My name is Dawn Danker and I’m the Information and Academic Officer for Yukon Public Schools.  I’m blessed to be in a district where we are focused on a vision for Excellence in Education through the means of providing dynamic opportunities to our students.  We are building environments where our students can begin to explore their place in a global society and ultimately a global workforce.  We view technology as an important element to accomplishing that goal.  We are always exploring great tools, techniques and pedagogy that will support our vision for our district.  It’s been through those times of exploration that we have been provided some great opportunities to gain knowledge to better our understanding of relevant elements for our schools.

Recently I received an email informing me that my name had been submitted as one of the nominees for a new program provided by Apple, called the Apple Academy.  I was asked to fill out a form and send some biographical information as well as my thoughts on education and technology.  Fast forward a few weeks later and I received the email telling me I had been selected as one of the 95 leaders from across the nation to participate in the Academy.  I’m telling you, it was a complete and total honor to be selected into such a great cadre of technology educators and leaders.  The Apple Academy’s goal is to provide us with thought provoking conversation along side skills, tools, and resources of value as we plan to support our schools.  It’s been amazing!

My PLN has become so much richer this week because of the people I have met through the Apple Academy. I know that might hard to believe considering the amount of great information that has been delivered over the last four days of our training, but I promise it’s true.  It speaks to the level of talent and knowledge in the training.   I have met some really fascinating folks from all over the nation.  We have leaders from Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, and California just to name a few.  I now have a great network of folks with some amazing ideas and resources.  I’m looking forward to connecting with them in the future to help build a better community for my schools with the help of their expertise.

Over the last several days our group has been exposed to all the iLife and iWork applications on both the Macbook and the iPod Touch.  We’ve been discussing best practices on classroom management of those tools, differentiating instruction for students, and creativity in the classroom.  I have been given many resources for providing quality professional development for all educators.  My favorite part of the session has been our utilization of the iPad.  We were exposed to many great apps and how they integrate to the Macbook, but I think the most transformative part came when I realized how integrated the components are on the iPad for classroom utilization.  There’s no booting up on an iPad.  You touch the button and you’re off and learning.  This device paired with cloud computing makes it a tool worth further exploration.  Imagine…the iPad has only been out three months.  What will it look like in a year? *insert me dreaming big*

On Tuesday of this week we had the opportunity to visit the Apple campus, fondly referred to as “The Mothership.”  I know many folks have visited this amazing and phenomenal environment but this was a first for me.  The first wow moment was seeing the oversized screens showing, in real time, all the apps being downloaded in iTunes, second wow moment was viewing the three Emmy awards to Apple for their progressive accomplishments in the digital world, but I thought the employees were the most amazing aspect.  The employees were dressed in what most places would be considered less than business casual.  All the employees looked professional, but it wasn’t your “typical” professional dress.  Why would you need to dress “typical” if you don’t work in a typical work environment?   In my head I could hear fellow educators commenting on the unprofessional nature of the employees based on their attire, somehow equating that would transfer into an unprofessional workplace.  What I could see was an uninhibited work environment.  I was thinking over the elements they had removed to help their employees focus on being creative and being productive by taking away the need to “be” something  based on their outward appearance.  As I watched all the employees I couldn’t help but wish for such a great work environment for my kids.  Is it too much to wish for a job that lets them be who they are and allows them to focus on their work and the creative elements? I hope not. My kids are young and I have a few years to keep wishing for that kind of environment but for now, they are in a pubic school system that is totally contradictory to the environment that would foster a creative culture.  (Disclaimer: My kids don’t attend the school district in which I am employed.) I know not all work environments resemble that of Apple but many large corporations are taking a note from Apple and trying to create a similar environment for their employees.  I think in the future we will see more of these work places.

As a guest blogger, Wes requested we try to spotlight a recent ah-ha moment.  Mine came this week.  In the middle of attending this fabulous training, networking with some great folks, and visiting some great work environments, I received a call from my 15 year old daughter telling me our new iPhones had been delivered by Fedex.  She wanted permission to go ahead and set her phone up.  I began doing what every parent would do by asking her a myriad of questions.

It sounded like this:
Al: Mom, can I set up my new iPhone?
Me: Wow, I guess…I think you should plug it in and charge it.
Al: I already charged it.
Me: Wow, okay.  I think you will have to hook it up to iTunes.
Al:  Mom, I already read the instructions. My old phone is backed up and I just need to remove my SIM card.  I know I need to confirm my information with AT&T and sync is back to iTunes.
Me:  Okay, *insert long sigh* I guess my answer is Yes, please set up your iPhone.

As I hung up the phone I began to think over the conversation we had the previous evening with one of our trainers, who happens to be 24.  He and my daughter live in a world where technology is the norm.  They both have grown up in an environment where technology just IS what they do and how they do it.  I can’t help but think if teachers could see the world inside the Apple campus and have one of those experiences where you realize “they” already live in that world and so do we.  It’s in this moment that I realize I’m in the middle of something different.  We don’t NEED to teach kids HOW to use it…we need to focus on the process and allow them to freely create.  For us…we need to focus on our learning.  This all challenges me to be in this world with them.  It’s not like it used to be, it’s different.  I like being in the middle of “different”… I want to BE DIFFERENT.

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One Response to In the Middle of Different

  1. I love the “ah-ha” moment Dawn had with her own child (can you still call a 15 year old a child?). I, honestly, hadn’t really thought about my own kids in that context. Even though both of them attend the school at which I teach, it still seems like they are students at a different school. I really need to think about my own kids in this context, though. They are both going to be students in my classroom next year.

    I already use technology “heavily” in my classroom (quoting my IT director here). I wonder what it will be like though when my own kids are coming home to contribute to the wiki, write on their blog, or go whatever direction we go this next year. My own kids are going to be the ones creating and that is exciting for me! Honestly, I’ve been disappointed that most of their teachers aren’t trying new things. I wonder if that’s why they aren’t as engaged in their classes as I had hoped?

    Thanks, Wes, for letting Dawn share her ideas with us!

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