Saturday, February 1, 2014

Another Primary Source to Consider: Film

By: Nina Kendall

            Have you been somewhere lately that you didn’t hear a phone buzz or chirp? While Teachers are learning to tweet and Grandparents are sharing pictures on Facebook, students today are using apps like Instagram and Vine to share pictures and video. Pictures have long been standard social media fare, but the addition of film is offering media consumers a way to tell stories differently. With a limit of 15 seconds or less, the format is a challenging obstacle for the storyteller.  Film has been a challenge for each generation of technology pioneers.

            Before America developed industries based on radio and film they had to learn how to use the technology.  The work of Thomas Edison and his peers are the basis of the early collections of sound and film. Their work is extensive and engaging. Through it we can get a glimpse of life from more than 100 years ago. These films have been preserved and digitized for use by the Library of Congress.

Inventing Entertainment  is a Library of Congress Collection of Edison Motion Pictures and sound recordings. This collection is an intriguing record of life in the late 19th and early 20th century.  These are Modern America’s home movies. Recorded as part of early experiments with new technology they reflect day to day life from all parts of the country. You can see how trains used to deliver mail or get a glimpse of the ghost dance. 

America at Work and Leisure  is another collection of films from 1894-1915 that you and your students can enjoy. Watch a parade, look at the work loggers do, or a gym class from more than 100 years ago.  These are primary sources that will appeal to students and engage them in conversations about how technology has changed American life and industries.

Here are few ways to use them you can incorporate early film into you classroom:

·         Use as a primary source hook to start a class discussion.

·         Incorporate a film into your class presentation.

·         Have students curate a film collection based on an issue or theme.

·         Have students create their own “wouldagrammed” video project incorporating an early film.

·         Incorporate 1 or more films into a webquest for students to complete.

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