Apple Education Leadership Summit 2016

My very first Apple Summit! I was invited for this venue as part of an iPad-project I’m currently developing for the institute I work at. It’s our first year of equipping students with iPads and actively integrating them in the classroom. Our local Apple Premium Reseller and Education Solution Expert is helping our school in this endeavour and asked me to participate in this global community of educators.


Once enrolled, I counted the days to this extraordinary summit. To prepare for the event, Apple sent me an email containing a link to an iTunesU course. This thing was packed with information about their vision on education, the changes we need to implement, different pedagogies that advocate a technology enhanced way of learning and so on. It made for a very enriching preparation that effectively set the stage for what was to come.

And then the day came to set out on this adventure…

I travelled to London with a small group of teachers from different parts of the country and the resellers’ education managers. First of, was a visit to the Richard Challoner School, who have been working with iPads for quite some time now. They described their process of implementing the devices and invited us to have a look at a couple of classes in session. It was very interesting to see how this school made use of the iPad and how the students benefitted from that.

We got the rest of the afternoon off for some leasure time. During a stroll through London, I tried to organize my thoughts about some of the things I had seen. As a teacher, I constantly try to translate new ideas to my own classroom. Some of them work out, others don’t. But that’s part the journey: figuring out what will work for you!

While visiting the Apple Store at Covent Garden I was overwhelmed by a very positive vibe that filled the place. Somehow, just being there kindled a sense of eager anticipation. How was I to know that the philosophy at the very heart of this company, would be unveiled to me the next day… well, at least just a tiny bit…

apple store covent garden

D-day. We walked over to King’s Place and registered at the event. Equiped with a badge and a customized iPad, I entered the main exhibition area where teachers and students were demonstrating different skills using iPads. After some fiddling around with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil — I was thoroughly impressed — I proceeded to a couple of students who were demonstrating capturing video with a green screen. I had read about this more than once, but always kind of dismissed the potential of this activity. Not this time! Seeing the kids in action, without any help of the teacher, was impressive. I hope to try this out in my classroom in the foreseeable future.

Big Ideas

Mark Nichols talked about ‘Big Ideas’. He asked us to think about what drives us. What big ideas would we like to see become reality? Personally, I would love to see a revolution in education into a 21st century environment for open learning — I think that qualifies as a ‘big idea’…

He continued with the possible challenges when trying out your big idea. He stressed the importance of a common language. Thinking about what words to use to describe the change you want to implement proved very important. Words can have different meanings for different people, so making sure you are ‘on the same page’ creates the foundation for a good collaboration.

Finally, Mark showed us how to take action. How do you actually implement your big idea? He told us to worry about the ‘why’. The what, where and when will take care of themselves, but make sure you know why you want to do something. Investigate, network design and don’t be afraid to fail!

Break-out Sessions

During our first break-out session I got to know the river Thames from a historical, geographical and economical point of view. Using GarageBand, Maps, the Camera app, Explain Everything and Keynote a somewhat ‘traditional’ subject was enriched by the iPad, in such a way that students were both stimulated to learn and challenged to think for their own. Very impressive!

The second one thought me a couple of things about the iPad’s built-in possibilities for visually impaired students, students with dyslexia, highly gifted students and students that speak a different language but are otherwise at their age-level. In the settings menu a lot of visual and speach related options provide the necessary accessebility. It was evidence of how empowering the iPad can be.

One more thing…

To cap it all off, Joel Podolny, vice president and dean of Apple University, explained to us what makes Apple Apple…

Starting with the WWDC2013 introduction video, we were taken, word by word, through the process of how Apple works.

if everyone is busy making everything, how can anyone perfect anything? we start to confuse convenience with joy, abundance with choice. designing something requires focus. the first thing we ask is what do we want people to feel? delight, surprise, love, connection. then we begin to craft around our intention. it takes time…there are a thousand no’s for every yes. we simplify, we perfect, we start over until every thing we touch enhances each life it touches. only then do we sign our work.

What do you want people to feel? Apple pays a lot of attention to emotion. For example, Joel told us that when you open the box of a new iPhone, due to the sucktion it creates, the process takes about 5 seconds for it to open. Why? Because it builds up your anticipation for what’s inside the box. It’s like opening a Christmas present. And this is just one of the examples that demonstrate the level of attention to emotion and detail that goes in to creating the best user experience, from opening the box to using the product.

Empowerment is another thing Apple invests in. This is best shown in the 2013 Christmas Add ‘Misunderstood’.

In this beautiful add, it is made clear that Apple looks for empowerment through creativity, not through productivity. Enabling people to do things that ‘just work’, without the hassle of figuring out how to do them is key. Technology…

…for the rest of us

Lastly, he talked about simplicity, which is a very thing hard to do. Yet, simplicity creates intuitiveness. The reason behind the one-button mouse is a great example to illustrate this. Chosing the easier one-button approach instead of the more powerful multi-button device.

