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Educated By Design Blog

Filtering by Tag: educator

Why We Can't Fail Forward If We Don't Know Where We Are Headed.

Michael Cohen

We leave almost zero time for reflection in education today. Outside of a student sitting and wondering why they didn't get at least a 90% on the big test, how much time is allotted for reflection? The challenge we face is that reflection is not a “measurable” data set when you compare to data hungry areas of growth like reading and math literacy. So how can you measure reflection? While a student summary on the experience might be a good method to assess understanding, it will do little to evaluate their ability to take this failed experience and do something more significant because of it.

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Reflections: Apple Distinguished Educator Institute 2015



What makes a great educator? Is it passion? pedagogy? adaptability? Is being forward thinking and a risk taker the yardstick of a quality educator? When I arrived at the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Institute in Miami I was told,

You are all here for a purpose, and you all deserve to be here.

This statement has still yet to be digested as I try to piece together amazing, meaningful moments together on my journey as an educator and a lover of technology, and I do love technology. I find technology empowers its users with an uncanny ability to create and explore hidden talents, skills, and ideas that without it would lie dormant, and hidden away.

When I applied to the ADE program this year, I was nervous anxious totally freaked out. I saw amazing educators who are doing amazing things in their classroom with amazing students. Then I saw me, the bearded Chassidic Rabbi trying to "change the world", and then it hit me, April 22nd, 8:00pm.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 9.20.06 PM

The following are 4 take aways that made this experience powerful in the moment, and priceless in where it will take me.

This Isn't Just A Conference:

As an avid cliché user, and life long learner, I am always trying to find new things to learn, and new ways to learn them. When I attend conferences I am usually caught up in the hustle and bustle of presenting and finding worthwhile sessions to attend. At the ADE Institute, something was different. During the opening keynote, it was said that

if all we did at the institute, was bring you all together, we are certain that amazing things would happen.

The Institute hosted without questions some amazing presenters. Outside of the unbelievable work that fellow ADEs presented at the showcases, we also heard from the developers of Garageband and iMovie who shared with us not just how to "use" the apps, but how to "think" while using them. Our surprise keynote, Jason Hall of Chicago's "Slow Roll Bicycle Movement" show us how passion and activism can unite a community, a city, and the world. Still, my biggest take home without question was those impromptu conversations with fellow ADEers whether over an iPad, a Beer, or both. These colleagues and friends will definitely be part of my continue journey as a professional educator.

Learning Is A Journey:

One of the biggest challenges as a learner is to make time to reflect, redo, and reread pieces that make an impact on us. In our educational journeys, many times we are simply pushed forward in an effort to "learn more". The process of going back to something that seems old, and discovering something new is a tenant of the Jewish faith. Every year, we reread the Torah anew, and every year I discover something completely amazing, something that is as relevant today in 2015 as it was 2,000 years ago. With this outlook I try to impress on my students, and anyone who will listen, how critical review and reflection are. One of the amazing experiences of the Institute was to see so many amazing educators on very unique journeys. Still, no matter how unique we are, there was always something to learn from one another. Some of the best discoveries I had at the Institute were in conversation with a kindergarten teacher and a university professor. In the end we all shared the same focus on not just where we are, but where we are going.

We Are In This Together:

"Let me know how I can help." This was a mantra at the institute, and everyone was serious about it. It seemed that every time I shared a story, a struggle, a dream, there was someone at the ADE Institute who could help me. It really felt like a great big family of educators and this is something that I know will keep going throughout the year and beyond. It was humbling, inspiring, and outright exciting to interact with so many talented and creative experts who want to share more than just ideas, but their time and effort to help me grow as well as my students.

We are Advocates:

The four pillars of being an Apple Distinguished Educator is that we are Authors, Advisors, Ambassadors, and Advocates. For me, it was the idea of advocacy that hit home. As a Chassidic Orthodox Rabbi, I must admit that I was very nervous about attending the Institute for a number of reasons. The challenges of the Sabbath, access to Kosher food, and some of the cultural differences made me unsure if I would "fit in". After speaking with Matt Baier on the phone prior to the Institute, these worries simply melted away. Not only did I feel welcomed and supported, I felt integral. I felt that the diverse and unique educators at the Institute is what makes the Apple Distinguished Educator community so great.

The Apple Distinguished Educator Institute was unlike anything I have every experienced. I know that it is the spring board for amazing friendships, collaboration, and a driving force that will make a difference for the teachers and students that I support.

Now the next stage in this journey...

My One Best Thing

Interactive Book titled, "Students Teaching Students Is Totally Awesome".

Technology, But Why?



In education when we talk about using technology it inevitably starts with what resources are available, the training needed to operate them, and how, or who to go to when things break. With the "how" at the helm of vision and strategic planning, we inevitably run into the same problem no matter how sound and well thought out our plan is. After all is said an done,

Like any experience dependent on a single device, what happens when the magic wears off?

This is because when we start with how, even if how is 10,000 apps, 50,000 lessons, and 100,000 possibilities, we unintentionally limit ourselves, and our students. The reason for this is that

Technology is not just a device, technology is a solution...

to a problem, a challenge, and any obstacle that we face as lifelong learners. We want to make sure it is the solution to reach as far as our minds can get us. This is why as educators, we must look at all educational experiences first through the lens of "Why". This is not unique to technology integration, this is a reflection on our own pedagogy, choice of content, and reasoning for focusing on any point of knowledge. When we start with the question of "Why" in respect to technology use, then we now can analyze what the tool is doing for us. The question of speed, precision, maximized potential, exposure, audience and the impact we make. When we speak on those terms, and not iPads, iMovies, animations, (Explain Everythings are O.K, of course), than we make our devices unlimited, and all the more so ourselves.

What happens when someone walks into your technology infused classroom and asks your students what they are doing? They should be describing a process of learning, researching, discovering, building, reviewing, reflecting, and producing meaningful learning experiences. This makes technology invisible. This makes its effects have a visible, memorable, and everlasting impact.

It inspires our students to inspire others with their wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. So how did begin to talk this language? Start with the "Why", not the How. How is secondary. Why am I doing this? Why is this learning so critical to invest so much time into? Why am I learning such complex technical process? Why am I spending hours building an interactive multimedia experience? If the answer is “It will make the learning unforgettable for both the producer, and the consumer” and then I think we are headed on the right track.

This will allow the "How" to be simpler, more organic, and most importantly adaptable. Yes, there is training, experimentation, failure, and frustration involved, as is anything complicate but worthwhile. It could come in the form of professional development, impromptu brainstorming with a colleague, or even learning some tips and tricks from the quiet kid in the class. As educators we must let go of the fallacy that without being an expert in a specific process or field of study that we cannot share with our students and open up new possibilities for them.

For more on the "How To" of tech integration check out

Monica Burns - ClassTechTips

Lisa Johnson - TechChef4U

Richard Byrne - FreeTech4Teachers