Thursday, July 17, 2014

Resources for Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank Economic Education Conference

Today's post is a list of resources from my presentation "Going Google : Google Tools For Teachers" at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank on July 17, 2014.

All of the resources that were mentioned in the presentation are listed below as a reference for the future.  Please bookmark this page for easy reference when you are sitting in your classroom and want to find the one Google app that was mentioned today that would be perfect for that new lesson or activity.

Favorite "Economic Specific" Resources

  • Freakonomics Podcast - amazingly awesome resource for economics teachers, can listen to podcasts online or subscribe on iTunes - all FREE
  • Planet Money from NPR - a blog and podcast with interesting stories and sessions on current events and economics, very classroom friendly

Google Tools and Apps to make your life easier and your classroom more engaging for your students.

Google Docs - Research

Google Search

Google Hangouts

Google Alerts
  • Google Alerts - get a notice when something you care about is added to the web

Google Maps
  • Google Map Gallery - a collection of already existing maps which overlay on top of Google Maps, a variety of topics including economics

Google Views

Google Forms

Google Cultural Institute
  • "Before the Leaves Fall" - Google collection on the start of WWI in conjunction with the World War I Museum here in Kansas City

If you have any questions or comments please let me know - you can e-mail me at 

You can also follow me on Twitter at @elanghorst

Monday, July 07, 2014

Our First Day of Maker Camp 2014 - Building our Stomp Rocket

Showing off our stomp rockets prior to launch

Maker Camp started today and so my daughters (ages 6 and 10) participated with me as we built stomp rockets.  It was educational and a lot of fun on a hot summer day. Two thumbs up from both girls and we'll probably check out future projects in the summer.

Participating in Maker Camp is pretty easy.  It is online, free and something new every weekday for six weeks.  The theme for Week 1 is "Makers in Motion". Friday of each week they have a special virtual field trip and in week 1 it is an inside look at how they make Google Treks and they state in their teaser that they will demonstrate how to make photospheres of your own neighborhood - something that I have been doing a lot of this summer with my Nexus 7 tablet.

Building our stomp rockets for Maker Camp

The first thing I did today was check out the Maker Camp website.  I looked up the project for the day, which happened to be making a stomp rocket. (There is also a more advanced each project each day if you want to kick it up a notch!) I look looked up the supply list to see what we would need.  We are currently out of town on vacation so most of the stuff I probably could have rounded up at our house but since I didn't want to tear apart my inlaws' house looking for items I did go out a buy a couple at the hardware store.  Today's project basically required some type of rubber or plastic tubing, paper, tape and empty milk jug (a lot of people were also using empty two liter soda bottles).

Each day during Maker Camp they have a live Google Hangout to go with the project of the day.  Today since the topic was rockets they had a live chat with Buzz Aldrin.  We didn't see it live but did watch it YouTube about an hour after it was live.  We watched it while we ate lunch. It was great because we were able to tell the girls a little bit about how the United States put men on the moon.

After we watched the hangout we looked at the instructions on the Maker Camp page to build the stomp rocket and then made some modifications based on the materials we had on hand.  Let me just take a second here to say how important the ability to adapt is to the maker movement. We didn't have exactly the same materials as they listed on the Maker Camp site and that was great because I was able to discuss with my daughters about what we could substitute.  When I looked at the Maker Camp Google+ page later in the day it was full of pictures of things that people did to modify the stated design.  This is such an important skill that students learn from the maker movement in general - adapt and modify as needed.  Life is not a kit with all the required parts included.

We built our rockets and talked about how they would fly, why we should add fins, how we could make it more durable and still not make it too heavy, etc.  While we were building we had some great ideas about flight and rockets. 

Building a stomp rocket for Maker Camp

Building a stomp rocket for Maker Camp
Building a stomp rocket for Maker Camp
Once we had built our rockets we went outside to test them.  The first couple of times the girls didn't "stomp" on the milk jug very hard and then after a couple of tries their rockets were going pretty far.  Dad did so well that my rocket landed on top of my inlaws' house.  (It was OK, I went in and built a second rocket!)  We are planning going to a park - more wide up spaces with fewer places to lose our rockets.

