Apple Distinguished Educator

One of the things that I am most interested in as a teacher is using educational technology to make a difference in the classroom.  I use iPads, Apple TV and my interactive whiteboard nearly every day but for a whole range of purposes.

In February I applied to become an Apple Distinguished Educator.  This global programme accepts applications every two years and the main part of the application is a two minute video sharing your story of how you impact change using Apple Technologies in your setting.

Apple Distinguished Educators are Advocates, Ambassadors, Authors and Advisors, sharing what can be possible in the classroom when Apple Technologies are used effectively.  Being part of the Apple Distinguished Educator community is an honour, they are some of the most innovative and encouraging teachers I have ever come into contact with and collaboration, sharing ideas and working together, is such a big part of the community ethos.  Everyone is just SO helpful and lovely.

I had been working towards applying for around 18 months, collecting evidence of the practice that I was doing anyway – trying to showcase the difference having iPads in school makes.

With some advice and encouragement from ADEs I know from online and real life I submitted my application in February.

The wait to hear back seemed never ending, especially with some false starts of other applicants on twitter saying that we would hear on a certain date (dates that passed without announcements). Until Apple Edu tweeted saying the new class would be announced on 3rd April.

I was delighted when at 5pm on the button, while I was sitting in Tesco carpark on my way home from school I got the email.

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A huge thank you has to go to the ADE alumni who have encouraged me and advised me,  especially Dessie Tennyson and Rachel Smith, to the other ADE applicants who were like a little online support group and to my family and friends who pretty much heard about nothing else for the last four months….

Its difficult to put into words how much this means.  Its an honour for what I do in my class and my school to be recognised.  Its exciting to get to part of the programme and I’m looking forward to meeting others from the class and some alumni at Apple Institute in the summer.

And I know that this is just the start of the adventure!




Apple Classroom 2.0

Last summer I went to an Apple Edu event for teachers introducing Apple Classroom. At the time I was really intrigued by the possibilities that it would bring to my own classroom, but was disappointed to find that I wouldn’t be able to be used given our current set up. 

Then came the update, Classroom 2.0 which is the game changer I’d been waiting for. 

I haven’t had a chance to use this in practice yet, but I’m excited to give it a go. I have just updated our small class set of iPads to iOS 10.3 and updated the classroom app to version 2.0. 

Teacher iPad steps

I set up my class in the app on my teacher iPad which took two seconds. I set class name and my name.  I tapped to add pupils and got a short numeric code to type in. 

Pupil iPad steps 

 I opened settings on the pupils iPads to set them up to join the class automatically. 

In the classroom app section of settings, I typed the code from my teacher iPad and the pupils iPads registered automatically to my class. (I just hit add on the teacher iPad once I could see them) I changed the settings on the pupil iPad to allow teacher control “always” and to join the class automatically in the future. 

What you can do with Classroom

Screenshot  from Classroom on my teacher iPad – I’ve still more pupils to add!

From the teacher app in classroom I can see what each pupil is looking at on their screen, force open apps, navigate through safari, lock their iPads or mute them.  If a child has let their iPad auto-lock I can open up the app again. For an early years teacher this takes a lot of the fiddlyness out of the start of a lesson. While there is a level of independence that you want to build it’s nice to be  able to help those who are struggling to get started and to save time if learning to open an app isn’t something you want  to spend time on in every lesson. 

It’s also good to be able to lock pupils into an app with one tap rather than using guided access and setting each iPad individually. 

The other tool which I know that I’ll use is the lock function. If I tap lock iPad on the teacher app it comes up on the pupil screens that the iPad has been locked by their teacher. I know this will come in useful for non iPad times within a lesson. My class find it hard to stop tapping…

Displaying and sharing pupil work is also made much simpler by the fact that I can share pupil iPads to the whiteboard via Apple TV myself, rather than pupils airplaying themselves. Again this is something very useful, particularly as the lavolta kids cases my class use sometimes make pulling up the control panel tricky.  

The only downside for me at the moment is that across school we have a range of iPads, from iPad 2s to brand new airs. Only the newer ones will be able to update to 10.3 and run classroom 2.0. So it’s my class and Foundation Stage that will be able to utilise it at the moment. 

There are other features, like the ability to group pupils iPads and control groups in different ways, but I won’t need these in my SEN class just yet.  

Long term I’m thinking about what we will do when our older school iPads become too slow to keep up with what we need our children to be able to do. Already we can’t update our software on some of them. I don’t have any answers yet on that one. The recycling programmes really aren’t cost effective and our budget (or lack of it) means simply replacing them is not an option.  I don’t think that one is going to have an easy solution.  So classroom may just be a foundation stage tool for us for a while. 

