Report – Too Cool for School

Posted on: Thursday 07 July 2016 12:01pm by Jessica Thornsby

Does entertainment – film, TV or games – really have a place in the classroom?


  • Content originally designed to entertain has great potential to enhance classroom learning, but it needs to be used carefully.
  • The skills children are learning in their own time, through content that’s designed to entertain, has real value.
  • If you want your content to appeal to teachers, then give them the ability to edit and remix your content.


In this early morning session on the final day of CMC, a panel of experts discussed how TV shows, games and books that were originally designed to entertain, are being used to teach children in surprising ways.

Freelance Science Education Consultant Sai Pathmanathan discussed how she uses TV DSC_6296and movie clips to make science more engaging for children. “A lot of children get their complex knowledge from TV and feature films, for example learning about marine biology by watching Finding Nemo.”

She told us about her recent work, which combines clips from the movie Ice Age, with hands-on science experiments based on what’s happening onscreen. “This gives children a chance to explore topics such as biology and even climate change,” she said.

Anna Budzynska, who works with organisations such as Sky, 20th Century Fox and BT, also uses movie clips for educational purposes. She walked us through a recent project that celebrated the release of DreamWorks’ ‘Home.’ She used content from the ‘Home’ trailer to get children interested in science, specifically the solar system. Children were set a mission: they had to find a suitable new planet for the alien race featured in ‘Home,’ and then write a story about what happened when the aliens first landed on their new planet.

Minecraft artist and digital producer, Adam Clarke shared the moment he realised entertainment’s potential to educate. He was teaching a class of children, who had finished all the work he’d planned quicker than expected – leaving him with an hour spare. He told the children they could spend this time exploring ’Spore,’ a game with educational potential, and he was amazed by how children who had previously been tired and disengaged, suddenly became excited and eager to take part in the lesson.

However, the panel also discussed how using entertainment in the classroom needs to be carefully thought-out, rather than used as an add-on. “Entertainment in the classroom shouldn’t be something sweet at the end of something bitter,” said Dan. Anna agreed: “there’s a whole spectrum of how we can use entertainment in education. It’s all about finding the right balance.”

And, if you’re a content creator looking to get your work into schools, Microsoft Innovative Educator award-winner Julian Wood had some useful advice: “Allow your content to be remixed,” he said.

Event Reports CMC2016 too cool for school

Jessica Thornsby

About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Can Studios, Technical Writer

Jessica Thornsby studied Creative Writing at the University of Bolton. She has a background in technical writing and reporting, music journalism, and digital marketing. She is the co-author of O’Reilly Media’s iWork: The Missing Manual. She works as a technical writer at Can Studios, an award-winning team of developers, designers… Read more