When it comes to education every institution, expert, teacher and parent has been searching for the perfect formula to make learning easy and exciting. To make it something that students want to do, want to engage with and want to excel in. It makes sense. Instead of complaints about ‘Why me’ and ‘I hate you’ whenever studies are mentioned, most people would prefer to hear ‘Oh, yes please’ or ‘Can I study now?’
It turns out that there is a secret. There is a trick to inspiring people to learn and engage with their tutors and materials. It’s called fun. Neuroscientists have discovered that the most effective way to absorb and retain information is linked to positive emotions and sensations. Positive thoughts and moods inspire students to think more critically, to look at inventive ways of overcoming challenges and to get stuck into problems with gusto.
In a recent piece for Learning Landscapes¹, neuroscientist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang elegantly described how the two elements of cognition and emotion have been traditionally perceived as different entities playing in a china shop. Cognition is the delicate china on the shelf, emotion the petulant child breaking it. Today, research has found that the two are actually interconnected and that emotions are fundamentally important to producing rational thought.
What was interesting about the research undertaken by Immordino-Young was that they found that emotions are not the bull running through the china shop of cognition, instead they are the foundations that hold cognition in place.
This research is further supported in a paper for Frontiers in Psychology by Chai Tyng, Hafeez Amin, Mohamad Saad and Aamir Malik on The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory². The paper found that emotion has a ‘substantial influence on cognitive processes in humans, including perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem solving’. If students are studying in a setting that doesn’t inspire positive emotions, then they may as well be at home. Education in a negative space can potentially be meaningless.
Of course, no sane parent is about to send their child home to watch TV because they’re having a tough time at school – there are thousands of other factors that play a role in the moods that school inspires – but they can create positive spaces and environments that change how education and learning are perceived.
This is where edutainment comes into its own.
A recent World Bank report³ into the value of edutainment found that it had the potential to change lives for billions of people. The organisation believes that edutainment campaigns could transform how people learn about issues like budgeting, hygiene and violence, and already there have been initiatives in South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal tapping into this potential. Right there lies the value of edutainment. It takes complex concepts out of the traditional dry and dusty tomes and intoned voices and transforms them into engaging and emotive scripts. People can relate to these moments, these scripts, on a real level – connecting the situations and the lessons to their everyday lives – and the impact on learning is phenomenal.
Edutainment is so much more than just a portmanteau, it is a scientifically measurable and proven methodology that inspires learning, engages students and supports the development of critical and creative thinking skills. It adds the positive ingredient to the educational mix and, as it gains ground as a valuable tool globally, it is set to give forthcoming generations a remarkable new way of achieving their potential. e² Young Engineers has used the science of edutainment to create programmes that inspire kids to learn more about engineering concepts, 3D modelling and more. The goal is to educate and inspire, the tool is edutainment, and the science is behind it.
Article by Jessi Sunkel, Young Engineers.