“I learned that in each of us there burns a flame of independence that must never be allowed to go out. That as long as it exists within us we cannot be destroyed.”
― Bryce Courtenay , The Power of One 
When I was younger I read the book The Power of One and saw the movie, and the quote above has always been something I carried with me. It has always spoken to me, as I truly believe you can spark this flame in students giving them the chance to be independent thinkers and learners. On Wednesday I had the opportunity to see this flame burning brightly in ten fifth graders of mine from last year, which totally solidified the work we are doing this year. You see last year was the first year I tried out Google Drive. I had no expectations. I just wanted to see where it took us. The adventure led us to presenting at the largest educational technology conference north of NYC! The MassCUE conference had over 1900 people come through the doors this year and despite the rain there was a celebration of having the confidence to create within the stadium’s walls. I decided when I wrote my proposal for this year’s conference that I needed to present alongside students. That was new for me. Upon finding out we were accepted to present I sought out five former fifth grade friends of different learning abilities to present our work. I created a skeleton template on the Google Drive and asked the students to fill in their thinking. It took from July-September for us to work on this, though we never met face to face or discussed what we were going to do.
On the morning of the 22nd I met them and five other students who were continuing our presentation in the Student Showcase at registration. I simply told them we are going to get up and do what we do best, share our knowledge and inspire others. The students gave simple nods of their heads and up we went. There were no nerves present, no complaining, and no fear of an audience. I did mention there might be a few people there as I had made thirty copies of our presentation. We did not expect almost 60 people to show up to hear us talk but that did not distinguish our flame rather it only brightened it. I put up our presentation and the six of us began sharing why Go Google in the classroom, how it revolutionized not only my teaching but their learning. What I was most impressed with was the students expanded on their notes and spoke from their hearts, sharing their passion for the work they do. They explained their thinking to a group of teachers, administrators, and superintendents. Students inspired others to go try out projects in their classrooms and buildings using the Drive across all curriculums. They lit other people’s candles.
MassCUE not only gave my students the confidence to create, but also gave them the confidence to share their passion with an audience, making the learning experiences that much more authentic. I could not have done this presentation myself because it is not just about me. I am part of a movement that is slowly changing education. #MassCUE2014 has caused our candles to burn brighter, seeing how our voices can put a dent in the universe. This experience was the Power of One for us.
Thank you to those of you who took the time out of your day to come hear us speak. We hope you will share with us what you are doing with the Google Drive!
About t he Author: Rayna Freedman is beginning her 15th year at the Jordan/Jackson Elementary School in Mansfield, MA. She has taught grades 3-5 and is an ITS. She is also embarking on her doctorate through Northeastern as she hopes to change the field of education some day. Rayna is a member of the MassCUE Board of Directors.