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The Back Story

In the Fall of 2011 Learning on the Edge was welcoming its second class. Anticipation was high as we looked to what this group of students could do. Coming off the excitement of the Microsoft Global Forum in Washington DC I was ready to take the program to the next level. For me that meant going 1 to 1. Having each of my fourth graders equipped with their own laptop. At back to school night I introduced that new group of parents to myself and my vision that each of their children would have a laptop to learn with by January of 2012. I called the program Financing the Future. Parents were a bit apprehensive,but at the same time excited to see that I had a unique vision for their 9 year olds. Time passed and soon students were beginning to get their own laptops. I was not sure how I was going to keep them safe, charged, or even how to best use them. Then shortly after Thanksgiving the district approached me with a unique opportunity.

They asked me to pilot Google Chromebooks in my classroom. They would provide 32 Chromebooks and a charging cart. They wanted me to simply live,teach, and learn with them. At the time they explained that we were the only classroom in the district that was going to be piloting the Chromebooks (a pretty cool honor for fourth graders). They also explained that we would get to use them until the end of the year. After that the school would have to purchase them for $15,000. I was excited for the opportunity not quite knowing what to expect. In January they arrived with no instruction other than do amazing things.

And "do amazing" things, is what we began to do. We learned how to use Google Docs, save to the cloud, respond on-line, do research and much much more. But with the pressures of the California State Test, the fact that there was no manuel on how to do amazing, and the end of the year rapidly approaching it was hard to truly utilize them to their full potential. By the end of the 2011 school year we had some issues. First there was no money for Monroe to purchase the Chromebooks. In the midst of the financial turmoil of the past years $15,000 was a lot of money to spend. It was even more money if you considered this was just for one class, Mr. Manderfeld's 4/5 grade. So we elected not to purchase them. Summer came and in the August I wrote a passionate plea to the district asking for another year. I explained that I was looping with the same group of students to fifth grade. We had built a strong foundation and I was excited to see what amazing things we could accomplish with another year. The district believed in what I was trying to do and agreed to let us use the Chromebooks for another year.

Two months into the 2012 school year and I could not see myself teaching without the Chromebooks. We had learned to use them to enhance learning in every way. We were creating digital art, collaborating on Google Docs, studying with SpellingCity, summarizing with BrainPop, responding with Pixton, and much much more. Then out of no where on the day of our Art Expo the district came to us with devastating news. They explained that things had changed and they were going to be taking the Chromebooks after Winter Break two weeks away. They wanted the school to purchase them for $10,000. The principal looked both surprised and angry. He was surprised that this had come with no warning and angry that he could not come up with $10,000 to support me and Learning on the Edge. I was disappointed because I had come so far with this group of students. The Chromebooks were a part of our everyday routine. But finances are finances and if we didn't come up with $10,000 in the next two weeks the Chromebooks would be gone.


Miracles Do Happen

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That evening we had an amazing Art Expo. I went to bed proud of the incredible event my class had put on. We sold 72 pieces of their digital art and raised more than $700 for the performing arts program at Monroe. Then at 12:30 a.m. I woke up from a dead sleep. I could not stop thinking about the Chromebooks. I had an unmistakable feeling that I should e-mail everyone on my Gmail contact list and explain the situation regarding the Chromebooks. I told the story and asked for people to put me in contact with someone that could help us with the $10,000. A big part of me did not want to send that e-mail. I didn't feel comfortable asking people for help. Yet, I sent it off. Days later I had an overwhelming response of people giving me ideas on possible ways to raise the money. Others offered words of encouragement and still others told me they would talk to people they knew. I still had no idea how this miracle could happen but I felt good that people cared.

Intrigue Builds

That weekend I headed to LA to attend the LA Autoshow. Following the show I noticed that there was a large line next the Nokia Theater. I asked what was going on and found out that Boyce Avenue was playing. I scalped a ticket and headed into the show. The show was sold out and it had first come first serve seating. I sat down on an isle in the upper deck with a great view of the stage. A couple of minutes later I noticed that there was an empty seat next to me and that as the place filled up someone was going to have to sit alone. I asked the girls next to me to slide over. Before they could answer the girls behind me switched places with me. No big deal. Then there was another empty seat in that row. Another set of people told me they were just waiting for their friend, so it should work out perfect. A few minutes later a 21 year old named Gavin showed up to take that seat. He took a picture with his iphone of the stage and then improved it using Instagram. I introduced myself and asked him if he could text me the picture he just took since my cell phone had died earlier that day. He said sure. I then noticed he had a shirt on that said, "The bible is __". I started talking to him about God and I came to find out he was really on fire. We spoke for a while then enjoyed the concert. The next day when I was a church the service was about God answering prayers. I thought it too funny since I needed $10,000. As I was waiting for the service to begin I text Gavin to say thank you for the photo. He said no problem and asked if there was anything I needed prayers about. I told him about the Chromebooks. He said he would pray about it.


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Mysterious Ways

That Monday I was teaching when I got an email on my phone. It said that an organization called Donorschoose.org had an unbelievable offer for teachers, $99 Chromebooks. That meant that the price for 30 Chromebooks had went from $15,000 at the beginning of the school year, to $10,000 by Christmas to now just a little more than $3,000. The person e-mailing me signed me up for the initial offer and good thing because by that evening they were no longer offering the deal due to such a high demand. Another coincidence? I think not. That evening I filled out the necessary paper work. Three days later at 6:00 a.m. I received another e-mail saying that my project had been approved. It was ready for me to share with the world. I again e-mailed my contact list. I spent that day smiling as my phone continued to vibrate.Each vibration meant that people were indeed donating. I shared it with my class and they were all smiling too. By 6:00 that evening, no more than 12 hours after that initial e-mail, we were fully funded. The $10,000 miracle was real...it was not quite the way I had imagined it, but they do say he works in mysterious ways!