I would consider the first day of Maker Camp a success for our family and we will probably check in again to do another project.  Thanks to Google and Make Magazine for hosting such a great activity.

Join the 2014 Maker Camp Online Today

Looking for a great activity for your kids this summer?  Something that your entire family could participate in together?  Check out the free Maker Camp online sponsored by Google and Make Magazine.  The site has a host of great Google Hangouts scheduled with makers around the world, activities for building and resources. 

Each morning there is new project posted, in the afternoon each day there is a live Google Hangout with incredible makers and on Friday each week the Google Hangout takes you to on a cool virtual field trip.

Maker Camp is scheduled for July 7, 2014 through August 15, 2014 but will also be accessible online in the future.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

My Thoughts on the 2014 Kansas City Maker Faire at Union Station

2014 Kansas City Maker Faire in Union Station

I have looked forward to the 2014 Kansas City Maker Faire all year.  Last year I attended my first maker faire and it blew my mind.  This past week Union Station again hosted the 2014 Kansas City Maker Faire and I attended on both Saturday and Sunday. Once again, I walked away energized and excited about how the maker movement can impact education. The Kansas City Maker Faire drew over 16,000 visitors from 40 different states.  Think about that - 16,000 people from over 40 states attending a two day event about making.

Checking out wallets and covers made from paper and maps

Click here to check out my 360 degree photosphere from the center of the Kansas City Maker Faire at Union Station.

Click here to check out my 360 degree photosphere from the Kansas City Maker Faire inside the Maker Studio at Union Station / Science City.

Click here to check out my 360 degree photosphere from the Kansas City Maker Faire inside Union Station / Science City.

Click here to check out my 360 degree photosphere from the Kansas City Maker Faire outside Union Station.

It is hard to describe a maker faire but as I walked around on Saturday and soaked in the creativity.  Union Station, and the grounds in front of Union Station, were packed with people.  There were a lot of 3D printers, students demonstrating robotic projects, and tables of people willing to share their open source projects.  But there is so much more.  I stopped by tables of people who made their own jewelry and bought my wife a purse made by a couple of women in Kansas City from recycled coffee bags.  

Handbags and purses made from recycled rice and coffee bags
The Kansas City Maker Faire, which is currently the 3rd largest maker faire in the country behind the Bay area and New York City, had a special guest this year - Dale Dougherty, the godfather of the maker movement.  I was visiting the Maker Studio on the ground level of Union Station when Mr. Dougherty walked past me.  I recognized him and did what any starstruck geek would do - I told him how much I appreciated his work and asked him to take a selfie with me.  

My selfie with the creator of the maker movement - Dale Dougherty

Later in the day I was able to sit in the audience of a panel discussion hosted by Mr. Dougherty on education and the maker movement.  It was a great discussion but perhaps the biggest take away for me was a question from a teacher in the crowd.  She asked:

"I know the maker movement would be great for the classroom but as a classroom teacher I don't the knowledge or the funding to do these amazing things. What do I do about the lack of those two things if I want to do the maker movement in my classroom?"

I think this is a common perception of the maker movement in education - it takes a lot of technology and a lot of money but if this is the perception then we need to correct the stereotype.  I have dabbled in the maker movement over the past year by trying a lot of new things, having my two daughters try to build things and reading as much as I can on the topic and I have come to the personal conclusion that the "maker movement" is misleading.  It should really be called the "sharing movement".  It is about trying something, then trying something else and when you get stuck asking someone who might know the answer.  The great thing about the maker movement is people are so willing to share.  Union Station was full of people willing to share and explain the things they have been working on and what they want to do in the future.  

Creating stamped prints at Kansas City Maker Faire

It isn't about the "stuff" - sure 3D printers are cool and generate a lot of buzz but the maker movement is also about scraps of wood, cardboard toilet paper tubes and glue sticks.  As educators we need to allow our students to think, create and build things.

