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Educationally Enhanced DVDs Arriving

10 May, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Not all DVD bonus features are equal. When Hart Sharp Video released the controversial Morgan Spurlock documentary Super Size Me three years ago, two versions came to market: a regular edition for consumers, and an educationally enhanced edition for teachers, with 24 lessons and various game-like assessments and quizzes.

The enhanced edition, which allowed Hart Sharp to break into the lucrative institutional market and sell thousands of additional copies of the film to schools, was produced by Scope Seven, a Los Angeles production company.

Now, Scope Seven is taking matters into its own hands. The company, best known for its DVD-based games, has just come out with an educationally enhanced DVD of the HBO documentary “TV Junkie: Faces of Addiction.”

The documentary, produced by Deep Ellum Pictures, chronicles former “Inside Edition” correspondent Rick Kirkham's destructive drug addiction. The enhanced DVD, which is being marketed to schools, includes a wealth of educational features the company hopes teachers will use in the classroom, including lesson plans in health, life skills and language arts; on-screen prompts to guide student viewing, spark discussion and lead to classroom activities; and curriculum connections linking the film to the standards-aligned Anti-Drug Education Program from the New York Times. The DVD also comes with an instructor's manual and printable teacher guides and student handouts.

“Films have long been used in the classroom to educate students, but learning doesn't always happen in a linear fashion,” said Bob Hively, chairman and CEO of Scope Seven. “Through educationally enhanced DVDs like ‘TV Junkie,' youth are able to explore the issues presented in the film as they arise, rather than waiting to discuss them at the end of the movie.”

David Andriole, the producer at Deep Ellum for “TV Junkie,” said the educational enhancements were developed while the film was being shot, rather than as an afterthought.

“From the very beginning of the film, it was clear that this story had the power to help others battling addiction,” he said. “We thus took the unusual approach of developing the educational enhancements during production. This resulted in an educationally enhanced DVD that is fully aligned to teaching standards, which further legitimizes its use by educators in the classroom.”

In a related development, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM Home Entertainment are adding optional tracks of bright, bold “Kids Captioning” to popular family films in an effort to build reading skills. The first wave of enhanced “Follow Along” DVDs arrive in stores July 10 and include Robots, The Sandlot, Ice Age, Garfield: The Movie, Anastasia, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, Stellaluna, Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Kids, Good Boy! and Thumbelina.

Fox spokesman Steve Feldstein said research from the National Captioning Institute shows children can improve their literacy skills by viewing television programming with captioning.

“And, with this new line, we are affording kids the opportunity to improve their reading abilities while watching their favorite DVDs,” he said.

While Fox isn't specifically targeting educators, Feldstein added, the studio certainly “sees potential” for teachers of young kids to use the DVDs in the classroom.

“We're always looking for new opportunities for our product,” he said.

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