The power of video: Greta Thunberg and my eco-friendly Eurotrip

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.

Incredible street art in Bristol

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:

  1. Your students can be excellent videomakers. Give them the chance to show it.
  2. Use students’ cell phones to film certain activities in your lesson and then share with them on an online platform for feedback.
  3. If you travel a lot or have friends who do, ask them to film different scenarios and people and use this material in class.
  4. Set up an Instagram account for your groups and have them do live sessions now and then.
  5. 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.
  6. Let students do their homework using video. They can film themselves answering the questions of an activity for example.
  7. Have students write a campaign and shoot a 1-min video about the topic they choose.
  8. 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, contact@edcrocks.com.br, you can get a 50% discount my courses below, except for BILINGUALISM: LANGUAGE AND COGNITION.

You can read the modules of each course on my homepage

The Origin of Mr. Trunk, my travel buddy – and a stuffed elephant

MrTrunk

It was a hot afternoon – like 300 other in a typical Goiânia year – a little over a year ago and I had just finished a frustrating lesson with my CEFR-B2 group. Nothing had worked as intended that day. I wasn’t particularly motivated, my students were even less and misbehavior and distractions took over. I had to intervene many times and getting the almost 20 teenagers to listen to me simply failed.

“I need to teach them to be more responsible”. Those words echoed in my head as I left for home. The next day of class, a couple of hours before the lesson, I had to go to Lojas Americanas in the mall near my apartment. “I need to teach them to be more responsible” was still ringing in my mind as I walked toward the exit line. That was when I saw it. Fluffy, furry and gray. With its protruding trunk sticking out of an enormous basket. Alongside this fluffy finding of mine, there were tens of other fluffy friends. Giraffes, dogs, cats, a lion, owls, a dolphin and, as usual, bears. But my eyes were drawn to its trunk. I bought it for 12 reais and took it to my classroom.

In the classroom, I kept it a secret until the last ten minutes of the lesson. Then I started an improvised lecture about how responsibility is important and that normally parents give their kids pets when they want to teach them to be more responsible. Well, I wasn’t going to give them a puppy or a kitten, right? I had something slightly different. And finally the revelation: I pulled it out of my bag. A 25cm stuffed elephant. Can you imagine what my students thought when I did that? They were 15-17 years old and, that’s what I think anyway, not particularly fond of stuffed animals anymore. That was for kids, right? However, to my surprise, they immediately clicked with this fluffy and furry little thing.

Our new elephant had yet to be named. One student thought trump meant trunk because it sounds like the Portuguese word “tromba” and that’s the name we gave it: Mr. Trump. In my defense, it came from one of my students and we had no idea the word Trump would bring so many negative emotions then. Anyway, my first student to take Mr. Trump home was Bruna. I asked her to photograph Mr. Trump in pleasant situations and tell me what it had done in the following class. Soon enough everyone wanted to take Mr. Trump home and spend some time with it. Since then, more than 30 students have spent some quality time with this adventurous elephant.

Mr. Trump became popular among my students, colleagues, and friends. I took Mr. Trump on its very first international trip in July last year. Upon our arrival, a friend told me to change its name to avoid hard feelings. Wise advice. Mr. Trump became Mr. Trunk. It became a he. He gained life in my classes and became part of my students’ life. It is truly amazing what a stuffed animal can do when used right. My lessons became more affective. I felt more connected with my students because they took Mr. Trunk home and photographed him with their families, living their lives, having fun with them.

Today, one year later, I couldn’t be more proud of my travel buddy who, by the way, has been to five countries already! Yeah, that’s right. He’s been to the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, and Portugal. He’s also been to a lot of different states in Brazil and he wants to keep going further. He travels with me, my student’s, friends and even my wife. And he enjoys it very much. He told me his favorite place so far was Mexico.

Mr. Trunk is a fun guy who loves a challenge and is always with me, attending conferences, delivering lessons and lectures, training teachers, learning. Many people I meet want to take a picture with him. If you want to find out more about this fearless young elephant, use the hashtag #mrtrunktravels on social media. Thanks, buddy. You rock! To honor you, I’ve made this video:

I hope you like the story of my friend and I’d like to invite you to a challenge. I will ask a couple of questions below about how to use Mr. Trunk in the classroom and I promise I’ll record a video answering them as soon as possible. But before I do, why don’t you give them a shot here:

-how can you use Mr. Trunk with teens?

-how can you use Mr. Trunk with adults?

-how could you teach grammar and vocabulary using Mr. Trunk?