Maker Studio in Union Station Science City - Kansas City

I came back on Saturday with my entire family.  My wife talked to several Kansas City artists about their their print making and fabric arts.  I bought a hand made leather cover from the little notebooks I carry around.  My daughters made stamped art with erasers and build light sticks with LED lights and small batteries.  They also bought a couple of necklaces and visited with the artist who made the artwork. It was a great day and my family walked away with new ideas about things we can build and create together in the future.

The Photo Bus at the Kansas City Maker Faire 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 Kansas City Maker Faire - Get Out and See Awesome

Most educators have probably heard something this year about the maker movement in education.  "Making in Education" has become one of those buzz words you hear a lot at conferences in professional development.  Last week President Obama held a Maker Faire at the White House and many districts have added maker spaces to their buildings.  If you are new to the maker movement in education this article by Gary Stager does an excellent job of describing why it is important.

If you have any interest in the maker movement and live in the Kansas City area this weekend you have an amazing opportunity to see it in action at the Kansas City Maker Faire at Union Station - Friday and Saturday (June 28 and 29, 2014).  

You can follow Kansas City Maker Faire on Twitter at @makerfaireKC

I had heard about the Kansas City Maker Faire in 2012 but was unable to attend.  Last year I marked it on my calendar and brought my family.  It blew me away.  It is a little hard to describe without attending but it is like a huge educational party with science, computers, innovators and creativity all in one amazing place.  

It might sound like just a place for nerds to gather and discuss circuits but that is really not it at all.  Union Station is packed with people demonstrating 3D printers, a table with a discussion and examples of fiber art and an area where your family can make several arts and crafts projects.  My wife's favorite part of the day last year was learning more about composting and organic gardening.  My daughter and I learned to solder for the first time and made a name badge.  I signed up for a subscription to Make magazine which has inspired me all year long with each issue.

Living in Kansas City we are at an epicenter of great innovators.  I know it might sound a little funny but over the course of the last year I have learned a lot more about the maker movement and Kansas City really has it going on in many ways.  Consider there are Maker Faires held literally all over the planet and the Kansas City Maker Faire is the 4th LARGEST IN THE WORLD and this year they expect around 13,000 people to attend.

My head was spinning after attending the Kansas City Maker Faire last year and this year I have blocked out two days to attend and soak it up.  I would encourage anyone to head down to Union Station this weekend, buy a ticket and just roam around.  Talk to people and ask questions.  I guarantee that you will learn something and walk away with a new perspective on how we as educators and infuse this type of innovation and creativity into our classrooms.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 09, 2014

Field Trip : The Roasterie - Coffee in Kansas City

Sometimes it seems that locals are the worst tourists in their own city.  I have lived in the Kansas City area for roughly 13 years now and there are still so many places that I have not visited but always say that I want to visit someday.  This summer I am trying to cross some of those places off my list.

My wife loves coffee so I surprised her with a field trip last week to The Roasterie in Kansas City for a tour of their facility in downtown Kansas City where they roast their coffee, operate a cafe and sell merchandise.  If you are a coffee lover this is a definite can't miss.

I signed up online in advance for the tour.  They offer seven tours each day Monday through Saturday.  We arrived for the 10:00 AM tour and we part of a group of around 20.  The tour included videos on the history of coffee and details about how coffee is selected and roasted.  Following a short history of The Roasterie we participated in a live demonstration of "cupping coffee" - essentially how coffee is tested for taste and specific qualities.  My wife was selected as one of the volunteers to demonstrate.

Following the cupping demonstration we toured the portion of the facility where they store, air roast and then package the coffee.  It was interested to see the technique The Roasterie roasts their coffee with heated air to ensure a move consistent roast.  

Following the tour on the floor we moved to the cafe at which the barista demonstrated the steps in preparing a cup of coffee via French Press.  My wife and I use the French Press exclusively at home to prepare coffee and we learned a couple of great tips to make our brew better. The barista also offered some tips on making coffee with less acid, important to my doctor has requested that I cut most of my coffee intake because of the acidity. 

The Roasterie has a beautiful cafe and a large collection of merchandise - shirts, hats, mugs, and pretty much anything you need to make coffee from grinders to presses.  Of course they also had an abundant amount of coffee for you to take home and prepare.

