act 1 — scene 2

Building Blocks

A handful of models can help us understand the landscape and key elements of Edutainment.

Venns & Games

Games, Learning, and Edutainment

Kristina Maria Madsen - an Assistant professor in Business Design Thinking & Game-based Methods at Aalborg University in Denmark - created this informative Venn diagram outlining the relationship between Edutainment, Learning, and Gamification:

A couple of examples of storytelling in action in unexpected educational settings:

Via Kristina Maria Madsen

A few things worth pointing out:

  • Terms: She uses the term “Learning,” instead of Education (we agree!)
  • Games: There’s a big focus on gaming and software.Serious Games” takes up a lot of space. We’ll be exploring those further in Act 2
  • Size matters: Games-based learning is bigger than Educational Games - in fact, it’s probably even bigger now
  • Editor’s note: There’s a typo on “Training.” We feel like an English teacher with red-pen syndrome pointing this out because there are probably some typos in this reprt

Edutainment for Impact

In another Venn layout, filmmaker Tobias Deml illustrates the Impact-Entertainment Continuum. Edutainment sits squarely in the middle. For mainstream media to intersect with driving impact through behavior, Edutainment must be at the forefront.

Via Tobias Deml


At the core of gamification is a framework of three principles - mechanics, dynamics, and emotions (MDE). Madsen’s model illustrates these three principles.

Via Business Horizons
  • Mechanics are the decisions made to specify the goals, the rules, the setting, the context of the situation to be gamified.
  • Dynamics are the types of player behavior that emerge as players partake in the experience. Contrary to mechanics that are set by the designer, dynamics are produced by how players follow the mechanics.
  • Emotions are the mental affective states and reactions evoked among individual players when they participate in a gamified experience.

If you want to dig deeper, download the full gamification paper here.

Peers & Stories

Power of the Peer Group

Peer group collaboration has fueled many of the most successful Edutainment projects.

A good example of the power of the peer group is Duolingo. The company empowered their community to develop, test, and spread the word about their language courses.

The Duolingo Owl is now a bona fide TikTok influencer

Together with community-generated content and active forums, Duolingo is  proven to be 60% more effective than its competitors and now boasts thousands of volunteers.


Storytelling influences, teaches, and inspires learners. It evokes emotions, brings people together, and connects them around ideas.

It you follow the VARK (Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic) model, storytelling works for all types of learners:

  • Visual learners can imagine the pictures that are evoked during the story.
  • Auditory learners are clued in through the words and voice of the story.
  • Read/Write learners can absorb  story via long-form text or mediums like Powerpoint..
  • Kinesthetic learners focus on the emotions and feelings from the story.

Wavetable Tip

The common approach of ‘matching’ learning styles actually has little scientific corroboration. Instead, we recommend following Yale University's ‘Learning Styles as a Myth' guide and encourage students to reflect on their learning rather than narrow to one style.

Read the 'Learning Styles as a Myth' guide >

A couple of examples of storytelling in action in unexpected educational settings:

Via Wikipedia
Rachel Carson wrote 'Under the Sea Wind: A Naturalist's Picture of Ocean Life' and brought a strong literary aesthetic to science, which over the next two decades established her as the most celebrated science writer of her time.
Via IT Revolution
Gene Kim wrote a fiction novel 'The Phoenix Project' about Information Technology and the development world which has risen to be a hilarious yet relatable bestseller for people working in the tech world.

Learnings from the past

Later in the report, we’ll be diving deep into How We Got To Now, and the History of Edutainment. Without giving away too much, here are a few learnings from the past:

  • Much of Edutainment’s downfall in the 90s and 2000s came about because of the challenge of creating “Chocolate Covered Broccoli.” Finding the balance between education and entertainment is key.
  • Many forms of Edutainment faced the belief that education is not supposed to be “fun.”
  • Advertising became an excessive part of edutainment content.
  • Areas of study were “transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business”. This was not meant as a compliment.
  • “Gamification” doesn’t necessarily mean Edutainment.
  • Authority-based Edutainment is not necessarily the best path forward.