During my preparations for the lecture I put together a power point with pictures of the inventors, their basic bio info, what they are known for and what they invented, and of course a picture of what they invented. I also included pics of the evolution of some of the inventions to show how much they have evolved since the original.
When we got to the telegraph an interesting thought came to me as I was lecturing--"Do Koreans know Morse code?"
And then another thought, a rather startling one considering "SOS" is an international/global piece of emergency/crisis information, hit me even harder: "Do Koreans know what the Morse code is for "SOS"? And for that matter, what is "SOS"?
I showed the trainees a picture of Samuel F. B. Morse, and some pictures of the first telegraph machines . . . and then asked my questions.
The trainees all had looks of puzzlement on their faces--and I'm sure mine must have mirrored their puzzlement but the articulation of my own had more to do with disbelief (though I should know better after 4 years here) that none of them knew what SOS was . . .
I was especially perplexed that none of the male trainees knew about this because they have military training. I guess this really illuminates that you can NEVER assume anything about what language learners 'should know' regardless of what the topic is.
And as I point this spotlight on what the trainees don't know I'll point it at myself too. While doing research for my THREE hour lecture (good god why do people think language learners can handle a 3 hour class?) I came across this basic bio info about Morse himself,
Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) was an American painter of portraits and historic scenes, the creator of a single wire telegraph system, and Morse Code. (from wikipedia.com)
I had NO IDEA that he was a painter . . . how cool is that?!
During the lecture I mentioned that children in North America learn a little bit of Morse code in the Boy Scouts, at summer camps sometimes as a task-based activity, and in many other situations both educational and recreational.
Thinking about this now I think that it'd be a very cool and fun lesson for Korean students to do. Decode the messages into English from Morse code, and then give students English messages that they have to make into Morse code messages.
I'd have to sit down and put some serious lesson planning creativity into how that might work as a conversation/speaking lesson because that's what many foreign teachers are expected to do in public schools . . . but I think using Morse code as a learning tool for recognizing and producing words and phrases could be a very fun and productive language learning experience. Korean students LOVE puzzles and solving problems--Morse code is something that fulfills both of those interests.
Here is some cool Morse code info that I couldn't go into during my lecture due to time constraints . . .
An important application is signalling for help through SOS, "· · · — — — · · ·". This can be sent many ways: keying a radio on and off, flashing a mirror, toggling a flashlight and similar methods.
Morse code as an assistive technology
Morse code has been employed as an assistive technology, helping people with a variety of disabilities to communicate. Morse can be sent by persons with severe motion disabilities, as long as they have some minimal motor control. In some cases this means alternately blowing into and sucking on a plastic tube ("puff and sip" interface). People with severe motion disabilities in addition to sensory disabilities (e.g. people who are also deaf or blind) can receive Morse through a skin buzzer.
In one case reported in the radio amateur magazine QST, an old shipboard radio operator who had a stroke and lost the ability to speak or write was able to communicate with his physician (a radio amateur) by blinking his eyes in Morse. Another example occurred in 1966 when prisoner of war Jeremiah Denton, brought on television by his North Vietnamese captors, Morse-blinked the word TORTURE.
So I guess there are two things I came away with from my lecture today. One was that even after four years in Korea and all of the teaching experience and exposure I have with Korean language learners I can still be shocked about something I assumed they would know--and I thought that I had broken myself of the assumption habit in relation to almost anything and everything in Korea . . .
The second thing is,
If you're trapped in an earthquake, or in an emergency situation in Korea--don't assume that potential rescuers know SOS and Morse code.
I have no way of checking whether or not rescue workers, fire fighters, police, ambulance, and army training in Korea involves Morse code, or at the very least learning to recognize "SOS" when people are trapped in collapsed buildings . . . or whatever the situation might be . . . . but I really hope that they do have some knowledge about SOS.
Here's hoping that I never find myself in a situation where I forget that SOS doesn't seem to be a common cultural fact and use it when I hear rescuers coming . . . and the rescuers fail to recognize it as a human signaling for help and think it's something else . . .