Edutainment: An Alternative Method for Liberal Arts Education
By Melisa Rivière
“So grab the sphere of life and aim it / And you’ll be guided by edutainment.”
-KRS-One (BDP, Jive/RCA Records; 1990)
A pedagogical approach that aims to entertain while providing educational content, known as “edutainment,” has recently developed as a rescue instructional style aimed at increasing student engagement in the college classroom. By accenting lectures with slides, role-playing, or multimedia productions, a sound-bite generation is lured into engaging with theoretical disciplinary topics. Regardless of where one places the balance between education and entertainment, both continue to view the student as a passive recipient of knowledge. The lack of proper framing, formal definition and evaluative analyses has limited the definition and development of this useful, yet vulnerable, pedagogical technique. I propose we begin to assess edutainment as a formal engagement approach, rather than a salvage pedagogical methodology.
The last decade has witnessed an expansive shift in college curriculum towards multidisciplinary instruction with the creation of institutes and individualized degrees that serve as umbrellas for joining academic departments. These modifications alongside the technological developments students experience in their personal lives has furthered cross-pollination between entertainment platforms and higher education. Yet a strict divide still exists between the academies and the arts industries. Most recent uses of edutainment are often defined by the act of either: (a) inserting educational content in film, music, and theatre; or (b) inserting visual arts, cyber-networking, and multimedia components into educational curriculum. Simply inserting entertainment into educational curriculum or producing educational content without a methodological bridge is prone to dilemmas. The method remains a top-down approach and keeps the student in a receptive role susceptible to the “banking system” of education (Freire 1970). Not only is it nearly impossible for professors to keep an updated database of all potential content, selected materials should require scholastic contextualization rather than unexamined pedagogical acceptance, not to mention the problematic displacement of responsibility towards teaching if overused.
Rather than accepting edutainment as a sum of education and entertainment, I propose an alternative formula using critical pedagogy to engage students through the communal active construction of knowledge (Bransford 1990). By producing the arts (painting, theatre, dance, music, film) between students and professors based on a diverse range of liberal arts themes and applicable to nearly all social science topics, students build their own representations of information that is engaging, relevant, and empowering (Spiro, R.J. & Jehng, J. 1990). Lastly, edutainment, when properly executed provides a liberal arts education while also stimulating student’s trade skills in audio engineering, design, or video production, thus motivating the learner’s multiple intelligences (Bonwell, C.; Eison, J. 1991; Gardner, H. 1993; Shneiderman 1994).
In sum, I propose edutainment not as a one-time approach or technique, nor a “mash-up” of two complementary elements, but rather a creative educational process that becomes the instructional tool between mentor and apprentice.
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Freire, Paulo. 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York. Herder and Herder.
Gardner, H. 1993. Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic Books.
Shneiderman, B. 1994. “Education by Engagement and Construction: Can Distance Education be Better than Face-to-Face?” [http://www.hitl.washington.edu/scivw/EVE/distance.html].
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