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