Malcolm Swanson & Steve Paton

In this issue of Showcase, Malcolm Swanson and Steve Paton share their experience of participating in the 2013 Apple Distinguished Educator programme.


Apple’s Distinguished Educator programme

Malcolm Swanson & Steve Paton

Every two years, Apple opens up its Distinguished Educator programme <> to new inductees. As its website states, “Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) are part of a global community of education leaders recognized for doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom.” With both of us having a strong background in and passion for using Apple’s technology in the classroom, we decided to apply for the 2013 intake. The application process is not for the lighthearted. It involves not just a lengthy written application, but also the creation of a video that introduces the applicant and what they are doing in their programmes. With Apple’s penchant for creativity, that video in itself needs to showcase the applicant’s inventiveness and expertise. Finally, there is a long list of agreements that need to be signed by both the applicant and their institution. 

Apple selected around 20 people from Japan to join its Asia-Pacific programme, and we were invited to take part in their six-day event in Bali, Indonesia. We had to fly ourselves there, but all accommodation (in the sumptuous Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort) and in-country costs were covered by Apple. 

At this stage, you’re probably thinking that a six-day junket on Apple’s dime sounds like a wonderful vacation, but it was anything but relaxing! From 8:00am to 7:00pm every day, we, along with 300 other highly motivated attendees from everywhere between China and New Zealand, took part in back-to-back seminars and workshops on everything from advanced instruction in software use to action research methodology. Through all this, we were being guided towards defining a final project that we would carry back to complete in our home countries. Malcolm chose to focus on using e-books for academic writing. This is part of a programme he is working on in his university to help students stuck with the drudgery of writing research papers to bring other media and better typography into their work. Steve’s topic was on developing the use of Keynote software for language-teaching purposes. Rather than just using it as a presentation tool, he has developed a whole range of classroom materials to graphically teach content to his students.

Every evening, after the sessions were finished, one of the five regional zones in the area would showcase how two or three people in their group were utilizing Apple’s technologies in their educational environments. Most of these were very slick Steve Jobs-style presentations on how mass rollouts of MacBooks and iPads are being used in highly funded settings. However, for many of us, the highlight was a simple and elegant demonstration by Japan’s Hyu Yamaguchi, showing how he is using iPad applications to help Okinawan special-needs students become independent learners. Seeing footage of those students’ faces, as they finally escaped their dependency on others for learning assistance, was both humbling and moving.

Back in Japan, we got stuck into our “homework”, which was to produce a multi-media chapter for an e-book on classroom technologies that Apple is collating. We were all provided with an iBooks Author template to use, and submitted our work for peer review using the Japan group’s Basecamp <> project management site. Collaboration between members still continues with regular workshops in the Kansai/Kanto areas. Members are also collaborating with Kanda University of International Studies to host the Paperless: Innovation & technology in education mini-conference. There are fewer ADE members down here in the Kyushu area, but the two of us have run workshops at the Apple Store in Fukuoka, as well as at various JALT events.

Taking part in something like this carries its own form of motivation—particularly for Apple geeks. Where else would you be able to stand alongside 300 like-minded peers, each clutching two or three Apple devices—which, combined, managed to bring a robust Internet hub to a grinding halt? The program has put us in touch with a network of educators with interest and expertise in classroom applications of technology, and having gained membership to ADE, we are all members for life, and can join future ADE activities around the world. 

For anyone interested in the 2015 induction, please visit the ADE website <> for more information. Details should be available this coming autumn, with an application deadline likely in early December.

Malcolm Swanson teaches at Seinan Jo Gakuin University in Kitakyushu, and is currently working on the development of a multimedia centre.

Steve Paton teaches at Kyushu Sangyo University and Kurume University, and is working on developing materials in Keynote for teaching conversational grammar.

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