What Is “Edutainment”?

What is Edutainment? Is it education that entertains or is it the other way around?

Definition from the Free Dictionary:

ed·u·tain·ment (ĕj′o͞o-tān′mənt, ĕj′ə-) n.

  1. The act of learning through a medium that both educates and entertains.
  2. Any of various media, such as computer software, that educate and entertain.

When I am invited to speak at educational meetings, one of the most requested and popular presentation topics is a program titled, Ophthalmic Jeopardy!  Based on the popular television quiz show format that most everyone is familiar with, I’ve created an interactive learning experience that also manages to entertain.  In short, it’s “Edutainment”.  It’s not a new or novel idea, but I’ve taken it a step or two further than similar game show presentations in ophthalmic education. The evolution of Ophthalmic Jeopardy! is interesting.

Years ago, one of the faculty members at the Penn State Department of Ophthalmology approached me about improving our local technician education program. The program included a simple quiz-show format of questions-and-answers with the host reading questions out loud from hand-written cards. It worked, but he wanted to “jazz things up a little”. He told me he had done some online research and found a source for Jeopardy style lockout buzzers/lights that would allow contestants to buzz in when they knew the correct answer. He wanted to pick contestants from the audience and turn it into a competition. Now all he needed was a way to project the questions onscreen and asked if we could make it more interactive like Jeopardy, with onscreen columns of different question-and-answer categories.

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I gave it some thought and told him it was possible, but entirely too much work to warrant the effort. But he knew me too well! I gave it a little more thought and started tinkering with the use of hyperlinks in PowerPoint to build an interactive screen that would allow us to randomly move back and forth between categories and questions. I had attended an OPS course entitled “Whiz-Bang PowerPoint Presentations” where Bill Anderson shared a way to hyperlink menus to organize an educational program with easy navigation between multiple speaker presentations. I figured I could build a Jeopardy template using similar hyperlinks between slides.

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I converted our existing quiz questions into the Jeopardy answer and question format, but many of them were simple or dry examples. Taking inspiration from Jeopardy! and the sometimes tongue-in-cheek themes, I began accumulating new questions and categories that would entertain as well as test knowledge. In crafting questions, I’ve relied on many years of training and experience in writing questions for certification examinations. But instead of being restricted by the necessary rules for crafting certification questions, Jeopardy allowed me to have some fun and take liberties with some of the topics and content.

Suddenly the project grew and seemed to take on a life of its own. Each presentation contains over 250 hyperlinks, tons of photos, videos, and sound files. We can now chose from an ever growing bank of questions that numbers in the several hundreds! The content is never the same twice. Each time I present it, there are new content areas and questions, but I keep some of the core categories. Often the content will be customized to the specific audience; for example including a local trivia category at regional or international meetings. It’s a great way to review content from other presentations over the course of a day-long or multi day meeting.

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In the early days, we would pick contestants who would use the buzzers to buzz in when they knew the answers, we kept score, and gave prizes to the winners. Different faculty members from Penn State Ophthalmology acted as the host and relished playing the part of Alex Trebek. I was the “puppet master” behind the scenes, driving the program and selecting the appropriate hyperlinks to navigate through the questions.

Something was still missing however. It was an entertaining spectacle, but the majority of the audience was reduced to bystanders when we could only chose five contestants from the group. So we eventually opened it up to the entire audience rather than a handful of contestants. At times it can become a little chaotic this way, but everyone seems engaged and involved.

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Although we’ve used it at Penn State for audiences ranging from physicians, technicians and the general public, the version used at photography meetings has a higher level of both difficulty and “cheesiness”. Imagers seem to quickly recognize rare and unusual eye findings, but also have a warped sense of humor and “get” the tongue-in-cheek nature of the categories and questions. It works best with larger audiences so it’s become a staple at OPS Mid-Year Educational Programs where the entire group is together in one lecture hall.

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For the last several years, I’ve come out from “behind the curtain” and started hosting Ophthalmic Jeopardy myself. When I retire from ophthalmic photography, maybe I can be a substitute for Alex Trebek! It’s entertaining for sure, but at its core it’s also educational. It’s a fun way to both laugh and learn – in short it’s “Edutainment”!

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The concept of edutainment isn’t limited to Ophthalmic Jeopardy. It seems to make it’s way into many of my presentations such as: Stereopalooza, OCT- Anatomy of a Scan,  Cases That Tell a Story, Top Ten Uses of a 2×4 in Ophthalmology and others.

For information on how you can be in the audience for the next episode of Ophthalmic Jeopardy! click here.

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