Director joins select group of Apple Distinguished Educators

September 18, 2015

Finding innovative ways to deploy technology in the classroom has earned an Anderson University faculty member recognition from Apple Inc.

Dr. Ben Deaton, dean of the Center for Innovation & Digital Learning at AU, was recently named an Apple Distinguished Educator.

“ADEs are part of a global community of education leaders recognized for doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom,” the company explains on its website. “ADEs advise Apple on integrating technology into learning environments.”

Every two years, Apple adds to the group. Dr. Deaton says he was encouraged to join the group by associates at Apple. His application was accepted for the Class of 2015.

“There was about 200 of us,” Dr. Deaton says.

Apple reports there are more than 2,000 ADEs worldwide. The group gathers at education events as well as through an online community. Deaton was part of a summertime meeting in Miami that included representatives from K-12 as well as higher education.

“The biggest thing was connecting with educators and sharing what it is you’re doing inside and outside the classroom,” Deaton said.

He said the biggest takeaway from the Miami gathering was a desire to better tell the story about how AU students are using technology – and provide opportunities for students to tell their own stories as well.

“We want to explore some of our own digital publishing now,” he says.

Deaton, who used an Apple IIc personal computer as a child, says a team effort to promote technology in the classroom led to his being named an ADE.

“This award is not so much about me,” he says.

AU’s Center for Innovation & Digital Learning participates in several initiatives, including some that leverage technology to develop new courses and degree programs. Previously, Anderson University was named an Apple Distinguished School for its use of mobile technology as a teaching and learning tool.

AU’s Mobile Learning Initiative was founded in 2011 and provides all full-time traditional students with an iPad and incorporates those devices and mobile applications into the curriculum. It is believed that by using interactive technology, students retain more of what they have been taught.

“You want the learners to be active, not passive,” Dr. Deaton says. “Instead of just lecturing to them, they’re engaging in some kind of inquiry.”

AU’s Mobile Learning Fellows program has worked with more than a dozen professors to revamp more than two dozen courses to accommodate mobile technology.

“It’s my job to help support them,” Dr. Deaton said. “We emphasize the theme of getting students to create things.”

For example, AU biology students have described the cell-division concepts of mitosis and meiosis by creating stop-motion videos.

The Mobile Learning Initiative has helped transform not only math and science courses, but also classes such as theatre, English and Bible studies.

“It’s covered a wide range of disciplines and academic areas,” Dr. Deaton says.

This commitment earned AU a grant from the state of South Carolina to establish a “center of excellence” in mobile learning. Deaton and other faculty members have worked with teachers in several school districts to demonstrate how tools such as the iPad can create collaboration and expand the learning experience beyond the schoolhouse walls.

“We hope to continue that expansion,” Dr. Deaton says.