This week, we announced that Darlington received the Apple Distinguished School designation for the third time in a row. Earning this distinction once is an honor and three times is incredible! Besides the immediate recognition of “Apple” in the name, however, many people do not fully understand what this honor means and might make some incorrect assumptions. These moments of recognition are good opportunities for reflection and clarity, so here are a few “myths” that are worth clarifying as we take a look back at what makes this distinction so special.
Actually, our signature technology integration program started five years before our first recognition with no agenda to partner with Apple or prior knowledge of the distinguished school program.
In February 2011, a group of teachers were tasked with researching and making recommendations for enhancing Darlington’s technology. Several important aspects of the program originated during that time, including our electronic portfolios and an integrated approach to technology professional development that eventually grew to our full faculty development program.
At the heart of the recommendations was a technology curriculum that would be integrated into all aspects of learning instead of just taught on its own. This was done with the understanding that technology is something we use in all parts of their lives, that proficiency comes with consistent and regular use, that we wanted our students to be safe and responsible users, and that Darlington wanted to be a part of teaching students these skills. The committee then recommended creating a one-to-one device program only to support this goal.
When the above recommendations were made, Darlington was very much a Windows environment and the committee was not really interested in changing this. We remained open-minded during the research phase; visited many schools with many different approaches; solicited feedback from students, faculty, and parents; and performed an intense review of how to best manage this additional technology.
The goal was simple: select a device platform that our teachers and students would use and enjoy and that our technology department could support. We wanted a device platform that would work well enough that learning would remain the focus of our work while the technology tools more or less stayed in the background and not be disruptive. We then did something that is unusual in this day and age: we cold called Apple and said we would like to talk! Ten years of experience has given us the hindsight to say we made the right decision.
One final note on this subject is that Apple is not our only technology partner. We pull together the right tools for the right needs and work really hard to make sure they all work well together. While Apple provides the device and software our students and teachers work with every day, we also rely on other resources like Google Workspace collaboration tools, Microsoft servers, Cisco networking, and Adobe creative software.
Each time we have received this distinction, we have had to prove ongoing dedication to our technology vision and continued innovation. Note that the vision there is Darlington’s, not Apple’s. Because we must show ongoing growth, this distinction actually gets harder and harder the more times a school receives it.
Darlington is dedicated to continuous improvement and reevaluation. In fact, a team of faculty (as part of our Professional Learning Communities) had already been working for five weeks on a review of our technology program prior to this announcement! As part of accepting this third Apple Distinguished School for the next three years, we have asked Apple to work with us to develop some new aspects of our technology program. In addition to partnering with other Apple Distinguished Schools around the world to help us learn and grow, stay tuned for some upcoming exciting news regarding some new student opportunities.
Darlington’s signature technology integration program is connected to every part of our Cycle of Learning, which begins and ends with The Portrait of a Graduate and links together a Skills-Based Curriculum, Teaching Excellence, Active Learning, and Evidence of Learning.
Just as we teach our students to take time to reflect on their own learning, we use this moment to reflect back on this program and appreciate the impact it has on our students and institution. At the same time, we remain excited about all the growth and opportunities ahead for our students and faculty.