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Edutainment, spring 2011

I actually took Edutainment before entering the Boise State program. In Spring 2011 I took a few classes online, including the Edutainment class to see if I wanted to come to Boise State for a degree. Here are some links to things I wrote or projects I did while in the Edutainment class:

Four Categories of Edutainment

Explain how these items are edutainment

Edutainment has many limitations

Evolution of edutainment

An Edutainment movie– this is a movie plot I would write if given the appropriate opportunity to write a movie script.  The Edutainment class let me realize how historical fiction is a form of edutainment and this movie would be historical fiction based on my teaching experiences with some rather unique children.

Instructional elements of comic strips

Comic strip I made

Copies of individual assignments:

Assignment: What was the significance of playing and learning within edutainment? Link to document online

Include the title of the edutainment you analyzed and a basic introduction. Indicate how it focused on playing (entertaining) (more than 100 words), how did it focus on learning, what were the learning objectives and which teaching and learning methods were used (or how they were trying to deliver the contents to players).

The edutainment I am analyzing was inspired by one of this week’s articles,” Edutainment- Is there a role for popular culture in education?”.  I tend to make assumptions, one of which is that edutainment involves electricity.  It is either found through watching TV, a movie, or playing a computer game. I never really considered books to be edutainment, but I can see how historical fiction qualifies as Edutainment.   In light of this realization, I will discuss how Lisa See’s novels instruct me about Chinese culture and history.   After some thought, I realized that a few of See’s books that I read were on my iPod, so I suppose that even though they were merely books to read, electricity is involved after all. Lisa See is part Chinese and through her family and personal connections, she has traveled to many parts of China that very few non-Chinese visit. These trips and meetings with a wide variety of people fuel the factual information she includes in her books.

How her books focus on entertaining:

Lisa See presents her characters and includes their histories and circumstances.  For example, Shanghai Girls was about two sisters who were sold by their father to a businessman to cover a gambling debt.  The girls were to accompany their new family to the United States and essentially become their sons’ wives.  As the wives they would be obligated to perform all of the traditional Chinese duties.  They would have the lowest significance in the house which means they would do all of the chores that were too disgusting for other people.  They would be obligated to service their husbands and would be expected to have many children, ideally all boys. For the sisters, however, this is not the upbringing they expected.  The father they knew was a rich man so they were spending their days in Shanghai posing for an artist’s calendar images. This was one way they could earn money independent of needing money from their father, however it turned out that when the father sold them, they too lost their money. In an attempt to circumvent the obligation their father set for them, the sisters tried to avoid immigrating with their new family. We are caught up in their circumstances as we experience the consequences of their decisions.

The time period for the book starts around World War II and at first we learn about the Japanese invasions into China.  The two sisters, along with their mother, go through difficult challenges just to try to leave China.  Reading the book, you feel their hunger, their fear, and their uncertainty for their fate. The sisters have to leave their mother and venture by themselves to San Francisco. Upon their arrival I learn about how immigration at Angel Island worked and the prejudices people coming from China faced. One of the sisters got pregnant during her last days in China and gives birth on the floor in the Angel Island women’s dormitory bathroom.  By bringing in anecdotes that seem plausible, the reader is brought into the story and wants to keep reading.  Ms See creates characters we can relate to or who have behaviors we find so intriguing that we have to keep reading. We are entertained by the conflicts, challenges, and ways her characters solve their problems.  Meanwhile, we are learning Chinese history and about its culture.  We are having too much fun imagining what the characters are going through to realize we’re learning about World War II (Shanghai Girls) , the history of the Three Gorges Valley (Dragon Bones), the social circumstances for foot binding (Snow Flower), the consequences of respecting familial obligations (Peony in Love), China’s Cultural Revolution (Flower Net), how American consumerism leads to exploiting Chinese women for cheap labor (The Interior), and Chinese politics such as the All-Patriotic Society (Dragon Bones).

How did it focus on learning:

The introductions and/or prologues include credits given to people that helped Ms See with her research.  Just reading these passages, you start to trust that what you are about to read (or just read) could have been true stories. Some of the stories are real and she tells you who they are actually about.  The characters in the book are conglomerates of historical figures and anecdotes that are shared by friends or people she meets while doing her research. Clearly one of her goals is to educate people about what it is or was like to be a woman in Chinese society.  Her stories are validated by Organization of Chinese Americans and the Chinese American Museum.  Each of those groups recognized her with an award that also acknowledges her contributions to Chinese American women’s culture.