PS: I thought my idea of a traveling puppet was original. Boy/girl,  was I wrong! There are many projects with this concept and a great one to get involved with is iEARN’s The Teddy Bear Project. Also, check out Juan Uribe’s wonderful work with Buddy the Frog and affective learning.

Uncertain Future, Critical Thinking and an Endless Journey to Curiosity – A student’s perspective

pp.jpg
My CEFR-B1 student Julia wrote this incredible entry!  Júlia is a 14-year-old Brazilian girl who loves books, movies, History, math, writing, art, and philosophy. She is also very interested in music and poetry. I’ve been trying to make her get more interested in astrophysics! She told me she liked it and I recommended Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos series, Carl Sagan and, of course, Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. 

Hi!

My name is Júlia Mota, André’s student at CCBEU, and I’m going to talk about the future.
My teacher always shows us TED speeches, texts and different videos talking about people who changed their lifestyle, had an amazing idea, innovated or invented something. It’s made me think a lot about what am I going to do with my life, what I will be in the future. I’m always asking myself those questions, and that’s a normal thing for a teenager, because we have an existential crisis almost every day, though. I was being haunted by them all the time, and no one was collaborating, because in life you hear lots of people rushing you about those decisions that you have to make (detail: probably the most important decisions too) exceptionally when you’re going to high school. After thinking a lot, I made some conclusions.

TED_banner.png

As Kierkegaard, an existentialist philosopher once said:

“Life is a leap in the dark”

You never know what’s expecting you, but you have to jump on it. When we’re making important decisions in our lives, we have to take our time. The formula of success is patience, hard work, and faith. Patience because as my mother always told me: haste is the enemy of perfection. Hard work because you have to fight for your dreams, and never give up. And finally, faith. You have to believe in yourself because if you don’t, who will?

How many people said that they want to change the world? Lots. And how many people actually fought and changed it? Not many. It’s up to you to decide which one of them you’re going to be. I made my decision: I’m going to change the world. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, I can’t see the future. But I’m sure that I will! What about you?

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Albert Einstein

Braz-Tesol SIG Symposium – Day 2

19756755_1706120886094959_4415864974916297132_n
Natália Guerreiro inspired me (and Mr. Trunk, obviously) during her incredibly well-delivered plenary on CPD

The second day of Braz-Tesol SIG Symposium was phenomenal. It started with the interesting plenary of Marcelo Barros about school management. Marcelo is in the Leadership and Management (LAM) SIG and he talked about our economic system, how it affects the market, the fact that China is what resembles the most what we have, except for one major detail: China accepts only Native English-Speaking Teachers (NESTs). He also laid out the 4 pillars of management:

-Learning to know

-Learning to do

-Learning to live together

-Learning to be

Next, I attended my dear friend Claire Venables’ amazing session on Reflection, Empowerment, and Action. In her session, we were forced (good sense here) to look back and think of the best professional decision we made in the past six months so that we could identify how we’re moving forward toward our goal. She made us write down (this was the brain dump bit) some of the experiences and achievements we would like to have by the end of this year. Her great presentation enlightened me and gave me the clarity I need to focus on my mission. Her mission is to CREATE, CONTRIBUTE, CONNECT and I’m amazed at how much she has accomplished already. It was only because of this session that I was able to write down my mission for the first time: SHARE, INSPIRE, CHANGE. Thank you so much, Claire! Your tip on how to mind mind traps and mindsets has set me on a course of accomplishing even more great things.

19884455_1478535118836563_4750475294352464671_n

My next experience was simply fantastic! I had the privilege of watching Natália Guerreiro’s first plenary. She’s with the Teacher Development (TD) SIG. The funny thing is that I’ve always wanted to meet Natália in person and that when she saw me the day before, she shouted: “That’s André Hedlund!” I had a blast! Then we met during the coffee break and when I asked her how she was doing, she replied: “I got the flu and I’m nervous because of my presentation”. Well, Natália, if I had known how awesome your presentation would be, I would’ve told you not to be nervous at all. I confess it’s been a while since I’ve attended such a fun, well-thought, well-delivered, thought-provoking session. The only experience I can use to compare is when I left the movie theater after watching La La Land with my wife (I hope Natália doesn’t hate La La Land, LOL). I felt lighter and inspired. She talked about Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and I’m pretty sure I can say this on behalf of all the attendees: YOU ROCKED, Natália! She talked about the feelings teachers have toward CPD, especially fear of exposure, and how CPD can be found in the smallest things, such as Class Observation. She mentioned Hattie and Freire and the paradox of being in education and not wanting to learn or keep learning, the distance teachers think there is between theory and practice, Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset and more. My greatest insight was realizing the difference between TRAINING and DEVELOPMENT. Development is personal and, naturally, comes from a personal decision. Her geek side categorized everything she talked about in a very fun, and The Big Bang Theory-fan, way:

