When I was younger, my parents told me I could do and be anything if I put my mind to it. That’s something a lot of children hear from their encouraging parents, and perhaps that’s why kids are dreamers with wild imaginations.
Allison Holland helps kids at Riverside Intermediate School in Plymouth, Indiana fulfill those dreams. She is an eLearning coach who educates students and teachers about digital citizenship and helps them use new online learning tools. Recently, Holland helped turn a small celebrity request from a student into a ‘tall (7 foot, 1 inch) tale’ experience of a lifetime for the whole school.
It started with a letter. “One of our 6th grade students wrote to Shaquille O’Neal asking him for an autograph,” Holland said. “Shaq’s step dad called the school, spoke with the student’s teacher, Patty Welch, and told her that Shaq would love to offer signed copies of his newest book. Welch asked if he’d be willing to Skype with his classroom.” Instead, Shaq wound up agreeing to a Skype video call…with the entire school.
Shaq talked to the students about the importance of reading – he just got his doctorate in education – highlighted his NBA career and discussed his new children’s book, Shaq in the Beanstalk and Other Very Tall Tales:
Holland and many of the teachers within her school district were already members of the Skype in the classroom program, which helps global K-12 educators plan video lessons with each other and subject experts, prior to the video call with Shaq. “We’ve used Skype several times before. Most recently, we did a video call with a park ranger from Yellowstone National Park.” The ranger gave students clues as to where she was video calling from. Then, the kids had to solve riddles and put the hints together to guess her location.
“Using Skype, the kids get really excited! When the call comes in and they can see people’s faces, everyone just yells in excitement,” Holland said. “But after that, they always stay quiet in absolute wonderment. To get a full room of grade school kids completely silent and engaged…it’s incredible.”
While the video call with Shaq was quite a dream, Holland and the students at her school are already thinking about what’s next. “We would love to have pen pals through Skype so we can check in with students from another international classroom daily,” she said. “I’m looking to connect my students at Lincoln Junior High School with a classroom in South Korea – we’re sending them a camera so we can start soon!”