School in Hackney, London. Their story involved utilising the space above their school to help enhance their learning environment. As their school was rebuilt, they constructed flats above the new classrooms to help finance the project and indeed, fund their highly successful adoption of iPads.
Part of the Holy Trinity success story involves the continuous professional development they offer their teachers and perhaps my favourite aspect of their strategy was combining snacks and apps! There can be no denying that the prospect of some Pages training seems infinitely more enticing when some pancakes are thrown into the mix! Who knows, staff at RGS Worcester may soon be able to look forward to some tasty trimmings alongside their CPD opportunities…
In conclusion, the Apple Distinguished Schools Innovation Summit was a hugely rewarding, thought-provoking experience that not only served-up some fantastic ideas to bring back to Worcestershire, but also the opportunity to speak, laugh and develop bonds with like-minded educators from across the EMEIA region.
It’s great to know that innovative practice has had such a profound effect on learning all over the planet. However, it is worth remembering that it is not just digital devices that bind innovative schools together. Moreover, it is the sharing of practice, ideas and the drive for meaningful innovation that means RGS Worcester, RGS The Grange, RGS Springfield and RGS Dodderhill are proud to stand amongst the most forward-thinking, innovative schools in the world.