On behalf of Bedford Girls’ School, an Apple Distinguished School, I was asked to attend the European Apple Education Innovation Summit in Manchester
This time last week I was putting things in my suitcase, considering the British weather and casual dress code, and almost glad I was driving to Windsor and didn’t have to also worry about weight.
It was a beautiful, warm day on Tuesday when I got into the car and headed south. Not even the stop-start traffic on the M25 could take the edge off the mix of nerves and excitement at what lay ahead. The schedule looked full on – but I’d never been to a professional residential event to compare. I felt like a fresher heading off for fresher’s week, either way, hoping I’d fit in and not look decidedly dim amongst all the talent.
I’d been in the door two minutes before someone stopped me to ask if I was Kit, and the eternal question of ‘have we met before, or just on Twitter’ began! I was really glad to have participated in Tuesday night #ADEchat since my application, as I could recognise quite a number of faces both of class of 2017 and alumni. Putting them all physically in one room later that evening with both live hosting and questions on Twitter was at times mind-boggling. As the week went on, I felt I had underestimated how many people had met in person before – through working at RTCs, or from becoming AETs etc. To hear that this year’s Academies were smaller to help people network, I felt quite relieved, as although I said hello to so many people, I couldn’t help but feel I was grazing the surface quite often.
The workshops on Wednesday were one of the parts I was most looking forward to. It was great fun to try and work out how to get Spheros to flash or dance in time to music, and the long exposure light trails I’d seen in a Twitter photo were more tricky to film than code in the end. (Although we have earlier generation Spheros at school, I hope we might be able to apply the concepts with Tickle or similar, until we can budget for some updates.) The Lego robots were intriguing and I definitely enjoyed the crossover of subjects with computing.
It had been a really hard choice to pick workshops, and I was glad we were able to sneakily switch. I’d been using Clips quite a bit on the lead up to Academy, and a heads up at breakfast suggested my other shortlisted choice of Designing Educational Resources would definitely be worth going to instead. The talk was a kick up the backside for me – it was practice I knew but wasn’t putting into action. I’ve been so preoccupied with the content, accessibility and the basic design and low file size to get books produced swiftly in the first 12 months, I’ve not been pushing the boat out design-wise. With us replacing our original iPad stock this autumn (goodbye iOS 9 at last) and some increased storage on each device, I can afford to be slightly less strict with myself on the export size, and certainly I will need to start using the larger resolution images.
The showcases and stories shared from Wednesday onwards had us laughing, gasping, cheering, photographing and filming. I really hope they might be published again online as it would be very good to watch again and absorb them properly. There were so many interesting insights, ideas and experiences in there that would be applicable to colleagues across our 7-18 age range.
Thursday’s final workshop session of coding apps with Xcode was great. Although we jumped from bit to bit, it was an excellent overview and insight into what could be ahead if we are able to acquire Macs/MBPs in our computing department to trial. I’d also gone along to the fireside chat the previous day, but as we were not able to use Swift last year, I couldn’t offer experiences. However, I hope we’ll be able to integrate it as another language soon.
That afternoon I was pleased to join up with Sebah and Linda to begin a set of Clips on BookWidgets – something we each used but for different reasons! Within an hour and a half we had pulled together two clips from scratch, using Keynote for some additional content. Once the dust has settled, I look forward to figuring out a couple more to add to the collection – and BookWidgets were rather pleased at our efforts.
On Friday, with final showcases, instructions, presentations and photos it was all over, though I knew the journey was just beginning.
Today we were very kindly invited by Apple to meet Tanmay Bakshi, a 13-year-old developer from Canada who is the world’s youngest IBM Watson programmer. IBM Watson is an intelligence engine which handles artificial intelligence amongst other things – a sort of super computer.
Tanmay is on a mission to reach 100,000 new developers to inspire them to code, by the time he is 15. He inspired us with his story: he created a very popular time tables app aged nine and by age 12 he was working with IBM and Apple.
James Potter (Director of Digital Strategy at BGS) and I brought a small group of girls from the computer science club down to London on the train for the day. After a presentation from Tanmay, we joined a workshop.
In the workshop Tanmay led us through how to create our very own iOS apps with Swift. We created one which would predict whether a person would be male or female based on their name. To do this, we trained IBM Watson with 7,000 names. Although we didn’t quite have enough time to finish our app in the session, we tested Tanmay’s app with one of girls’ names, curious at what Watson would predict. After a few hiccups – the app eventually returned the correct answer.