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It’s been a busy two weekends! September 23 & 24 I was down in DC for the Google Geo Teachers Institute at National Geographic Headquarters. They were an amazing two days!  We had wonderful speakers, including Juan Valdez, Jerome Burg, Beryl Reid, and Jim Sill.  We spent hours in hands-on sessions learning about Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google Sketchup.  Although I have used all three tools before, the workshops showed me many more ways to use them.  It is amazing the things you can do with these simple tools.

Each day, we also had a field trip.  The first day we had a behind-the-scenes tour of the map room at the Library of Congress.  We got to examine and learn about some wonderful old maps from the 1400s and 1500s, including the first map to show America.  Then we were able to visit the vaults to see some old maps drawn by George Washington.  The map geek in me was supremely happy!

The second day, we went to the National Archives and were shown a short film about the Archives, and then had time to visit the amazing documents in their collection, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The part that made all of this even better was the amount of time built in for networking and sharing.  At mealtimes and in between sessions, everyone mingled to talk and share ideas.  Even our hosts got involved, and it wasn’t uncommon to have a Google or National Geographic staff member sitting at a table with a group of classroom teachers and tossing ideas back and forth.  Everyone there was very friendly and welcoming.  I walked away from those two days with my brain bursting with ideas.  I’ve already started using Sketchup in the classroom, and the kids LOVE it!

This weekend just past I spent Saturday in Manhattan at The School at Columbia University for EdCamp NYC.  Last spring, I went to my first EdCamp in Philly and loved it!  The idea of a conference run for and by teachers appealed to me, and I left the Philly EdCamp itching for more.  The New York EdCamp was just as good.  I had a chance to meet up with educators I follow on Twitter, meet some new folks, and attend excellent sessions.  There were so many good choices that it was hard to decide which ones to attend.  I went to a session on Google Scripts that showed me some neat new tools to use with Google Docs.  I went to a session on Collaboration which was not what I expected, but extremely useful nonetheless.  I spent my lunch break with Kevin Jarrett and Kristin Swanson – two of the EdCamp Philly founders – and learned even more.  After lunch, I attended two sessions on PD – one on grassrooots PD, and one on how to run an EdCamp.  Both left me fired up and ready to start some PD sessions of my own here at school!

It was so nice to attend conferences that were relevant to what I teach, and to meet so many other people as enthused about it all as I am.  I am anxiously awaiting the next few EdCamps!