We spent almost two hours at The Roasterie and had a wonderful time.  I left feeling as if I knew much more about the selection and roasting of coffee.  Everyone we met was cheerful and you could feel their passion for coffee.  The Roasterie earned a new customer this week and I strongly encourage a visit for any coffee lover. You can follow The Roasterie on Twitter - @TheRoasterie

Field Trip : 1102 Grand in Kansas City

This summer the Liberty School District has created some interesting professional development opportunities for it's teachers - getting out and talking to businesses about what they do and what we can do as educators to help prepare our students for that future workplace.  Colleen Jones - the district department chair in College, Career and Community Partnership - this summer has organized several field trips to Kansas City area businesses and all we as teacher need to do it sign up and go.  Colleen has already taken the time to set these days and times for use to connect. This summer some of the scheduled 1102 Grand, Cerner, Holland 1916 and Burns & MacDonnell.

Today I participated in the discussion with 1102 Grand with four other teachers from Liberty Public Schools.  It was a great experience.  1102 Grand is a carrier hotel in downtown Kansas City - basically a 26 story building full of servers, fiber and connections.  We visited with Greg Elliot - Director of Business Development and Alexis Smith - Business Development Associate of 1102 Grand about not only what they do but what types of skills they are looking for in employees.  They also gave us a tour of their facility. As a geek I was fascinated by the way in which the servers were organized, the type of cooling system they use, what they do in terms of fire protection and the huge generators which stand by in case of a power failure.

Summer is great time for teachers to connect with area businesses.  Ask to tour their business and give them a chance to tell you what skills they are hoping you help cultivate in your students.  

Thanks to 1102 Grand for their hospitality today and a look behind the curtain of what makes the web and the cloud work.

You can follow 1102 Grand on Twitter at @1102Grand

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Kansas City Area Teachers Check Out 1 Million Cups on June 18th

There is a great event sponsored by the Kaufman Foundation on June 18th.  Check out the education themed edition of "1 Million Cups" on June 18th in Kansas City.  It looks like a great opportunity to further discussion about education and innovation in our community.  All teachers who attend will also receive a pass to the Kansas City Maker Faire later on June 28-29, 2014.

You can check out the Kansas City 1 Million Cups site for more information and follow them on Twitter at @1MillionCupsKC

Monday, June 02, 2014

Google Geo Teacher Institute Applications Now Open for 2014

Google recently opened applications for two Google Geo Institutes taking place this summer. This is a great opportunity for teachers to spend two days working intensely on Google's Geo tools such as Maps, Views, Street View, Earth, Tour Builder, Maps Engine and more.

Check out the links for information on applications and specifics about the institutes.

Google Geo Teacher Institute California
Mountain View, California
July 22-23, 2014

Google Geo Teacher Institute Pennsylvania
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
August 5-6, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Video Tutorial - Annotating an Image in Google Drive

Hello.  Today I wanted to share a tool that I haven't seen discussed too much but I think could be a very valuable tool for teachers in a variety of subjects and grade levels - annotating images in Google Drive.

I created a short (6 minute) video demonstrating how you can annotate images in Google Drive.

This would be a cool way to have your students leave comments about an picture or image.  Here are some ideas:
  • ·         Label a math problem
  • ·         Describe areas on a historic map
  • ·         Describe the parts of a cell on a diagram
  • ·         Analyze parts of a famous work of art

I think this could be used in any subject area and is easy to use.  As the teacher you can comment on their remarks and you could create small groups to work on a single image.  

If you can think of a great way that this would help you in the classroom please share with a comment to this post.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

Video Tutorial - Editing Audio on YouTube

Today's tutorial is a description of how to edit audio in a YouTube video.  Do you want to add some funky music to a video you've shoot or add some nice background music to a video slideshow you just made?  YouTube has over 150,000 music tracks which you can easily add to your video.

The video is part of a series of tutorial videos on the many ways YouTube can be used by teachers to edit and curate video. You can check out the entire playlist here.

