Technology gives us the ability to do amazing things in education. A few weeks ago some of our students wrote letters to soldiers in honor of Veterans Day. We could tell that the students didn’t really understand the concept of “protecting our country.” All of our students currently in our Lower School were born after September 11, 2001. A few of them have heard of that day, but for the most part it is to us like Pearl Harbor or JFK’s assassination. Some teachers and I were trying to come up with a way to make this letter writing experience more meaningful before the students wrote more letters to include in Christmas care packages being sent overseas.
We were throwing around ideas and thought about trying to Skype with someone currently serving in our military. I immediately thought of one of my Randolph classmates, Brad Harkey ’05. He graduated a year after me, but our paths always seemed to cross. After Randolph, we both attended Auburn University.
Brad is currently serving in Afghanistan as a 1st Lieutenant in the 1782 Engineer Company of the Army National Guard. I contacted Brad and asked him if he would be interested in helping me out with a project. He said he would be more than willing to help us out. Excitement continued to build as we began to plan.
I knew this was going to be something that we were going to want to “keep” after the fact. So, in addition to Skype, we used a program called Camtasia to record the session. The week before our Skype session, Brad and I practiced Skyping to make sure that we had a good connection between us. All looked good and he said the only thing we would need to worry about would be a possible black-out in Afghanistan. Usually these are announced and we should know ahead of time if this would be an issue.
Our teachers in second and third grades jumped at the opportunity to take part in this experience. We had the students come up with things they wanted to ask Brad. Each class submitted their questions; then we sat down and picked those that would make for the best conversation. Once the questions were chosen, I sent them to Brad so that he would know what to expect. The teachers chose a representative from each class to read one of these questions to Brad.
The night before our Skype session, I contacted Brad again to make sure that there were no expected blackouts and he said that we should be good-to-go. The next morning, we set everything up and Brad called in right on time. We had a few minutes to spare before the kids filed in, but we wanted to go ahead and be connected. During our little break, our connection was lost three or four times. As soon as the kids started coming in, our connection was great. You know how technology is, you can check everything possible to make sure it’s working, but you still keep your fingers crossed and hope that everything runs smoothly. Well, it did!
The Skype session went off without a hitch. We projected the session onto a screen so that all of the students could see Brad. He started out with an excited, “How ya doing, Raiders?” which got an eager response from the kids. They were entranced, watching this soldier right in front of them answering their questions. Our class representatives did a great job asking their questions in a clear voice. After we finished asking our questions, we asked Brad if there was anything else that he would like to tell us. He ended by saying something that really stuck with all of our students:
To all these young guys and girls out here, as you go through Randolph and if you graduate from Randolph, it’ll be there the rest of your lives. I know my best friend at Randolph was the best man at my wedding. These friends you’ll have for the rest of your life. Serving over here and seeing how people treat each other, I would encourage each and every one of you to be the best of friends with each and every one of your classmates. Like I said, Randolph goes everywhere with you. Even in Afghanistan, I’ve got my Randolph Raiders T-shirt!
When it was time to say goodbye, you could tell by the length of the goodbyes that nobody wanted it to end. This was such a memorable experience for our Lower School students and I can’t thank Brad enough for carving time out of his busy schedule to be with us. After such a positive experience and response, you can bet that this won’t be the last Skype session done in the Lower School at Randolph.
Melissa Sconyers Tucker '04 is the Lower School Technology Specialist.