My Top 5 Takeaways from My Geeked Out Week at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute 4

My brain hurts…

This week has been one of the most transformational experiences of my life. Where do I even begin to explain what the Apple Distinguished Educator institute is like…The week began with a nervous energy. The newbies who had connected with others in the twittersphere were finally able to talk to the actual people behind the avatars. It was exciting to meet everyone but overwhelming.

Throughout the week we had the chance to hear some incredibly talented individuals speak about their passions and help us cultivate our own.

I have written so much over the past week but decided that I would break it down into 5 takeaways from my geeked out week at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute. To be honest there is so much more I could write about…ouch, my brain really hurts!

A special thank you to Brad Ovenell-Carter for sharing his beautiful visual breakdowns of each presentation. I am lucky to have met him and call him a friend.

Moving Backwards:

5) The power of Yes, And…

Meeting Rebecca Stockley, the improv lady was key to making the week successful. I could imagine that being in a room with roughly 400 type “A” personalities could have been a little intimidating. Rebecca’s improv activities helped take that nervous energy away and turned us into a group of learners who celebrated each others contributions and failures. I plan on adopting some of her activities in my future classes and seminars.

Rebecca Stockley at the ADE

Rebecca Stockley at the ADE

The one thing that she had us do was the failure bow, but instead of bowing when we made a mistake we yelled out “woo hoo” with our hands in the air.  As learners, if we are constantly afraid of failure how do we learn? She also spoke about letting go and not taking things so personal. It is ok to hear constructive feedback from your peers, how else does one learn! She spoke about the power of “Yes, And…”(where we Listen, Accept, Add and Adapt) this was my motto for the rest of the week. When we say, Yes, And…when working with others we are able to build on each others ideas, we can become much more critical and constructive this way.

4) Storytelling is key as an effective presenter

Rebecca Stockley had us work on building our storytelling skills. One of my big takeaways from the week was how important is was to have strong storytelling skills as an educator and a presenter. If you think back to your learning experiences, the very best presentations you have seen, or teachers you probably had great storytelling abilities. One of the other improv games we played was called “The Story Spine.” This is a great activity that you can do with your teachers or class to get them working collaboratively and creatively. You break your class into small groups (3-4 probably would work best) and have the participants take a turn to build on each others story.


I took this philosophy on all week and because of that I experienced and met people that I might have missed out had I been closed off. So much to write about, so little time. Yes! And…

3) Keeping Track of ideas, and reflection helps us become successful

We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have Bill Frakes take our professional photographs. Listening to Bill Frakes, world renowned Pulitzer prize photographer, speak about digital storytelling was inspiring. He has this wonderful talent to play with light. One of the takeaways that stuck with me was how he organized his ideas. He carries three notebooks with him wherever he goes. I also carry around a notebook with me so that I can write down ideas and things that strike me. His three books are used to keep track of  1. his big ideas, 2. the  logistics he will need for making these big ideas a reality and 3. his sketches of lighting.

After speaking with my friend and roommate Michelle Cordy, I really began to think of the importance of being organized. Like Bill Frakes taking notes when thinking about his craft, I believe that Blogging is essential for teachers and learners as a way to reflect and build on the big ideas they come across. I have been carrying a notebook with me all year but this year I will be using it a lot more adamantly. We should encourage our students to keep track of their inspirations and track all of the things that are of interest to them. They really need to take more pictures of the their work, notes in the class and learn how to be much more organized with all of the information they are tracking. I am sure that their writing and creations would be much more meaningful if we approached it this way.



2) Protocol to communicate in groups is essential: Critical Friends Protocol

“When one person dominates the group, the group shows less intelligence.”

The critical friends protocol is one of the best activities I have ever experienced when working in groups to encourage active listening and constructive feedback. During the institute we were encouraged to connect with others who shared similar passions when thinking of what we were going to create for our “One Best Thing”. In an effort to guide our conversation and hear from everyone in our PLN, we agreed to the protocol for our conversation. My friend and fellow iCitizen PLN buddy, Brian Zink brought this protocol to all the PLN’s attention, it was very useful. I strongly encourage you to share this and try it with your colleagues and students.

The role of Timekeeper is Essential (be diligent and hold people to their time limit)

  1. A group member summarizes the direction of their group contribution – idea (2 minutes maximum)

  2. Listeners ask clarifying questions (2 minutes maximum)

  3. Everyone must finish the following statements in response to their group contribution – idea)

  4. (1 minute per group member maximum)

  • “I like the fact that….” (compliment)

  • “I wonder if…” (constructive criticism)

  • “A good next step might be” (GO BIG)

5. Group member summarizes the feedback and next steps to be taken (2 minutes maximum)

1) We really need to begin to think about learning spaces.

IMG_1088Bet you didn’t think that would have been my number one takeaway huh?! This one is a biggie for me and something that I have been thinking about for a long time. The entire time we were at the conference I kept thinking about how uncomfortable I was sitting in the dark basement conference rooms (no offense to the AT&T conference center and Apple). Interestingly enough, anyone who knows me at my office knows that when I am prepping for a workshop I break out my whiteboard (that is situated under my desk of course). I HATE working in dark, dingy workspaces. I need to spread out, work my ideas out on paper first. Everyone has different methods when trying to focus however most of the workspaces that we use in our classes are still very much set up for the industrial age of education. Individualized rows and desks, classrooms that are set up for assembly line learning. If we are trying to encourage our students to collaborate, create and communicate and those old fashioned spaces are outdated and need a major overhaul.

I was fortunate enough to meet Don Orth and Ellen Kraska who have done a lot of work on creating learning spaces that are conducive to the learning we are encouraging. I took their lead and used the space outside the ballroom to brainstorm my ideas near the natural lighting using flipboard paper and markers. This is where I had the best brainstorming and feedback. My learning was visible, as people walked by they were interested to learn more about the things I wrote on my flip sheets. I had such great insight from people I might not have ever had the opportunity to speak to. This really got me thinking about my own learning space at work and I happy to say that this year I was given a very very small budget to transform the space of a classroom for my new office and training space (I will be blogging about this soon). The school where I am moving my office to also recently purchased a 3D printer (I know right!!!) now I am also interested in looking at how we can begin thinking about creating a maker space in this school as well.

I want to give a big shout out to Apple, THANK YOU!

This week was hectic, to say the least. The sessions were really well thought out. However I would have to say that most of my transformational learning happened when I was not in sessions, usually in a passing conversation with someone I had just met or one of our #adebustout events. Sometimes we need to move away from our formal learning environments and let learning happen organically. Looking forward to #ade2014!

Ouch…Now I need to rest my brain…


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4 thoughts on “My Top 5 Takeaways from My Geeked Out Week at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute

  • Linda Lindsay

    Fantastic post, Tanya, with lots of thought-provoking ideas. Your passion and enthusiasm are infectious! I especially like takeaways #3 and #1. Mahalo for sharing what you learned with us.

  • Kristi Meeuwse

    Thanks for your reflection. I’ve loved reading everyone’s thoughts on the week. My own reflection felt so meager…how do you describe an event of that magnitude? Each reflection I read reminds me of the amazing week we all shared!


    Tanya, do you mind if I use images of your sketchnotes in a presentation for admin at my school? They really summarize what I want to say about storytelling? Great reminders of the wonderful time we had in Austin. I hope you don’t mind. Thanks -Tracey Ugalde -ADE 2013