Absorbing ADE2017: Five Things I Took Home From Windsor

Windsor is a stunning town, situated on the River Thames, 20 miles or so west of London. It is the home of Legoland UK and the world famous royal residence, Windsor Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century. In July 2017, it also was one of the locations that welcomed the new Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) class of 2017 and I was lucky enough to attend as Alumni. They were a brilliant few days, and I’d like to share five things that I took away from a remarkable experience.

1.Teaching Is Amazing

With all the negativity surrounding Ofsted, SATs, teachers pay, teacher recruitment etc. it is easy to forget what an amazing job teaching actually is and what a brilliant job teachers do.  At ADE2017, all attendees were provided with ample opportunities to hear stories from classrooms across the world, demonstrating the wonderful work that takes place on a daily basis. From showcases to informal conversations, it was inspiring to hear so many marvellous projects taking place, orchestrated by a brilliant team of educators.

2. Chase and Status Don’t Just Make Brilliant Music

One of the highlights was the interview conducted by Peter Ford with Chase and Status’ very own Will Kennard (aka Status). I have long been a fan of Chase and Status and was amazed when Mr Kennard appeared on stage! He provided a fascinating insight into his own education and how although he attended a good school, was not engaged with the education available there. He passed his exams and went to university as he felt he had too, but “dropped out” after a year (much to his Mum’s dismay) to concentrate on his true passion; electronic music production and DJing. It proved to be the right choice as Chase and Status are now global superstars within their scene and regularly tour the planet, headlining major music festivals across the planet. We also got a sneak preview of their new album, Tribe, which sounded typically awesome. However, the most inspiring aspect of Will’s story was that he used his negative experience of education to try and make a positive difference to young people today by forming the East London School for Arts and Music (ELAM). The objective of ELAM is to give children the opportunity to develop their skills in music, arts and drama, regardless of their background. Furthermore, their unique curriculum allows the fusion of songwriting, poetry, news articles, gig reviews, and even plays that have been performed at the National Theatre. The dreaded OFSTED had even confirmed what a stellar job Will and his team are doing when they awarded the school ‘Outstanding’ in their most recent inspection.

3. There Are More Fantastic Swift Playground And Coding Resources Available

I have already used Swift Playground, Apple’s quite excellent coding App, with Year 7 and received fantastic feedback from students. However, it looks like there may be even more excitement next school year as there is now bluetooth connectivity to robots, drones and musical instruments including Lego Mindstorms Education EV3, the Sphero SPRK+, Parrot drones and more. Furthermore, the younger pupils will be able to enjoy more coding as I will be using the free Get Started With Code teacher guide. I will be using it alongside Tynker, CodeSpark Academy and Keynote. All resources are free and each lesson has editable slides, purpose built for the classroom and importantly, in case you get stuck, the answers!

4. Clips Are Everywhere and Bursting With Potential

If you are a teacher on Twitter, you may have noticed a sudden burst of #classroomclips appear on your timeline. One of the main reasons is that us ADE’s were set the challenge of producing something useful, tangible and constructive using the new, simple and intuitive Apple App, Clips. It is free and allows for very quick production of pretty professional looking video clips, ideal for sharing on social media. I have already seen some brilliant projects unfold, such as the #ClipsTours videos which showcase parts of the world visited by ADE’s or the @TechTeachGoals team who are now sharing short but useful hints and tips for #Edtech use in the classroom. However, I am most excited by the prospect of seeing what the pupils will produce when back at school and are unleashed upon the Clips App themselves.

5. The amazing prospect of Apple School Manager & Shared iPad

Over the summer, we are lucky enough to be adding 20 brand new iPads to our resources at King’s ready for September. They are the new ‘iPad’ which means that we will be able to set up users on the devices who will be able to log-in and find their respective set up. Our existing shared iPads were iPad Mini 2’s and although they have proved brilliant for our pupils, there were lots of occasions where work was lost, wrongly edited or settings had been changed. Instead, with Apple School Manager and shared iPad, individual users log-in to the device to find their own unique settings. We will be among the first schools in the UK to be using the new feature and I can’t wait to get started. Regarding the old devices, they will now be exclusively for Y4 whilst the new devices, for Y5. Furthermore, we are lucky enough to have 1:2:1 iPads in Y6,Y7 and Y8 so our pupils iPad provision has never looked so healthy.



