A Powerful Tool for Homeschooling: Ham Radio
Before we start, let’s look specifically at the issue of why PreppComm has homeschooling blogs? Why is PreppComm interested in homeschooling? Or maybe it is the other way around...
Homeschooling: Why the PreppComm MMX and DMX-40 change everything!
The article using ham radio in homeschooling below is a great general overview of how to use ham radio to teach STEM and other areas subjects effectively. However, it is important to note that the DMX-40, introduced less than 2 years ago, changes the possibilities significantly. Why is that?
The student and teacher do not need to know Morse code to begin learning. In fact, the easiest way to learn the code ever invented is by allowing your brain to do it for you, subconsciously. And, at the same time, get to use the radio and learn about band conditions, tuning, learning to type or use a manual key, etc. How is this possible?
The answer is cognitive association. This is a brain function that is operating all the time. It is the function that warns you when you are about to do something that did not turn out so good the last time. The brain looks for causative events and their results, and matches them, and then as they are repeated, the match grows stronger. Once strong enough, the brain reports the result before it occurs. For our products, the causative event is a particular character being received in audio, going into the brain via the ear. The resulting event is the character appearing on the screen. This happens with or without you paying attention: your brain IS ALWAYS paying attention! After enough repeats, the audio code result is put into your conscious mind before it even appears on the LCD screen! In other words, when the letter L is received in code, you will think "L". And then you will see it on the LCD as a validation. This usually takes a few months of usage.
But it gets better than that! Your brain is learning in the context of a flow of characters! You are learning not just the codes, but words. This approach puts your brain to work and lets you relax and have fun while it is learning. The best part? Kids brains are much faster and better at this process than adults, so their learning curve will be significantly faster!
So while they are learning various STEM subjects around amateur radio, including getting their Technician Class license, they can be learning by listening, tuning, exploring, and even transmitting into a dummy load. They can use the keyboard, and learn all of the commands for using and adjusting the rig. And, they can use a straight key plugged into the rig and use it to monitor their keying, displaying the results on the LCD screen. It is the ONLY key practice system we know of that actually listens and tells you what the other guy thinks you sent. This is using the intelligent decoder for code practice. We recommend not starting key code practice until the student is very familiar with the transceiver operation, and can operate it easily. There is a great advantage of having learned the rhythm of code by listening before attempting to recreate it yourself.
And there it is: the other reason everything has changed! In the past, to go on the air on HF required another General or Extra Class licensed operator to be present, as a Technician Class licensee cannot operate on HF except with Morse code. And that is why we invented the DMX-40: to make it possible for the lowest level licensee - the Technician Class - to use HF, the best bands for all distance communications - from local to international - without having any external infrastructure requirement, such as the internet, AC power, or repeaters!
As an aside, this is also why the DMX-40 is such a great preparedness radio!
And now, the article on amateur radio in the homeschool!
A Powerful Tool for Homeschooling: Ham Radio
Ham radio is an exciting and versatile technology that can be used in many ways to expand and benefit both the homeschool teacher and students, from communication to emergency preparedness to scientific research. Ham radio can be an excellent tool for teaching students about electronics, radio waves, geography, social skills, and much more. Let’s start by looking at some ham radio details.
Ham Radio Technical Details
The best Ham radio for home schooling operates in the high frequency (HF) spectrum, which spans from 3 MHz to 30 MHz. This frequency range allows radio waves to travel long distances via ionospheric skip propagation, making it possible to communicate with other hams across the country and even around the world. Ham radio operators use various modes of communication, including voice (single-sideband, or SSB), Morse code (also known as CW), and digital modes such as FT8 and PSK31. VHF/UHF frequencies are also available for local and repeater use, but can fail during emergencies.
To transmit on ham radio frequencies, operators need a transmitter, an antenna, and a power source. Transceivers, which include both the transmitter and the receiver, can range from simple kits that students can build themselves to more complex multi-band transceivers that can cost thousands of dollars. Antennas can be as simple as a wire strung up between two trees or as complex as a multi-element beam antenna that can be rotated to point in different directions.
