George Lucas Educational Foundation
Classroom Technology

6 Tips for Making the Most of Film in the Classroom

January 8, 2014

With the advances in technology, it has never been easier to use or create films in classrooms - from elementary school to high school. And let’s face it, using film - whether watching them or actually making them - is often a heat motivator for students of all ages! There are teachers all over the world who are including YouTube or film clips in their lessons on a daily basis. Personally, I think there’s nothing better than starting off a lesson with a three minute video clip about the topic at hand. Flipped learning, too, relies heavily on the ability to make films and then post those films so that students can access them anywhere.

However, although the technical aspects have got easier, this doesn’t necessarily mean that films are being used as effectively as they could be. Let me give you an example of what I mean. In a history course that I was teaching a couple of years ago, there was a film that dealt with the topic at hand. One of my teachers thought that it would be advantageous to show a whole film loosely based on the topic - all three hours of it! The educational payoff in circumstances like this is limited - a much more successful approach would have been to use only short clips, interrogating the film as a secondary source for reliability and bias.

This year, I’m making a real commitment to using film better in class. To do that, I’ve come up with some tips - both for using films, and also for making films.

Tips for Using Film in Class

  1. YouTube is your friend, but CleanTube is better. Cleantube is an add-on that removes advertising and related videos.
  2. Keep it short and upbeat. Generally, there’s a law of diminishing returns regarding the length of the film. If you can’t explain it in 5 minutes, a film might not be the best way to go about it.
  3. Use it at the start or the end of the lesson. Audio-visual materials are more effective when used at the start and the end of a lesson - they increase engagement.

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Tips for Making Films in Class

This is where I think the real pedagogical strengths are!

  1. When teaching students how to make films, start off with paper. Take students through the process of storyboarding. Let them know what different shots are. A little bit of vocabulary about the process goes a long way.
  2. Build in play time. Let students muck around with the different titles and effects. This builds their confidence with the app as a whole.
  3. Sometimes, it’s not about quality. No one in your class is making the next Scorsese epic. Instead, look at the films that are most watched on YouTube - they might not be perfect, but they tell a story. Focus on that storytelling aspect.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.

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