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Rewind 70 years and you'll see film is no fad

Last year's Hollywood comedy film Bad Teacher starred Cameron Diaz in the title role of, well, a bad teacher. You could tell her character was a bad teacher, and it wasn't just because she smoked dope on school property, swore like a trooper and turned up to her lessons hung-over after predatory bar crawls.

No, the real giveaway was that her teaching mainly involved plonking the pupils in front of videos. Putting a video on can still be seen as the lazy teacher's get-out. And for some teachers it still is, while even conscientious staff can find themselves reaching for a DVD as an end-of- term treat.

Yet many teachers are adept at picking the programmes and clips that really will bring their subjects to life. The arrival of projectors and interactive whiteboards means they no longer need to wheel out a VHS player, but can slip video snippets into their lessons whenever they need. Meanwhile, there are now thousands of free video clips, tagged by subject and topic, waiting to be downloaded from the archives of organisations such as the BBC and Khan Academy (both of which can be found on TES's own resources bank).

Teachers are also harnessing the power of full-length feature films to shine a light on their subjects and broaden their pupils' perspectives. TES saw the potential back in 1944. "No educator can afford to neglect the cinema any more than he can ignore the influence of the radio and the daily press," it wrote. "The old- fashioned teacher may try to blind himself by despising the cinema, by sneering at the rubbish which he thinks is shown there. But by assuming these attitudes he becomes more and more of a recluse, out of touch with the bright eagerness in the hearts of his boys and girls. And he loses the chance of a lifetime to do part of his job."

So the truth has been known for nearly 70 years: showing pupils films and video clips is not just a fallback for Bad Teachers, it is a powerful tool for Great Teachers, too.

Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro @mrmichaelshaw.

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