For homeschooling, Morse code or CW is recommended. More on that later.
In addition to transmitting and receiving, ham radio operators also participate in contests, awards programs, and special events. For example, the annual ARRL Field Day event is a great way for homeschoolers to practice their communication skills and compete against other hams from around the country.
Using Ham Radio in Homeschooling
There are many different ways to enhance the education of children and teens by incorporating the many aspects of ham radio into their education, from a very young age to teen years. In addition to an exciting educational aspect, it also provides the possibility of a great hobby with many different exciting aspects that can last a lifetime. Here are some of the ways to apply this tool to enhance home school curriculum.
One of the biggest advantages of using ham radio in homeschooling is the hands-on learning experience it offers. Kids can learn how to set up and use ham radios, antennas, and other equipment, which helps to develop their fine motor skills, as well as their understanding of basic electronics and circuitry. This type of hands-on learning can be especially beneficial for kinesthetic learners who learn best through tactile experiences.
By learning about radio waves, electronics, and communication technology, students can gain an understanding of the basic principles of electrical engineering. They can experiment with and study the different types of antennas and frequencies to explore the science of radio waves and how they propagate through space (physics and math). Students can also learn about the different modes of communication, such as CW and digital modes and modulation techniques (applied science/technology for communications), and practice sending and receiving messages using these modes (communication techniques and social skills). Finally, combining ham radio with basic electronic kits and simple CW transceiver kits can teach about electrical components and circuitry, the basic building blocks of modern electrical engineering.
One of the most exciting aspects of ham radio is the ability to communicate with people from around the world. Homeschoolers can learn about different cultures, customs, and languages by speaking with people in other countries, which can foster a greater appreciation for diversity and global awareness.
By tracking the locations of the hams they communicate with, students can also gain an understanding of geography and map reading. They can learn about the different time zones and how they affect communication, and even practice speaking or writing in different languages.
In addition to its educational benefits, ham radio is also an important tool for emergency preparedness. During natural disasters or other emergencies, traditional communication infrastructure can become overwhelmed or fail completely. Ham radio, however, operates independently of traditional communication channels and can be used to transmit critical information, such as weather updates or evacuation orders. Homeschoolers can learn about the importance of emergency communication and how to use ham radio in the event of an emergency.
Social Skills Lessons
In addition to the social skills described above when communicating over the air with other hams, students and parents can also join ham radio clubs and organizations, attend meetings and events, and meet other hams in person.
While there are many wonderful communication modes and tools available, the best for homeschooling is Morse code. This is the simplest, oldest, and most reliable in difficult circumstances, such as bad band conditions and emergencies. It also has the most educational value, and learning Morse code can stimulate the brain into organized and logical pathways. It has also been a comfort and help for some with various learning difficulties.
With that said, the best way to get excitement into the process is to get on the air - at first, just listening (while working on getting the license), and later by actually making contacts, i.e., talking via text using code with other hams on the air. However, in the past, this has required that the student spend hours and hours getting the knack of sending code, as well as the even harder task of hearing code and translating it into text in their head. This can be a significant damper on the learning process. Studying for the General Class license is also difficult.
As we discussed above, PreppComm has recently introduced a new line of Morse Transceivers that allow learning code while using code. This method uses cognitive association to learn while listening and seeing the translation appear, and by the built-in decoder listening to the students keying and displaying what it thinks they are sending. This is the absolute best education system for Morse code available, all built into a small, portable, low power transceiver. The computer is built-in, and a keyboard is included for control and text input. A key can also be used.
The recommended approach is to combine a DMX-40 Morse Transceiver from PreppComm with a basic electronics kit from ELEGOO, available on Amazon. This combination provides a complete range of educational experiences for ham radio and basic electronics in the homeschool.
In conclusion, ham radio is a fascinating and valuable technology that can be used in many ways in homeschooling. Whether you are teaching science and technology, geography, emergency preparedness, or social skills, ham radio can provide an engaging and hands-on way for students to learn and explore. With the right equipment and guidance, homeschoolers can discover the exciting world of ham radio and develop skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. And of course, that means PreppComm equipment!