What Are Apple Distinguished Educators And How Can I Be One?

apple distinguished educators

In a moment of utterly random reflection the other day, I was thinking about teachers and apples. Who decided that students should give teachers apples? Who would think that an apple is a great way to show your teacher you care? A quick search with my friend Google tells me that way back when, fresh apples were expensive, and it was a way to show gratitude or even payment for your poorly paid teacher who could not likely afford it. Extrapolating on that idea, the ‘apple polishers’ came about in the 1920’s and referred to the kids who would polish the teacher’s apple so that she would look favorably upon them. Generally, these kids were not so favorably looked upon by their peers, but I guess one has to choose their battles, no?

Fast forward to 2013: while an apple might be a nice snack, it probably isn’t going to rock your world. What might is an Apple product. And we don’t mean apple sauce. Or apple pie. While we do like pie, it probably isn’t going to be able to transform the way you teach the way an iPad or Apple computer might. Which is why Apple created the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) program. We think it is a pretty cool concept, and we’ve mentioned it a few times recently only to hear that many teachers have never even heard of it – even if they ARE doing great things with technology in their classroom, so we thought it was worth a look.

What Is It?

From the Apple website: The Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE) program was created to recognize K-12 and higher education pioneers who are using a variety of Apple products to transform teaching and learning…ADEs work closely with Apple to lead innovation in education. They advocate using new technology to help engage students in new ways — and share their expertise with other educators and policy makers. They advise Apple on the realities of integrating technology into learning environments. They author and publish valuable insights, lessons, and best practices. And they work together as ambassadors to develop and promote powerful ideas for improving teaching and learning worldwide.

The program is competitive, and requires you to apply not only in writing, but with a video that shows how you’re using Apple products in an innovative manner in your classroom. The application window is short, so you need to keep an eye out if you think you want to apply.

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Is It For You?

Since the application process is very competitive, taking a moment of self-assessment before you apply might be a good idea. Look at the criteria of an ADE and see how you might fit in.

According to the official application documents, the profile of an ADE is:

  • a “digital” educator actively engaged in a modern learning environment
  • an inspired user of core Apple technologies personally and professionally
  • uses and integrates a full range of mobile devices for teaching, learning and creative expression
  • an early adopter of promising emerging technologies, pedagogical models and digital content
  • actively shares best practices by authoring authentic content, delivering professional presentations, or conducting and publishing research
  • a full-time professional employee in a public or private school, local education authority, college, university or non-profit agency/organisation.

There are a lot of personal blogs out there that you can take a look at – you can find many of the ADEs at their homes on the internet. But also take a look for those who have had their applications rejected – there is a lot of insight there, too. I read the blog of one educator who couldn’t figure out why he had been rejected by Apple, and posted his video application for feedback. Many of the commenters noted that the applicant used not one piece of Apple technology in his video. Another blogger speculated that their acceptance into the Google Teacher Academy played a role in their Apple rejection. If you look at the work that many of these ‘rejectees’ are doing, though, the answer seems fairly obvious – there are a TON of people doing awesome work out there, they just can’t all be accepted. For this particular program, the use of Apple products is a must, which we’re sure makes more than a few people grumble, but it is a program sponsored by Apple, so it really isn’t as discriminatory as some make it sound.

Why THIS Program?

apple distinguished educatorThere are a lot of professional development programs out there, and there are a growing number that focus on technology in the classroom. So what makes this one stand out compared with the others? We’ve broken down a few of the things that we think are particularly cool about the ADE program.

Collaboration: For many educators, especially those who are working with technology in their classroom, collaborating with other educators who are doing similar things is pretty great. We often hear from teachers that others in their school are either less/not interested in technology or unwilling to be a trailblazer for their school, so sometimes collaboration with people in the same building or even district might not be possible. Bringing together teachers from different types of schools in different areas with different strengths, interests and specialties presents a unique opportunity for collaboration and learning.

Input: Expanding on the collaboration that happens at the ADE training and beyond, ADEs continue to work with Apple  – letting them know the perils and successes of the day to day life integrating technology into a real classroom. Because we all know that lots of things are great in theory, and not-so-great in practice. Sharing this valuable feedback with Apple can only help to refine future products and implementations, which is music to our ears.

Sharing: What good is collaboration if the ideas are only shared among a small group of people. Realistically, the folks accepted to be ADEs represent a VERY small proportion of educators out there. But the ideas they work with and the practices they develop are shared via Apple tools – allowing the fruits of the ADE’s labors to be much more widespread. These folks often speak at education events, author content online for others to read, and share their experiences. Many ADEs share their experience via iTunesU, enabling anyone with an iTunes account to learn about what they’ve been up to (for free!). They also share a list of great apps for education on the site APPitic.

So while the application process may be competitive, and the list of ADEs select, the work they do and the ideas they come up with are being shared widely – and hopefully being implemented widely! So even if you can’t become one of Apple’s ADEs, you can really benefit from some of the work and research they’ve done. Check out the few links we’ve included here, and if you have some time on your hands, do a quick search for Apple ADE and you’ll find a wealth of folks whose personal blogs share their ADE experiences.