10 Things I learned from ADE Institute, 2015

Amsterdam, or more specifically Noordwijk, played host to this years ADE (Apple Distinguished Educator) Instiute which welcomed the amazing Class of 2015 to the programme. As in Cork 2013, the best thing about institute is the opportunity to meet like-minded, dedicated educators from across the planet. Of course, Apple provide the opportunity for all attendees to learn a lot about their awesome products and how best we can use them in the classroom but I also learned (or had confirmed) a few other things that I would like to share:

1 – I`m not mad

I work in a school that only had WiFi installed in January this year. Although a roller coaster ride, the thrills and spills were worth it as we are initiating our inaugural 1:2:1 programme THIS September! The details of our journey can be seen in this short film: However, what the movie does not show is the feeling of isolation suffered at various points on our journey. People who don’t get educational technology often look on it (and the people that purvey its benefits)  with cynicism and scepticism.   However, at the ADE institute, every single attendee, ‘get’s’ technology in the classroom. They have seen first hand the difference it can make and help me to realise that I am not a lone-madman hell-bent on a irrational desire to force technology upon schools who ‘don’t do things that way’.

2 – Tech changes lives

One of the greatest aspects of the ADE institute 2015 was the daily round of ADE showcases. ADE’s from all over the World had three-minutes to tell their stories. The school locations, age-ranges, demographics etc. varied wildly but what every story shared was clear and compelling evidence of the difference schools and teachers who embrace technology were making to the lives of their students.

3 – Tech is a tool – it’s teachers that really matter

IMG_1359Great teachers have existed since the dawn of humanity whilst arguably, decent technology in schools is still in it’s infancy. Part of being a great teacher is the ability to adapt your practice and embrace change when it enhances learning. There is NO doubt that technology has changed the potential in and outside the classroom (ask any ADE). However, without proactive and creative teachers forging new ways of using the technology, progress and change would be impossible.

4 – iTunesU Course is getting better

I’ve used iTunes U Course manager a few times, but with shared devices I was unable to utilise it’s full potential. Clearly, with a 1:2:1 project I am already looking forward to harnessing the huge power of the fantastic classroom tool. However, I attended a session where the fantastic new features were shared and we can now enjoy:

  • Homework hand-in
  • Annotation tools
  • Private discussions
  • Integrated grade-book
  • Multiple attachments for assignments

Essentially, this means that iTunesU can now replace Edmodo, Showbie and the like as your complete digital learning environment. However, this is only possible in an iPad 1:2:1 setting and not forgetting a considerable amount of staff training. I’ll be pushing out my first course in September – if you are facing in the right direction, all you have to do is start walking…

5 – Deers and rabbits live on sand dunes 


Nathan Ashman and I enjoy an early morning run

I love running. There is NO better way of getting to know a new place than pulling on your running gear and setting off into the unknown for an explore. I had looked on a map and noticed that we were near a beach but it wasn’t until @coby_mr ran it, that I realised how close it was. Then, during a conversation with @vickiebacondpc, she mentioned another avid runner in attendance – @nathanashman. He told me about the extraordinary 96 mile run he has planned in the next few weeks and we promptly arranged a 5:50am, 9 mile run to the Dutch dunes. It was one of the highlights of the week. The run was brilliant; we even saw a deer and sand-rabbits and although our bromance was short-lived, our conversation will live long in the memory.

6 – Twitter connects people, globally.

The conversations above involved real people. However, I have deliberately referenced their Twitter handles as connected teachers NEED to be on Twitter. I didn’t meet one ADE who was not on the influential social media and when we began work with our communities (like-minded professionals), we all instantly exchanged Twitter handles and have used it as a forum of discussion and collaboration ever since. The collaboration within our groups was truly first class: problems were aired to the table and solutions found within seconds. Imagine every staffroom being that productive. My brilliant group consisted of these fabulous educators, all of whom are well-worth a follow –   nielswijnhoud  However, global connectivity is not simply limited to twitter, it is with great excitement that I am now looking forward to sharing content on the brilliant iPad Educators site founded and run by the inspirational ADE, Steve Bambury (@steve_bambury).

7 – I love creativity

Another highlight was the live demonstration of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro by two Apple employees, who basically designed them. It was mind blowing. They started with a few pictures and video clips and then, live on stage, cut between the two programmes to produce a stunning short clip, complete with self-composed sound track and 3D titles. Very cool and an idea of how (relatively) simple it has become for students to produce high quality productions if they have the necessary tools.

8 – Profile Manager is getting better

As mentioned before, we roll out a 1:2:1 iPad project across Year Six in September. This is a big deal for any school and we want it to work. We have installed a significant amount of trust in our resellers, Solutions INC from Brighton, and they have recommended we use the Lightspeed MDM version as the original Profile Manager would not be fit for our needs. We have used Profile Manager with our shared devices and it has been OK. However, the session on the Profile Manager updates suggested that Apple were increasingly aware of the drawbacks and were making forward thinking changes that will enable it to be more trustworthy in a 1:2:1 setting. However, I`m going to wait until I hear feedback from other schools before suggesting any form of change…

9 – Photography really is an art


Bill Frakes inspired photography by Gavin Smart

Another highlight of the week was the session by Bill Frakes, a Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer and general fascinating bloke. His photography is stunning and he showed a film that showcased his talents and his focus on the sky. It really was a breathtaking session and reiterated the talent required to spot everyday occurrences, moments in life, and turn them into extraordinary art. After the session, @gavinsmart emulated Frakes with this great shot which, unbeknown to me, featured myself calling home. I did attempt to emulate Frakes myself when I got to the beach after a run, however my work resembled a photograph taken by 5 year old learning how to use a camera for the first time. In fact, that’s probably a disservice to 5 year olds but did re-iterate the talent photographers have.

