An Educational Must-Have

Every now and again, there’s something that is powerful for use in education, that you must simple have it and add it immediately to your collection.

We know how engaged students can be watching YouTube videos.  This has changed an entire paradigm for thinking about the use of videos and movies in the classroom.  It’s even more powerful when you think that you can access the content anytime, anywhere via computer or by portable device such as an iPhone or iPod.  All that’s required is a network connection.

The challenge is always making the determination between entertainment and educational content.  Not that it’s terribly difficult to do; it’s just difficult to enforce.  Many school districts make the enforcement part very easy.  Just block the site.

What does the progressive educator, wishing to incorporate these technologies into the classroom, do?

The National Film Board offers an incredible alternative.


Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Just released this week is an iPhone/iPod player for the content stored at the National Film Board of Canada.  With this application, you’ve got a huge collection of movies entirely suitable for use in education at your fingertips.  My first test to see the value was to take a look at the October Crisis of 1970.  Sure enough, there’s a full documentary of some 87 minutes right there.

Browsing the content, it’s difficult to see any video that wouldn’t be of immediate use in some classroom.

Imagine assigning a video for homework or having access to this resource for immediate research?  We’ve used movies and documentaries in the classroom for years.  However, it’s always been a full classroom activity.  Now, with this application and your portable device, it becomes an immediately differentiable (?) resource for the class.  In my former school’s library, we had a couple of breakout rooms that you could book to preview a movie.  With this application, all you need is a chair and a headset.

The design includes some of the best of breed features that you would expect to find in a video viewing application.  Look for favourites, searching, “nearby”, channels, or even the ability to download the video for later viewing that doesn’t require an internet connection for streaming.

More details are available on the NFB blog.

If you’ve got an iPod or iPhone, this definitely is a “must-have” application.

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5 thoughts on “An Educational Must-Have

  1. Excellent post Doug. I too have been trying the NFB app.

    Not only is this a quality content collection for educational use, it is a perfect example adherence to appropriate use from a copyright point of view: personal device, personal viewing & educational context!

    ~ Mark

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  2. While having access to the vast library of NFB productions is an amazing resource for a teacher, are we prepared to “corporatize” the classroom? As with Coke and Pepsi in the cafeteria and the debate still raging, will it be the same with Apple? No doubt there will be competitors down the road, but how embedded will iPod be at that point?

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  3. The NFB has been offering resources to educators and for public viewing for years. The strategies they have employed to link their content to educational interests and, perhaps more importantly, to key issues in contemporary society are nothing but commendable. The NFB Ipod app is more about ‘speaking the language on the street’ than about commercialization.

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  4. The same library of video’s is available to stream at the NFB website. You don’t need to ‘corporatize’ the classroom, it’ll work on any computer/laptop/netbook. The iPod app is just another alternative. Many students have these devices, and some boards are experimenting with them as learning tools. When something better comes along, then we’ll want to try it as well. I don’t see any particular device become embedded, or endorsed by any board or ministry. I’m more interested in the effectiveness of a tool, than the brand that is on it. iPod app just happen to be the flavour of the week.

    As for the content (via the app or the website) it’s a wonderful resource. I love having the Bill Mason video’s at my fingers for instant viewing! One of the tech’s at our school claims that even though NFB is streaming on the web, boards still have to pay a performance rights fee to allow showing in classes? Anyone know if this is the case?

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  5. Thanks for the clarification, Colin. Yes, the videos play just as nicely from the web. I was just so intrigued that they would play just as nicely on an iPod or iPhone. As with any resource, the terms of use and copright notices need to be explored before anything is used for any purpose.

    I enjoyed “The Sweater” yesterday – one of my favourite videos as a Canadiens fan.

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