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Thinking Outside the Box – Using Broadcasts

It might not be a topic that thrills the staffrooms of the nation, but copyright licensing is the bedrock on which teachers build their resource banks, and create stimulating and innovative learning sessions.

Some of the best material is professionally-produced video and audio created by broadcasters and artists in the media industry.


Television and radio programmes provide educators with a rich and incredibly diverse source of material to support teaching and enhance learning. Some of the best of these programmes are available on free-to-air services in the UK. “We want to encourage teachers to make full use of the ERA licence and the fabulous resources it makes available,” says Victoria Smith, ERA’s Head of Licensing. “We’re always keen to hear about innovative uses of broadcast material and especially when teachers use resources in a cross curricular way.”

One of ERA’s earliest case studies involved the use of Dragon’s Den in a project not just involving Business Studies students, but media studies students too. Students were told that they were going to face a panel of local “Dragons” and that they had a month to prepare their presentations. Clips from the programmes showed them how a lack of preparation drew caustic comments  and ignominious rejection from the Dragons.

Meanwhile, similar clips were watched by Media Studies students who had been briefed that their assignment was to film the presentations made by their peers.  Their challenge was to not just record the proceedings but to make them interesting, picking up on all the signs that gave away the local Dragons’ reactions – positive or negative. They also had to prepare a voice-over commentary.

As a learning experience, the assignment was hugely beneficial and rewarding.

Schools are particularly good at using broadcast material in a cross-curricular way. “Horrible Histories” (CBBC) sketches are a favourite with teachers who use them not only as a springboard for history teaching but to inspire children in performing arts, music and even maths and sciences.

There are some incredibly useful documentaries and drama adaptations, but sometimes a far less obvious source can provide a perfect clip.


For instance, a science teacher might use a clip from The Big Bang Theory to illustrate a science lesson.  This cult US comedy broadcast on Channel 4 is script edited by David Saltzberg, a Princeton Physics graduate who ensures that scientific references in the show are accurate.  (The show is often credited with being behind a rise in the number of students opting to study Physics at A-Level!).  Topically, The Simpsons’s episode “Much Apu About Nothing” could be used to stimulate discussion on political engagement and the dangers of reactionary politics.

If any readers use broadcast material in a creative and interesting way in their teaching and learning, ERA wants to hear from you and possibly feature you on the resources section of the website.