19905379_10203589601098250_2295045165527130336_n

I also enjoyed reading Henry Ford’s quote:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

After many laughs (I actually had tears in my eyes when she talked about the carrots, “entendedores entenderão”) and an incredible response from the audience, she wrapped up with Dr. Twerski’s lobster anecdote about discomfort and progress:

Thank you, Natália! Never stop presenting!
19884403_10154957016623049_1862427039334212496_n
Following Natália’s great plenary, I attended another mindblowing session by Alberto Costa. He showed us how to go beyond the 21st-Century Skills four Cs and, with a very intelligent analogy with marbles, he made us realize that we’ve been Communicating, Creating, Collaborating and Critically Thinking for a long time, not just in the new millennium. He moved his way through the three industrial/technological revolutions and showed us the incredible 4.0 revolution with cloud computing, big data, augmented reality, among others. He also mentioned how important it was for teachers to become digital literates (check Cambridge’s The Digital Teacher website here) and he recommended a great article by The Economist you can find here.  Another wonderful suggestion was the pioneering book Multiliteracies by Cope & Kalantzis. I can’t wait to start reading it. He showed us the three foundational skills: creativity, problem-solving, and empathy. My takeaway can be summarized in his quote:

“Teachers will be more like project managers than teachers.”

I felt really honored to be mentioned because of my Braz-Tesol Newsletter article and lovely project with my Iraqi friend Afrah.

Thank you, Alberto! Too bad we didn’t get to eat the kebabs we ordered in the evening. But the pizza was amazing!

19894918_10209537559937209_7873963139389424381_n.jpg

Then I went to Karin Galvão’s amazing Let’s Get Critical about Critical Thinking session. She was upfront and told us right away that she is annoying and that when she was in high school the principal called her parents because she “asked too many questions”. LOL. I loved the way she made us think critically by asking questions. The highlights for me were the fact that we had to come up with our own answers and question assumptions, and also discuss questions such as: “Is a paper dictionary better than an electronic one?” or “Is it fair that a CEO earns 20 times more than an employee?”. She really made us think about being critical thinkers and how to deal with critical thinkers. I, for one, fit all the items on her list about critical thinkers! I suppose she was right when she showed us Lichtenberg’s quote:

“Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinion at all.”

Thinking critically is not easy but it is certainly a must!

19884373_1432755523485020_6886795393995032945_n.jpg

The last plenary was given by the incredible Cecília Nobre, to whom I owe so much since she was the one who inspired me to start blogging. She is part of the Voices SIG, a group of wonderful women who discuss gender issues and empower women’s voices in the ELT community. That was the topic of her talk: gender issues in the classroom and how to tackle them. I would like to acknowledge Cecília’s courage to talk about such an essential topic before 250+ people. It took a lot of guts to be standing there and raise the questions she did. She started by showing us a bit of her life as a child and the fact that she was bullied and did not feel comfortable in the pictures she brought to us. Then she shared with us the results of a survey she did on social media about the issue and, to my surprise, the number one reason why teachers are reluctant to address those issues in the classroom is that they feel students don’t have much to talk about when questioned about them. We discussed with peers and came to the realization that the underlying problem is how uncomfortable they feel when discussing such things. She gave us tips and showed as the humorous video the amazing Ellen Degeneres made, which you can find here. Nonetheless, and that’s definitely the takeaway I want to share with you, gender issues are not to be treated lightly and most certainly need to be addressed in the classroom.

19731812_10211736894630209_1028781995812658152_n.jpg

Thank you, Cecília! Your talk inspired me and other attendees to keep on fighting for equal rights and to bring our students together to fight the cause.

You probably envy me, right now, don’t you? Yes, what can I say! It was one of the best events I attended and every single session made me a better professional, eager to make a change through my practice. My suggestion: attend one of these conferences wherever you are and share with the ELT community because it is true that:

The more we are, the stronger we become!

If you want to share your experience here, feel free.

PS: I felt incredibly special and fullfilled when many of the great professionals I admire came to me to say they have subscribed to my blog or simply accessed it. You guys make me want to do more! Thank you!

Braz-Tesol SIG Symposium – Together we are stronger

9114452a-252c-45eb-b6e2-6a66087e0ae3.jpg
With my eyes wide open to absorb everything in this wonderful event in São Paulo

Two days of learning and connecting with fantastic people. That’s what the Special Interest Group (SIG) Symposium is all about. At the beautiful Instituto Singularidades venue, in the vibrant neighborhood Pinheiros, this event has brought together great names of the ELT world to share their knowledge within each of the 10 Braz-Tesol SIGs. So, this entry is my modest attempt to capture this precious moment by sharing some of the takeaways from the sessions I attended.