Joel added one more feature about Apple’s philosophy: beauty. For me, this is probably one of the most important aspects of Apple’s way of doing things. Not settling for the average box, but going the extra mile to put time and effort in the things you sometimes can’t even see.

joel podolny

So, what does this amazing story bring to education? As Steve Jobs placed Apple at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, the philosophy that they place at the heart of their company is, I think, transferable. In education, we can learn from this. We can take away these core ethics and embrace them in the way we teach.

  • What do you want teachers and students to feel?
  • What about the educational experience supports (or detracts) from those feelings?
  • As leaders, what can you do to shape the educational experience so that it evokes the desired feelings?

I left the summit invigorated, wanting to double my efforts to enable the change I talked about earlier. I felt rekindled, enriched. And the biggest reason for this was this incredible positive atmosphere that was present at the summit. You could feel the opportunities opening up. Everyone was so engaged. This is something that I crave for constantly. I need an environment where a person just by being there, is sparked into having great ideas. A place where you are challenged to create, change, make your mark…

TELIC Conference 2015

Yesterday, I attended the 11th TELIC conference at Hasselt – Belgium. It’s a gathering of students and graduates from the Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change MSc. course at Sheffield-Hallam University. We come together to talk about new theories and tools in the field of education and technology. This year the main subject was MOOCs, accompanied by a couple of practical sessions on a wide range of insights from the community members. Yesterday proved another successful edition.
A while back we got the unfortunate news that SHU will no longer be offering the TELIC-course which got us thinking about keeping our community (of about a hundred people) alive. With a repository of 84 dissertations and experts in a wide range of fields (educational, technological, pedagogical …), we felt the need to go on with our research and find ways to share this knowledge in a more open way. Therefor the TELIC community will be publishing its first journal: “The Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change” – ISSN (online) 2049-7385. Through this journal, you will get the opportunity to access the community’s work.

Scaling Down – One Year On…

Exactly one year ago I wrote about scaling down the number of apps/tools I wanted to use (link). I came up with this list:
  • Social Media: Twitter, LinkedIn
  • News Aggregators: Flipboard, Zite
  • Blogging Platform: WordPress
  • Cloud Storage/Note-taking: Dropbox, Evernote
As this is a constant work in progress, I wanted to take the time to give you an update and the benefits and struggles I’ve encountered…
Today my list is as follow:
  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram
  • News Aggregators: Flipboard, Pinterest
  • Blogging Platform:
  • Cloud Storage/Note-taking: Dropbox, Evernote
  • Journaling: Day One
What has happened?
Facebook is back on the list and Instagram joined as well. As I described last time, I tried to drop FB because I didn’t use the service that much and strived for one platform. In reality this proved difficult, because of certain links I didn’t want to lose, but also didn’t exist on other platforms. Second, I found that working with one platform for all my communications and social links, proved counter-productive. Why? One word: context! Let me explain by describing how I use the different platforms today. Twitter still is my primary social medium, and probably will be for a long time. I like the way information keeps finding me (instead of the other way around) and how convenient it is to use. I still have a BIG problem with Twitter still not showing all the search results when looking for a certain hashtag for instance. I use it primarily for my professional relations. Everything concerning education and technology will probably be in my Twitter-account.
Facebook re-joined the club because now this is the place for my “personal” relations. I connect to friends and family that primarily have a non-professional link to me. People whom I like to connect with on a personal, casual level.
Off course there is some overlap. I follow a number of musicians on Twitter as well. Just like I also created a couple of FB-groups to connect with my students and co-workers. The goal is to get things done, regardless of the platform I’m using, so sometimes exceptions must be made.
Instagram joined the club because I really wanted a place to post my photos. I didn’t want a huge library like Flickr, but looked for an easy way to share my love for photography. I decided to create a closed account, so I have total control over who gets to see my images, and who doesn’t. Again, the primary reason is that I’m looking for more personal connections here.
Pinterest comes and goes, but is here to stay for a while now. I used the service a couple of times, especially in the classroom, but always quit my personal boards. Today, taking on a more casual approach, I use it to share information with my students through one board and use the others just to gather information for personal temporary project/interests.
WordPress has lost its battle. I’ve been using the blogging-platform for some time now. I even hosted my own site for a while, but a number of glitches made me switch to a more simpler way of sharing information. I have decided to go all-in with This service has a lot of potential if you’re an Evernote-user like me. It’s so easy to be able to blog from the same place that I primarily use to work. Although not without its flaws (there are some syncing issues once and a while), I like the simplicity and the straightforwardness of it. I must admit I have looked for alternatives like Medium and SquareSpace as well and while they have a certain appeal, I decided that a smooth workflow would be better for my needs.
Although Evernote would be perfect for my journalling needs, I opted for another app called One Day. This gorgeous app is so easy to use on my iPhone and provides me with a separate space for my innermost thoughts that I gave up using Evernote for this specific task. It is like entering a quiet place to reflect on the day and just write about whatever I want. Evernote has a different vibe…
My Google and Microsoft accounts are forever out the window. Not because they are bad services but just because we live in a platform-based world nowadays. I am completely immersed in an Apple environment (Mac, iPad, iPhone), which offers me a lot of tools and services to communicate, collect, create and share information and most of all automatically sync’s all this data on all my devices seamlessly. Working with multiple platforms at a time, cripples this workflow.
Platforms vs services
Where you used to choose for app A, B and C, people (like me) tend to base these choices on the platform they are on, which is normal and perfectly okay. I just wish that the different platforms were more compatible. I’m well aware that I’m shooting for the moon right now, but wouldn’t it be great if I could start a document in Pages on my iPhone, share it with my students who edit it in Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive? Luckily there are different ways of sharing documents with people outside of the service but to enable a good workflow you should be able to import any document into any service. It’s just like email. In the early days you could only send an email to people off the same provider (ex. AOL to AOL). Now, we can communicate with everybody, without the need for multiple accounts. This shift from closed platforms to open protocols should happen on a wider scale. I know this is not going to happen any time soon, but I would love to see services evolve towards this kind of utopia.
Feel free to share your experiences!

