Entertainment’s Educational Impact

By E. Brown

Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood. – Walt Disney

Why is there even a debate about the effects of entertainment on culture? I have heard some big businesses say, “TV and movies have no effect on people,” and in the next breath they “OK” spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for a Super Bowl commercial spot? Why spend that amount of money if media and entertainment has “no effect on people”?

Issues Around Edutainment
The answer is obvious. Walt Disney certainly understood the significance of entertainment and fun as it related to educating and learning. However, there still exists a tension between entertainment and edutainment. Many educators feel that edutainment is not educating. Some say it promotes:

  • Short attention span
  • Lack of focus
  • Apathy
  • Impatience
  • Boredom
  • And, in extreme cases, harmful tendencies

Regarding boredom, there certainly is some credibility. Author, Richard Winter probed this issue in his book, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment

Though we have hundreds of entertainment options today–video games, the Internet, CD and MP3 players, home entertainment centers, sporting events, megamalls, movie theaters, and even robotic toys–Western culture is battling an insidious disease. It’s an epidemic of boredom. Intrigued by this “deadness of soul,” Richard Winter uses the latest historical, physiological, and psychological research to probe the nature, causes and effects of boredom. He explores:

  • why some people are more likely to get bored than others
  • the indifference and the loss of meaning among youth
  • the attraction of extreme sports
  • how advertising promotes apathy
  • the link between boredom and addictions to violence and pornography

Not satisfied with mere description and analysis, Winter also offers practical ways to counteract boredom by learning to live with passion and wonder.

However, the question of edutainment is still debated. The fact is, entertainment does have a level of influence on people, society, and culture. Another fact is, too much entertainment can lead to apathy and boredom — history has shown this numerous times in previous civilizations (i.e. Roman Empire). This also reminds me of the March 2007 news about the Barbie Bandits — bored kids trying to get a “thrill” by robbery.

Edutainment is also a growing paradigm within the science museum community in the United States. This approach emphasizes fun and enjoyment, often at the expense of educational content. The idea is that Americans are so used to flashy, polished entertainment venues like movie theaters and theme parks that they demand similar experiences at science centers and museums. Thus, a museum is seen as just another business competing for entertainment dollars from the public, rather than as an institution that serves the public welfare through education or historical preservation. (Wikipedia)

Walking The Line
Part of the challenge and part of the fun is creating training and educational material that is attention grabbing, interactive, and does what it is supposed to do — educate. This is not easy. Many companies have started down this path only to get sucked over to the glitz and glitter of entertainment and not balancing out the educational side of the business.

So, the old argument about entertainment having no effect on people is bogus. Walt Disney recognized it years ago and built his early theme parks and movies around it. What we put into our lives as youth can and does shape our personal paradigm and moral compass as adults.

Therefore…

  • Always be a learner.
  • Always challenge yourself.
  • Never stop growing and applying.
  • Keep it fun.

Related Links
Edutainment Blog
Learning Must be Fun article
Warcraft – Nexus of NextGen eLearning article

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