10 – Every Teacher has a story

People. The abiding memory of the ADE Institute 2015 in Amsterdam is people. From the initial shuttle bus to our hotel, right until my train journey back to London Victoria, conversation was flowing about the fascinating, absorbing and compelling world of education. Meeting so many great educators was a real privilege and listening to each respective story reiterated what a wonderful job we all do. Living during a time of international tension and conflict, it was so refreshing to meet people from every corner of the planet, each with a common goal and a unique story to share.

Apple Leadership Summit, King’s Cross, London.


I‘m writing this blog post on my sleek new iPad Air whilst sitting on the new High Speed Rail link between St Pancras and Rochester. Before I moved to France, back in 2008, neither of these tasks would have been possible. Indeed, the suggestion of “typing on a tablet” would have led to questions of one’s sanity. However, only six years later, over 20m of UK citizens will be using a tablet device in 2014 and we are witnessing a revolution take place in educational faculties world-wide.

As educators, we know better than most that things change. We also know that many a technological fad has come and gone. Perhaps though, it is the aforementioned tablet, (of the digital variety) that has provided the opportunity to change the very foundations of what constitutes a ‘normal’ classroom. As documented by Ken Robinson, many aspects of schooling are still recognisable from their origins in Victorian, Industrial Britain. Thankfully, most other aspects of society have moved forward and despite the best efforts of Mr Gove to thwart creativity in the classroom, the inspirational pupils, teachers and schools presenting at the Apple Leadership Summit, are moving things forward in education.

First, we heard from some fellow ADE’s (Apple Distinguished Educators) about what they have been up to at their respective schools. It was great to see some familiar faces from the ADE institute in Cork last year and their stories continue to be inspirational. Then it was the turn of the schools. We were fortunate enough to hear from teachers and pupils from Hove Park School who showed us how they had used Keynote and the iPad camera to create superb poetry. This may not initially sound like the redefinition of learning, however the collaboration, feedback and peer review aspects of the projects would not be anywhere near as fluid without the use of iPads. Furthermore, the pupils enthusiasm towards their work, and indeed their digital expertise, holds further testament to the use of mobile devices.

Next it was the turn of Flitch Green to blow our minds with their use of iMovie. Head teacher, Nathan Lowe, was supported by pupils and staff alike as they demonstrated how they used iMovie to assist with creative writing. Again, the confidence and expertise of the pupils shone through and indeed, one Year Six pupil, who had previously struggled with writing, was able to stand up and read a short extract of his superb work to a room packed full of delegates. It is, of course, the instruction of teachers that ensured this progression, but having an iPad available offers simple, but highly effective, creative opportunities to learners of all abilities.

More inspiration came in the shape of two schools that are blazing a trail with regard to innovation in the classroom. Derek Trimmer and Niel McLeod walked us through the remarkable journey of Hove Park School. The story itself is incredible enough; in 2009 it was a failing school with only 29% of students getting 5 A-C’s at GCSE. Five years later it is a hub of creativity where over 60% of students recently passed more than 5 A-C’s. The improvement in grades is one thing, however what resonated most with me was the additional data they were able to share. Data that confirmed the positive impact iPads had had on learning. Interestingly, a team from my school, King’s Rochester, had recently visited both Flitch Green and Hove Park and can vouch for the transformational learning that is taking place.

The story behind Lever House Primary School in Lancashire was equally inspiring. Headteacher, John Hurst, presented his vision and how learning at his school had been transformed by a pedagogical approach that ensured learners inquired, questioned and created. He recognised that the teacher was no longer the fountain of all knowledge and that students should be able to engage with the internet, learn how to search safely and effectively cross reference their discoveries. The iPad had been instrumental in delivering this approach but John’s vision went even further. He held school blogging, and publishing content to a global audience, in high esteem as well. He also believed in empowering some students to actually moderate the posts. This is an initiative we tried in Monaco and was highly successful, despite the fact it went against the grain of popular opinion.

In conclusion, it was hugely refreshing to hear that other, highly successful and innovative schools and their leaders shared similar ideals, values and pedagogical principles to me. The schools and their pupils were shining examples of how it can be done if the vision and belief are there. The leaders behind the vision knew from the outset they would face opposition, challenges and make mistakes along their journey. Nevertheless, they knew that these risks were worth taking in their quest to ensure that the learning experiences of their students were relevant, engaging, meaningful and FUN!