Beyond the Canon: Using Documentary Film In the Classroom

The Necessity of Storytelling

Documentaries are connective vehicles that allow us to experience compelling personal narratives. They help us see the world through someone else’s eyes, adding vital perspectives to the way we comprehend unfamiliar stories and ultimately, the way we relate to them.

Shifting Paradigms

In the contemporary landscape of digitized information, educators have to ask themselves if they are perpetuating outdated pedagogical frameworks or incorporating new methodologies into their curriculum to maximize student engagement and participation.

Weaving video content into the fabric of the classroom is a great way to energize students in a way that is congruent with the way they naturally absorb information. The modern student is privy to an omnipotent stream of audiovisual stimuli. To grab student’s attention, we have to start “speaking their language.”

Documentary film also helps students contextualize classroom lessons amongst a broader global perspective. So often material presented in the classroom feels bound to the physical space of its reception. Documentary film helps push the information beyond the confines of the educational apparatus by directly illustrating the way in which these concepts affect real people in real-time and space.

Taking Advantage of an Inherently Collaborative Space

Streaming culture has brought about significant structural changes that impact the way viewers digest media, endowing spectators with a newfound agency, capable of streaming content where they want and when they want. This freedom often produces an interesting side effect: a shift from a collective viewing experience to a solitary one. While viewers gain autonomy, they lose the connective piece that film has the potential to generate.

The classroom setting, an inherently collaborative space, offers a unique opportunity for students and educators to collectively deepen their empathy and cultural awareness. The great luxury of experiencing film as a community is that it makes space; space to process, space to ask lingering questions, and space to mobilize these feelings into action.

Interested in Incorporating Documentaries into your classroom? Try SIMA Academy’s 7-Day Free Trial today.

SIMA Academy is a groundbreaking online education platform serving and supporting the next generation of changemakers through the power of impact cinema. It provides access to a carefully curated collection of over 140 award-winning short documentaries and Virtual Reality films with learning resources and participatory lessons that bring human rights issues, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and social entrepreneurship innovations to life. Designed as a fast track to global citizenship education, the online streaming platform takes students on a journey from empathy and critical thinking to action.