Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Dynamic Learning Environment/Edutainment
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you're part of the road.
Little Johnny comes home from his third grade class with a note that he needs signed by his mom because he failed this week’s States and Capitals quiz. He knows that his mom is going to be furious; but, he cannot seem to remember all 50 states and their capitals, even though he studied the list and maps for two hours the night before the quiz. Finally, after several minutes of hiding in the downstairs playroom, he confronts his mom and asks her to sign the note. Johnny thought she was going to be furious; however, she instead went into the living room and came back with a DVD case. She told him to use the downstairs playroom DVD player to watch the show over and over again until he can remember all of the states and their capitals. Reluctantly, Johnny returned to the playroom to watch the DVD. Sadly, he feared his sanctuary had become a torture chamber for his mom’s cruel and unusual punishment. Two hours later, he came back up to the kitchen, singing a catchy song about all the states and their capitals. The next week, Johnny came home with an A+ on his States and Capitals Test. Johnny had learned all of the states and their capitals in less than two hours thanks to a unique form of teaching called edutainment. Edutainment is defined by Merriam-Webster as entertainment (as by games, films, or shows) that is designed to be educational. With that said, what exactly is edutainment? More importantly, what is the role of edutainment in a classroom?
You Say Education, I Say Edutainment
Edutainment is any form of entertainment that is educational. It can be a show that teaches the order of the planets or a video game that teaches rapid typing skills. Most teachers already use edutainment, whether it is watching an old video or film reel or using a new SmartBoard, or electronic, interactive, blackboard. A teacher can hook up a SmartBoard to a computer so that it will display PowerPoint presentations, quick videos, or even full-length films. A teacher can also use a SmartBoard to show a class how they proof read a paper. The students can see everything the teacher does as he or she proof reads the paper.
Repetitive tasks can become dulling on the student's mind. Education need not just be writing definitions and reading endless sections. Edutainment gives a change of pace as well as an opportunity for the student to enjoy learning. Students can become engaged in the subject and have motivation for learning and memorizing new information. Writing a “Know-Learn-Want to Know” (KWL) doesn’t help the students if they fill it out every time they start a new section.
Cut! ...It Out, Seriously
A very common form of edutainment, that has been used since the invention of film, is educational movies. While some can be interesting and fun to watch, most tend to be dreary and boring. The movies that require the student to be interactive tend to be in the “good movie” pile, while movies that have the same narrator drone on about WWII and its effects on the Middle East are moved to the “bad movie” pile.
Edutainment is supposed to be entertaining. A black and white film portraying a culture that is many decades old is no longer interesting. However, a host dressed in a funny-looking lab coat that makes cheesy remarks about the molding process can teach more science in thirty minutes than the students have learned all week. A poorly-drawn cartoon that sings about words that connect ideas, phrases, and clauses, uses a catchy tune that stays with you for life. My mother, to this day, can still be caught singing “Conjunction, junction, what’s your function?” while folding laundry or surfing the web.
How likely is it that a student is going to remember the industrial revolution after watching low-quality, black-and-white film about factors that led to the revolutionary era? A lot less likely than if they watched a film where other students their age acted like adults during the industrial revolution, if it were to happen in today’s society.
Let's "cut" out the boring old films of yesteryear. If we want students to learn anything from videos, it won’t be from the ones I watched when I was a kid.
The World of Gaming
Video games are another form of edutainment. The educational video game market has been steadily increasing over the last five years (Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2007). This past year alone has seen a great deal of edutainment games similar to some original edutainment games like Brain Age and Big Brain Academy by Nintendo. In Brain Age, kids and adults perform simple tasks such as, adding numbers in quick succession, reading comprehensively, and telling how much time has past on a analog clock, among other tasks, to give your brain a “workout” and determine a relative age for their brain’s reflex ability, the younger – the more reflexive. Big Brain Academy focuses on five categories: think, memorize, analyze, compute, and identify. When the game starts, activities are completed at a fast pace and in quick succession to determine your "brain weight", areas of strengths and weaknesses, and which occupation or famous personality best compares to your brain weight score. The faster and more accurate you complete the activities the "heavier" your brain weighs (Nintendo, 2007).
Video games that fall in the educational genre are not the only video games that can be labeled as educational. Most video games require the player to think critically. In strategy games, you handle resources and personnel to achieve a specific objective. This can teach the player about basic economic principles. In fact, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro offer an economics class for college credits that is a full-fledged video game, simply called ECON 201. Through the challenges the game presents, students learn to deal with economic principles that range from scarcity to sustainable growth. ECON 201 also integrates a variety of interdisciplinary subjects that go beyond economics – such as biology, history and anthropology. For example, students must make ethical decisions as they play the game. They can, when poor actions call for it, face disease outbreak. They can also review historical examples of how the earth faced similar problems before, and apply the researched information to how they will fix their current problem (UNCG.edu, 2007).
A lot of games are being engineered to include an aspect of learning. Reid R. Frazier wrote, “Instead, Marinelli [Don, Director or Etcetera] and other faculty at ETC [Etcetera] want video games to teach, inform and inspire thought.” He also pointed out that games are being engineered specifically to teach. “Students at the ETC have designed games that simulate hazardous material spills for emergency workers, interactive theater for children with life-threatening illnesses and museum displays that teach American history. Current projects include games designed to teach negotiating skills to Girl Scouts and immunology to junior high students.” Edutainment in the form of gaming is on the rise.