Bring the Maker Movement to Your Classroom - Presentation Resources

Recently I have given several presentations at conferences on the maker movement in our schools.  I have become energized in the past year becoming more familiar with MakeyMakey kits, Snap Circuits, Raspberry Pi and a variety of kits and DIY projects.  As an educator, and a dad, I think this is an exciting time to be teaching and the maker movement pushes back the discussion to creativity and practical learning.

YouTube Tutorial : Video Editing Features in YouTube

On day's edition of YouTube tutorials I want to share some of the options you have within YouTube to edit video.  Once you have modified, or made a video like we discussed in yesterday's blog post on Creating A Slideshow in YouTube, you can modify the colors and filters. This tutorial is very quick and meant to just introduce several video editing options within YouTube.

One feature which I use often is the ability to automatically stabilize shaky video.  When I shoot video with my cell phone it often isn't as stable as I would like so this is one of my favorite features.

The video is part of a series of tutorial videos on the many ways YouTube can be used by teachers to edit and curate video. You can check out the entire playlist here.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Video Tutorial - Creating A Video Slideshow in YouTube

Today I want to share a quick tutorial on one of the most under appreciated features of YouTube - the ability to quickly create a nice video slideshow from your digital photos.  You can add effects, filters and enhancements along with a ton of great music available in the audio section.

You can add text, transitions and overlays in your video quickly and then upload to YouTube.  A great tool for any teacher or student looking to create a quick video from field trip photos, photos taken during a season or event. 

The video is part of a series of tutorial videos on the many ways YouTube can be used by teachers to edit and curate video. You can check out the entire playlist here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Video Tutorial : Creating Custom Start and End Times in YouTube Playlist Videos

Today's tutorial explains how to create a unique start and end time for a video within a YouTube playlist.  This is helpful for teachers who may want to use part of a longer video with their students.  If I had an hour long video on Washington's Crossing and just wanted my students to watch the portion between the minute 5 and minute 8 mark of the video it would be crazy for me to ask my kids to find just the right clip from the longer video.  With this editing tool  you are able to specifically highlight just one part of the larger video.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Video Tutorial : Creating A YouTube Playlist

YouTube is an incredibly powerful tool for teachers to both create and curate videos for the benefit of their students.  It is amazing to think that by creating a free YouTube channel with your Google account you can reach a global audience.

I recently offered several workshops to teachers on using YouTube in the classroom and was really hit by the following two statistics that really demonstrate why we as teachers should be considering how we could use YouTube to reach our students:

Creating a playlist is a great way for teachers to help organize the huge amount of content on YouTube for your students (and yourself).  I would never ask one of my students to physically go into the largest library in the world and "find a book on the Civil War" so I would never ask them to do the same on YouTube.  

I have already created a YouTube playlist for every unit that I teach in 8th grade U.S. History. Having a playlist, which is basically a folder, already created means that when I do stumble upon a great content video on YouTube it is just one click away from being saved in my playlist for when I want it later.  I recently stumbled upon a great video about the Jefferson's gardens at Monticello so I quickly added it to my "Monticello" playlist so I can find it later when I teach that unit next.

In preparation for a recent workshop I recorded some video tutorials to help teach some of the editing and curation tools available in YouTube. I want to share the first one - Creating a Playlist in YouTube - in this blog post.  Over the week I will post different tutorials each day or you can jump ahead and view them all at once in a playlist with all ten tutorials.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thanks Gettysburg Flag Works

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from the Gettysburg Flag Works of East Greenbush, New York.  They said they were fans of the blog and asked if they could send me one of their flags for my classroom.  I love displaying flags in my classroom and started to check out their selection of flags online.  They have an incredible selection of flags, including many historical flags from the Revolutionary War and Civil War.  I finally made a decision - the Tea Stained Betsy Ross flag.  

I received the flag in the mail today and immediately put it on display in my classroom.  It was an instant hit with my students.  It has the appearance of a historic flag and it a great way to start a discussion about the historical significance of the Betsy Ross flag.

Thanks to the Gettysburg Flag Works for the flag.  It is a great addition to our classroom.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Makey Makey Projects for the Industrial Revolution Unit

This is the second year we have used MakeyMakey kits in my 8th grade American history classroom as a project when studying the industrial revolution.  In the past after discussing innovation and inventions (like Morse Code, John Deere's plow, etc.) I had students come up with their own invention.  They would fill out a simplified patent application and it was an OK assignment but more often than not it was a very unrealistic invention - basketball shoes that allowed you to dunk, a machine that created an entire four course meal with the push of one button.  

