The fact that I don’t like corporations comes as no surprise to anyone who has read my work or talked to me for five minutes. They’re big and scary and faceless and subversive and greedy and dictate too much of how things are done in the world for my taste. Because integrity, honesty, passion and art are so important to me I am constantly disappointment by the concept of selling out. Giving in. Joining the dark-side. I mean, is there anything worse than seeing a song you love, being used to hawk a car or a TV?
I came to the Apple Distinguished Educator’s conference with a heavy heart. Was I selling out? Was this ultimate copulation to the very corporate forces I am constantly deriding? Because while Apple is hip and shiny and sexy on the surface, their main goal is still global domination. Of this there is little doubt. So what would a corporate sponsored educational institute look like exactly? How much of my soul would I have to sell? What was in it for me? There is a running joke surrounding the ADE program, likening it to a cult or saying that once there you drink the Kool-Aide you will be never shut up it again.
This post is random scattering of thoughts and ideas of my experience over the last four days in Vietnam.
Every organization, every conference, every school, every company, every story is about the people. Who they are? Their beliefs and values, and how they work with others are critical aspects of how they function as a bigger group. And so of course, it was the people that really grabbed my attention. From the talented and inspirational speakers like Rebbeca Stokely and Joseph Linaschke, to all advisory member facilitators and sixty plus ADEs, their was a tangible sense of excitement about the future of not only technology but how these tools can be leveraged to a global shift in how our students learn. The wild card group for me was the ADE educational team from Apple. I was excepting a bunch of disconnected suits from the corporate office, but really the Apple team are a dynamic, diverse group of men and women dedicated to the success of this program.Let me throw a quick thank you to Adrian for his dedication and passion to education.
Which brings me to what I think is an important point. What is the point of the ADE program? Here is my take:
To take innovative educators from within a region, who are already using and excited by the Apple brand, connect them to each other, build a tight-knit (almost cult like) community, so that they can work more closely together, have a wider global audience in hopes that they, (we?) can build a critical mass in the institute with which we work, in order to shift the paradigm. Could the cynic argue, he always does in my mind, that Apple created this program in order to have the sales department move in right after and turn whatever schools these ADEs are working in to Mac schools? Of course. But really, I am not here to write about that. Stop it! I can here murmuring , “sell out” under your breath, but really the truth is that I would choose to go to a Mac school over a PC school with or without the ADE program. What I learned this past week was the dedication this company has shown to this program. Hold on….had another cup of Kool-Aide, but really at the level I am working in now, I am proud to be a part of it. Should it ever change or demand more of me, than of course I will reconsider. For now, I feel a part of a healthy and exciting symbiotic relationship. I feel that I have the opportunity to stay honest, keep my integrity and write openly and honestly about my role as ADE. If at any point my views and theirs should diverge than I am sure we will be happy to end the relationship, but in the mean time I am stoked and excited to have met so many other amazingly talented individuals. Many I already knew through the network, but others who are a bit new. They are doing amazing work in their schools, but needed this platform to join the global conversation.To all the new ADEs I met this week, welcome to the conversation. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts. This is where the remainder of our work together will be done.
My favorite part of this week was the professional development I saw. We were seldom asked to listen or watch. We were asked to do, to create, to reflect, to share. It made me feel like a student and I loved it. It taught me how to work with others and listen. It taught me that you might learn more if it is not done your way, that another person can add to your ideas and together you can sculpt shared ideas. I really hope to incorporate some of the activities and general ethos of the instiute to in-service days at my school for next year.
And of course it reaffirmed my belief that learning is done in process and cannot be assessed by product. The very experience of creation is important not the creation itself. We all know this, but we often need to be reminded of failure and mediocre products, so we can ease the pressure we put in students. The conversations I had with members of my group during our day on the river, or the emotions I felt while talking with locals being pushed off their land and from their homes in the name of globalization and progress, is impossible to document or assess in a four-minute video. I was left thinking of how much learning from our students is lost or forgotten in the search of a grade. There must be so much they are learning that we never see, because we are asking for such specific proof. This experience made me appreciate the role of reflections and student blogs as places of more holistic learning. A sort of expansive landscape, where if done right students as well as teachers can really design a more accurate picture of learning, one that does not require a rubric or standards, but when experienced as a whole over time reflects the journey of its creator. Much more on this soon.
This institute also gave me a chance to really look at my own current landscape and take inventory. Who am I? Am I spread to thin? What are my values? What do I want to promote and share? Am I on the right track? What does my name mean to others? Does any of it matter? Stay tuned for updates. I am working on re-worked, consolidated brand. I still hate that word. Maybe when I can articulate it, it will have a new name.
In the meantime, I am proud and excited by the work I did, the thoughts I had and the people I met. It is always a shocking experience to be thrown into such a crucible. I am sure the effects will be long lasting. I am looking forward to continuing the conversations we had this past week with everyone who was there, as well as all of you who were not. Not sure if I answered any of the questions I had going in, but I don’t feel like a sell-out and that is good. I feel like I am leading a fast moving train headed to great places. Come on! What are you waiting for. Get on. We have work to do.
Of course I would appreciate all my critical thinking, trouble making friends to tell me I am wrong about all of this, because there is nothing more dangerous to growth and learning as complacency