For now I’m excited about the potential of Classroom to make the set up/management of a lesson a bit easier/slicker and let the pupils focus on the learning that comes from the activity without getting tangled up in the processes to get to it.   

I like the potential of Classroom for much of the same reasons I like Nearpod.  It’s a way of letting the iPad be a tool the teacher has control of while the pupils have individual experiences of using it.

Apple produced a great guide for classroom which you can find here.

Hong Kong 1.2

As a group we’ve had a full programme of visits for the past three days. We’ve met with the British Council, Hong Kong University, the Education Bureau and a range of different schools.  We have been warmly welcomed into classes, computer suites, tech lounges and maker spaces.   People are very keen to share what they do and talk about what they hope is next for education in Hong Kong, broadly as well as in their own schools and classes.  Words that we keep hearing are STEM, computational thinking and 21st century skills. It’s interesting because the discussions that we are having are similar to those we would have back in Northern Ireland.  

Questions like:
How do we make sure that the tech is fully and intentionally integrated into the lesson, not just an add on, substitution or shiny new toy?

What are the skills we want pupils to develop?

How can we equip our pupils for a future we can’t imagine yet?

It’s interesting to see so many similarities between what happens in schools in Northern Ireland and schools in Hong Kong. I’ve observed in classrooms this week where Nearpod, iMovie, BookCreator and Kahoot have been used to enhance teaching and learning. It’s the same sorts of things that I do in my own classroom or see colleagues do throughout my school.  It’s very affirming. 

It’s led me to wonder about good practice in a globalised society. 

I wonder if because the world is a much more connected place, good practice is good practice the world over.  

Teachers are increasingly interconnected.  Sharing good practice is on a global scale now with teachers creating PLNs on social media, reading international research, being informed about tech initiatives and trends on a global scale through news, tweets, retweets and blog posts. I know I look with interest at what is considered best practice from educational tech expos from around the world, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. 
If teachers are globally interconnected does that impact on practice, are the gaps closing rapidly between country to county? 

I wonder if the educators who are striving for excellence in ICT are implementing the same things the world over, because they know what is the best that’s out there and push for it.  Thinking of my own practice I follow a number ADEs on twitter, I link in with twitter chats to find out best practice on a global scale, I read online and in the iBooks store about what’s done in other places.  My PLN spans the globe. As a teacher and digital learning leader my practice is informed from what happens in the USA, UAE, Asia, Africa and across the UK, as well as from practice from down the road. 

I suppose what I’m beginning to think is that the teachers who want to push for best practice look beyond their country anyway so rather than see huge differences in pedagogy and practice we only see variations in terms of implementation.  Obviously every school will have its own model of how to do things, own resources, budgets, time constraints and staffing levels. Each school will have a slightly different flavour coming from its ethos and vision. But if a school is engaged and pushing for innovation surely they will take an international perspective in that.   

Perhaps good practice is good practice the world over?

Hong Kong 1.1 – Journeys 

I’m rubbish at waiting for things, I have all the patience in the world for children and people but I really struggle to wait for things. The stretch between finishing exams and getting the results were always a nightmare for me. In someways it seemed like this trip came round very quickly, but in others it seemed like it was taking an age. 

The Northern Irish group met at Belfast City airport to start the long journey to Hong Kong on Saturday afternoon. Crazy to think it would be late Sunday afternoon by the time we arrived. 

I’m writing this on the plane to from Heathrow, I’ll post it when we get wifi. 

Already we’ve all been sharing our journeys in using educational technology and the journeys our schools have been on in developing practice. Sharing ideas, taking about how things work in our schools and passing on tips about how we implement edtech in our settings. There’s been lots of talk about magpieing- troubleshooting problems and getting advice. It’s fantastic to hear about the work that’s happening in other places, St Cecilia’s digital leader programme sounds fantastic! 

I know that the next six days are going to be jam packed, but I’m hoping that there will be lots of time to just chat with each other and share what we do. As well as seeing practice and how things are done, this trip is going to be as much about making connections with other teachers- and not just teachers from overseas.  

International Study Visit 2017 -Hong Kong

In December I applied to go on an international study visit to Hong Kong with the British Council and in January I found out that I had been selected as a participant. It’s such an exciting opportunity, not only to visit another country and culture but to get a real insight into life and education there from visiting schools and meeting with international colleagues. 

 I know a few teachers who have been on these visits before and they all speak very highly of the impact it’s had on their teaching. The Hong Kong trip focuses on the strategic implementation of digital technology, other trips running this year looked at cyber bullying in Canada and newcomer children in Berlin. I can’t wait to see how educational technology is used in a variety of different settings in Hong Kong. We are visiting six schools in four days, meeting with the Education Bureau and two edtech companies.  It looks like we are covering lots of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories so it should be a great general overview of edtech there. 

