You might not have thought much about the words synchronous and asynchronous until ‘the time of Covid’ forced so many of us to carry on educating our students from afar. Thanks to modern technology we have online platforms that have enabled us to bring teachers and students together despite being geographically separated.
For those whose students are older and in the same time zone, teaching them synchronistically has worked well to a point but developing synergy while collaborating and synthesizing ideas in a breakout group is certainly more challenging than when you are in the same physical space.
We all sympathize with those teaching younger students as they just can’t, and shouldn’t, sit at a device for long periods of time. Instigating some asynchronous learning for these students has been so valuable, just as it has been for students of all ages in international schools spread around the world in different time zones.
It almost seems to be an anachronism that in the year 2020 we could have a virus infiltrate every corner of the globe. Given everything that science has conquered, it is quite mysterious that something so tiny could hold us all to ransom in this day and age.
But here we are, forging on, working together to find new ways to stay healthy, to stay connected, and to stay joyful. Perhaps these ‘new ways’ are not new at all but a return to really noticing and honouring the interdependence of all beings. Covid19 may indeed symbolize the power of nature and remind us that our relationship with nature could be regarded as symbiotic; we need nature to survive and nature needs us to treat the planet with respect. Together we just might solve many of the world's looming problems.
Words have stories
We use words to write stories but words have stories of their own too.
What unites the words synchronic, asynchronous and even anachronism? It’s not pronunciation as the stress lies in different places in each word, masking the relationship among them. But if we turn to meaning and look to identify the elements of each word we find they share a common base, <chrone>, which carries a sense of ‘time’. This base can be traced from English back through Latin to Greek and we see it surface in other Present Day English (PDE) words such as chronic, synchronize, diachronic and chronological.
syn + chrone/ + ous + ly → synchronously
a + syn + chrone/ + ous + ly → asynchronously
And what of synergy, synchronous and synthesis? While the bases differ, they all share the prefix <syn->, a Greek prefix which carries a sense of “together with, at the same time” and as we are all getting through this together it’s a great affix to investigate at this present time. Then, too, when we find a medial <y> in an element it almost always signals a link to Greek origins. We see this in words such as physical and mysterious.
synchronous: “happening at the same time, happening together”
asynchronous: “not happening at the same time, not happening together”
synergy: “working together”
synthesis: “to put or place together”
Some prefixes, including <syn->, have varying forms, depending on the first letter of the base to which they are fixed. This prefix often assimilates to <sym-> and can be found in words such as sympathy, symbiosis, symmetry and even symbol.
syn- synchronic, synthesis, synergy, synopsis, syncretism
sym- sympathetic, symbiosis, symmetrical, symbolic, symphony
Just as a blend of synchronous and asynchronous study seems to have proven the best way to move forward for schools unable to be on campus, I am offering a new style of my Access Word Inquiry workshop that will afford you time to study asynchronously and synchronously. For each module you’ll have a week or more to view a prerecorded video and then we’ll come together as a community to further discuss concepts and share thinking. It starts soon, so check it out now.
Here are some student sheets you could take something from to use with almost any age student. Remind your students that words get to be in the same morphological family if they share the spelling and meaning/sense of the base. Words that share affixes (which carry the same sense or meaning) will have commonalities but not be in the same family as their bases differ.