This merging of education and entertainment is based on the natural tendency of humans to want to hear stories.
It seems like a fight between bitter rivals. In one corner is education, which by definition involves concentrated attention. In the other corner is entertainment, which is associated with its opposite: fragmented attention. Is it possible to get them outside the ring to shake hands? Yes, through edutainment.
This is about teaching through the telling of stories that capture students’ attention.
It isn’t a new tool, since it’s been done for centuries with fables and children’s stories, but digital media now makes it more powerful.
“We’re addicted to storytelling. Our brains have been doing it for many years. Humans learn through stories. Our first survival exercises came through stories that are easy to tell from generation to generation,” says Juan Luis Rodríguez Pons, Content Director at Grand Masters, a digital edutainment platform, in an interview with Tec Review.
The communications expert brings up the way children have been taught not to accept gifts from strangers through the tale of Snow White.
“We also learned about the importance of using quality materials from the story of The Three Little Pigs, which is about the suitability of using bricks when building a house,” he says.
However, Rodríguez recognizes that traditional education is irreplaceable for adults. What they learn at university has a syllabus subdivided not into stories of dwarfs or talking animals, but into topics and subtopics of abstract concepts.
“Formal education is always going to be a very important foundation, but edutainment is for those people who want to enrich their experiences in life and are eager for exciting knowledge they can apply. Even at the dinner table, this can make for a much more interesting conversation,” says Rodríguez.
Through personal anecdotes told by experts such as astronaut José Hernández, former soccer player Hugo Sánchez, or businessman Antonio del Valle, people can acquire useful knowledge to understand how to keep going in a scientific career, how to stand out in the world of sports, or how to succeed in a business venture, respectively.
These are just a few cases of a total of 10 famous mentors who tell edutainment-style stories on the Grand Masters platform.
“The annual membership has a special price of 95 dollars. Sessions are divided into chapters and last between two and five hours. They’re done in a very intimate tone, as if you had the unique opportunity to spend a day with each of these great mentors and had a very calm and leisurely conversation with them,” explains Rodríguez.
YouTuber Yuya, sports commentator José Ramón Fernández, and professional chef Édgar Núñez are some of the other mentors who share their secrets on this digital platform launched this past May.
“The goal of Grand Masters is to generate audiovisual content that enriches people. Our focus is on addressing what students want to learn and finding the best way to narrate that,” says Juan Luis.
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According to two professors consulted by Tec Review, storytelling is an element that is key to setting the tone for edutainment, even within a university setting.
Francisco Orozco, Director of the Northern Region Accounting and Finance Department at Tecnológico de Monterrey, says that in order to achieve this, it’s necessary to take the elements of storytelling to tell a story in the classroom without neglecting the essential objective: the content of your subject.
“It’s a mixture of 60% knowledge to 40% entertainment because if we made it 50-50 it wouldn’t be a class any longer; it would seem more like a comedy monologue. If we were to flip the percentages around (60% entertainment and 40% knowledge), there wouldn’t be as much time to deliver the content because teachers would be more concerned with elements beyond their sphere of knowledge”, explains the academic.
Incidentally, Orozco speaks from his own experience. He says he once put on the mask of the hacker from Anonymous, a very popular character on social media. The goal was to make an emotional impact that would make his accounting students prepare more thoroughly for the final project they had to hand in.
“It frightened them, but they did get to work,” says the academic.
Edutainment is fashionable. Even on TikTok, you can find teachers who can help you learn in a fun way. One of them is Juan José Holguín, marketing professor at Tec de Monterrey’s Hidalgo campus.
Better known as @profejuanji on the famous social network, Juan José makes short videos in which he jokes about the difficulties arising from the practice of teaching at university level.
“A few months ago, I uploaded a video about what we professors kept to ourselves, and it got 350,000 views straight away. My account now has 400,000 followers, and I continue to upload videos with clips from my classes”, says Juan José.
Holguín says that his subject, marketing, lends itself to using novel digital resources to attract students’ attention since this can later become the subject of more formal analysis during the class.
“It’s about changing the stimulus. This gives students a lot of learning experience,” concludes the teacher and TikToker.