What were the learning objectives and which teaching and learning methods were used:

The learning objectives are to teach Chinese history and culture as accurately as possible.  Ms. See also incorporates common Chinese words, written in pinyin, to help bring us into the culture.  I’ve taken a class in Mandarin Chinese and find the words to be anchors that bring me even more into the story than I would be if she used the English version of familial relationship words. There is baba and jie jie which, to me, show stronger ties between people than merely saying dad and older sister. Ms. See will often pause in the writing to explain Chinese terms, their significance, and in the process shows us why they are integral to the storyline.

In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan we learn the term laotong and its significance for Chinese women who otherwise would not have a close friend specially picked for them based on the circumstances of their birth.  In this story we learn about foot binding.  The details are so thorough that we can feel the women’s’ pain and commiserate with them. When they lose a child, which was common at the time the story takes place, we cry for them. After reading Snow Flower, I really felt like I had a much better understanding of the history and significance of foot binding, arranged marriages, and familial obligations.  She also had her main characters represent two social classes so we get to experience prejudices and assumptions that are made merely because of birthrights. Even though we do not formally label social classes in the US based on parental lineage, we are aware that there is a social strata in the US.  China, by comparison, has a societal class system that pre-determines a person’s life.  Women do not get to make choices because their social status determines what they can and cannot do.

One’s birth, and therefore social class, and its impact her future is a theme found in Snow Flower, Shanghai Girls, Peony in Love, and Flower Net. Each story takes a period of time and focuses on historical as well as cultural events that would be happening at that time.  Flower Net takes place in 1997 where we learn about the impact American desire for objects has on the peasants who work in dangerous labor shops to create the objects we want. This is one of three books whose main characters are a Red Princess who went to college in the US and now works for the Chinese government as a detective, and her boyfriend/later husband who is an American lawyer.  In the Red Princess Mystery Series we learn more about the ways American and Chinese cultures contrast each other and yet are dependent upon the other.  The scenarios are ones that people my age can relate to because they are ones that could have happened during my lifetime. Even though the locations and events are contemporary to the early 21st Century, Ms. See still manages to integrate history lessons into the plots. In Dragon Bones, a historical site becomes an archeological dig so we are introduced to the relics they could actually find in that location if that site were being researched today. Even though the characters are from the modern day, the purpose for the archeological digging is to find evidence that Chinese culture has existed continuously for 5000 years.

I am not actually sure if the learning objectives and teaching methods are deliberate, but what Lisa See does is captivate the reader into exploring humanistic stories that create a novel that paints a much broader picture of the history of Chinese culture, and how that history still influences decisions made today.

Assignment: Evaluation about the purpose of comic strips:

link to assignment on Google drive

What are the instructional elements in comic strip and how do they affect learning?