Last year I handed out MakeyMakey kits to groups of students, showed them how it worked and then let them play with it for a day to create their own "invention".  The students then share their invention with the rest of the class in a "Shark Tank" style.  The students loved it.  Some students said it was one of their favorite activities of the year.  

We are doing the project again this year and today was their day to work in groups and try to invent with their MakeyMakey.  Since students are just given one period - about 45 minutes - to create something with the MakeyMakey they typically create game controllers in a variety of formats - pencil lead cardboard, water in Dixie cups, gummy bears, fruits, etc.  They had a blast and tomorrow they will share their creation with the rest of the class.

MakeyMakey kits are one of my favorite ways to introduce the maker movement to my students.  Later in the semester my 8th grade emerging technology class will work with the MakeyMakey kits for a little longer and create something a little more complex.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

American Bison by Cardboard Safari

This week I added a new decoration to my classroom - an American Bison trophy head.  It is made completely of cardboard and was made by Cardboard Safari.  Here are a couple of pictures of the creation process and the finished product.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Hudson River Miracle Five Years Later

So, exactly five years ago today I was waiting at a car shop while my car was getting an oil change.  There was a TV in the corner of the waiting room, tuned to a national broadcast station and showing an afternoon talk show.  I was on my Blackberry reading my Twitter feed.  Suddenly I saw tweets from an NPR reporter that I follow that included news of an airplane which had just crashed in the Hudson River.  Then a couple of tweets appeared with images, dramatic images from Janis Krums showing a crowd of people standing on the wing of the plane with the New York skyline looming in the distance.  

It didn't seem real.  I keep looking over at the TV - nothing about a plane crash.  More and more tweets were rolling in on the plane crash and then finally later the afternoon talk show was interrupted by a breaking news story.  I remember thinking in that moment about the power of Twitter and that this medium held tremendous potential for citizen reporting. 

I blogged about the event five years ago and also recorded a podcast about my thoughts on that night - check them out here.  Interesting to looks back on that day five years ago.  Amazing.

Here is an interesting story, published today, on how Janis Krum's life has been impacted since he took that iconic picture.

Monday, January 13, 2014

#edcampLiberty 2014 Reflections - Why I Love Edcamps

If you have ever attended an edcamp you will read this post and understand.  If you have never attended an edcamp the following comments may seem a bit over the top but I urge you to add attending an edcamp to your short list of experiences for 2014.  

The first edcamp I attended was amazing (edcampKC 2012) and thought maybe it was just one of those magical days when everything clicks and I lucked out.  Then I attended my second edcamp (edcampKC in 2013) and I had the same outstanding experience.  This week I attended edcampLiberty - in Liberty, Missouri which was hosted by my school district (Liberty Public Schools) - and again had an amazing, uplifting, and "I love being an educator" experience.  Three home runs in three at bats - I'm a believer and it has impacted the way in which I look at all my other professional development and the conferences I attend.  To be honest, and I have heard this from many other people, it almost spoils traditional PD experiences after you attend an edcamp.

So here is my reflection after attending edcampLiberty this past weekend...

This past November multiple educators from my district attended edcampKC.  Kyle Pace (@kylepace) and Laura Gilchrist (@lauragilchrist4) do an amazing job organizing edcampKC and it has to be one of the best edcamps in the country. My fellow Liberty teachers felt the same way I did about the edcamp experience - empowered and energized.  Two of of our district's instructional coaches - Tracey Kracht (@lpstechmentors on Twitter) and Sara Wickham (@sara_wickham on Twitter) - had plans to host an edcamp in Liberty roughly 24 hours after attending edcampKC.  Their hard work - and the work of many Liberty teachers, staff and administrators - made edcampLiberty a reality on January 11, 2014 at Liberty North High School

EdcampLiberty had roughly 200 educators from 19 school districts in attendance.  Think about that for a second.  Nearly 200 teachers decided to give up an entire Saturday to discuss their passion with fellow teachers.  The experience of an edcamp is invigorating.  It is something you just want to bottle up and drink up on those days when you think twice about why you teach.  

