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To think about the immediacy of communications today, compared with Roman times, and to consider whether being saturated with news affects our ability to understand and appreciate it.

by Kate Fleming

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To think about the immediacy of communications today, compared with Roman times, and to consider whether being saturated with news affects our ability to understand and appreciate it.

Preparation and materials

  • Mobile phone.

  • Laptop – or you could pretend to ‘txt’ on the mobile.

Assembly

  1. Start the assembly by saying something like this. While you are all getting settled, I’ll just have time to phone my friend who lives in Aberdeen, in Scotland, about xx miles away’ (if in Scotland, or even Aberdeen, substitute appropriately!). Speak on the phone/to the laptop, saying something like:

    Hello, Sarah, how are you? Just a quick call to remind you to remember Paula’s birthday.

    (Pause)
     
    You had remembered – fine!

    (Pause)

    I’m in school, just about to take an assembly. I’ll talk to you later. Bye!

  2. Continue by saying that if everyone can wait a little longer, you’d just like to email (or text) your friend Maryanne, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, America. Then tap away at the keyboard, speaking as you (pretend to) type.

    Hi, Maryanne
    Hope you’re having a good week, and enjoying some Arizona sunshine. Weather here is chilly, but the summer was good/bad/ok.
    Hope the swimming pool is finished.
    Take care and talk to you soon.
    SEND!
  3. Ask the children when your friend will get the message. She might even get back to you before the assembly finishes, unless of course she’s in bed. Suggest that this type of communication, although now commonplace, is amazing. We hear about things happening all over the world within minutes of their actually taking place:

    earthquakes in India
    droughts in Ethiopia
    floods in America
    murders
    forest fires
    showbiz marriages
    sports results
    riots
    election results
    shipwrecks
    oil spills.

    All kinds of events surround our lives instantly. We are bombarded with news. Explain that communications have only been like this for the last 20 years or so!
  4. Ask the children: What can happen if you have too much of something?

    Too much chocolate?
    Too much TV?
    Too much ice cream?
    Too much football?

    You get fed up with it, tired of it. You get used to it.
  5. Ask: How do you think people heard about things that were happening before we had phones and computers? How did they hear news in Roman times? Not on their mobile phones, or their email, or on Twitter or Facebook, or on the early evening news. How do you think people heard about Jesus?

    By word of mouth. From people who travelled on the communication network of the time – the long, straight Roman roads. And by letters. Letters were written with reed pens on rolls of papyrus, and carried by the travellers. Who do you think these travellers were?

    Soldiers marching from place to place to keep the peace.
    Traders moving from one province to another to buy and sell goods.
    Athletes going from one games meeting to the next.
    Christian missionaries spreading the gospel.
    Government officials collecting taxes and checking finances across the empire.
    Couriers taking important messages.
    Sightseers going to look at the wonders of Rome.

    All these people would bring news. It was obviously much slower in those days, and people had more time to appreciate what was news and how it affected them. The bringer of news would be welcomed and truly valued.
  6. We can’t change the world of communications of today back to how it used to be. It’s getting faster all the time, and we wouldn’t want it to be any different. But don’t let’s get immune to, or fed up with, or tired of, or used to, what happens to our fellow human beings, whether on our doorstep or on the other side of the world. In this wonderful world of communications, let us take advantage of this wealth of instant information and become truly responsible citizens of the world.

    Interrupt yourself with something like: Oh look! Maryanne has got back to me with her special news from Arizona.
  7. Suggest that today, each child might like to choose a news item that has happened in the last 24 hours and find out more about it.

Time for reflection

Prayer
Dear God,
our world seems to be getting smaller each week.
Help us to appreciate our fellow human beings across the world,
and use modern communications to increase our understanding and tolerance.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Go, tell it on the mountain’ (Come and Praise, 24)

Publication date: September 2011   (Vol.13 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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