Many small people, who in many small places, do many small things, that can alter the world.

Portable Network Graphics image-658F0B6E57A1-1.png

East Side Gallery, Berlin.

Before heading to Berlin for the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) World Wide Institute, I watched ADE Michelle Cordy present a powerful idea in her closing keynote of ISTE.

“When teachers connect, they change the world.”

Now, more than ever, we need teachers to be together. We have a responsibility as a global community of educators to give children, from all over the world, the best start in life; socially and academically. To do that effectively, we should not stand still and we certainly should not stand alone!

That’s exactly what being an Apple Distinguished Educator does for me. It keeps me on my toes! It returns me to that beginner’s mindset we had as new teachers. This is because I meet passionate teachers, from all over the world. Cordy’s idea set the tone for my week in Berlin with my ADE peers. I traveled there knowing that I wanted to further develop the Connecting Classes Across Continents program and I was ready to connect with new educators and familiar faces too. But before I talk about the next phase of this project, I’ll share some other stand-out moments from the week at Institute.


Personalised, Professional Learning.

Professional Learning, CPD, PD. However you brand it, it is vital. We will all know a place where we have seen the detrimental effects that of a lack of development, networking and knowledge exchange has had on a school or setting. But how many great examples of it do you see? How often do you sit at a course, conference or event, looking at and listening to messages that don’t quite measure up to your own learning needs. It’s not that all of these messages should be ignored, but when they don’t balance with something which moves you forward, something needs to change.

This Institute introduced me to personalised, professional learning. Not only did the Institute demonstrate this best practise by allowing me to self-select my own pathway, it was the people I met who have expert knowledge in why this practise of professional development is so effective. At Institute, I could switch between beginner, advanced and expert lab workshops. I was able to select seminars and spotlights that were of interest to me or could show me something new. I was invited to join project teams and sit in on discussions which connected me with likeminded teachers. I also had the opportunity to share my own story through ADE Spotlights. Imagine this kind of practise happening in school meetings, at regional conferences and other events you attend as a teacher. Being able to pick what is best for you, how much or how little you need of something but also getting key messages given to you in short bursts when appropriate.

ADEs Jason Milner and Kristi Meeuwse spend a great deal of their time, as teachers, finding ways to develop their staff and co-teachers by getting to know them. They look at what their team can do, how they learn and what the best way is to move them forward. Their way of professional development is not a one-size fits all model and they have some exciting resources coming over the next 12 months which will give you access to this way of working.

Everyone Can Code.

This is another huge movement for the computer science landscape. We have come so far already in raising both the importance of, and the resources to, teach coding in our schools. I know that in my school our next step is to move our children from using code onscreen to controlling robots and programmable toys off screen. I wrote about the MakerSpaces that I set up with Jason Milner here.

But there is another step that I hadn’t realised until Institute. Teachers are becoming more confident with using code blocks in Primary, and in Secondary they are doing great things with written code. So what is going to bridge block coding and a written language of code together?


Swift Playgrounds. Swift is an open-source coding language that Apple introduced and there is now a free iPad app to bring Swift to education. Students move through game-like levels with their character Byte and use both code blocks and written Swift code to solve problems. Swift Playground teaches students to write simple Swift code themselves and will use code blocks, for more complex concepts such as repeat loops, early on in the levels to enhance their written code. By the end of the levels, students are fluent in Swift code and make use of the free play mode to apply their skills. See Swift Playgrounds in action at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference 2016 here:

New Skills.

One of my favourite times at Institute is learning new skills for my own personal projects. Having used iMovie for many years now, this year I felt ready to take on Final Cut Pro X. It’s alway felt like a big step up, but in an expert lab with Senior Product Managers, I was walked through step-by-step ways to use the software.



Following FCPX I headed over to ;GarageBand for the non-musician’ and learned how to use Apple Loops and Live Tracks in the latest version. There’s a great free book published by this team to show you exactly how to use this great feature on your iPad. Get the free starter guide here.


With both of these new skills learned, I took to the streets of Berlin by bike to trace the Berlin Wall. Spending a whole day in Berlin following the path where the wall once stood, I captured the journey with my iPhone 6S, GoPro and Nikon D3300. That night I pieced all my footage together in iMovie for Mac and transferred it over to Final Cut Pro X. Here I made use of more advanced tools such as 3D Titles, split screen/picture-in-picture and optical flow video editing. Next I used GarageBand Live Loops to create some music and recorded readings from The United Nations words at The Silence Room in The Brandenburg Gate.

Here is my final piece from my personal project…

Tracing The Berlin Wall.

Tracing The Berlin Wall 1080p from Marc Withersey on Vimeo.

Connecting Classes Across Continents.

“How might we develop deeper understanding through the use of global connections to broaden learners’ perspectives?”

I think that Michele Cordy’s ISTE Keynote, knowledge exchange, networking and my personal project all lend themselves to the professional project I joined at this year’s Institute. Connecting Classes Across Continents is about bringing children together to form student learning networks. It is a project which unites learners across the world so that they gain better insights in to how their world works. This project aims to prepare our children for global readiness. We began this project two years ago at the ADE Global Institute in San Diego and until now it has been an early years learning experience. But this year we were ready to showcase our work so far as a case study and invite teachers from other ages and stages in to this team.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 14.31.22.png

Our early learning team published our Connecting Classes Across Continents case study during the Institute week and you can download this for free right now. Our book is a simple guide in to why, whats and hows of connecting your class. Our wider project team are busy building a supporting iTunes U course for you to use if our case study inspires you. The course will include a calendar for collaboration, project templates and resources for you to use for free with your class. There will also be a platform launched over a Twitter account where you can find others who are using Connecting Classes Across Continents so that you too can make these global connections.

Download Connecting Classes Across Continents: Early Learning Edition for free here. Keep this book updated through the iBooks Store for information on the launch of the iTunes U Course.

Bringing It Home.

There were many quotes I saw around Berlin which consolidated my learning from Institute. One of these being from the East Side Gallery, which made the title of this post, and another from an exhibition in the city:

“Many small people, who in many small places, do many small things, that can alter the world”

“Ideas can only be of use when they come alive in many minds”


Berlin was the perfect host for this World Wide Institute. A city with a story that will always remind us why we need stronger relationships between people. It brings history to life, teaching us about the future and putting a spotlight on why global readiness is one of the pilars for a good learning platform.

Being an Apple Distinguished Educator puts me in a global community of innovative educators. Because of this network, I have friends all over the world. Friends that I call on at any time of day. That’s the beauty of a global community, somebody is always awake!

Thank you to my friends, my ADE Family, for another inspiring week of collaboration.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s