Physical Edutainment: Joining the Dance Dance Revolution
Imagine walking into the gym and hearing “OK kids, it’s time to exercise, so get off your butts and turn on the video games!” Yes, video game edutainment has even infiltrated the ranks of Health & Physical Education. West Virginia, which has been saddled with the unenviable title of having the worst childhood obesity rate in the nation, has purchased and placed Konami's wildly popular Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) video game in every single one of its public schools after a 24 week study found that overweight/obese students using the game regularly halted weight gain, were healthier, more confident, and more willing to try other exercises. (Dancing video game...2007) The DDR game pad is about 3ft x 3ft square and has pressure sensitive arrows on it. To score points, players must step/dance on the pad in rhythm to the corresponding arrows scrolling on the game screen. In the wake of West Virginia's pioneering use of video games in the "battle of the bulge," insurance giant Kaiser Permanente released a free health video game, "The Amazing Food Detective," which can be found at http://members.kaiserpermanente.org/redirects/landingpages/afd/ . The game teaches about healthy lifestyles and shuts off after 20 minutes of play, and will not let a player log back in for at least an hour. (Video game teaches kids about diet...2007)
But, how can a teacher implement edutainment into an average classroom setting? Although some teaching should be left to books, pencils, and paper, any teacher can implement fun edutainment into the average classroom setting, even if just for a change a pace. Teachers can assign analytical assignments for video games already played at home, research good websites for educational games online, or even motivate students by planning a field trip to a LAN (Local Area Network) center for a team building day. Video games do not have to just teach history, math, science, or english to be educational. Video games can also teach art, music, social skills, team work, strategy, and planning, among other skills used in everyday life.
Teachers can encourage their students to write descriptive paragraphs about the video games they play at home (Hutchinson 2007). The teacher can ask the students to review the games they play in their “off-time” for valuable educational material. This asks the students the think critically and be analytical. For example, the student can take the average Mario Brother’s game (the premise being to run right and jump when needed) and turn it into a lesson about timing, patience, and motivation.
Teachers also have the option to research the World Wide Web for online games that can be played in the computer lab at school. FunBrain.com, for instance, caters to many age groups and subjects. It has a math-focused board game, Sudoku, and fun-to-read stories. It even has a Mad-Libs section that focuses on parts of speech! Students can have fun with out even knowing they are actually fine-tuning their brains.
Something that is a little different, however, completely workable, is scheduling a field trip to a LAN center. A LAN center is a building where many computers are hooked up, or networked, in order to specifically play together. Students would be motivated by the trip for the same reasons they are motivated to go on any other field trip- just to leave the school building. There are many angles from which to promote a LAN center field trip. Many LAN centers already have games to pick from to be played on a LAN (Local Area Network), the hard part will be picking a game appropriate to the skill or subject you are attempting to teach. Team Building is always an easy, but good, skill to work on in a LAN center. Many of the games require strategy, alliances, tact, and timing. However, teachers would have the option to have the class play Oregon Trail if they so desired.
Let’s face it, edutainment is being integrated into culture. The best way to approach the catchy form of teaching is through direct embrace. Become a developer of new ideas to implement video games and other forms of edutainment into the classroom. Encourage students to seek edutainment outside of the classroom! Invite a comical guest speaker to get the students interested in a new subject. Comedy is still considered a form of entertainment!
While it’s a ways off from implementation, hand-held systems today have many games that warm the brain up for intense absorption. There are also games that increase focus, teach and practice methods for memorization, and lay the foundation for organization. One game for the Nintendo DS asks the player to visit at least five times a week in order to keep the brain “young.” This will help students learn to keep a schedule.
Education has its pros and cons. The pros speak for themselves. The cons… are the time and effort needed to achieve even the slightest amount of success in education. A lot of subjects can become boring rather quickly. Edutainment allows all the boring time and effort spent on education to be turned into a fun experience that will leave you singing, “The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone,” that is right, you said knee bone.
Multiple Choice Questions
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- Big Brain Academy. (2007). Nintendo. Retrieved September 13, 2007, from http://www.bigbrainacademy.com/ds/what/index.html
- Dancing video game helps kids avoid weight gain (2007) Reuters. Retrieved 8 November 2007 from http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSN1V34193820070201?pageNumber=2&sp=true
- Edutainment. (2007). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 14, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edutainment
- Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S. (Fall 2007). Third generation educational use of computer games.(Report). Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16, 3. p.263(19). Retrieved September 13, 2007, from General OneFile via Gale:
- Frazier, Reid R. (Summer 2007). Pittsburgh Quarterly. Retrieved September 21, 2007, from http://www.pittsburghquarterly.com/pages/summer2007/summer2007_44.htm.
- Hutchison, D. (Jan-Feb 2007). Video games and the Pedagogy of Place. The Social Studies, 98, 1. p.35(6). Retrieved September 13, 2007, from General OneFile via Gale:
- UNCG Develops Ground-Breaking Video Game for College Credit. (2006). University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Retrieved September 15, 2007, from http://www.uncg.edu/ure/news/stories/2006/May/Econ201051706.htm
- Video game teaches kids about diet, then turns off (2007) Reuters Life!. Retrieved 8 November 2007 from http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSN9I43200920070925