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To think about the immediacy of communications today and whether this is a good thing

by Kate Fleming

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


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

Preparation and materials

  • Mobile phone - does not have actually to work.
  • Lap-top computer - again, can be a dummy, or you could pretend to 'txt' on the mobile.
  • Look through the meditation below in advance.


  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, saying something like:

    Hello Sarah, how are you? Just a quick call to remind you to remember Paula's birthday.
    You had remembered - fine!
    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 e-mail (or send a text message to) your friend Maryann, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, America. Then tap away at the keyboard, speaking as you (pretend to) type.

    Dear Maryann
    Hope you are having a good week, and enjoying some Arizona sunshine.
    Weather here is chilly, but Spring has arrived.
    Hope the swimming pool is finished.
    Take care and talk to you soon.

  3. Explain that your friend will get the message within minutes. She might even get back to you before the assembly finishes, unless of course she's in bed. Suggest that this type of communication is amazing. We can hear about things happening all over the world within minutes of them actually taking place:

    earthquakes in India
    droughts in Ethiopia
    floods in America
    forest fires
    showbiz marriages
    sports results
    military coups
    election results
    oil spills

    All kinds of events surround our lives instantly. We are bombarded with news of such events all the time.

  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 e-mail, or by fax, or on the early evening news. How do you think people heard about Jesus?

    By word of mouth. People who travelled on the communication network of the time - the long, straight Roman roads. 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 countries.
    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 it is 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! Maryann 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

Dear God,
Our world is getting smaller with each day.
Help us to appreciate our fellow human beings across the world,
and use modern communication to increase our understanding and tolerance.


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

Curriculum links

English, RE, History, PSHE

Publication date: May 2001   (Vol.3 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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