For the fifth year in a row, I was privileged to recently attend and participate in a truly awesome Adobe-sponsored education event; The AEL Summer Institute.

What is an AEL, you ask?

Well here’s a bit of info (admittedly not in my own words):

The Adobe Education Leaders Program highlights the contributions of innovative educators in higher ed and K–12 who are effectively using Adobe tools and applications to promote excellence in the classroom.

Adobe Education Leaders are dedicated to enhancing creativity and collaboration and improving the teaching and learning experience. They share their expertise through workshops and conferences and help develop standards-based curriculums that are used worldwide.

As Adobe updates it products and develops new ones, Education Leaders provide valuable input through beta programs and focus groups. They are among the first to use new technologies in the classroom and establish learning objectives around them.

Through the Education Leaders Program, a network of outstanding educators inspire each other, share ideas, and collaborate. The program provides the leadership and professional development to help administrators and faculty think in new and creative ways.

Now, having been an AEL for several years before joining Adobe,  I can say this: This group of teachers is passionate, innovative, and dedicated to educating both their students and their peers. They thrive on learning as much as teaching and are incredibly talented at what they do. They are inspiring, because they inspire and energize each other. And they are just plain wonderful people.

What is the Summer Institute?


I can also say that in my opinion,  hands-down, this event is one of the best things Adobe does for education.

Bringing together 100+ faculty from Higher Ed and K-12, this is a global event;  faculty from the US, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Turkey, the Netherlands, Vietnam and even China,  all sharing ideas, techniques and many, many laughs. The overall feeling at this conference is one of passion and inclusiveness. There are no egos, just a genuine openness to learning from and sharing with each other.

Discussing Design and Publishing workflows with Jim Babbage.  #ael13

Discussing Design and Publishing workflows with Jim Babbage. #ael13

They also brought their concerns, and were not timid in asking Adobe some tough, thoughtful questions. And to their (“our”, I guess) credit. representatives from Adobe did their level best to answer those questions. Trust me, copious notes were taken by Adobe staffers, during workflow roundtables, product demos and general sessions.

The general flow of this event is a combination of peer-to-peer presentations and Adobe-led (but teacher-inspired) sessions. AEL’s get an opportunity to talk directly with Adobe executives, engineers and product managers and are exposed to some cutting-edge, uber secret projects that Adobe has in the works. The peer-to-peer sessions shed light on techniques and concepts that teachers are actively applying in the classroom to help their students or engage other faculty at their schools. From the energetic, fun and ingenious “5 minutes of fame” presentations each morning, to more in-depth 45 minute explorations or explanations of technology and best practices, AELs gather inspiration and ideas they can use or build on in their own teaching.demos and general sessions.

Who rocks the #ael13? Claire and the gang at @AdobeEdu

Who rocks the #ael13? Claire and the gang at @AdobeEdu.

Talking with many of my teacher friends at the Summit, one common thread was this conference was one they waited for all year long. In some cases, the Summit is their main external Professional Development event. It’s rewarding on so many levels and I say that as both a teacher and an Adobe employee. The sharing, networking, open and respectful dialog are so very inspiring.

I could blather on saying wonderful things, but instead, I want to share some snippets from the event:

5 Minutes of Fame presentations

AEL’s sharing a singe idea or technique or technology with the entire group in 5 minutes or less. A few of the many presentations included:

  • International photo and imaging exchange using Photoshop Touch
  • Using Edge Animate to teach Common Core outcomes in math and science
  • Easy time-lapse effects using Photoshop and Lightroom

AEL to AEL sessions

45 minute, in-depth lecture/demo/workshop sessions presented by AEL’s in smaller breakout sessions.

  • Creating Interactive Widgets with Edge Animate

    5 minutes of Fame. #AEL13 @magrelacanela

    5 minutes of Fame. #AEL13 @magrelacanela

  • Photoshop Touch for kids of all ages
  • International Collaboration
  • Responsive Web Design for Teachers
  • The Evolution of an App: A DPS story at SVA
  • EPub Essentials for InDesign rookies
  • Feel the History: Creating Historians by Creating History Documentaries
  • Gamified Curriculum Delivery system
  • Adobe, Project based Learning and the Flipped Classroom
  • Using Captivate to Develop and Deliver Faculty Continuing Education
@openclssrm @lukasengqvist You rocked the #unAEL13 Unconference! Thanks for hosting it.

@openclssrm @lukasengqvist You rocked the #unAEL13 Unconference! Thanks for hosting it. #ael13

Adobe-led sessions

  • Adobe’s Education Vision and Future
  • Product/Workflow roundtables on Design and Publishing, Video Production, Productivity, and Responsive Web Design
  • Design Team workshops – How would you design a school where students felt empowered to create.
  • Sneak peeks from Next Generation development team

The above lists are only samplings of the information-packed 3-day agenda. (Pssst, I can see you drooling…)

A very special workshop

From Monday to Wednesday, The AEL’s were broken up into Design Team groups, each of which had very specific tasks. Over the three days, about 10 hours were slotted fr these teams to interview subjects, then discuss and brainstorm ideas for their assigned topic. I participated in a group who interviewed a student, to learn what kind of school we could design that would give her free will and desire to be a creator.

These sessions were wonderful! So many amazing ideas and suggestions and doubly amazing in that even when we worked in sub groups, we often came up with three or four similar ideas (as well as many others that were unique to each sub group).

In the end, each team had to build a prototype that visually described their goal/assignment. While I haven’t seen all the photos, the ones I did see looked great, and it was obvious the groups had a great time assembling their prototypes. This was an excellent example of inclusiveness, open-thinking and sharing of ideas.


Battling robots with @TomGreen at San Jose Tech Museum after #AEL13

Battling robots with @TomGreen at San Jose Tech Museum after #AEL13

Of course this event wasn’t all work and no play! The time between sessions is just as valued. Conversations are continued, new friendships made and a much-needed time to decompress from all the amazing learning of the day.

From sponsored networking events like Tuesday night Bocce Ball, and the Wednesday night closing party at the San Jose Tech Museum, to the spontaneous gatherings in the hotel lounge, group dinners, Salsa dancing, geo-caching and early morning (And I mean EARLY – I was there) city walks, it’s all part of a truly unique experience that is the Adobe Education Leader Summer Institute.

Engaged, Inspired, Exhausted!

With the #AEL13 gang at the Fairmont in San Jose. I live for this week!

With the #AEL13 gang at the Fairmont in San Jose. I live for this week!

Everyone leaves this event energized and at the same time, exhausted. But it’s a good exhaustion. It’s the tiredness one feels after a job well done, or an experience well earned. I know this group values each others ideas and contributions and are just chomping at the bit to try out something new in their own classrooms. And of course, counting down the months and days until the next AEL Summer Institute.

You can read proof of this excitement just by picking at the Twitter feed, which ran non-stop from Sunday to yesterday. Have a peek at the hashtags #unAEL13 and #AEL13 to see what I mean.

And speaking of Twitter, rather than relying on my own photos, the images you see here were all crowd-sourced from those twitter feeds (many thanks to all the contributors!). It’s great to have eyes everywhere!

Bocce Ball networking event

Bocce Ball networking event


Written on August 2nd, 2013 , Adobe, Conferences, Education, Learning, On the Personal SIde, Teaching

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