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The first official educational films are controversial. Some researchers suggested that the first educational films were shown in St. Petersburg in 1897, while other studies believed that the first educational films were inspired by the newsreel in 1913. Regardless, the increasing number of educational film could prove that the population of educational film was started in the early 1900s.
Usage of educational film during the late 19th and 20th centuries
Educational films are productions aiming to inform target audience about designated issues. It has various usages on different purposes. Educational cinema was normally divided into three main categories, which included instructional, educational, and scholastic.
Educational films can be used to inform the public about social issues and raise public awareness. For example, an educational film, What About Prejudice?, published in 1959 discussed the prejudice of the white middle class. Land and Space to Grow, released in October 1960, was a story about a typical young American couple who pursue the great adventure of buying land and building a dream home.
Challenging questions or debate over social issues would also be raised in educational films, such as labor reform, communism, civil rights, and nuclear proliferation. One of these was: "Why is it such a heavy burden every step taken to provide adequate housing on land where everyone agrees that adequate housing is needed?" The film was shaped into a compelling soft-sell story that allows more people to mean and reflect on social issues.
Besides, educational film can be a powerful aid to teaching, bringing things that students may not be able to experience first hand into the classroom and thus improving teaching efficiency. For example, teaching film can be used in the teaching of architectural subjects. If some form of film-loop is used, the action can be repeated until a difficult principle is fully understood. With the close-up technique, fine detail is enlarged for all to see clearly.
Documentary as an educational resource had played a big part in the history of educational film. They were mostly shown in schools for educational purpose and used to introduce various topics to children. However, documentaries were also capable of teacher training. By 1950, prominent educational film institutions like New York University's Educational Film Library, Columbia Teachers College, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) believed that documentaries that shorted on children, such as A Better Tomorrow (1945),Tomorrow's a Wonderful Day (1948), and The Children's Republic (1947), were suitable for audiences interested in teacher training, child care and development, and even the rehabilitation of so-called delinquents.
Educational film was also used as a promotional tool. For example, after World War II, teenagers started to question the single-sex educational environments, the profession has realized the problem and promote its image by producing the educational film Why Study Home Economic? in 1955.
In China, educational film was rose and became one of the most important education tool in the 1930s. During the Period of Republic of China, many citizens were illiterate, the national government had discovered a suitable measure to raise the level of knowledge of the whole society relatively in a more efficient way—the development of educational film. The government held various kinds of activities, like establishing official film studios to promote and implement educational film.
In addition, the potential of educational film had been explored to the education of the deaf. Captioned Films for the Deaf, also known as The Described and Captioned Media Program, was established in 1950, and also started to create 15 volumes of Lesson Guide for Captioned Film since 1965.
Military use or propaganda
During World War I, both the army and navy had introduced training films and had begun to establish instructional procedures for such media as slides, filmstrips, and models. The War and Navy departments had organized film divisions for the twofold purpose of supplying informational films to the public and of instructing officers and mend in the science of war.
Likewise, there were a large-scale introduction of audio visual media in schools and an expansion of the non theatrical film circuit during the Second World War. For instance, instructional films were made for military personnel or industrial labourer. The use of educational film was a part of the official policy of War Department in American.
Even after World War II, some of the educational films remained to be subjective and persuasive. Low budgets and a narrow margin of profit handicapped the production of sufficient number of good educational films.
Commercial educational film production, 1900-1950 (American)
Before World War II, ERPI Classroom Films, Eastman Classroom Films, and Film Incorporated were the leading producers of educational films. ERPI had entered educational film production because it wanted to sell its equipment; the Eastman Kodak Company had envisioned a profitable commercial venture. Neither company, however, enjoyed overwhelming success. Eastman Kodak silent films just before the advent of sound and ERPI encountered the depression and the lethargy of educators. During World War II and in the postwar years, many old and new companies increased the production of educational films, including Coronet, Vocational Guidance Films, Young America, Mcgraw-Hill Book Company, United World Films, Films Incorporated, Simmel-Misery and others.
