Edutainment

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Topic and Authors

Edutainment by Denise Nagle & Felix Baumann

Introduction

The word Edutainment is portmanteau of the words 'Education' and 'Entertainment'. The word was first used by Dr. Chris Daniels in 1975 to describe his Millennium Project, which became known as 'The Elysian World Project', and subsequently used in the 1990's by Peter Catalanotto, a teacher who travelled around educating children about writing and illustrating.

What is Edutainment?

Edutainment refers to a type of educational media that is also entertaining. For this reason, a large part of the edutainment market focuses on children. The market for educational toys for children is huge (it was 2.1bn $US in 2006 and it is predicted to be 7.3bn $US in 2011[1]) and ever expanding with all the new forms of computer software and digital media that is being developed. Parents now want the best for their children in every aspect of their lives, so games and television shows that are both engaging and educational are valued by parents and enjoyed by children. One aspect that clearly has to be kept in mind is the balance between the entertainment part and the educational part - when too entertaining the danger of not learning anything is great but when too educational the edutainment-product can be boring.

Types of Edutainment

The quickly developing digital world means that new and improved forms of edutainment are being created all the time. Edutainment products for adults are now more common and sophisticated, and products for children can cover a multitude. Edutainment on its own is not a necessarily new thing and therefore not bound to a specific medium. Even in ancient times, people tried to educate others by the means of entertainment which can be seen when looking at folk tales, fables and myths.

Risks of Edutainment

Some people say the whole idea of edutainment is wrong in principle, for it depicts knowledge and learning as something unpleasant that has to be gift-wrapped in entertainment to be bearable, that is not true at all and children can have fun learning. Other risks are the overdose of entertainment i.e. the educational part is not noticed at all or just seen as a part of the game. Parents can think that by giving their children edutainment products they are done with the education of their children (TV as a Babysitter). Because it is rather complicated making appealing edutainment products people have to rely on "big" companies fabricating them, who therefor decide what is worth learning and what is not (some sort of filtered reality). This problem becomes more substantial when there is no free market for these products, but a monopoly.

Television

A perfect example of edutainment for children through the television is the popular show Dora the Explorer[2.1 + 2.2]. The show was originally aired on Nickelodeon, but has proven so popular with children and parents alike that it has been sold too many stations all over the world. Even Ireland's native speaking television network, TG4, bought a few seasons of the show and translated it into Irish. The educational quality of Dora is that she teaches children a few simple words of Spanish as they watch the show. She also encourages problem solving by asking for help during the show.

Toys

The market for children's edutainment toys is massive, and applies to ages from newborn upwards. Newborn toys include mats that have different textures and cot mobiles, all designed to stimulate healthy brain development. Toys such as Fisher Price[3], V-Tech[4] and Playskool[5] have an incredible range of toys for children under 5, all designed to aid healthy growth.

Computers

As children get older, their edutainment products get more sophisticated and computer based. A large amount of games can be purchased intending to help the child to learn how to count, learn the alphabet, different types of music etc. Of course, using these games also gives them useful computer skills for later in life. Another aspect of these games is that they can stimulate the imagination, problem-solving abilities and hand-eye coordination.

Websites

The edutainment aspect of computers is not only restricted to computer games but there are numbers of websites dedicated to combining learning with an entertaining element. These websites have the great benefit of being (mostly) free of charge and easily accessible from wherever a Internet connected PC is at hand.

Examples of Edutainment

Screenshots available but picture uploading is not implemented in this wiki.

Alice[5]

Alice by Carnegie Mellon University is software that is freely available (and open sourced) on Alice.org which is meant to teach students (high school and college) object-oriented programming in a 3D environment and the manipulation of objects within. Alice targets introductory courses of object-oriented programming and introduces the basic principles of object-oriented programming through immediate response of the environment. There also exist a few (the Alice.org website lists currently 9 books) complementary textbooks. There is also a version targeting middle-school students called Storytelling Alice.

Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training[6]

Though not being a game in the common sense, this piece of software can be regarded as edutainment software because it has a clearly educational factor and entertains the user. It is currently (Oct 2008) on the 3th sales rank of PC&Video Games of Amazon.co.uk. Dr. Kawashima's Brain training is only available for the Nintendo DS handheld console, because it utilizes its touch screen capabilities for hand-writing recognition and its built-in microphone for speech recognition. There is also a multiplayer mode for up to 16 players built in.

Dora the Explorer[7]

"Dora the Explorer" is a cartoon TV series targeting younger children. It started airing in 2000 and there are currently 5 seasons with 107 episodes (Oct 2008). The producer is Chris Gifford and it was originally aired on Nickelodeon but has been sold to many stations all over the world. The series is very popular spawning quite a few books, lots of merchandising and an upcoming movie. The educational part of "Dora the Explorer" is teaching Spanish words (or other languages depending on the country aired) and teaching problem solving strategies by asking for help, integrating the viewers by asking them questions (e.g. where to go or what they liked best in the current episode of course without real feedback).

The KDE Education Project[8]

The KDE Education Project is a software suite for Linux operating systems consisting of a variety of (free and open-source) learning and edutainment software products. They range from word learning software for small children through vocabulary learning software for older ones, to software that teaches programming, geography, typing, astronomy, chemistry and physics.

Sophie's World[9 + 10]

Sophie's World, a novel about philosophy by Jostein Gaarder (1991), has been adapted as a PC game in 1998 by The MultiMedia Corporation. This game contains virtual locations filled with puzzles and can be regarded as a sort of Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The educational part deals with various philosophical ideas which the user can get to know.

A Day on The Farm[11]

Targeting toddlers, this piece of software wants to teach them about basic things like colours, shapes, animals and numbers. Combining this educational part with the entertaining part of bright, colorful graphics and catchy music, this software is an example of the variety of target groups edutainment software is targeting.

Save Africa Concert Foundation[12]

This organization tries to make people aware of the dangers of AIDS and other health issues by holding events with musicians, artists, politicians and increasing awareness and educating their audience about these issues. The entertainment part of this can clearly be observed in the fact that there is music, dance, plays and singing. This is a real-life edutainment project in contrast to the various other edutainment formats showing that edutainment is not limited to a single format/media.

Andy Glockenspiel "Life-Skills Edutainment[13]

Andy Glockenspiel's Life-Skills Edutainment program tries to edutain children via songs (on CD or as MP3) on various aspects of life and best practices such as self-esteem (I'm supposed to be me, Andy Glockenspiel - 2002) or making mistakes (I make mistakes, Andy Glockenspiel 2001).

Math is Fun website[14]

This website contains a lot of mathematical games and explanations suitable for younger learners. It tries to explain simple mathematical facts embedded in stories and even has an illustrated mathematical dictionary. The puzzles / games on this site are categorized and contain logical-, number-, card- and symmetry puzzles as well as others. Some of the games are computer based, others are for printing and cutting out whereas others are pure riddles. Other similar websites are cut-the-knot.org, Fun Mathematic Lessons by Cynthia Lanius, funbrain.com and Learning Vocabulary Fun.

trauma.org[15]

This website puts you in the position of a doctor who has to treat an emergency patient. The intent of the site is to learn proper ways of dealing with wounded patients. As this website is targeted to a specialized clientele, it is not so much focused on the entertainment part (which is in fact reduced to the somewhat witty answers the website gives you) but on a highly realistic depiction of the injuries and the treatment. This can be seen as an example for edutainment tailored for adults as part of a training program/learning process.


References

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