Gamification and Edutainment. Two terms that are being used more frequently by educators, especially when discussing how to make the learning experience more engaging. However there are distinct differences between the two. This entry will look at what Gamification and Edutainment is and isn’t. We will also define the differences between the two.
Let’s just go ahead and get the most common misconception about Gamification out of the way. Gamification is not the process of transforming an activity or learning material into a game; that concept is identified as serious games, a topic that will be discussed in the future. In short Gamification is not a game. It lacks two primary features of a game: game play and the novelty of being just for fun. A learning activity that has effectively been gamified has the sense of game play. Gamification is the process of applying game thinking, game elements/mechanics and game design techniques to non-game activities to engage and motivate the learner to increase learning and solve probleming. Gamification is used to prompt intrinsic motivators to get learners to engage with the material. Extrinsic motivators are important in the Gamification process as well, but they should be used cautiously. The purpose of Gamification is to motivate learner to engage with the content on their own. With the rise of a new generation of learners and educators new ways of learning and teaching are becoming increasingly popular with Gamification at the forefront.
“Gamification is not the process of transforming an activity or learning material into a game.”
It Is What It Isn’t
It should go without saying that in learning there is no perfect solution. There are different types of learners, teaching techniques and methods. Gamification is no exception in the fact that it isn’t the answer to all learning situations or learners. This is key when deciding whether or not you need to gamify the learning. It is easy to think that including things such as scores/points, badges, and rewards is successful Gamification, but this is not the case. In order for Gamification to be truly successful several gaming elements must be used together (i.e. engagement, levels, storytelling, strategy, collaboration, etc). With that being said, Gamification isn’t easy. It takes time and thought to successfully implement game play elements into learning. Things you have to consider are your audience, the technical requirements and accessibility, culture, what you are training on, and what game elements are best suited just to name a few.
As I alluded to earlier Gamification is not new. It has been used as part of strategical warfare since the 7th century, with games similar to Chess. Educators have a long-standing practice of using gaming elements such as time, story, collaboration, and competition to improve the learning experience. Even with the use of these gaming elements not all educators are advocates of Gamification. Often times Gamification is frowned upon by people who are not experts on the subject; the reason being is that they think that Gamification dilutes learning. In fact its purpose is the complete opposite; it should increase the learning performance and retention. This misconception is more in line with Edutainment.
Edutainment is a form of entertainment media that is designed to both entertain and educate. The primary purpose this form of entertainment will vary depending on who you ask. This teaching practice is ideal for mobile learning, since it can be incremental, resumed at the learners leisure, and done on the go. Educating can be the primary focus of the content or it can be the secondary focus, it all depends on the creator’s main goal. Various forms of media is used in Edutainment. Video, primarily television shows, is one of the most popular forms of Edutainment. Music, books, and electronic games are other common mediums that are used to disseminate educational information. Outside of general education topics Edutainment is used to share information about societal issues, political, health, and substance abuse. When using form of educating it is important to remember that the purpose is not to impose one’s opinion on others, but to share factual information or to motive people want to learn more about a topic.
The major difference between Gamification and Edutainment is that Edutainment is a form of media and Gamification is a process. Edutainment has a purpose (either primary or secondary) to entertain its audience, while Gamification’s purpose is to engage its audience. To get a better understanding of the difference look at it this way…when a child watches a television program about Earth they are being entertained, this is a one-sided scenario where the all child has to do is watch as the television program disseminates information (similar to a college lecture hall). A child is engaged in learning if they were to play a Family Feud type of game to learn facts about the Earth with their classmates; here they are being engaged in the learning process, with the teacher and classmates to correctly answer questions about the Earth.
Some forms of Edutainment doesn’t require any form of engagement from the learner. This has led to one the main criticisms of Edutainment – its one-sided “engagement.” With the technical breakthroughs of today that problem could soon be a thing of the past. With artificial intelligence (AI), and hardware like the X-Box Kinect and Microsoft Hololens Edutainment can be a very engaging learning experience. Like Gamification, Edutainment is not perfect for all learning situations, but is an ideal way of getting people excited about learning.
Educational children shows in the 80s and 90s were some of the most popular forms child television programming. Shows like Sesame Street, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Reading Rainbow, The Magic School Bus, and Schoolhouse Rock had a primary purpose of teaching the viewer something.
An example of Edutainment with a primary focus on educating is Bill Nye the Science Guy. Check out the clip below.
80’s cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, and G.I. Joe had morals or life lessons written in the story. However these shows main purpose was to entertain the young audience (and to sell the toys of the respective cartoon). The lesson was secondary and brought into focus at the end of the episode.
Here is an example of Edutainment with a focus on entertainment. In this episode of She-Ra the educational message was about why it is wrong to steal.
“What Did You Learn Today”
Today we examined what Gamification and Edutainment are. Gamification the process of adding gaming elements to learning, is becoming increasingly more popular in educational environments and is used to heighten the engagement of the audience. Learning doesn’t have to be an activity that requires a centralized location. Edutainment provides a great way for learners to learn when they choose to and allows them to make mistakes without grave consequences. Gamifcation and Edutainment are idea for specific types of learning and it is up to educator to effectively determine which of these work best and when. There are technical challenges and considerations that need to be taken into account when looking at both these methods of teaching. It takes a lot of planning and leg work to make these methods work but in the end the results are worth it for everyone.
Remember learning can be FUN!