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The Lure of the Forbidden Fruit: Tokyo International School’s (TIS) Journey to Become an Apple Distinguished School

By Christopher Frost

04/19/2017

In recent years, the technology giant Apple has risen to the center stage. Most of us have owned an Apple device, be it an iPad, iPhone, iWatch, iPod, or iMac. There is little doubting Apple’s popularity. Apple products are becoming more commonplace in schools. Large corporations like Apple employ specialized teams to promote their brands, so when the technology coach at Tokyo International School (TIS) first suggested that we might consider becoming an Apple Distinguished School (ADS), our school’s leadership team was skeptical.
ADS institutions must demonstrate that they have a 1:1 student device ratio to be eligible to apply. While the sales benefits for Apple are unquestionable, aside from a plaque on the wall and a logo on the school website we wondered whether ADS status would actually benefit student learning.

Standards and practices
Like any process of accreditation, the journey to become an Apple Distinguished School involves several months of self-evaluation, reflection, investment, and action. We had to demonstrate to Apple that we had satisfied rigorous educational standards and indicators.

The practices Apple looks for are:

1. Visionary leadership
Shared Leadership: School leaders take collective ownership of the initiative.
Individual Leadership: A credible and inspirational thought leader sets and articulates the vision.
Community Engagement: Broad community sponsorship supports the institution’s initiatives.

2. Innovative learning and teaching
Student Learning: Learning is a personal experience for every student.
Instructional Practices: Faculty are master learners who expertly guide their students through difficult and complex tasks.
Curriculum Design: Innovative and rigorous curriculum is redesigned to leverage technology.

3. Ongoing professional learning
Relevant and Timely Professional Development: Faculty engage in a cycle of inquiry that promotes reflection, experimentation, and sharing.

4. Compelling evidence of success
Quantitative: Data is routinely collected and analyzed to inform progress and measure success.
Qualitative: Narrative, reflective, or anecdotal evidence is collected and shared.

5. Flexible learning environment
School Design and Facilities: Facilities and schedules are designed to maximize learning opportunities that technology provides.
Information Technology (IT): IT infrastructure supports innovation in teaching and learning.

Distributed leadership
From the outset, we realized this venture had ignited something in the faculty. Be it Apple’s clever marketing or a genuine desire to improve their teaching practice, a surge in motivation was evident. Pockets of distributed leadership began to form. Teachers began instigating ADS initiatives. An ADS task force was formed by interested faculty. Soon teams of teachers could be found meeting and discussing ADS vision and technology integration. ADS agendas for faculty meetings began appearing in the Leadership Team’s inbox. There was a genuine buzz of excitement in the school and a grassroots movement had developed. The enthusiasm was infectious; soon technology was a common conversation in the staffroom and corridors.

Teaching and learning
The enthusiasm also instigated informal professional development. Teachers began to show more interest in technology integration generally. The faculty started asking questions about technology, seeking help, sharing ideas, trialing apps and showcasing how they had successfully implemented technology into their practice. The use of technology also increased.

Keeping up the momentum
Now that we have achieved the Apple Distinguished School status, we are encouraged to showcase our practice and expected to host visits for other schools having achieved this status or considering the journey. We will only hold the ADS title for two school years, however. This is fuel which keep us on our toes!

Would I recommend pursuing ADS status to other international schools? We were already an Apple school and technology has always been a key component of our vision. The ADS carrot has (and continues to be) a great way to guide our educational technology path and to spark interest among our teachers. l

Christopher Frost is Primary School Principal at TIS.

Learn more at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1193111027




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