The convergence of information technology, particularly multimedia applications, has made it possible to create electronic games with characters that come alive on the screen. From its original use just for entertainment, electronic games now can be used for educational purposes. Thus, the term ‘edutainment’ is created from a combination of the two areas: education and entertainment. Exploring the edutainment environment has become an interesting research area and understanding its application to suit various learning environments or teaching models is a crucial issue.
Edutainment can be defined as:
A place where children could enjoy what they learn with a combination of many mediums (sound, animation, video, text and images) by simply using a computer mouse to point and click on a particular picture, word, or button; and stories as well as information that will come alive on a computer screen. (Druin & Solomon, 1996)
To Buckingham and Scanlon (2000), edutainment is a hybrid genre that relies heavily on visual material, on narrative or game-like formats, and on more informal, less didactic styles of address. The purpose of edutainment is to attract and hold the attention of the learners by engaging their emotions through a computer monitor full of vividly coloured animations. It involves an interactive pedagogy and focuses on making learning inevitably fun. Edutainment environment has become immensely popular and commercially successful with parents, educators, and children. Research has shown that computers help children learn. The use of computer-based learning, or e-learning, was found useful with young children. Carlson and White (1998), for example, discovered that the use of a commercially available software program significantly improved preschool or kindergarten students’ understanding of the concepts of left and right. Based on their findings, the researcher concluded that it is possible to provide young preschool children with a favourable computer experience while enhancing their understanding of a particular educational concept.
Two other studies support the conclusion that well-designed e-learning activities, when presented with the active participation of a trained tutor, can increase young children’s cognitive abilities. Goldmacher and Lawrence (1992) studied two groups of preschool children enrolled in a Head Start1 program. One group followed the standard Head Start program while the other group participated in computer enrichment activities in addition to their standard Head Start activities. The computer activities were theme-based and built around a variety of software. Students in the computer or e-learning group demonstrated improvements in all academic skills tested and showed greater growth in memory and visual perception. Chang and Osguthorpe (1990) showed that kindergarten children who worked with a computer achieved higher scores in tests of word identification and reading comprehension than children who received regular noncomputer teaching.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Electronic Educational Games: Electronic educational games refers to electronic games that are used for educational purposes and are interchangeably used with the term edutainment. Although these two terms do not actually refer to the same thing, for this research, it is combined based on the factor of motivation. It also involves other means of electronic devices other than computer such as game consoles or video games, mobile devices, etc.
Edutainment: Edutainment refers to a combination of the two areas namely education and entertainment whereby the terms ‘player’ and ‘learner’ are occasionally treated as the same although player means the game player while learner means the edutainment user.
Electronic Games: Electronic games refers to all means of digital games that are developed for various types of digital machines such as computer, handheld, game consoles, mobile phones, Internet or other digital machines.
Framework for Edutainment: Framework for Edutainment is a direction in the research to test the overall effectiveness on specific issues namely to determine which activities promote concept development for different topics, guidelines on how to minimise users’ focus on the game activity (gradually shift it towards the subject activity) and to determine the types of interface, interactivity and challenge that can enhance users’ enjoyment of the activity without distracting them from the learning outcome expected from the storytelling of a game.
Edutainment Environment: Edutainment environment refers to the coupling between the game module and the instructional module, but not to leave out the area of computer-supported co-operative work for teaching and learning. Thus, most of the studies of co-operative learning on computer tasks emphasise how the educator can structure co-operative tasks and group compositions to maximise academic and social benefits using existing technology. It also looks at the possibilities of enhancement by changes in the computer hardware, the software, or the choice of user interfaces and the multi-input systems and other shared-screen issues.
Computer Games: Computer games are digital games that are developed for computer such as a personal computer. It also reflects on games that are played online by using a personal computer to interact with other game players on the Internet.
Educational Software: Educational software is the developmental and non-developmental software which are specifically used for education. It also reflects on the technical and also instructional design for developing the courseware or educational application.