Remember WALL-E? The first thing that comes to my mind is the robot itself. He had that rusty look from years without actually going through maintenance and all the hard work. Plus he had those sad eyes even though he didn’t really have a face. Then there was the cockroach. I’ve read somewhere that they can survive anything really, like a nuclear holocaust for example. Finally, I remember all the garbage. So much garbage everywhere that humans had left Earth to live on a gigantic ship that orbited the planet. You know what’s the most striking thing about all of this? WALL-E was released 11 years ago. Has anything changed since then or are we much closer to the reality in that adorable animation?
While I may have many different memories about WALL-E, the ones I mentioned above really stuck with me. And I remember most of the movie was silent. I mean, WALL-E couldn’t speak, neither could his newly discovered friend EVE, this incredibly advanced robot WALL-E fell in love with. Much less the cockroach. What was truly gripping about WALL-E was the story of these remarkable characters in a post-apolocapytic scenario. The soundtrack was incredible too. I remember these details because of the powerful message the animation intended to convey.
That’s the magic of using pictures, particularly motion pictures. Videos are among the best resources we can use to convey any message. And they don’t need to be as long as a 1h30min movie. They could be as short as 5min like Greta Thunberg’s powerful speech at the UN Climate Action Summit. As a matter of fact, I remember the first time I learned about this girl standing outside the Swedish parliament with a sign demanding more urgent actions against climate change. I read something in The Guardian and saw a photo of her. Some days later I watched a video about her on YouTube. The video caused a much bigger impact on me.
Another example of how video impacted my life, which coincidentally relates to Greta’s agenda, has to do with my recent Eurotrip. I traveled to Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Hungary, and crossed bits of Czechia and basically all of Austria by train. I was a speaker at three conferences in some of these different countries and decided to buy Interrail’s Global Pass to travel within the European continent. It was an adventure, I’ll admit it. Take a look at how much land I covered in a matter of two weeks
What does that have to do with video? Well, if you’ve been following me for some time, you probably know that I’ve been recording videos in many different countries for a mini – and incredibly amateur – documentary that I intend to edit into an online course. It’s a new take on my Neuroscience and Learning Online Course. To give you an idea, I shot a video in front of the Medical School of Lisbon to talk about António Damásio’s contribution to neuroscience. I also recorded at the University of Zürich where Piaget studied under Carl Jung, and in Barcelona, where Ramón y Cajal discovered the synapses. The long train journeys gave me some time to rewatch the videos and do some editing, even though I’m still far from the final product, and even shoot more videos.
Traveling by train is also much more eco-friendly than flying. Everything ended up being way cheaper if I had to buy tickets from and to Zurich, where I was staying with my uncle and aunt, and my carbon footprint was reduced at least for those two weeks. Also, traveling by train allows you to see more of this beautiful planet from up close. The beautiful mountains in Switzerland and Austria, along with the rivers, lakes, forests, and, enormous green fields. You can also see deforested areas, cities, and garbage. You get to see both worlds.
Thinking about this long reflection of mine, my question to you, my fellow teacher, is: how often do you use video in your lessons? How do you use it? Do you normally play something to develop listening skills? What else could you do?
Here are some general tips on how to use video in the classroom:
- Your students can be excellent videomakers. Give them the chance to show it.
- Use students’ cell phones to film certain activities in your lesson and then share with them on an online platform for feedback.
- If you travel a lot or have friends who do, ask them to film different scenarios and people and use this material in class.
- Set up an Instagram account for your groups and have them do live sessions now and then.
- Assign a project that allows your students to create different styles of video, such as an animation, a stop motion short movie, a documentary, a commercial, a host show, etc.
- Let students do their homework using video. They can film themselves answering the questions of an activity for example.
- Have students write a campaign and shoot a 1-min video about the topic they choose.
- Have a video competition.
Even though these tips are quite general, I suppose you get the gist.
Video is part of our realities more than ever now and we must take advantage of it. Through video we can deliver powerful messages or even create silly and enjoyable shows that have a big impact on us and, consequently, help us memorize better. As a matter of fact, despite my lack of expertise in the art of videomaking, I managed to make the video below for a competition that I sadly lost (this time). It’s not all that bad and I chose to use my good friend Mr. Trunk as protagonist. Let me know what you think.
It took me a while to think of a script, get all the shots, get my lines right and edit this video. But you know what? I loved the whole process and I’m kinda proud of it. I think the soundtrack gives it something special. This is something that you could definitely have your students do.
Now stop a moment and think how incredibly empowering it would be for our students to share their stories, their ambitions, their concerns, and their silly moments in life in our classroom. Some of them might want to become environmental activists like Great Thunberg. Others might want to explore the world and make their own videos about the most breathtaking landscapes they go through. Others might even want to become animators or directors like Andrew Stanton, the guy who directed WALL-E. The truth is: we have no idea where we’re going and it’d be wonderful to have more and more voices warning people, politicians, NGOs, and the private corporation that we need to rethink what we’re doing to this planet and that it’s urgent. Greta Thunberg got her voice through video on social media and also the conventional media. She was able to mobilize thousands of people, specially young ones, to join the Global Climate Strike in different cities around the world.
I still have hope, but if everything fails, it’d be nice at least to have a record of how wonderfully amazing this planet was so that we can cause an even bigger impact on future generations who will be in charge of fixing the mess we’ve made for them. It’d be like the scene in WALL-E where the captain, who’s morbidly obese like every other human, of the gigantic spaceship finds a little plant that WALL-E kept in an old shoe. Puzzled by it, because humans hadn’t seen plants in ages, he starts a chain of events that get them out of their inertia and leads them back to Earth, after realizing that our planet is still worth saving.
By the way, I’d love to see some of your students’ videos. If you post anything on social media and use the hashtag #edcrocks or send it to my email, firstname.lastname@example.org, you can get a 50% discount my courses below, except for BILINGUALISM: LANGUAGE AND COGNITION.