“Hey Mr. Mullany. We’re partnering with Apple about computer programming in schools and we have another slot open. There’s a week-long summer session. Would you be interested?”
Sure! I said – after all I had taken a couple of computer programming courses in college and had taught myself Visual Basic for a project in the corporate world. Also, my experience had taught me it was always a good idea to say “Sure!” when the boss asks you to do something.
Wow! Am I glad I was asked. This past year had very little to do with programming and quite a lot in massively expanding my capabilities as a teacher.
It started. as promised, with a week of Apple-led training. Yet unlike pretty much all the teacher training I have taken recently, this was rigorous, on-point, enervating, and results-focused. My peers at the event were similarly engaged and inspired. As the week went on, I became more and more impressed with the quality of individuals assigned to the project as well. The lessons were well-thought out and well-executed.
At the end of the week, my group presented a prototype for an app we had developed per the request of local non-profit agencies. The folks from Apple were as excited as I was by the event and how well it had come together – it was their first time too and they seemed very pleased at how well their planning was being executed. I exchanged a high five with one after being interviewed about my team’s app by The Houston Chronicle.
After the week was over, my biggest learning was on how to teach, rather than on the content of the week. Douglas Kiang’s approach was fantastic and I was making as many mental notes about his teaching style and structure of his lessons as I was about Apple Swift, xCode, and Keynote.
The next phase was Lamar University/HCC work on accreditation to teach AP Computer Science. As someone who was not teaching a computer programming course this year, I thought this would be a “nice to have” not a “need to have” or, perhaps a “one for the future” year. It turned out to be very much a “now” year of education.
It started off very foggy for me, however. Perhaps because I didn’t see myself implementing things immediately, perhaps because this was a very new project for Lamar U and HCC as well and things were still being assembled behind the scenes – either way or both I struggled to contextualize the first few lessons. I kept waiting for an Apple Swift assignment. It didn’t help either that I had been asked to return the Apple iPad I had used at the summer training – so I didn’t have any Apple products to work with. This de-linked me from the summer and probably contributed to making the transition less smooth.
Eventually, context came, and then I was able to approach the weekly lessons with a better frame of mind. These lessons probably helped me far more than others, because unlike most of my peers, I did not study to become a teacher while in college. I studied Chemistry and later got an MBA in Marketing. Therefore, the concept of “Educational philosophy” was not an incremental knowledge gain, but rather an entirely new concept. Because of this, I think I took longer in processing and utilizing this information – but again, it probably enhanced my teaching more than most as well.
The proof will be in the pudding of course though as I implement this learning into my teaching next year. Which begins now – as I begin creating lesson plans for the next year.
My innovation plan, to adopt a more self-paced, online oriented Chemistry class, served me extremely well as the Coronavirus outbreak struck. My students had already been doing assignments on Blackboard so I had far fewer issues transitioning them to Quaratine Learning. I had also already done the hard learning on the process to create videos in support of online text, so it was merely a matter of ramping it up for me.
Lead and Learn – Phoenix
This was a great event. First, it was great to be treated as a professional by Apple. Everything about the program, from accommodations to classes, was how I had been treated during the big events when I worked in private industry. The treatment of teachers as equals in terms of professionalism showed me that Apple was serious about this initiative and believed that not only could they do it – but that teachers could do it as well. Even in my somewhat limited experience as a teacher I have seen quite a few people – even within education – who did not share this innate respect for teachers.
This event was opening doors to the possible. Quick glimpses into potential, stored for later use as appropriate. For example, a five-minute intro into Keynote animations led to me asking a question and the Apple expert said, “Oh, yeah, look you can do that” and then seconds later the star moved across the screen. Now, I didn’t remember how it was done. But I knew it could be done, and that it wasn’t difficult once you knew how. That information got stored – in case I ever needed it. And look what that quick aside led to:
I ended up making a lot of connections with Apple personnel and I certainly hope to attend another of these events to renew these acquaintances. Rather than being “training” and “work”, this is more of an experience I am sharing with people I enjoy being around.
So, in review, I am very glad I was asked to take part, and very appreciative of the talent that worked to help me improve this past year.