act 1 ⁠— scene 1

What's in a name?

Hungry mid-morning? Blend breakfast and lunch for brunch.
You can always eat it with a spork.
A brunch friend says something funny? You may chortle.

A portmanteau is simply two words smushed together.

Another portmanteau combines the words Education and Entertainment: Edutainment.

The Name Game

No one really knows who came up with the term. A popular theory is that Walt Disney coined Edutainment in the 50s. But the reality is it probably originated in 1973 when Robert Heyman used Edutainment to describe documentaries produced for the National Geographic Society.

Via National Geographic

And in 1975, Dr. Chris Daniels also used the term to describe the theme of his Millennium Project (later renamed The Elysian World Project).

But the word really took off in the 90s with the growth in educational video games.

What’s “Edutainment” made of?

As you can imagine, Edutainment is both learning and fun.

It usually features visual material, narrative, or game-like formats. It also uses informal, less didactic styles of communication than traditional education (and even some types of entertainment).

Edutainment offers interaction and storytelling while engaging the senses and imagination. It can be Educational Entertainment, or Entertaining Education. But the most effective is a bit of both.

Some of the best-known Edutainment offerings have become globally-recognized brands, like:

Via Everett Collection / Rex Features
Sesame Street
Via Masterclass
Bill Nye The Science Guy
Via Microsoft

Edutainment’s scarlet letter

However, the term has taken on some stigma in recent years. It’s not been sexy enough for an entertainment industry focused on superhero blockbusters. Nor is it pure or focused enough for an education sector that’s seeking clear student outcomes (and is typically tied to a pretty rigid system).

Urban Dictionary’s top definition is not kind. Via Urban Dictionary.

Much of the stigma on the education side comes from a traditional view of what education looks like. It’s one that typically doesn't prioritize things that are visually appealing.

This is understandable: a lot of academia has long been grounded in white papers and the validity of information being shared. There’s not much attention given to seemingly extraneous or vanity-focused elements. And honestly - some of the Edutainment stigma is justified.

This is because much of Edutainment just hasn’t worked. But there have also been some huge success stories, and there’s enormous untapped potential.

That’s why we’re here, after all.

Note: A word on the word

Like a lot of people, here at Wavetable we don’t exactly love the term ‘Edutainment’.

For a start, we don’t even use the term ‘Education’ much in our work. It makes us think of something done to you - something that’s forced and finite. You endure it, then it’s done.

Learning, on the other hand, is something that you can enroll into, that you want to be part of, and can go on forever - anywhere, anytime.

‘Entertainment’ is very broad - Wikipedia calls it ‘a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight’. It can be hard to pin down, but one element that’s hugely important is the element of maintaining attention. Today, that stuff is more valuable than ever.

All this being said, we couldn’t come up with a better portmanteau using ‘Learning’, so we’re happy to stick with ‘Edutainment’. For now, at least.