Here are a couple of my personal observations...

I love that edcamps are about conversations instead of an expert lecturing a room full of people. Isn't this what we want our classrooms to be like?  Edcamp sessions are active, participants share ideas and talk to each other.  This rarely happens at traditional conferences that I typically attend.

I love that edcamps discuss topics that are current and fresh.  I recently presented at a national conference in which the proposals to present were due nine months in advance of the actual conference.  As the board of sessions filled up the morning of edcampLiberty, there were teachers asking about topics they wanted to know more about for their own personal growth. Individuals who didn't wake up that morning with plans to present stepping up and putting their name down to share something they felt important enough to share with peers.  

I love that the ownership on the learning is with the individual.  You decide what you want to attend.  You decide if you want to get up in the middle of a session and drop in on another one that interested you at that time slot.  You decide if the best use of your time is visiting with a colleague in the hallway during a session.  

I love that sharing is built into the DNA of edcamps.  Everyone is creating Google docs to share lists of resources or books discussed in a session.  People are tweeting out links, quotes, pictures and resources all day long. I know several people who attended edcampLiberty from their home and at the end of the day thanked everyone who tweeted for helping them learn from a distance.  Here is Katie Ann's blog post and Brent Catlett's blog post.

Check out the Twitter stats from edcampLiberty (thanks Brent Catlett) : a total of 722 tweets from 133 contributors with over 1 million impacts and a reach of over 168,000.  

I love that more and more administrators are taking part in edcamps.  Liberty administrators had a huge presence at edcampLiberty and I had several great discussions with principals about some new ideas and fresh ideas for PD and courses.  It was especially powerful for me to see our superintendent - John Jungmann (@JohnJungmann on Twitter) - not only attend edcampLiberty as a participant but also lead a session!  Dr. Jugeman led an outstanding session on breaking down the traditional walls of education.  It was one of the best edcamp sessions I have ever attended.

I love that edcamps are about learning and not about money.  I'm not going to go on a rant here on this topic, it is probably more appropriately discussed at another time, but I think many educators would agree with me on this topic.  Large conferences can be expensive to attend, especially if the teacher is the one responsible for finding the funding to attend.  More and more of the sessions at the large conferences are presented with a corporate agenda.  My edcamp experiences have been more grassroots, what works in my classroom, let's have a discuss about teaching and less "buy this product to raise your test scores".  

I love that edcamps are FUN.  I am as guilty as anyone else of becoming more and more defensive in the current environment as we feel we must fight off the negative backlash from mass media.  I enjoy teaching and have stayed in the classroom for the past 20 years because I find it enjoyable.  I have fun teaching my students.  Amid the rather heavy discussion topics of standards based grading, increasing student engagement and improving community involvement in education there was also plenty of laughter on Saturday.  Educators were laughing and making new friends from neighboring school districts.  We had a photo booth set up in which teachers put on feathered boas, goofy hats and walked away with silly photos. At the end of the day there was a fun drawing for door prizes.  One session was on "Educational Speed Dating" and another was the traditional edcamp favorite "Rocks or Sucks". We need a little more fun as teachers.

I will return to class on Monday a little energized.  I will return a little more excited to try, and possibly fail and retry again, something new in my classroom.  I will return with a feeling that I am working with my fellow teachers and district administrators to do something amazing to help our students learn as much as possible.  I don't want to get overly dramatic but I saw a lot of people that I work with on a regular basis get really excited about education on Saturday as a result of edcampLiberty. From a variety of conversations I think that we might start to look at some new approaches to PD in our district and try some new ideas on connecting teachers.  

If you've attended an edcamp you probably nodded your head in agreement on at least some of the comments above.  If you haven't attended an edcamp please take advantage of one when you have the opportunity.  Edcamps are happening all over the country and as well as the world on dates throughout the year and many are even filling up with waiting lists.  You can check out the master list of edcamps at the edcamp wiki.