By E. Brown
Edutainment. In some circles this is a dirty word. Some teachers may respond, “I am not in class (or online) to entertain, I am there to teach!” Well, let me ask you, have you ever looked out over your class and seen people asleep? Have you ever felt like you were the only one interested in the topic you were teaching?
Unfortunately, many teaching lectures and classes fail to engage the learner. I vividly remember experiences in Elementary School, High School, and College where the difference between teachers that showed up for class and teachers that engaged the class stood out in glaring contrast.
Elementary School Comparison
One teacher was a “screamer”. She called all her students by their last name (which is typically a sign of contempt). I honestly cannot think of a thing I learned while in her class. Contrast her with a teacher I had the year before and it was night and day difference. This teacher was much more compassionate. Called all her students by their first names and made sure to say “hello” and “good bye” to every student each day with a hug. She was creative and energetic in her approach to teaching. Did I learn in her class? You bet I did. I listened to everything she taught me. Why? Because she engaged me and each of her students on a personal level.
High School Comparison
Granted, High School is not the easiest season of life to try and engage students in learning. Many students would rather be hanging out with their friends. Many of my teachers were good. But good can be the enemy of great. I remember one great teacher who engaged his classes. This man would take time out of his day if he saw you needed help. He had the kind of creativity and character that you wanted to aspire to and kids wanted to hang around him. Not because he was their “buddy”, but because he cared about what he taught, who he taught to, and how he taught it.
See a pattern emerging?
Similar situations — professors who were excited about their subjects passed that enthusiasm onto their classes in entertaining ways. Other prof’s that were more interested in their own research/grants seemed to see classes as interruptions in their personal schedules.
Know The Audience
So, what does all this have to do with edutainment? In order to engage the learner you need to know who they are — know your audience. Do your homework. Listen to focus groups, students, and customers.
Also, ask yourself if you enjoy what you do? Maybe teaching is not for you. It could be you have more interest in research. If you are not genuinely excited about what you’re teaching then it will be obvious to everyone — but you.
- Be yourself – use humor if that comes naturally to you.
- Be honest and open – when you’re transparent your class can better relate to you and will listen to what you have to say.
- Use props – strong visual reminders can do wonders for cementing concepts in the minds of your class/audience.
- Activities – to be used only when it makes sense and reinforces.
- Participation – engage members in participating what you are teaching.
- Remove distractions – whether in the room or any annoying habits you have picked up, remove them.
Edutainment is not a dirty word. We need to engage the learner. We need to engage them on a personal level and academic level. We need to help them understand why the knowledge and information we are conveying is relevant. If not, we have lost their attention and, consequently, lost any opportunity to truly teach.
If you have others ideas let me know in the comments section below.