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Edutainment (also educational entertainment or entertainment-education) is a form of entertainment designed to educate as well as to amuse.


Edutainment typically seeks to instruct or socialize its audience by embedding lessons in some familiar form of entertainment: television programs, computer and video games, films, music, websites, multimedia software, etc. Examples might be guided nature tours that entertain while educating participants on animal life and habitats, or a video game that teaches children conflict resolution skills. Most often, edutainment seeks either to tutor in one or more specific subjects, or to change behavior by engendering specific sociocultural attitudes. Successful edutainment is discernible by the fact that learning becomes fun and teachers or speakers educate an audience in a manner which is both engaging and amusing.

It can be argued that edutainment has existed for millennia in the form of parables and fables that promoted social change. One of the most influential modern-day practitioner and theorist in the field is Miguel Sabido. In the 1970s, Sabido began producing telenovelas (soap operas or serial dramas) that combined communication theory with pro-health/education messages to educate audiences throughout Latin America about family planning, literacy, and other topics. His model, which incorporated the work of Albert Bandura and others theorists, as well as research to determine whether programs impacted audience behavior, revolutionized the field. Today, these principles are being used extensively in the health communication field to educate people around the world about important health issues. Various groups in the United Statesmarker and the United Kingdommarker have used edutainment to address such health and social issues as substance abuse, immunization, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and cancer. Initiatives in major universities, such as Johns Hopkins University and the University of Wisconsin-Madisonmarker, NGOs such as PCI-Media Impact, and government agencies such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), are using edutainment to impact the United States and the world.


The term edutainment was used as early as 1948 by The Walt Disney Company to describe the True Life Adventures series. .

The noun edutainment is a neologistic portmanteau used by Robert Heyman in 1973 while producing documentaries for the National Geographic Societymarker. It ws also used by Dr. Chris Daniels in 1975 to encapsulate the theme of his Millennium Project. This project later became known as The Elysian World Project.

Edutainment can be used to describe various learning modules.

Educational theories

Entertainment-Education uses a blend of core communication theories and fundamental entertainment pedagogy to guide the preparation of the programming. Additionally the CDC has a tip sheet available on its website that provides additional guidance for writers and producers .

The major communication theories that influence Entertainment-Education include:
  • Persuasion Theory: (Aristotle, Petty, Cacioppo) Psychological characteristics affect the response of a person to messages.
  • Also indicates the message and source factors that influence a person's response such as the credibility, attractiveness, and expertise of the source.
  • Theory of Reasoned Action: (Ajzen, Fishbein) Social influences affect behavior, including beliefs and perceived social norms.
  • Social Learning Theory: (Bandura) People learn by observing others and the consequences of their behavior.
  • If the person so chooses, they then emulate the behavior by rehearsing the action, taking action, comparing their experiences to the experiences of others, and then adopting the new behavior.
  • Diffusion Theory: (Rogers) Behavior spreads through a community or group over a period of time.
  • Television may plant the idea, but social networks reinforce it and cause it to grow.

Pedagogy involved with Entertainment-Education include:
  • Relevance: Learning is more likely when people can see the usefulness of the knowledge they are given.
  • Incremental Learning: Learning is most effective when people can learn at their own pace.
  • Distributed Learning: (Fossard) Different people learn in different ways over different periods of time.
  • It is important to present information differently so that people can absorb it.

Edutainment in media

Edutainment in video games

In 1983, the term "edutainment" was used to describe a package of software games for the Oric 1 and Spectrum Microcomputers in the UK. Dubbed "arcade edutainment" an advertisement for the package can be found in various issues of "Your Computer" magazine from 1983. The software package was available from Telford ITEC a government sponsored training program. The originator of the name was Chris Harvey who worked at ITEC at the time.Since then, many other computer games such as Electronic Arts computer game Seven Cities of Gold, released 1984, have also used the term edutainment to describe their product. Most edutainment games seek to teach players using a game based learning approach. Criticism as to what video games can be considered "educational" as lead to the creation of Serious games whose primary focus is to teach rather than entertain.

Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen (PhD, Psychologist) has spent a great deal of time researching The Educational use and potential of computer games and has written many articles on the subject. The most specific paper dealing with Edutainment breaks it down into 3 generational categories to separate the cognitive methods most predominantly used to teach. In his papers he is critical of the research that has been done in the areas of the educational use of computer games cited their intolerable biases and weaknesses in method causing them to lack scientific validity in their findings.

Edutainment in film and television programming

Motion pictures with educational contents appeared as early as 1943, such as Private Snafu, and can still be seen in modern films such as An Inconvenient Truth.

After World War II, edutainment shifted towards television. The presence of edutainment is especially evident in children's television series, such as Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and Teletubbies. For older viewers, individual situation comedy episodes also occasionally serve as edutainment vehicles. These episodes are sometimes described in United Statesmarker television commercial parlance as very special episodes. The American sitcom Happy Days produced an especially effective edutainment episode which was reported to have prompted a 600% increase in the U.S.marker demand for library cards.

Discovery Channel is also known for its various shows that follow the theme, such as MythBusters.

There are many television programs that incorporate Entertainment-Education as well. The Sentinel Award, which is administered by the University of Southern Californiamarker's Annenberg Center for Communication, the CDC and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), is given each year to programs that address health and medical issues in their storylines. 2006's nominees/winners include:

  • Numb3rs - for a storyline about the shortage of organ donations.
  • Grey's Anatomy - for story lines about organ transplantation and cancer.
  • As the World Turns - for a breast cancer storyline that involved a major character.
  • The George Lopez Show - for a storyline about a kidney transplant.
  • Don Pedro's Diabetes - a telenovela about a major character's struggle with diet, exercise, and medication to control diabetes.

Edutainment in radio

Radio can also serve as an effective vehicle for edutainment. The Britishmarker radio soap opera The Archers has for decades been systematically educating its audience on agricultural matters; likewise, the Tanzanian radio soap opera Twende na Wakati ("Let's Go With the Times") was written primarily to promote family planning.

Other successful radio programs that have incorporated Entertainment-Education principles include:
  • DJ Nihal's BBC Radio 1 radio show which centered around 'edutainment'. He mentions this term each time the show is broadcast.
  • "The Lawsons/Blue Hills" - a radio program that was designed to help Australian farmers adjust to new farming methods.
  • "Tinka Tinka Sukh" - a Hindi-language radio program that results in environmental and health improvements in India.
  • Soul City - An extremely successful, South African radio serial drama that carried AIDS prevention messages

Cultural Impact

Some college professors have adopted the practice of edutainment in order to keep the interest of adult students in long classroom lectures . Here the instructor entertains the students while meeting course objectives. An important teaching technique of education is to use variety, by utilizing various mediums such as video, in-class skits, demonstrations, and Power Point slides along with lectures. Within the lecture, the instructor can add comedy and discussions of personal experiences of the professor or students .

Educational play facilities as well as hands-on children's museums are considered to be "edutainment" where children actively play in engaging environments, and learning in the process. Some examples of edutainment facilities are PlayWiseKids in Columbia, MD; Talents Center in Saudi Arabia; Strong National Museum of Playmarker in Rochester, NY; the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, PA; Kidzania in Mexico D.F, created by Xavier Lopez Ancona; and Micropolix, in Madrid, created by Javier Carballo. These facilities are also popular field trip destinations for pre-school and elementary school teachers.

Criticism of edutainment

Edutainment is also a growing paradigm within the science museum community in the United Statesmarker. This approach emphasizes fun and enjoyment, often at the expense of educational content. The idea is that people are 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.


  1. Marta Rey-López et al. A Model for Personalized Learning. In: Adaptive Hypermedia and Adaptive Web-Based Systems. Springer. Berlin. 2006.
  3. Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 19, pp. 123- 205). New York: Academic Press.
  5. Bandura, A. (1977) Social Learning Theory. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Hardback: ISBN 0-13-816744-3, Paperback: ISBN 0-13-816751-6
  6. Rogers, Everett. 1962. Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free Press
  8. Creating Interest in the Classroom
  9. Professor Teaching Model

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