 I’m heading away with five other teachers from Northern Ireland, a mix of primary and post primary, senior management and class teachers, country schools and urban schools.  I’m excited to learn from and share with local colleagues as much as the international ones! When we are there we will be linking in with a group from the British Council in Wales, looking at the same focus. It’s been great chatting to some of them already through twitter. 

I’m hoping to update this blog daily when I’m away, as well as tweeting as much as I can (and I’m sure instagramming a LOT!) Fairly certain I’ll walk around with eyes like saucers trying to drink it all in! If you’d like to stay up to date with what the team get up to you can follow the official hashtag #ISV2017 on twitter.  The unofficial hashtag seems to be #teamHK 

Photo Credits: British Council NI 


Reflections on Bett

Last year I had followed the adventures of teacher friends who went to the Bett show through posts they shared on Twitter.  As a class teacher I knew getting time out of school to go to Bett would be highly unlikely so had just thought I wouldn’t be able to go.  Then a friend, working in another school, mentioned she had got very cheap flights and that I should look into going over even after school on the Friday.

Bett is the world’s leading educational technology event, held in London every January.  Their mission is to bring together people, ideas, practices and technologies so that educators and learners can fulfil their potential. You can read more about it on their website here.

After checking out flights and thinking about logistics I booked to go to BETT for just one day – on the the Saturday.  Though I would’ve loved to make it to the Teachmeet on the Friday timings would’ve been impossible.

Bett runs for four days and both the schedule and the floorpan is jam-packed.  There is so much to see and hear about I knew I would have to be selective in what I could fit in.  My wishlist was really just made up of meeting people, people from twitter who I have, chatted to, collaborated with and who inspire me.  For me that really meant some of the Apple Distinguished Educators who were presenting throughout the day. I checked out the schedule for the Apple Solution Village and decided my best plan was to spend most of my time there with some time to walk around the stands at lunchtime.

Saturday at Bett was really quite quiet, overall the atmosphere was a bit flat but it suited me because I didn’t want to have to fight through crowds when my time was so limited.  It also meant that I got a good chat with some or the people I’d really gone over to meet.  There is nothing more surreal than having people recognise you from you your twitter profile picture! Mark Anderson (@ICTevangelist) and Laura Dickinson (@eLearning_Laura) both came over and hugged me right away, which is lovely but strange because I’ve never met them in real life.

At the Apple Village I caught presentations from Abdul Chohan, Greg Hughes, Mark Anderson and Catherine Mangan.  All of which were interesting and useful for the classroom – definitely got some tips to take back to school.

I also found out about a great app helping children deal with anxiety called The Worrinots, caught up with Fintan from the Take Ten App Team (an app which I use in school already)  and had a look at some of the stands around the expedition hall.  One of the things on my list to find was the vending machine with the Google Cardboards, linking in with Google Expeditions as a classroom tool.  I got a cardboard in exchange for a tweet, which was an added bonus.

My top tips for BETT based on my one day visit are:

  • plan ahead, work out your must sees or you may be disappointed.
  • use the app to plan things out/find things/get around
  • don’t carry unnecessary coats/bags – use the cloakroom
  • link in with anyone you want to meet up with in advance- Bett is busy and big, you could easily miss them if you leave it to chance.

For me the highlight of Bett was the networking and the chat.  One of the things that I love about technology is that it makes the world so much smaller and interconnected, my experience is that it brings people together.  It was just great sitting having a chat about how we are using technology to impact learning in school with people from Ireland, England and the Netherlands.

Will I go back to Bett? I’m not sure.  If the opportunity presented itself then yes.

One of the aims of Bett is to bring people and ideas together and that was definitely achieved on my day visit.  I guess I will just wait and see what next year brings.



Most Used Apps- Shadow Puppet

Shadow puppet is a fantastically simple app for making videos and presentations. It’s by the same people who make seesaw, so is just as easy to use and works well if you want to export to seesaw.
I use this app for retelling and sequencing activities as well as making reports on things we have done or any trips we have taken.  You select photos from the camera roll, sequence them and then record audio for each one. The app manages all the transitions in the finished product so making a little video is just that simple.
On finishing you can save it to the gallery, export it to seesaw or save it to the camera roll.
It really is the simplest way for my class to make small video presentations, but it’s also a really useful app. One thing I particularly like about it is that you can see progression in children’s communication skills after they’ve been using it for a while. It’s great evidence and a good way of tracking pupil progress!