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Education and Edutainment Essay

The idea that learning can be fun, and fun can promote learning, is transforming attractions that once saw themselves as primarily either education- or entertainment-oriented. It’s even spawned a new word: edutainment.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines edutainment as “the act of learning through a medium that both educates and entertains.” In that definition, learning is the key element. We’d suggest that when applied to the location-based entertainment (LBE) industry, the emphasis is switched.

We define LBE edutainment as “events, programs and attractions where the entertainment qualities are the primary draw, with the learning or education being a byproduct.” We see edutainment as any entertainment that also delivers educational content in an entertainment format. It consists of two equally important parts: the format (entertainment) and the message/content (education).

Our research indicates the first use of the word edutainment was for educationally oriented CD-ROM games used to teach children in an entertaining way. As best we can determine, our company was the first to apply the word in the LBE industry to describe the children’s play & discovery centers we starting producing for our clients in the mid-’90s, which we called ‘children’s edutainment centers.’ The articles we authored about edutainment centers published in industry magazines during the late ’90s imbedded the term into the industry’s lexicon.

Given a choice between just education, just entertainment, or a combination of the two, more LBE guests prefer the two-fer. A couple of examples: One survey of videogame manufacturers and designers found that they believe that a game with up to 50% educational content will still be perceived as entertainment. And many informal learning institutions like zoos, museums and botanical gardens are adding entertainment elements to their offerings in recognition of the greater appeal of this combination.

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