Instructional element Examples of comic strips
Motivation- use of color or extreme characters to capture the curiosity of the reader. Peanuts certainly appealed to many with the big round heads and Snoopy with his side-kick Woodstock, the tiny yellow bird. includes music and animal noises in the background to capture the attention of viewers. It is also a very colorful website.
Literacy- to increase the reader’s control of the language. It could be to enhance a language they already know or in the case of Living Books, it could be using the media to teach the reader a “new” language. Living Books.In the educomic deliverable 1, an example was given of how an ELL instructor used Calvin and Hobbes comic books as his text.You can pull up a bunch of comic strips about the English language at: website, has many comic strips available to be used to help teach English and grammar.
Literacy- as in content knowledge of a topic. Larry Gonick’s  cartoon textbooks like the Cartoon Guide to Physics, the Cartoon Guide to Chemistry, and others. Many high school teachers use his books to supplement their curriculum or as an alternative to the required textbook because the imagery shows what is happening.  Words would be confusing whereas illustrations can explain changes that happen over time.  (Comic books referenced in the educomic deliverable 1.)
Visual- visual learners are attracted to the images that often show what is happening instead of having to read a narrative explaining the plot. The comic strips at illustrate what is being discussed so the reader can make sense of the words that are there.
Visual permanence- the reader determines the pace at which the stimulus happens.  The reader decides when to move on to the next topic unlike in video media, where it progresses while the watcher is separate from controlling the pace. Any graphic novel  or “cartoon guide to…” falls in this category.  Sidekicks is a website that caters to the graphic novel. The ones she reviews are suitable for all audiences, including children.
Intermediary – the level in which comic books are written varies.  Many of them are at a basic level so they are able to capture new readers, while others can be more complicated and are geared toward experienced readers who may just be looking for something amusing to read. Comics in the New Yorker would cater to the experienced reader who is looking for a moment of humor. Likewise, political cartoons in newspapers cater to the person who has to know something of the background of the subject matter to get the “joke.”  The comic strip, Rhymes with Orange, also has a dry sense of humor. It can be found through the website, where the search was for the name of the cartoon.
Popular topics- the lessons being taught in the book may be universal like “be nice to each other” but the context can change easily to adapt to current events or topics. Although not a comic strip, at this website,, Scott Tingley the webmaster of Comics in the Classroom interviewed Matt Dembicki, the author of Trickster. Mr. Dembicki writes comic books with themes with the intent of exposing readers to various cultures and themes that are found in those cultures.  Trickster is a graphic collection to illustrate Native American tales.  (link to site was in the EduComic article.)
Development of thinking skills- apparently there are cartoons that help you with spatially understanding what to do or how to approach a problem. Ikea directions on how to build their furniture falls in this category.  I don’t know if they have any directions written in words of any language with their assembly instructions.

References used for content in this paper:

Deliverable1_StateoftheArt. (2008). State of the Art

EduComic Project: Using Web Comics in Education  Retrieved March 18, 2011, 2011, from

Various websites are listed adjacent to the information that came from them.


Choose one edutainment TV program or one 40-60 minute video, not listed in this week. Describe it: its title, content, teaching strategies and entertainment/instructional elements (300 words).

Title:  NCIS


Although I do not think NCIS is intended to be edutainment, they do spend time explaining how the science of forensics works.  Much of the time they are wrong, which is one reason I see it as a concern for teachers. Our students may see the time in the lab or how to handle a crime scene as being portrayed accurately in this show.  As a science teacher, I need to be able to explain to students why they can not trust entertainment shows as being educational.

Teaching strategies:

  1. It uses blood and guts to attract students- it captures the viewer’s attention with its storylines.
  2. It finds a way to incorporate forensics into being key to solving a mystery.
  3. At times they explain the equipment or procedure used during the forensic analysis.
  4. The viewer sees that even goofy females can be forensic scientists.
  5. They portray the scientist’s position as one deserving respect.  They are not the “geek” who needs to be shunned.  The scientist’s role is one that any person can do if they study enough.

Entertainment/instructional elements:

  1. Common set of characters from one episode to the next. They develop the characters over time and allow the viewer to grow with them as they learn more about their circumstances. The continuity keeps viewers attached to the show. We may not come back from one week to the next to see which forensic trick we’ll learn this time, but we’ll come back to see what circumstances the characters get into each time.
  2. The science is a perk of the show. Not only are we entertained with the story line where the good people solve the mystery about how someone died, but we get to journey with them as they investigate the crime scene, do tests on materials from the crime scenes, or think through the rationale for the crime.  Can we, the viewer, figure out what happened before they do on TV?  How good is our intuition with the limited amount of information we have?

Assignment: Create an example of Edutainment

Submit your assignment including its link to YouTube, title, instructional purpose, target audience and pedagogy.

Link to You Tube:

Title: ASCD 2011 in 10 minutes or less

Instructional Purpose:

  1. To show people why they would want to attend an ASCD professional conference.
  2. To give people an idea of what they can learn from ASCD authors
  3. To give people an idea of where they can go to learn about some of the latest education jargon like Understanding by Design and RAD

Target Audience:

  1. Teachers
  2. Educational professionals
  3. People curious about research done in the education field


Too many of my peers do not understand why a membership in ASCD is useful, let alone why they should pay the hundreds of dollars to attend a conference. This was my second ASCD annual meeting and like the last one, I feel energized and excited to be in the field of education.  Walking the vendor floor I was often asked if I was having a good time or if I was learning anything.  My answer simply put was, “Of course I am.  This is ASCD.”

