Smile! You’re on Camera…Whether You Want to Be or Not

“Thanks to smartphones, just about everybody carries a high-quality camera … Our laptops have cameras. Our drones have cameras. ATMs, intersections, police cars and street corners have cameras. Businesses have security cameras. Even a new generation of smart doorbells has cameras… The debate over ubiquitous cameras normally centers on a trade-off between privacy and security.” M. Elgan,

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key



Excerpt: How Cameras Everywhere Can Make the World a Better Place –By Mike Elgan,

“New live-streaming options are coming out. For example, the Mevo is a great little consumer camera designed for live-streaming anything. Taser is working on live-streaming police body cameras, which it promises will enter the market by the end of next year. Google plans to roll out a mobile live-streaming YouTube option any minute now. Two video-related events emerged in the news recently that forced public debate in technology circles about the despair vs. justice dichotomy—or they should have.

In the first case, videos were smuggled out of the Four Corners teen detention center in Australia showing horrific and inexcusable abuse of incarcerated minors.

In the second case, a woman used Facebook Live to live-stream a fatal encounter with police during a traffic stop in Minnesota.

Many believe that security-cameras-are-important-for-public-safety

Many believe that security-cameras-are-important-for-public-safety

What both videos have in common is that they’re graphic and horrific, and watching them is the kind of experience that can make you lose faith in humanity.

What they don’t have in common is that Facebook banned or censored the Four Corners videos, but allowed the traffic-stop videos. What are the standards here?

The truth is that horrific, graphic and depressing videos are everywhere online these days. Sites such as YouTube and LiveLeak are rife with all manner of fights, car accidents, war, terrorism, abuse and more.

Our brains are not designed to understand the scale of human activity and so we can’t fully comprehend the horrors we see in the context of the broader world of all the good that people do in the world. And so we’re left with the nagging feeling that most people are sociopaths and the entire world is a bad neighborhood.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil points out, however, that the world isn’t actually getting worse. Instead, our information is getting better. In fact, we have access to billions of boring pictures and videos depicting people behaving with civility and kindness. And we ignore them—because they’re boring.



In a village, there’s universal accountability. In other words, our moral systems assume that others in the community will know what we’re up to and we learn to adjust our behavior accordingly. That’s why people are polite in an elevator, but rude in traffic. In an elevator, the close quarters forces people to be very civil for a few seconds—holding the door for each other and speaking respectfully and politely to one another…The great thing about cameras is that, in a globalized, mass population world, cameras give us the potential for village-like or even elevator-like accountability…In fact, I’d love to see a lot more cameras in the world. All police should have body cams. All police interrogations should be recorded and the recording made available to the accused. Courtrooms should have publicly available cameras.



In fact, in any situation where the powerful can victimize the powerless, cameras should be rolling… That change in behavior won’t come about from the invasion of privacy or the existence of hidden cameras, but from the expectation that we’ll all be held accountable for our actions in public… And that’s a better world.”


ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. People worry about the invasion of privacy.
  2. Video cameras are ubiquitous in major public areas.
  3. New live-streaming options are coming out.
  4. Videos were smuggled out of the detention center.
  5. Watching these videos preys on a human cognitive bias.
  6. It makes us feel some of the fear and even panic of the people.
  7. The video is uploaded to the cloud in real-time.
  8. It is illegal  to use aerial surveillance in many places.
  9. We’ll all be held accountable for our actions in public.
  10. Every new technology involves some kind of new trade-off.

Word Chart By Education Oasis

Reading Comprehension


Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

All police should have___cams. All police ___should be recorded and the ___made available to the accused. Courtrooms should have publicly available cameras. In fact, in any situation where the powerful can___the powerless, cameras should be rolling.

There are some ways in which humans change and evolve to cope with changing___and other ways in which___ will never change.

I think it’s likely that, over time, we’ll adjust to the ___of horrible videos online and learn to ___that the most ___videos and pictures don’t ___the reality of the world, but are exceptions to normal activity.

WORD LIST: recording, body, technology, reflect, interrogations,

victimize, entertaining, understand, ubiquity, humans,

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


That’s why people are polite in a elevator, but rude in traffic.

In an elevator, the close quarters forces people to be very civil.

In traffic, the idea is that we’ll never see these people again.


Most people are civil drivers.

I’m an big fan of the Ring Video Doorbell.   

The bell rings both in the house and on the app.


The camera is obvious on the Ring doorbell.

Imagine if every home had a camera like this.

I’d love to see an lot more cameras in the world.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Main Idea / Debate

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams can use the article  as their source of information or sources from the Web.  Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made  points.  

Team A will list five reasons for public video cameras.

Team B will list  five reasons against public video cameras.

For organization, have students use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer  from Freeology

Pros and Cons Scale

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.