The opening plenary was given by Rita Ladeia and Selma Moura in the bilingualism SIG. They talked about the curriculum in bilingual education and a quote that stuck with me was:

Curriculum is not just what’s  written in the book, but everything that happens in the class

They also mentioned that there are 75 sovereign territories where English is an official language and that we, English teachers, are teaching an instrument of power. I learned the terms Metalinguistic Awareness (a child’s incredible capability of mixing two or more languages to communicate), and Garcia’s Translanguaging (the influence L1 and L2 have on each other, increasing literacy in both). When they talked about cognition and how the linguistic codes are not isolated in different areas in our brains, I remembered all of the studies I’ve been reading about neuroscience.

They wrapped up with policies for bilingual schools and the sentence:

Considering language a TOOL, not a GOAL

Next, I went to Sylvia de Moraes’ session on how children benefit from early learning. Her talk involved a lot of concepts of neuroscience and some studies showing that early exposure increases mental development, reasoning and memorization skills, self-esteem, as well as mathematical and logical skills. She mentioned that 10-12 years of age is a period known as critical age, as it becomes more difficult for children to learn after that window once they are entering puberty. The most interesting fact to me was to see a brain scan of a child and another of an adult learner. The child’s brain showed a larger and intertwined area when stimulated to speak two different languages. The adult’s brain had more defined and separated areas.

The second session of the morning for me was Paulo Torres’ take on bilingual education. He answered a lot of questions I had about the subject and even tapped into the field I love so much: neuroscience! He talked about the importance Donna Fields (EduCluster Finland) places on emotion how it is key to learning effectively. The best part was when he showed us a new list of essential 21st-century skills with not 4, but 13 items! Want to know more about it? Click here.

After lunch, we attended the inspiring plenary given by Ana Maria Menezes in the EduTech SIG. She showed us how to use technology to foster collaboration and encourage students to take chances in writing. I was moved by the samples she brought of her students’ letters and how they were able to work together using a concept map-making app called Popplet  in such an innovative way. The feedback she got from her students highlighted words such as empowerment, opportunity, collaboration. Not only were they able to accomplish more, but they were also introduced to a new tool that is now being used in seminars by the very same students. She ended the session with the great quote:

I can be more of a teacher by being less of teacher

The next session was Jacques Freitas’ and it was about international programs. Jacques represents Education First (EF) and he talked about opportunities for educators. He stressed the fact that Brazil is not doing well in the English department, having less than 1.8% of its population speaking English at an intermediate or high-intermediate level. He also explained how they assess students going on international programs. My takeaway was that having any international experience and being proactive are the two aspects that matter the most. You can find more information about EF here.

Then, the most expected moment arrived for me. I finally met the wonderful Mirela Ramacciotti whose work on the brand new Mind, Brain & Education (MBE) science promises to revolutionize education. Mirela delivered a fun and mindblowing talk on how neuroscience, psychology, and education have been brought together to form what is known as neuroeducation. She debunked some neuromyths and left participants longing for more. It was a special session because it was also the launch of the new MBE SIG in which I take part. We met the team and started sharing ideas. Brace yourselves! Great things are coming! If you want to check out some of the entries I have about this topic, click here, here, and here.IMG_20170708_181120_283

mbe_sig.png

Last but not least, the incredibly funny and inspiring John Corbett delivered the last plenary of the day about the Intercultural Language Education (ILE) SIG. He talked about cultural differences in the classroom and the topics we were (are?) often told to avoid: politics, religion, and sex. His brilliant session showed how things can be completely different from one country to another and, to illustrate, he showed the political campaign of Covas and Maluf in the 90’s. It was enlightening! It emphasized the fact that we can definitely use materials in L1 to develop critical thinking in L2. The way he interpreted the billboards was quite impressive because he used the photos, the colors, the appearance, and, of course, the text to analyze the message they meant to send. Truly inspiring!

And, obviously, look who came with me below. My travel buddy is always around!
19748566_10154960640401429_3505652785965136431_n.jpg

To sum up I will only say that being here in this event with these wonderful speakers who took the time to study, prepare and present the results of their efforts is a unique opportunity that has opened my eyes and given me more motivation to keep pursuing my mission of sharing, inspiring and changing the context of education in this country. I truly believe that TOGETHER we are STRONGER.

If you are attending the symposium, you are welcome to share your takeaways here!