OAK HARBOR, Ohio -- Kelly Croy has long believed in the importance of technology in education. Now the Oak Harbor Middle School teacher feels he has had an important look at the role it will play in the future.
Mr. Croy, who teaches seventh grade English, spent a week in Cork, Ireland, in late July at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute. He was among 200 teachers from 26 countries selected to participate.
It wasn't his first time to be named an Apple Distinguished Educator. He received the same distinction in 2011, when the institute was held in Phoenix. Apple Inc. paid for all his expenses except his plane tickets on these trips.
Apple has selected 1,700 educators for the program since the late Steve Jobs, the firm's co-founder, created it in 1994. The gatherings of Apple Distinguished Educators are intended to put teachers from around the world in touch with each other so they can share experiences, ideas, and projects.
The teachers had another important duty to perform: They worked on creating content for iTunes U, a free Apple service that allows educators to distribute coursework that students use on their iPads, iPhones, or iPod Touches.
"This is content that never existed before," Mr. Croy said. "We worked very hard on iTunes U projects and other projects."
But, Mr. Croy said, "the really big thing" discussed was iBooks Author, an ebook application that teachers can use to write their own textbooks for mobile devices.
He believes this is the future: teachers writing and sharing their own texts electronically.
"Some teachers are creating textbooks with their students. Students help. They can say what authors, what they want to read, what they want to learn about," he said. "This is truly the future of the classroom, I believe."
Mr. Croy, 43, has been with the Benton-Carroll-Salem school district for 21 years. He lives two blocks from his school in Oak Harbor with his wife, Lorraine, and daughters Allyson, 15, Carolyne, 13, Jackyln, 8, and Jillyan, 3. He grew up in Marysville, Ohio.
Marie Wittman, the middle school principal, said Mr. Croy is known throughout the school as a diehard fan of Apple technology. "He can make it do anything but get up and dance," she said. "He is an absolute Apple devotee, right up to the black shirt with an embroidered Apple on it. The things Kelly can bring not only to the students but to the staff is kind of amazing. His energy really gets other people excited about coming to school and looking to the future."
Mr. Croy said he plans to tell his students all about his trip to Ireland after classes resume Aug. 28. He's also working on "a small test book to help my students get excited about their literature and help their achievement tests. These are some of the things I learned in Ireland."
He stressed that he sees himself as part of the middle school team that sets high standards and "encourages everybody to use their special talents."
He said that his designation as an Apple Distinguished Educator "is a reflection on my entire district. It's not an individual achievement."