DS The End

I’ve passed my dissertation and therefore my master in Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change at Sheffield-Hallam University. It has been an incredible ride! I learned a lot, met interesting people and gained a better understanding about technology and education. I still want to expand my knowledge and experience, but I’m glad that this part of my journey is complete.

I’m proud of my work. I got to write about the things I hold very dear and want to see used in education in a more balanced way than is now the case. My research on the connected educator made me think about the process of implementing technology and especially the necessary skills teachers need to have. A different mindset about how we will teach and what is to be expected of our students is one of the things I found to be very important. 21st skill are different from last century’s. We do need to consider using different tools to prepare our students for that new world that is emerging. So, try to connect to other interesting people out there through various social media. Engage with them. Ask questions. Experiment in your own classroom and try to do “the other thing”. It’s worth the effort, you’ll see!

DS Submission Time

That’s it! My work is done. After painstakingly constructing and adjusting my dissertation, I have finally submitted.

A big thank you to everybody involved, without you this could not have been possible.
This ride has been epic! Never having done this before, I’m proud that I’ve reached the end of the line. Working on my dissertation was very educating and exposed me to many different theories and opinions that will have forever changed me. My future educational work will never be the same, in fact, I feel encouraged to continue the search for a different kind of education.

DS Tutorial 3

Submitting my first draft was an empowering feeling. I felt like I had accomplished something. Proud of my work, I awaited prof. Merchants remarks. He was pleased with the results so far, but also had some suggestions for improving my work. We talked about the literature review, referencing and trimming down the rough edges of the text. Next up was my research itself. It was made clear to me that I needed to divide my work into sections as to create a better picture of what I had done, why I had done it and what the results were. I sort of got most of that in my first draft, but all this information needed its own place. We discussed how I should be going about that and came to an understanding.
These tutorials truly are an important part of this dissertation. I always feel that talking with someone who has a fresh and unbiased view on it, puts everything into perspective. I tend to notice my own flaws while discussing the overall work with the professor. Reflecting on what I have already done, also proved interesting since I needed to keep track of everything. This in itself, creating this roadmap, was also an important step in the creation process. It offered clarity and a purpose.
Currently working on the last pieces of text for my final draft and at the end of the month, the TELIC course will come to an end.

DS Tutorial 2

My second tutorial went well. I love working with Evernote to create my dissertation. Even for my tutorials it comes in handy. I can send the link to the different notes I’ve created to my supervisor, for him to have a look, he could even write his notes on the text in the same document. Apart from collecting all pdf’s and other data in the Evernote platform, the document creation option is just great for the purposes of my dissertation. Playing around with the creation date enables great flexibility to sort my notes in a logical way (to me at least). Tagging them for future reference and placing them in different stacks also helps to keep things organized and easy to retrieve. I really recommend Evernote for any type of work you might have concerning information aggregation, curation and creation.

During this tutorial we talked about my literature review so far, which will need some more work, but the basic framework is definitely there. Professor Guy Merchant was pleased with my progress so far. Then we talked about the survey and interviews I conducted. In the survey I focussed on the ‘what’, where my interview was designed to answer the ‘why’.  The survey thought me that a lot of participants said to working with technology in the classroom, be it in very small ways. In their personal context people tend to use the ‘obvious’ services out there (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), the same level of determination was missing the professional context, I found. During the interviews this was one of the things I tried to find out. Time constraints were one of the most named problems affecting the implementation of more elaborate tools/services. I’ve discussed this with prof. Merchant. He mentioned that true innovators do find the time to experiment. He suggested to think about possible reasons why most people find it difficult to coop with that. He also suggested the ‘researcher effect’, meaning that during the survey, people might tend to answer in ways that are not necessarily true. Not meaning that they have lied, but people tend to answer the ‘desired outcome’.

After a few questions about lay-out and the different parts of my dissertation, prof. Merchant also suggested to look a bit into Schatzky. He talks about schools being a mesh of different practices, which could prove beneficial in my data analysis.

For now, I’ll be writing my first draft of the dissertation. After the final remarks and suggestions by my supervisor, I’ll be on route to delivering my final text. Looking forward to that. What a journey it has been!