EdAlive’s titles can be categorized broadly as Edutainment software. EdAlive believes that kids learn best when they are having fun and focused on educational activities pitched at their own level.
The following adapted article is instructive as to the medium of Edutainment generally and Edutainment software specifically.
Edutainment is not new
It can be argued that edutainment has existed for millennia in the form of parables and fables that promoted social change.
Modern forms include television productions, film, museum exhibits, and computer software which use entertainment to attract and maintain an audience, while incorporating deliberate educational content or messages.
Since the 1970s, various groups in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Latin America have used edutainment to address such health and social issues as substance abuse, immunization, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and cancer.
One form of edutainment popular in Latin America is the educational telenovela. Miguel Sabido, a producer of telenovelas from the 1970s on, has combined communication theory with pro-health/education messages to educate audiences throughout Latin America about family planning, literacy, and other topics. The term edutainment was used as early as 1948 by The Walt Disney Company to describe the True Life Adventures series. Entertainment-Education uses a blend of core communication theories and fundamental entertainment pedagogy to guide the preparation of the programming.
The major communication theories that influence Entertainment-Education include:
- Persuasion Theory: (Aristotle, Petty, Cacioppo) Psychological characteristics affect the response of a person to messages. Also indicates the message and source factors that influence a person’s response such as the credibility, attractiveness, and expertise of the source.
- Theory of Reasoned Action: (Ajzen, Fishbein) Social influences affect behavior, including beliefs and perceived social norms.
- Social Learning Theory: (Bandura) People learn by observing others and the consequences of their behavior. If the person so chooses, they then emulate the behavior by rehearsing the action, taking action, comparing their experiences to the experiences of others, and then adopting the new behavior.
- Diffusion Theory: (Rogers) Behavior spreads through a community or group over a period of time. Television may plant the idea, but social networks reinforce it and cause it to grow.
- Pedagogy involved with Entertainment-Education include:
- Relevance: Learning is more likely when people can see the usefulness of the knowledge they are given.
- Incremental Learning: Learning is most effective when people can learn at their own pace.
- Distributed Learning: (Fossard) Different people learn in different ways over different periods of time. It is important to present information differently so that people can absorb it.
In 1983, the term “edutainment” was used to describe a package of software games for the Oric 1 and Spectrum Microcomputers in the UK. Dubbed “arcade edutainment” an advertisement for the package can be found in various issues of “Your Computer” magazine from 1983. The software package was available from Telford ITEC a government sponsored training program. The originator of the name was Chris Harvey who worked at ITEC at the time. Since then, many other computer games such as Electronic Arts computer game Seven Cities of Gold, released 1984, have also used the term edutainment to describe their product. Most edutainment games seek to teach players using a game based learning approach. Criticism as to what video games can be considered “educational” has led to the creation of Serious games whose primary focus is to teach rather than entertain.
Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen (PhD, Psychologist) has spent a great deal of time researching the educational use and potential of computer games and has written many articles on the subject. One paper dealing specifically with Edutainment breaks it down into 3 generational categories to separate the cognitive methods most predominantly used to teach. In his papers he is critical of the research that has been done in the areas of the educational use of computer games cited their biases and weaknesses in method causing them to lack scientific validity in their findings.
Film and television programming
After World War II, edutainment shifted towards television. The presence of edutainment is especially evident in children’s television series, such as Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and Teletubbies. For older viewers, individual situation comedy episodes also occasionally serve as edutainment vehicles. These episodes are sometimes described in United States television commercial parlance as very special episodes. The American sitcom Happy Days produced an especially effective edutainment episode which was reported to have prompted a 600% increase in the U.S. demand for library cards. As early as the 1950s, children-aimed shows like “Watch Mr Wizard” were made which could be considered edutainment.
Discovery Channel is also known for its various shows that follow the theme, such as MythBusters.
There are many television programs that incorporate Entertainment-Education as well. The Sentinel Award, which is administered by the University of Southern California‘s Annenberg Center for Communication, the CDC and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), is given each year to programs that address health and medical issues in their storylines. 2006’s nominees/winners include:
Numb3rs – for a storyline about the shortage of organ donations.
Grey’s Anatomy – for story lines about organ transplantation and cancer.
As the World Turns – for a breast cancer storyline that involved a major character.
The George Lopez Show – for a storyline about a kidney transplant.
Don Pedro’s Diabetes – a telenovela about a major character’s struggle with diet, exercise, and medication to control diabetes.
Ben & Izzy – for a storyline about two children, Ben from America and Izzy from Jordan, who form a close bond despite their different cultural backgrounds.
Radio can also serve as an effective vehicle for edutainment. The British radio soap opera The Archers has for decades been systematically educating its audience on agricultural matters; likewise, the Tanzanian radio soap opera Twende na Wakati (“Let’s Go With the Times”) was written primarily to promote family planning.
Other successful radio programs that have incorporated Entertainment-Education principles include:
“The Lawsons/Blue Hills” – a radio program that was designed to help Australian farmers adjust to new farming methods.
“Tinka Tinka Sukh” – a Hindi-language radio program that results in environmental and health improvements in India.
Soul City – A successful South African radio serial drama that carried AIDS prevention messages.
The Donut Shop – A successful internet radio show talk about educational games that they think could be used in today’s schools.
Radio Ado and its radiodrama “Pildoritas de la Vida Real” a Mexican radio soap opera designed to disseminate sexual education among teenagers. This radiodrama was produced by the University of Guadalajara and teenagers from Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico.
Some college professors have adopted the practice of edutainment in order to keep the interest of adult students in long classroom lectures. Here the instructor entertains the students while meeting course objectives. An important teaching technique of education is to use variety, by utilizing various mediums such as video, in-class skits, demonstrations, and Power Point slides along with lectures. Within the lecture, the instructor can add comedy and discussions of personal experiences of the professor or students.
The concept of Edutainment is also being used for building e learning programs for organizations also. High technology is used to make the programs entertaining and educational.
Edutainment is also a growing paradigm within the science museum community in the United States. This approach emphasizes fun and enjoyment, often at the expense of educational content. The idea is that people are used to flashy, polished entertainment venues like movie theaters and theme parks that they demand similar experiences at science centers and museums. Thus, a museum is seen as just another business competing for entertainment dollars from the public, rather than as an institution that serves the public welfare through education or historical preservation