I made the video to cater to adult learners. Adults do not have time to waste. Their 10 minutes of the video needs to be well structured, not boring, and give them information they can still use when they walk away. I grabbed photos of the main sessions I went to that I thought might grab the attention of the people in the EDTECH class. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to detail everything I sat through or every conversation I had, but this video gives a glimpse of what the average person can see and learn when attending an ASCD conference.

My peers who are going into the field of education that involves teaching theories need to know the names Carol Ann Tomlinson, Jay McTighe, and Judy Willis.  My photos of Dr. Tomlinson did not come out well so I used the introductory slide to introduce her talk. What are important are the theories she explains in her numerous books. I made a slide that lists the “catch” phrases she used in her presentation to stimulate the viewers’ curiosity.  Hey, if I can get the learners’ dopamine to flow, then I am setting them in a good direction to want to learn from some of the best researchers in our field.  There are two people I did not get to see this time, Robert Marzano and Grant Wiggins, but I sat in their presentations six years ago when they were in SF for the ASCD conference. These are two people not mentioned in the video, but if my classmates watching the video also get to read my rationale for the video, they can add those names to the list of people’s works to read.

Judy Willis’s theories are actually new to me because I let my ASCD involvement relax.  I am glad I got to see her present because I now appreciate the acronyms she has brought to edu-land and the power that is in her ideas. I am impressed by her background, a doctor of neurology and a classroom teacher, so I put more trust in what I am learning from her than I do in most papers I read that seem to be published for the sake of being published. Now I need to go through the house to see how many of her books I actually own and start reading them.

I’ve been a fan of Understanding by Design (UbD) since 2005 when I tried to teach my student teachers how to use it to do lesson plans. When I went back in the classroom in 2007, I modified UbD to fit my needs.  I think it is important for my peers to see that UbD is flexible and even the people who generated the UbD acronym recognize that there is a need to change our approach to the 3-step process.  Personally I think they have seen some of the damage that has happened with the emphasis on memorizing factoids and want educators to create more authentic assessments that are based on standards instead of the multiple choice questioning rote recall that has happened over the last several years.

Intentional or not, there were some themes in many of the sessions I attended.  Our students are digital natives, we are digital immigrants.  I even saw their generation abbreviated as iGen- that notation was new to me. There is more of a focus on the neurology of learning than I’ve seen in the past- the emphasis on what to learn seems to have shifted back to how do we get the kids to learn what they need to know so they can transfer it to new situations. My video was produced so educators can see that these themes now co-exist along with how the digital or online world is incorporated into how time is spent learning.


Week 14: Summarize one game which you are playing. Describe motivating factors in it. Is it enhancing your motivation? Evaluate the game in terms of categories (Challenge, Fantasy, Control and Curiosity, etc. ) Malone (1980) suggested. (600~800 words)

While reading the Malone paper, I could not help but reflect on how particular characteristics he describes are embedded in the game We Rule Quests. The most obvious factor to me is the sound. Malone presents it in a positive light: sensory curiosity.  I saw it as an opportunity to control the game by turning it off. The sound in We Rule becomes mundane and is too annoying to even just be background noise. The immediate feedback, however, when you click on a person is amusing. I will turn up the sound at times just to see if it is doing anything other than playing the jovial music and I am amused by the various languages my peasants use to say hello to me.

Other ways We Rule captures players is by not having an obvious rule book. I went online at one point just to see if there were rules I was not aware of, but there really is not anything beyond what I figured out by playing the game. Although it is in a fantasy setting, what keeps me going is my curiosity. What will happen when I tap on this or that?  To start the game, you get plots of land and grow crops until you have enough money to buy objects to put in the town. That part seemed obvious. What is not obvious is, what is the point of buying different objects?  I still don’t know is why I would want to buy specific objects.  For example, buying a library is very expensive. Does this mean that I’ll amass a lot of coins by collecting fines? If I buy the cheaper tailor’s shop, will I make less money?  Is there a relationship between how much an object costs, how much coin I can make from it, or how fast its timer resets? Payoffs happen in specific time increments, but only if I come back to tap on the object. My curiosity pulls me back because I feel like I am being challenged to figure out the rules of the game. I have no interest in conquering other kingdoms, nor do I even know if that is a part of the game. I keep thinking it may be because many of the objects I can buy are for the sole purpose of defending the kingdom, but other than acquiring defensive objects, I have nothing suggesting I need to conquer my neighbor. My interactions with my neighbors let me acquire objects while on a quest, but that is all I can really see for the value of knowing other people in the game.

