Streaming Education on Netflix

As Hollywood begins to smell the smoke of a burning empire, internet networks are quickly becoming the number one source for entertainment. Take myself for instance, every night before I read my weary head to sleep – that’s right, READ – I watch an hour of Netflix. Like most, I occasionally fall from the ‘moderate streaming use wagon’ – picture, an entire weekend gone in an instant, as the first season of Twin Peaks streams before my eyes. Netflix is huge. Just read the description given on the company’s website:

“Netflix is the world’s leading Internet television network with over 44 million members in 41 countries enjoying more than one billion hours of TV shows and movies per month, including original series.”

One billion hours is a lot of entertainment. That doesn’t even count the one billion hours we spend searching through its massive library trying to decide what to watch. But is it just for entertainment? Can Netflix be used by tutors, teachers, and students as an educational tool? Can entertainment be educational? The last one may be a bit too philosophical to tackle in this post, but the question about Netflix as an educational tool can be answered, simply, as yes.

In my opinion, a sizable portion of that one billion hours is of educational value. Though I’ll have to leave it to you and your tutor to decide what compliments your curriculum best, I still have some suggestions for the curious. Next time you get lost in a Netflix trance, make it an educational one! Below are a few streaming suggestions to get you started (in no particular order).

5. Shakespeare Uncovered

Originally airing on PBS, this series takes the viewer on an exciting, six-part adventure seeking the heart behind Shakespeare’s mystique. What better way to do it than deconstructing his greatest works?

HIGHLIGHT: Watch actor Ethan Hawke take on the insidious macabre of becoming Macbeth.

4. Ken Burns Presents (The West, Prohibition, The Civil War, The War, Baseball, The National Parks, Jazz)

Few names are more synonymous with documentary filmmaking than Ken Burns. A national treasure, the producer/director utilizes an array of archival footage, pictures, and discussions with living legends, to piece together hours of captivating stories. (Make sure you download Mr. Burns’ newest history app)

HIGHLIGHT: The award winning, poignantly important Civil War documentary is streaming in nine parts.

3. BBC Earth (Wild China, The Blue Planet, The Life of Mammals, The Life of Birds)

Whereas Ken Burns is a great resource for the human element of history, BBC Earth is equally breathtaking in its documentation of nature. In fact, I’ve consumed these documentaries with more ardent commitment than anything else on Netflix. You’ve all seen the Youtube clip of the amazing Lyre bird, now watch the rest of the series.

HIGHLIGHT: Watch in awe and frustration at China’s expansive ecosystems, and its destruction at the hands of progress.

2. Essential Foreign Cinema (A Woman is a Woman, Sonatine, Metropolis, The Bicycle Thief)

Whether you’re a cinephile or a casual movie fan, Netflix’s foreign cinema section is not to be overlooked. Film is a great way to experience different cultures through the lens of the world’s greatest directors. Like the classic novels everyone should read in his or her lifetime, these are the must see films.

The Bicycle Thief

HIGHLIGHT: Vittorio De Sica’s Italian neorealism masterpiece The Bicycle Thief. This tragic tale of a man who loses his livelihood when his bike is stolen, is considered one of the greatest films of all time.

1. Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking (Discovery Channel)

While flipping through channels the other night, I was caught off guard by a PBS documentary on Stephen Hawking. Aside from his obvious intellect, the theoretical physicist impressed me with his tireless drive to keep doing what he loves. Every student, tutor, and educator is at their best when intellectually curious – eager to learn – and who better to pique such curiosity than the world’s greatest mind.

HIGHLIGHT: Episode 3 The Story of Everything

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