Notable educational film producers in 20th century
There are several notable educational film producers during that time. Producers like Encyclopædia Britannica Films, Coronet Films, and Centron Corporation were the leaders of the educational film industry.
Social science and geography films
Film companies have produced films about geography and world culture. They concentrated on three treatment forms through the 1960s: the geographical-industrial film, the travelogue, and the ethnological film.
The geographical-industrial film was talked about the industry and customs of foreign land. Filmmakers included an insight into the political makeup of the country beyond the basics, describing conflict politically, socially, or economically.
For the travelogue, rather than professional cinematographers, many travelers, explorers, scientists, and missionaries produced the travelogue. They traveled over the world and made the film lead to increasing numbers of amateurs.
The ethnological film described different ethnicities, cultures, and social practices related to world cultures and people. It helped students and professors who studied in the anthropological.
Educational films on historical subjects were inculcated attitudes, opinions, and actions. Some of historical films reflected the culture message as an inherent propagandistic element. The historical films reflect to a white, conservative, Christian orientation in pre-1960, such as Ray Garner's Ancient World: Egypt (1954) and Greece: The Golden Age (1963). Filmmakers largely left out the roles African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, and women in pre-1960 educational films.
Arts and craft films
It included painting, sculpture, architecture, and other "high" arts is of special interest to the historiography of the educational film in the United States. In the 1920s and 1930s, filmmakers record the visual arts from the initial specialized function. Then, it became a legitimate genre that aimed to advance aesthetic education from the late 1940s onward. After World War II, filmmakers propagated the film as the deal medium to carry the visual arts out of the museum, the artist's studio, and the gallery to new locations, such as educational institutions (mainly art schools), non theatrical venues, and, momentarily, even commercial cinemas.
Literature and language arts films
This type of films include non-narrated short subjects, poetry, and journalistic themes. Educational film companies in the United States began acquiring dramatic content from sources overseas in the 1950s. They were commonly from France, which included several well-known non-narrated short dramas, director Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon (1956) among them.
Sociodrama films based on racial issues. Because of the advent of the Civil Rights Act (1964), and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965), the guidance films and discriminate films were reduced a lot. Young filmmakers produce the films which encompass racial, age-related, and inter- or intra-cultural thematic material. They emphasized in history, literature, and social science. Most of the films were 30 minutes, or even less.
Many educational films shown in schools are part of long series - for example, films demonstrating scientific principles and experiments tend to be episodic, with each episode devoted to a specific experiment or principle.
Many schoolchildren in Britain in the late 1980s and early 1990s watched hundreds of episodes of British-made educational films (all very similar in style and production) over the course of their primary school careers. As a result, the delivery-style and distinctive colour-palette ("scientific" looking neutral-blue backgrounds etc.) of these films is instantly recognizable to any child of the appropriate generation. This was used to great effect by the British television series Look Around You which parodies these films.
Research into educational benefits
Many early psychological studies of learning from film and particularly TV found this medium to be inferior to text. Studies included comparisons between reading newspaper reports and watching TV news. In these early studies the memory retention was always stronger in those who read the reports. This was shown to be linked mainly to the ability of the individual to control the speed of the delivery of information. When you read you can pause at any time, which was not possible with classroom-based TV and film. This has changed with the advent of online video, which can be paused and rewound easily. More recent studies now see no difference in memory retention between the two media, video and text.
Research also examines the idea that cognitive overload may occur because the viewer has to process audio and visuals at the same time. Careful design of the film can alleviate this. For instance, signaling clearly where the focus of the audio is in terms of the video image will help the viewer merge the two. However, too much information, or information that is superfluous, can reduce learning.
List of notable educational film producers
- Bell System
- Coronet Films
- Sid Davis
- Disney Educational Productions
- Encyclopædia Britannica Films
- Jam Handy
- Media Education Foundation
- James Myer
- National Film Board of Canada
- New Day Films
- Reichsanstalt für Film und Bild in Wissenschaft und Unterricht
- Schlessinger Media
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