Apple of My Eye: Resources Catching My Attention (weekly)
Apple of My Eye: Resources Catching My Attention (weekly)

ADE: Apple Distinguished Educator

At conferences and workshops, attendees are apt to hear me use the acronym ADE quite often. ADE stands for Apple Distinguished Educator, and I'm proud to be a member of this online community since 2005. Apple Distinguished Educators are authors, advocates, advisers, and ambassadors for Apple Inc. Most importantly, we are passionate and dedicated to pedagogical and curricular change via the thoughtful use of educational technology. 

In early 2005, I was invited to apply for this distinction which is given to approximately 50 US educators every two years (international classes of ADEs are formed in alternate years). At the time, invitations to apply came from Apple employees, and my friend and mentor, Helen Hoffenberg nominated me for this. Since then, the application process has become more open and any educator is invited to apply. 

It was such an honor just to be invited to apply as I had admired the work of other Illinois ADEs for years prior. Joe Brennan, Marianne Handler, and Karen Percak had been powerhouses in our local educational technology scene. As my career was still budding, I never thought I'd ever join their ranks in the ADE program. I was just grateful to learn from them at ICE conferences and through my Master's work at National Louis University. Helen, Joe, Marianne and Karen can be credited with being my earliest inspirations in the world of educational technology. 

So, when accepted in the spring of 2005, I was beyond thrilled. It was especially meaningful because sometimes we are prophets in our own land. We have ideas, enthusiasm, and a passion for innovation that are not always recognized in our silo-ed workplaces. It was exciting for me to find a community of like-minded individuals; I also worried about my worthiness as the talents and accomplishments of my ADEs colleagues were truly amazing.

Soon after being accepted into the ADE program, a personal tragedy also affected me. I  found out I was pregnant with my third child, but miscarried early on.  It was a tremendously sad time for me for assorted reasons, and I think I would have been preoccupied with this had I not been inducted into the ADE program during the required summer institute held in San Jose, California. The ADE program also put my work on steroids, and there has been no looking back. 

This institute was a week long whirlwind event that left participants feeling as if they won the golden ticket in a Willy Wonka movie. We worked on collaborative projects, listened to amazing speakers such as Alan November, and played with Apple technologies. Apple's foray into podcasting had just been announced and there was quite a buzz around its potential, too.  It was particularly fascinating to network so many other interesting educators; there was something to learn from each ADE. We also had the opportunity to visit Apple, shop in the company store, and listen to Apple giants such as Jonathan Ive. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, I was still such a newbie to all things Apple that I didn't even know of his significance until hearing him speak!

At any rate, the ADE program has given so much to me and I hope that I've been able to return the love over the past few years. I've participated in three other institutes following my induction in 2005, most memorably one that was held in Europe during the summer of 2006. We traveled to Berlin, Dresden and Prague while developing global education materials. It was fun, intense, and eye opening; this event inspired me to start the Global Education Collaborative. It also led me to travel to Singapore in 2008 to help with the Asian Apple Distinguished Educator Institute, which was a rare and special opportunity. 

Other numerous events have happened along the way including staffing Apple booths at conferences (this has generally been phased out), helping with briefings, and writing curriculum, but the most important aspect of being an ADE has been the informal networking that has occurred through various communication channels. One ADE told me that summer in 2005 that my life would change because of this program, and she was spot on. 

The relationships I've developed in the ADE community go beyond networking; I'm connected to people better than myself who continually inspire me. If I don't know the answer to something, these people jump in immediately to help. If I need examples of best educational practices, my ADE colleagues point me in interesting directions. If I want to do a collaborative online project, again ADEs are there to join in. This community has taught me much about the power of professional generosity and that together, we can move education in positive directions. In addition to the collegial relationships, I've made some lifelong friends and an important element of the ADE program is this hard to describe family-like bond. 

My experiences as an ADE have also made me realize all teachers should have the opportunity to experience the power of online professional learning communities. There are many places that exist where educators can seek out like-minded folks without applying for an award. While I wholeheartedly encourage everyone I know to apply for the ADE program, don't let the exclusivity of this group prevent you from connecting to other educators. Jump into communities such as Classroom 2.0, and chances are that you'll experience much of the same professional joy that I have just by connecting and collaborating with others. 

If you are applying for the ADE program, here are a few tips. I've had many people approach me for words of wisdom about the application process and some want me to review their required videos. I don't think it's particularly fair to dispense with advice to a selected few, so hopefully this post will be helpful to a larger group of people. Please bear in mind that I have no special insight into the selection process, and I have no clue how applications are vetted, to be quite honest. So the following are just some tips, and I cannot offer you any guarantee of success. 

  • Read the application carefully.

Pay attention to the types of educators that the application is calling for. Answer the required questions and such accurately. 

  • Avoid clichés; be original.

  Choose your words carefully and keep it fresh.  Don't overuse hackneyed terms such as 21st century skills.

  • Share your special talents and expertise.

Think about how you can share your unique interests, hobbies or talents through the application. Lots of ADEs (not me particularly) have talents that make them just interesting people to be around, aside from passion about technology.  Also, keep in mind that there are lots of amazing educators out there and consider how you can stand out. 

  • Keep student learning at the forefront.

Focus on how your efforts have benefited student learning. Be concrete by giving examples and avoid making this application all about you. It's still all about the kids, and you need to balance this while describing your experiences. 

  • Articulate how you would participate in the ADE community. 

This is just not an award; it's an invitation to participate in an active group where everyone benefits by sharing. Be prepared to show that you are collaborative and generous to colleagues. 

  • Create a video that's clever, simple, and elegant.

Just like Apple, keep it simple. Don't go overboard with special effects and such unless you are a whiz at Final Cut Pro. Have your video tell a compelling story and make sure to include concrete examples of student work.  Videos also take time; don't wait until the last minute to do this. Also, don't go over the required time limit.

  • Don't apply just to have this title on your résumé. 

I recently read a tweet from someone who honestly answered that he thought the ADE title would look good on a résumé. I have no doubt that listing this affiliation is helpful, but that shouldn't be the sole reason you are applying. You should be applying because you want to collaborate, you want to learn more and you want to advocate for the power of educational technology. 

I hope that you find this information helpful and I wish you luck in the application process. If you are not one of the lucky 50 who receive this distinction this year, keep working on your skills, leadership abilities, and student projects. Quality work will speak for itself as to your impact on education more than any award, and you can always try again the next time applications are accepted. 

The Apple Distinguished Educator program has been such an influence on everything I do, and I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities its afforded me. We need more programs like this so that educators feel respected, inspired, and empowered!