Curiosity is also fueled by the quests. We are challenged to go on quests. It is as if our purpose in the game is to gather objects that we find by visiting neighbors and going on a quest. Malone says with respect to curiosity and challenge, “They should be novel and surprising, but not completely incomprehensible.” (p.165)  My cognitive curiosity is being tampered with because a part of me wants to see what the outcome is by doing quests, but another part of me just gets frustrated and does not see the value in having this be a part of the game. I am still in the stages of “What happens if I tap on or if I buy…”. I am still engaged in the game because my cognitive structures are being formed. I don’t need to see the results of a quest to get me to keep playing. I can play the game even if I don’t do any quests, so why should I frustrate myself when I can’t always ask for things when I visit other kingdoms? Again, not knowing the rules lets my curiosity be fed, but in time I will just give up on a part of the game because I don’t get enough feedback telling me why I want to continue following my curiosity.

Another part of what I am missing is the fantasy component. I understand the setting is probably Europe in the 1600s.  What I don’t understand is why. Why am I put in this environment?  I think all of the wizard and magical stuff is nifty, but is there a reason for it being in the game other than as decoration to create a specific environment?  My dragons don’t seem to do anything. They don’t blow fire. They don’t eat my peasants. They are no threat. Why should I want to buy an object with a dragon? Is it because they are cute and flap their wings when the program is communicating to the server correctly? I see how Malone describes fantasy as a way to put the game in a context that lets it break the rules of physics and real-life. This game certainly breaks the rules of reality, but I fail to see why it matters.  If following Malone’s reasoning, the game is not really a fantasy game even though it takes place in the land of wizards, crystals, and frogs that are as large as cottages.

Perhaps what I am taking for granted are the skills I use without thinking about them. If fantasy is built on a skill, then my imaginary life in We Rule depends on making enough coin to buy objects. I wanted to see if I could get through the game without buying more mojo. Since I was learning by trial and error, I used up almost all of my mojo in the first 10 minutes without realizing what was happening. Other than using real money to buy more mojo, from what I can tell there is no other way to acquire it. That is frustrating because there is no skill other than giving them cold hard cash to give me the advantages that mojo can buy. Is this an intentional part of the fantasy?  I expect that I’m supposed to be learning not only how to buy objects wisely so I don’t run out of coin prematurely, but I’m also supposed to figure out how to budget mojo which represents real money. Am I supposed to see how real money equals power and how fake coin is just for amusement? The metaphors I could make to go with this would take up much more space and words than you probably want to read at the moment- please let me know if this is what you want to read. In the end, I may give them some money because I respect people who make “free” apps and really only accept donations from their patrons who show their appreciation. I feel like I’ve spent at least $5 worth of time on this app that I’ll buy some mojo as a way of thanking them for giving me some entertainment.

As far as We Rule being edutainment, I’m torn. I am certainly amused, my curiosity is satisfied by immediate feedback- having numbers pop out of objects lets me know immediately what they are worth, the time keeping controls tell me exactly when I can harvest my next set of income, and other immediate feedback mechanisms are in place.  Other than learning how to budget coins and mojo, I am not sure what I am supposed to be learning. Yes I find the scales of coin and xp on each crop and how long it takes to grow a crop to be interesting- how can I maximize my income in as short of a period as possible?  Plus I have to think of when I need to harvest the crop because it will decay if left out for too long. To me, however, this is very small scale learning for the amount of time I’ve put in to playing the game.  I may continue to play the game when I need some brain candy, but it won’t be because I feel like there is some amazing educational theory or concept I will gain by putting more hours into it. I think I am at level 26 and have given the game enough of an opportunity to show me what I can learn about the culture and mechanisms that were present in this historical community.