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Edutainment is a form of education which is designed to be entertaining, in order to keep people interested and engaged. A wide variety of formats can be used to present edutainment, ranging from books to guided tours of zoological parks, and this particular branch of the education world is also extremely profitable. Numerous companies make very large sums of money producing educational materials with an entertaining twist, and in some regions of the world, the rise of edutainment has been criticized by people who fear that it sometimes focuses more on amusing people than teaching them.
The basic concept of edutainment is quite old, although the word, a portmanteau of “education” and “entertainment” was coined in the early 1990s. Many children's books in the 19th century were prime examples of edutainment, with readers being drawn in by colorful scenes which were used to teach them letters of the alphabet and words. Children's books were also used as vehicles for moral and social lessons, as in the case of books which encouraged children to share, or stories about children who failed to heed warnings and ended up in trouble. In the 1990s, however, the edutainment industry exploded, and became much more diverse.
In addition to books, edutainment can also appear in the form of board games, television shows, movies, class activities, video games, and in other formats. Edutainment may also take the form of a trip to a zoo, museum, playground, park, or similar location, in which students are educated about the place they are visited while being entertained by the sights. Edutainment products have also been aimed at people beyond school age: entertaining educational posters about diseases, for example, are posted in many doctor's offices to teach people about common diseases and methods which can be used to prevent them.
The goal of an edutainment product or experience is to provide some valuable knowledge to the consumer by keeping him or her engaged with entertaining material. People who argue in favor of edutainment suggest that when educational material is presented in a dry way, people tend to tune out, and they do not actually absorb the material or the lesson. For example, people are usually more interested by a brightly colored pamphlet than they are by a single sheet covered in densely written text.
However, some educators have suggested that edutainment may cross a line at times. When material is more amusing than it is educational, students can lose out. The focus on providing entertainment foremost is also viewed as problematical in some communities, with critics suggesting that people may not be able to focus on less dynamic presentations of material because they have been deluged in edutainment. In other words, some critics think that edutainment has created its own market by training people to look for amusement before they seek out knowledge.